Harmonica/Basic Maintainence 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 fits the harmonica snugly is good to protect your harmonica from dust. A hard harmonica case also protects your harmonica from any minor impacts. 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 interfere with the movements of the reed, making it sound weird. Of course, make sure there are no food particles in your mouth either.
  3. Avoid excess moisture. Obvious for wood comb (it swell and shrink), but all chromatics are affected, 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 comes 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.

Routine cleaning[edit | edit source]

  • After playing, shake the harmonica a little bit, pat it against your palm softly, and wipe it clean with a cloth.
  • Once in a while, use alcohol and cotton balls to clean the mouthpiece and cover.

Advanced cleaning[edit | edit source]

Cleaning the mouthpiece/slide package[edit | edit source]

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 musicianship 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 | edit source]

  1. Slide packages ARE made up of a few tiny but crucial pieces. Do it on a flat table with ample lighting.
  2. Slide packages are just as fragile if not more fragile than the reed plates. Always prepare your work surface before you do anything.

Tools needed[edit | edit source]

  1. Screwdriver. Preferably a precision version.
  2. Microfiber cloth
  3. Rubbing Alcohol To clean off any old grime
  4. Lubricant The lubricant has a twofold purpose. Obviously, it is supposed to make your slide slide easier, but it also does some sealing, which helps maintain your slide. Franz Chmel recommended paraffin oil, but I personally use Vaseline mainly because it's safer.

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