How To Fix Your Instrument
The more you continue to play your harmonica the more likely it is that something will break. The sound may sound off, the air chambers could be clogged, or a slot could stop making sound altogether. Repairing a harmonica can be very difficult, unless you know what you are doing. There are many things that can go wrong when playing that may require more advanced help. However, there are common troubleshooting issues that every harmonica player should know how to resolve.
Identify the Type of Harmonica
There are many different types of harmonicas that provide different tones and sounds for each musician’s needs. While the ways to fix a harmonica are generally the same, there may be slight differences since harmonicas can be built differently to provide different sounds. The first step to fixing any issue with a harmonica is to identify what type of harmonica you have.
The most common harmonica is a diatonic harmonica. This typically a standard 10 hole, tuned to the key of C. It is great for beginners, but versatile enough for professionals as well. It offers a very classic harmonica sound and is typically found played in blues, folk, and even pop music.
Chromatic harmonicas are also a popular option. These have a button-activated lever on the side that directs air into two reed plates. When pressed, the chromatic harmonica has the ability to play all scales or modes. Chromatic harmonicas also include much sturdier reeds making them harder to damage than their diatonic counterpart.
The tremolo is another common but unique harmonica option. Tremolos have two sets of reeds and double holes. Sometimes nicknames the “echo” harmonicas; tremolos give off a distinct warbling sound as if it were echoing. These harmonicas are not as common, but are typically used for special effects.
If you are unsure what type of harmonica you have, you can check how many holes it has, or if there is a button on the side. You can also check the box it came in, as that will have labeled on there what type it may be, or you can perform a simple Google search to find the type of harmonica you may have.
Common Troubleshooting Issues
Once you have identified the type of harmonica you have, you will know how to best fix it. While there are many things that can break or damage on a harmonica, there are some issues that require basic repair that every harmonica player must know.
One of the most common issues harmonica players run into is a note block. This happens when a note you try and play doesn’t make any sound at all. This is usually due to something caught in the reed, preventing it from vibrating to make sound. Most of the time, this is due to excess moisture from playing.
To fix this, tap the mouthpiece on your hand to try and shake out anything that may be caught, then quickly breath in and out over the blocked hole. This will usually solve the issue and remove any moisture from the reed. If this doesn’t work, try taking a toothpick and gently try to dislodge anything that may be caught in the reed. Lastly, if this still does not work, take the harmonica apart to see what may be blocking the note. Often times, it is s small hair that is blocking the reed.
Reed Tip & Reed Plate Gap
Another issue many harmonica musicians face is when the note will only work with light breath pressure. This problem usually happens when performing blow notes, and is usually an issue with the gap between the tip of the reed and the reed plate. There are a few options to try widening the gap. First, remove cover plates to expose the reeds.
Take a toothpick and gently press on the middle of the reed, and slide it away from the reed plate to increase the gap. Test it out by putting the covers back on, hold off on putting the screws back in, and blow hard on the hole. If the issue is not resolved at this, repeat the process until the gap is wide enough to resolve the issue.
Out of Tune
There may be times when you are playing the harmonica and you notice a note sounds bad. First make sure that the note is in tune. You can do this by using a tuner or by gauging it with your ear. If the note is in tune, the issue may be a slightly cracked reed. If upon taking it apart you discover it is not cracked, you may be able to tune your harmonica back into the appropriate key.
Harmonicas will typically only last up to a year if played regularly, so it is inevitable for a cracked reed to happen at some point in your harmonica’s lifecycle. Unfortunately, once a reed is cracked your harmonica is broken and it is time to get a new one. It is possible to fix a cracked reed, but requires someone skilled in harmonica repair and typically exceeds the cost of just buying a new harmonica.
Safety Precaution When Repairing a Harmonica
When resolving issues with a harmonica, it may require small sharp tools to take it apart, resolve the issue, and put it back together. It is important to handle these tools with care, as they can be harmful if not handled correctly. Use these tools with care and caution and learn how to make repairs to your harmonica before you attempt to do it yourself. This will avoid potential injury and damage to your instrument. Keep out of reach of children and pets at all times. The tools required to repair a harmonica are small and are considered a choking hazard. As always, exercise caution.
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In conclusion, there are many ways that you can fix your harmonica yourself. Most issues such as a blocked note or small gap are easy to fix and require very little invasive repairs to your instrument. Remember that it is important to handle your harmonica with care and clean it after you finish playing it to help avoid any future damages and keep your instrument in great shape.
There are, however, many issues that you may be unable to fix such as a cracked reed. Harmonicas are not built to last forever, and damages are bound to happen to any instrument that you play regularly. Thankfully, there are many skilled technicians that are able to help with these repairs, or you have the option of buying a new one completely. Ultimately, it is important to know how to resolve basic troubleshooting on your harmonica to continue playing efficiently.