Author Topic: How far up & down can you retune?  (Read 3838 times)

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Offline GregH

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How far up & down can you retune?
« on: August 01, 2019, 11:54:53 PM »
I'm trying to get my head around a retuning project (G#/G to F#/G to make a flat slider).  But in general, how far can you usually move the pitch of a reed up or down without creating other types of problems? 

I guess it might depend on the length of the reed/octave you're tuning, but does it make a difference? Is it easier to tune a reed up a whole note than down?

Along the same lines, is it easier to tune down using solder rather than removing material close to the rivet?

Also I'm trying to decide if I'm motivated enough to take this on. I've tuned & repaired a bunch of accordions, but they're less finicky. It seems like a huge pile of work to contemplate, but maybe that's how it always looks from this end.

Offline smojoe

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2019, 12:49:12 AM »
As one whom has also tuned accordions. And even made reeds for them. I feel that it dependes on the home key of the harmonica. Cutting material from a reed is fraught with dangers. A tenor tuned, key of D, Eb, E, and 'maybe' F can take a lot more punishment than a higher key.
Taking the tuning up too far on a F#, G, Ab, A, Bb, will leave you with reeds at the top end that you could almost read a news paper through. IF you try to go too far. Now as for the precious C? They are already as squeely as a baby piglett. So why even mess with em?

As for tuning down? After a while, the stem or shaft of the reed starts to fight the vibratory forces if too much gunk is added. The resultant sound starts to get dull, with no carry, no sustain at all. Sorta 'morte'. 

smo-joe

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2019, 09:10:50 AM »
Probably thirty years ago, I had some guy in Akron, tune a C 270 to high D.  It wasn't too bad on the lower notes, but the top notes didn't like it at all.  :P I never really played the thing after that. (I might even have tossed it. So, unless the guy was a schlub, (which is entirely possible :-\) two steps up is the limit.

Offline GregH

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2019, 11:24:09 AM »
As one whom has also tuned accordions. And even made reeds for them. I feel that it dependes on the home key of the harmonica. Cutting material from a reed is fraught with dangers. A tenor tuned, key of D, Eb, E, and 'maybe' F can take a lot more punishment than a higher key.
Taking the tuning up too far on a F#, G, Ab, A, Bb, will leave you with reeds at the top end that you could almost read a news paper through. IF you try to go too far. Now as for the precious C? They are already as squeely as a baby piglett. So why even mess with em?

As for tuning down? After a while, the stem or shaft of the reed starts to fight the vibratory forces if too much gunk is added. The resultant sound starts to get dull, with no carry, no sustain at all. Sorta 'morte'. 

smo-joe

Thanks. Both those things make sense.

Offline smojoe

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2019, 11:51:13 AM »
Charley Rushin? Tool & die maker. If he was the tuner, he was good. Used to do work for Farrell.

Offline BeauKim

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2019, 12:56:11 PM »
Hi Greg,

In my experience you can tune down around a 3rd and 2nd no problem using solder.  Joe Filisko and Richard Sleigh I think used to custom tune dia****** up to about a 4th.  Last year I asked Richard if he used a lot of solder on the lowest available keys made and he said yes.  Scraping from the root of the reed is good but I personally think too much is not great as you’ll weaken the reed too much.  It could potentially strengthen the reed when you polish out the factory tuning marks (which I learned from Sleigh), but I think no more than a half step by scraping the base of the reed is okay.

Edit: Filisko and Sleigh used to custom tune downwards to about a 4th using solder.  Dennis Gruenling told me his custom low tuned harmonicas from the 90's (I think LBb, LA, Ab, and maybe LG) were done by them or just Sleigh. 

« Last Edit: August 03, 2019, 02:43:45 AM by BeauKim »

Online wolfman

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2019, 02:09:39 PM »
  Hi BeauKim
 
 Would you contact me at,
  rdlwolf@msn.com

   Roman

Offline BeauKim

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2019, 12:40:35 AM »
  Hi BeauKim
 
 Would you contact me at,
  rdlwolf@msn.com

   Roman

Hi Roman.  I sent you an email a few days ago.

Online wolfman

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2019, 05:02:06 AM »
Did not get it.Would you
try again?

  Thanks,Roman

Offline GregH

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2019, 07:37:46 PM »
Hi Greg,

In my experience you can tune down around a 3rd and 2nd no problem using solder.  Joe Filisko and Richard Sleigh I think used to custom tune dia****** up to about a 4th.  Last year I asked Richard if he used a lot of solder on the lowest available keys made and he said yes.  Scraping from the root of the reed is good but I personally think too much is not great as you’ll weaken the reed too much.  It could potentially strengthen the reed when you polish out the factory tuning marks (which I learned from Sleigh), but I think no more than a half step by scraping the base of the reed is okay.

