When starting my harp adventure I got a couple of harps but they just did not plate well out f the box. Air leaks was the primary cause and hardest to learn how best to deal with. I knew nothing about a harp.
I thought they would be ready out of the box. Tuning marks showed and the parts seemed to fit correctly. After watching videos and getting help from the players on this forum ( thanks ) I determined that sometimes its usually a reed plate that needed to be straightened or a comb that should be replaced. I now have straight plastic combs and can correct the plate issue. These small but critical aspects are often not apparent to the eye, especially a plate that needs help. I have a crossover c that played fairly well but not to the point I had confidence in it. I recently checked the plates and one had a slight bow. Using my claws and a straight surface we are friends now.
Having the correct tool kit is essential. A flat surface and some 1,600 sand paper will show what part of the plate does not seat. After a few VERY light rotations in both directions you can easily see what part of a plate needs attention. When I started playing I would take the face plates off to gap a reed and play the harp w/o face plates and it sounded fine. Sometimes the face plate ends are not at 90*. I will say I never got one that had a reed that was not able to move through the slot but had a couple of reeds that did not go through the plate as they should. Another air leak issue. After the plates and comb are straight and the reeds set things go well, except for the mistakes I make. I quickly realized a new harp that needs no help is very much the exception. like cars they are assembly line products.
Frankly I wish Hohner and other manufactures would offer a well done customized harp so very little to no time was needed to correct defeats and they played really well out of the box. They could do it and charge a higher price I would be glad to pay but the harp should play as good as it should and no time was wasted on correcting defects. I love playing the harp but working on one can be frustrating. I doubt they will as the standard out of the box harps would cause reputation issues. I would imagine few player expect a harp that did not need help out of the box.
I have been too chicken to open mine. I did notice on one that one of the holes was sort of stuck and I was able to blow it out. For me the most frustrating thing is when I am trying a new technique, it changes my embouchure and I get spit or something in there that jams one of the holes. I am not ready to stop playing but it just won’t go. That really kills the vibe.
Everyone makes mistakes, unless they never play. Its the best teacher. I am trying to bend notes but cannot get it down. The tone drops but the tuner says the note is not changing. As far as spit I lean back in a chair and gravity solves this problem. I live in a very dry environment and dry mouth is my biggest enemy. Its almost impossible to slid the harp to the next note. A dry harp and without using lubricant, which will get inside of the harp, is a real challenge to slid with ease.
If you have a wooden comb I would strongly suggest you replace it with a plastic one. This will allow you to wash your harmonica under warm water and play it soon after. Wood combs deteriorate and can cause air leaks, which I think is one of the biggest enemy of harp players. I looked my first wooden comb over and saw saw marks caused during manufacture. I sanded them out but the inside was not sealed and the comb under constant attach from the saliva. also washing it under warm water is not an option. I know well the feeling and frustration you are experiencing. Some days just suck, which you could say about anything you are learning. I just enjoy making noise and the occasional clean note and a the occasional melody. I think to be good it takes a tremendous amount of practice and over time things seem to fall in place. Sorta like working on a 500 piece puzzle, which I last a minute or two trying. If your experience is anything like mine, having a good harp tech give your harp a going over. Mass produced harps need some adjusting as they never have of never will be exactly right out of the box. Your reed plates may not be flat and need straightening. Don’t give up. I never crossed the finish line without mistakes, frustration and thoughts of picking up bowling. From the start I focused on single notes. I have no regrets even though I punish myself on bad, mistake filled days. Nothing ever came easy for me except sleeping late and baseball. All else was a fist fight. Such is life, just enjoy it when you feel up to playing, play.
All mine are plastic, mostly oscars and a couple conjurers which are not bad. I am still chicken to unscrew the harmonica but I have no intention to stop playing. I love the portability of this thing. Being able to take the harmonica makes going to things my wife wants me to do much more tolerable. If I get bored, I just start to play. Work on memorizing a song, bending, etc. Never seems to get old.
Frustrating? If we’re only talking about harps? Any that don’t play perfectly out of the box.
I bought two Lee Oscars about ten years apart. Both had reeds that buzzed. I’d heard great things about their service. Not even a response to say “too bad”.
Bought a Suzuki chromatic. For the price I expected no buzz from reeds or wind savers. I was at a trade show a few months later and brought it to a Suzuki technician who was there from Japan. Three tries and over an hour of work and it sounded just like I expected when I took it out of the box. Ten years later, it’s still fine.
I won’t discuss Hohner because there’s not enough time. I just expect harps to be ready for a gig. When they’re not, it’s frustrating.
+1 here for Suzuki. Mine always play great with no tinkering.