Harmonica/Basic Maintenance and Care

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If you actually know your stuff, you will know that a good quality harmonica is gonna cost way more than a few dollars... especially a chromatic, which is $100 or more. Even though most harmonicas have good manufacturing, proper maintenance and preventative measures are still needed. Aside from the cost of repairs, you might have difficulty finding someone skilled enough to repair your harmonica, especially if you are not good at repairing!

  1. Always store your harmonica in a case. A hard case would be the best, but even a leather bag that fit the harmonica snuggy is good to protect your harmonica from dust. A hard harmonica case also protects your harmonica from minor impact. If you need to carry numerous harmonicas, you may want to consider a harmonica briefcase, which usually can store all 12-key diatonic, plus one or two 16-hole chromatic, and maybe your microphone too.
A very good homemade case can be made by the Pelican waterproof cases. Note that Microcase usually do not come with the lining.
microcase 1040/1050 is good for 12-hole chromatic
microcase 1060 is good for 16-hole chromatics
  1. Avoid extreme temperatures. While your plastic comb should be somewhat tolerant to temperature, your wood comb definitely isn't; since it's already subjected to swelling and shrinking at room temperature, don't even encourage it more by using those.
  2. Avoid dust and other particles. Dust will interfer with the movements of the reed, making it sound weird. Of course, make sure there are no food particle in your mouth, either.
  3. Avoid excess moisture. Obvious for wood comb (it swell and shrink), but all chromatic are effected, as they have windsavers. Thus, never dunk your harmonica into water/beer/liquid etc. Even if it's a plastic-comb harp with no windsavers, the reedplate, reed, bolt and/or screws may rust.
  4. Clear any moisture if possible. Most of the moisture actually come from your mouth. After playing, shake the harmonica a little bit,, pat it against your palm softly, and wipe it clean with a cloth.
  5. Avoid the beach if possible. The salty air can cause the reeds to rust rapidly.

Before playing[edit]

When you acquire a new harmonica the reeds will not have been played much other than factory testing. It usually takes a couple of weeks of playing gently for the reeds to be fully resonant and 'broken in' so to speak, this enables you to get the full life expectancy from the reeds. It is also recommended to warm your harmonica up to body temperature before playing by either playing it gently or storing it near your body.

Routine cleaning[edit]

  • After playing, shake the harmonica a little bit, pat it against your palm softly, and wipe it clean with a cloth. Keyword here is GENTLY.
  • Once a while, use alcohol and a minimal dyed smooth cloth (like those for wiping glasses) to clean the mouthpiece and cover.

Advance cleaning[edit]

Cleaning the mouthpiece/slide package[edit]

Unless we all decided to use Tombo's S-50, the slide package is a blessing and curse at the same time. When it works, it's a blessing, as we can do quick chromatic runs and slide-based effects. when it doesn't... well, no amount of musicianmenship can save you as your slide move slowly, or even worse, stopped completely!

Thus, we all have to take it apart, from time to time.

Warnings[edit]

  1. Slide package ARE made up of a few tiny but crucial pieces. Do it on a flat table with ample lighting.
  2. Slide package is as fragile, if not more, than the reed plates. Always prepare your work surface in prior.

Tools needed[edit]

  1. Precision Screwdriver. Preferably a precision version.
  2. Microfiber cloth
  3. Rubbing Alcohol To clean off any old grim
  4. Lubricant The lubricant have twofold purpose. Obviously, it is supposed to make your slide slide easier, but also do some sealing, which helps its maintenance. Franz Chmel recommedned paraffin oil, but I personally use vaseline, since it's safer, mainly.


Harmonica
Getting started: Why should I Play Harmonica? | Types of harmonica | Anatomy of a Harmonica | Harmonica Purchasing guide
Playing the harmonica: Basic Holding and Playing a Harmonica | Tablature | Basic Chords | Bending
Additional techniques: Advance Chords | Advance techniques | Self accompaniment
General harmonica theory: Chromatic Harmonica | Positions | Tremelo | Ensemble Playing | Music Style | Learning Songs | Improvising | Recording | Playing with Amp
Cleaning and maintainence: Basic Maintainence and Care | Advance Maintainence |Harmonica Modifications |Tuning
Appendices: Harmonica Layouts and Alternate Tunings| Harmonica Positions Chart | Blues | Writing Songs