Edit: Filisko and Sleigh used to custom tune downwards to about a 4th using solder.  Dennis Gruenling told me his custom low tuned harmonicas from the 90's (I think LBb, LA, Ab, and maybe LG) were done by them or just Sleigh.

Thanks BeauKim, that's good information for me.  The reed I replaced a couple of days ago was an A=440. The reeplacement came out at C below that (it's a lower reed out of a Hohner diatonic).  So far I've got it up to F, so I'm testing this stuff in real time! 

Offline BeauKim

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2019, 07:54:07 PM »
Did not get it.Would you
try again?

  Thanks,Roman

Sent!  Hopefully you entered your email address corrrectly.

Online wolfman

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2019, 10:39:10 PM »
  Got it,thanks.

   Roman

Offline BeauKim

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2019, 01:16:38 AM »
Hi Greg,

In my experience you can tune down around a 3rd and 2nd no problem using solder.  Joe Filisko and Richard Sleigh I think used to custom tune dia****** up to about a 4th.  Last year I asked Richard if he used a lot of solder on the lowest available keys made and he said yes.  Scraping from the root of the reed is good but I personally think too much is not great as you’ll weaken the reed too much.  It could potentially strengthen the reed when you polish out the factory tuning marks (which I learned from Sleigh), but I think no more than a half step by scraping the base of the reed is okay.

Edit: Filisko and Sleigh used to custom tune downwards to about a 4th using solder.  Dennis Gruenling told me his custom low tuned harmonicas from the 90's (I think LBb, LA, Ab, and maybe LG) were done by them or just Sleigh.

Thanks BeauKim, that's good information for me.  The reed I replaced a couple of days ago was an A=440. The reeplacement came out at C below that (it's a lower reed out of a Hohner diatonic).  So far I've got it up to F, so I'm testing this stuff in real time!

Hi Greg,

What harmonica model are you retuning?  You’re going to be filing a lot of metal to raise that C reed up a perfect fourth.  Why did you use that specific reed verses something closes to the pitch you’re aiming for?

Offline John M G

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2019, 04:10:04 AM »
So dropping a C down to a Bb should present no problems from what I'm reading here?

Offline John Broecker

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2019, 05:26:35 AM »
I'd just buy the new key's reed plates, if your project is on
a 12-hole harp.

It would eliminate all of the hard work, and possible mistakes
and possible destruction of an otherwise useable harmonica.

10-, 14-, and 16-hole slide chromatics are usually sold only
in the key of C. If that's where your project is set, hire a
professional harmonica customizer, or hire a manufacturer
(Seydel). Let them do the work.

This is an opinion from a person unskilled in reed re-tuning.
I would never attempt a project as difficult (for me) as your
project.

If you are a "tinkerer", a person who loves to work on customizing
or creating new tunings, use a cheap slide harp to learn the techniques.

Best of luck to you. Let us know how it works for you.

Best Regards

John Broecker
"Elton John is right up there with David Bowie."--Rick Harrison, "Pawn Stars" TV show, USA. Rick is discussing collectibles.

Offline GregH

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2019, 10:23:42 AM »
Thanks BeauKim, that's good information for me.  The reed I replaced a couple of days ago was an A=440. The reeplacement came out at C below that (it's a lower reed out of a Hohner diatonic).  So far I've got it up to F, so I'm testing this stuff in real time!

Hi Greg,

What harmonica model are you retuning?  You’re going to be filing a lot of metal to raise that C reed up a perfect fourth.  Why did you use that specific reed verses something closes to the pitch you’re aiming for?

It's a Seydel Deluxe, and unfortunately it's my main harmonica.  I know it's the wrong reed, but that's what I've got. I need to buy a set of Seydel middle-octave reeds and get it over with, but I'm a cheapskate. Meanwhile, it may or may not be good practice for my next tuning project... 

Offline GregH

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2019, 10:56:39 AM »
I'd just buy the new key's reed plates, if your project is on
a 12-hole harp.

It would eliminate all of the hard work, and possible mistakes
and possible destruction of an otherwise useable harmonica.

10-, 14-, and 16-hole slide chromatics are usually sold only
in the key of C. If that's where your project is set, hire a
professional harmonica customizer, or hire a manufacturer
(Seydel). Let them do the work.

This is an opinion from a person unskilled in reed re-tuning.
I would never attempt a project as difficult (for me) as your
project.

