I’ve only recently resumed playing blues harp again after quite a while away from it (like 15-20 years). When I was more serious about playing, I’d regularly flat-out harps, especially in the more commonly used keys like A, iirc. I tended to stick to Marine Bands back then because that was what I knew and they were fairly reliable in terms of the sound.
I vaguely recall some stuff about ‘modular’ diatonic harps being introduced by Hohner where you could replace the reeds, but it looked like a bit of a palaver and I ended up just buying new ones. I’ve still got a set of Marine Bands in a variety of keys from a prior attempt to resume playing in 2015 so I’ve not run into this problem again yet, but I expect I will.
I don’t have access to a lot in the way of specialist tools for reed replacement (nor the skill to use them). What do people tend to do about this problem these days? Does it even still happen with more up to date harps?
Unless those older Marine Band harps were of a much inferior quality, it sounds to me like you were playing with way too much pressure & suction. If you really need to play with more volume then try buying the Hohner Rocket or Rocket Amp models and/or start using an amplifier.
Reed replacement tools and videos are available, but most people usually just buy new reed plates, as Dai @Dai has suggested. There are also videos that show how to convert the old Marine Band models (that have the nails) so that screws can be used (similar to the Marine Band Deluxe). I think that Dai @Dai has posted a link to such a video or kit somewhere else on this forum.
@Slim I tended to play unamplified in the past (or with very poor amplification when it was available). My style involved quite a lot of heavy note bending too. Occasionally dipping them in beer probably didn’t help much either! But I was young and foolish then (as opposed to old and foolish like I am now).
@ralphwindsor Have you tried Seydel’s? If you’re regularly blowing out reeds, stainless steel reeds will last you A LOT longer. Even though the harp is more expensive, it might last you 3 times as long.