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Re: Any news?

Posted: Fri Sep 14, 2018 5:07 pm
by IaNerd
Re: modular-reed harmonicas

In the near past I spent crazy amounts of money using Seydel's Configurator to try out alternate tunings. More recently I have been trying, whenever practicable, to buy cheap Chinese harps on Amazon and then re-tune them. So for an alternate-tuning geek like me, the prospect of modular reeds is enticing.

Best wishes on that, Brendan!

Re: Any news?

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:49 am
by Brendan
You can make your own modular reed harps with a bit of effort, by slicing up regular harmonica reedplates.

Like others I thought this could be a great idea and tried it a long time ago (1990) - but my test harp didn't sound good, so I gave up. However I just tested it quickly again yesterday and found the results were fine: the harp sounded pretty much the same as before the reedplates were sliced up. Clearly I must have done a sloppy job 28 years ago... :-(

Even this new test is pretty rough and ready, a rather coarse hacksaw job, but it tells me that small modular reedplates in harmonicas using sliced stock reedplates is a viable approach after all.

I recommend you give it a try; as you say Patrick, it will make trying alternate tunings very easy.

Here's a pic to give the idea: ... _tn__=EH-R

Automating the slicing process to give neat clean cuts in the reedplates is possible with a variety of CNC machines. Encouraged by this test, I'm going to look into that and see where it leads.

Re: Any news?

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:21 am
by Brendan
Several of you mentioned the desirability of simplifying the reed attachment system from multiple screws to something else. I've been thinking about it too, but right now can't think of anything better.

Crawford's idea of a bar pressed down at each end could work - but I imagine getting sufficient consistent pressure along the whole length of the harp would be difficult without something quite beefy. Worth looking into though.

Another idea would be to incorporate pressure bars or tabs in the coverplates. Covers are often given a slight convex curve that bears down on the front of the reedplate, and some have rear struts or even a horizontal lower surface at the rear too. If the covers were beefed up a bit and designed with this pressure system in mind they could do the extra job of holding down the modular reedplates.

But that would require a factory to commit to the modular reedplate system, and we could be waiting a long time for that! Right now screws do the job well enough for players who want to test this idea for themselves.

Re: Any news?

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:34 am
by IaNerd
What if the reed blocks were slightly wedge-shaped, and slid into a slot with a gasket on the comb side? This picture shows a very exaggerated sense of the shape I envision.
21488-1001-2ww-m.jpg (59.45 KiB) Viewed 8342 times

Re: Any news?

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:39 am
by IaNerd
I'm also wondering if the Yonberg harps already have a plate-securing mechanism which could be recast into a modular form.

Re: Any news?

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:41 am
by Brendan
Here's an example of what I mean:

Re: Any news?

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:45 am
by Brendan
You could slide draw plates in from the rear, but what about blow plates? They have a reed hanging under them. You'd need a slot in the comb to accommodate it, then a way to re-seal the slot. It would all take a lot of high precision manufacturing.

Re: Any news?

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:58 pm
by CrawfordEs
I like the cover idea, possibly incorporating a pair of tension bars.
I’m going to look for a cheap harp and chop it up.
I carve wooden covers, mostly for chromatics, but often for diatonics.
I could probably make one that can provide the pressure to a bar that can hold the plates in.
If so, you might be able to copy them and 3D print them out.
As soon as the bench is clear, this sounds like a fun project.

Re: Any news?

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 7:16 am
by Brendan
I was contacted by a Brazilian player called Gaspar Vianna, who has apparently been using modular reedplates secured by coverplate bars for some time. Hopefully he will send some photos of his harps to check out.

Re: Any news?

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 7:39 am
by Brendan
I mentioned earlier that a manufacturer of modular reed harmonicas would only need 47 reeds to cover every key harp in 4 octaves, from G to F#. That's if they use the same reeds for blow and draw breaths.

The simplest way would be to adopt the normal blow reed configuration where the reed is attached at the front of the reedplate. It can be a blow or a draw reed depending on which way it's flipped on the comb. This would mean all reeds facing away from the player.

This would go against the convention in most diatonics,
where the draw reed faces in, although other types of harmonica use precisely the opposite arrangement (eg. many tremolo harmonicas, and some chromatics). Hering chromatics all have the reeds facing to the rear, and Hohner made some like that in the past too.

I've made diatonic harps with two blow reedplates, one on top and one on bottom (where the formerly 'blow' reeds become draw reeds) and a few with two draw reedplates (where the opposite happens), but they were generally specialist x-reed types, or with valves. Before committing to a modular reedplate system I guess a company would have to investigate closely the response and tone effects of having all reeds facing in one direction or not for standard un-valved harmonicas.

Using reeds in both rear and forward facing configurations would mean stocking 94 reeds instead, complicating the system and adding cost. Not desirable, but perhaps necessary - I'm not sure at this point.

Have any of you got strong opinions on optimal reed directions relating to breath, based on your experience?