When is a harmonica "too much" harmonica?

As i’m over halfway through Lukes course i’ve signed up for JP’s Breakthrough Blues course, which I intend to work through in tandem with B2B whilst I struggle with Luke’s bending and tongue blocking modules.

I found Lesson 3 in the very first ‘start here’ module of JP’s course intriguing. It’s basically a discussion of the best type of harmonica for an intermediate player (i still consider myself a beginner but it was nice of him to say so). In his harmonica round-up he confessed that his favourite harmonica was the Seydel 1847 but he wouldn’t really recommend it to students unless they were going to get it ‘customised’. I’m pretty sure he used the phrase “it’s almost ‘too much’ harmonica”.

This totally threw me. My understanding of customising is that it is something you have done to an harmonica if you want a different tuning (like Wilde tuning). Why would i need to have a harmonica ‘customised’ if i just wanted it to be in regular Richter tuning? Unfortunately JP doesnt expand or explain what he means by customising.

I do have an 1847 in G which I absolutely love. I find the larger apertures far easier to play than Hohners and was considering getting more Seydels in other keys but now JP has mae me question the wisdom of that.

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I don’t understand the “too much harmonica” comment either. Honestly, I’ve owned so many that it seems like there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. I actually own a Blue Moon Harmonicas custom Golden Melody that I won as a contest prize. It’s in Richter tuning, but I think the main appeal of Blue Moon is how customizable the looks of the harmonicas are. Mine is decked out in a red, white, and blue acrylic comb and some American Flag coverplates.
Even though it is a nice thing to have on a custom, the main reason for me wanting to get one is because that they can respond to overblow and overdraws better than a OOTB harp. I struggled with overblows all my life, even though I can mainly get the 6 overblow just fine on some of my harps like my Bb Special 20. However when I was introduced to overblow bending through Howard Levy, I completely struggled with it with my OOTB harps meanwhile he can get them with just a little bit of gapping. So I thought overblow bending was impossible to do and that Howard Levy was a wizard that can do anything. When I asked my teacher, Todd Parrott, about one of the licks during his version of “I’ll Fly Away”, he mentioned that he used custom harps, specifically from Joe Spiers, to get his signature overbends. That was sort of how I caught the custom harmonica bug and made me want to get a custom harp.

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Hi @chris3

Customizing can mean different things. Some people simply mean making the harp look different (e.g. with a fancy colored comb or cover plates). But “real” customization (at least in my view) is a harp that has had the reed profiles all adjusted correctly, has the reed gaps set correctly, has the reed slots embossed, and has the reed plates and comb surfaces flat-sanded for air tightness (if necessary). Those are the main customizations.

Why do this if all you want is a Richter tuned harp? As @KeroroRinChou already has mentioned: overblows and overdraws become not only easier, but more controllable.

In addition the reed responses for blows and draws become almost equally sensitive from reeds 1 to reeds 10 and the volume is more equalized across all reeds.

Richter tuning can be made “better” as you wish also: equal temperament for melody playing (but then the chords do not sound so sweet), or one of the various setups that make the chords sound terrific (but then melody playing is not so sweet sounding), or compromised tuning that tries to strike a happy medium between the previous two that I mentioned.

Unfortunately, not all customizers are equally good. And most good ones are not cheap. Your Seydel 1847 price, for example, will typically be twice as high (and more) when tuned by a really good technician.

Is that enough?

– Slim :sunglasses:


Hi Slim

Yes that certainly makes more sense to me, although i would have called the work you describe as ‘fine tuning’ rather than customisation. I’m still at a loss to understand why JP would insist 1847’s need such work over and above the other harps he recommends such as Lee Oskars and Special 20s. I own all three but even with my little experience i would say my 1847 is easily as well built and set-up ‘out of the box’ as my Crossover and better than my Special 20 and Lee Oskar.


I just don’t know. With my experiences with a Seydel Session Steel (which has the same reeds as the 1847 series), I honestly think that they’re pretty easy to play. However I think you need more breath support and change a little bit of your embouchre to get the bends to sound good, like the Suzuki Bluesmaster which I owned before the Seydel (which has since improved my bending ability and my tone to sound slightly warmer and more full).


Yeah I now own 10 Joe Spiers Custom harmonicas and, in addition to being able to get overblows and overdraws, they respond great, they’re easy to bend, they sound great. Is that worth $200-$300+???

For me the answer is a resounding YES. But that depends on lotsa factors!!!