If you are a "tinkerer", a person who loves to work on customizing
or creating new tunings, use a cheap slide harp to learn the techniques.

Best of luck to you. Let us know how it works for you.

Best Regards

John Broecker

Thanks John.  My next project is making a G Suzuki SCX-48 into a flat-slider. Here's why: Apart from the fact that my wife worries that I'm buying more instruments, it seems that if I want a good quality flat-slider, about the only off the shelf option is a Deluxe or Deluxe Steel from Seydel. Which could work, although I'm not so happy with the quality of the Seydel I'm playing (which I like well enough).

The "problem" is that this SCX is an awesome harmonica - efficient & lovely tone, and one I'd like to be playing all the time.  I switched to playing flat-slider a while back, and playing a normal chromatic is a chore - it's taken me a year it unlearn normality. ;)  I'd buy the proper reed plate, but the SCX is crosstuned - just my luck.

I looked over Suzuki's web site and I don't see any sign that they would do that kind of customization, although I might get my friend to translate a letter for them and ask.  Or I could do it myself, and I've tuned accordions before and replaced & tuned reeds in various harmonicas.

I could switch to Hohner or something else that's easier to mix and match reedplates, but that sounds like taking the easy way out! :)  But there again, I'd want to try the CX-12 which is also crosstuned.

These questions are a good way of thinking this stuff through and figuring out a plan. I'm kind of joking about testing the tuning changes in real time - that's a minor issue and I'll figure it out as I go.

Some great ideas and advice on here.  Thanks to everyone for your help!




Offline streetlegal

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2019, 11:30:18 AM »
Good to hear from another flat-slide player 8).

My approach to retuning your G chromatic, would be like this. First I would flip the slide - I know this may be problematic as it may involve drilling another hole for the spring, but that can be done with some careful  measurement. After that I would tune the G# scale down half a step to make it your G scale. Then I would tune the G scale down half a step so that it becomes a Gb scale. I would do this by adding weight to the reed, rather than removing any metal from the rivet end. And after all that you will have the flat slide G chromatic that you desire.

Offline GregH

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2019, 01:35:24 PM »
Good to hear from another flat-slide player 8).

My approach to retuning your G chromatic, would be like this. First I would flip the slide - I know this may be problematic as it may involve drilling another hole for the spring, but that can be done with some careful  measurement. After that I would tune the G# scale down half a step to make it your G scale. Then I would tune the G scale down half a step so that it becomes a Gb scale. I would do this by adding weight to the reed, rather than removing any metal from the rivet end. And after all that you will have the flat slide G chromatic that you desire.

Yeah I was thinking it would be "easier" to just tune the G# row to F#, so no slide flipping involved and (in theory) half the work. Based on what I've seen here and my own experience, retuning a whole step isn't much more difficult than going down a 1/2 step.  Frankly my biggest worry is keeping track of all the reeds on both reed plates. Knowing the way I am (Old! & struggling with declining finger dexterity and the shakes) there's plenty of room for disastrous missteps (that might be my next band name).

I assume you play Irish music? How's that going on the harmonica?
« Last Edit: August 06, 2019, 02:09:44 PM by GregH »

Offline BeauKim

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #19 on: August 06, 2019, 05:08:53 PM »
Good to hear from another flat-slide player 8).

My approach to retuning your G chromatic, would be like this. First I would flip the slide - I know this may be problematic as it may involve drilling another hole for the spring, but that can be done with some careful  measurement. After that I would tune the G# scale down half a step to make it your G scale. Then I would tune the G scale down half a step so that it becomes a Gb scale. I would do this by adding weight to the reed, rather than removing any metal from the rivet end. And after all that you will have the flat slide G chromatic that you desire.

Have you performed a retuning this way?  If you're adding material, then just doing one reed plate would be easier in my opinion than doing both. 

Edit: I agree that flipping the slide might have been an easier approach.

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #20 on: August 06, 2019, 06:20:57 PM »
If I wanted a G/F# flat slide chromatic I would take the F# bottom plate off of an F Hering chromatic "combo" and pair it with the G top plate, comb, MP, and covers off of a G Hering chromatic. I would mount the plates on the comb and add the mouthpiece and covers.

Done in 20 minutes with screwdrivers... no soldering.


Doug S.

Offline GregH

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #21 on: August 06, 2019, 07:33:25 PM »
Good to hear from another flat-slide player 8).

My approach to retuning your G chromatic, would be like this. First I would flip the slide - I know this may be problematic as it may involve drilling another hole for the spring, but that can be done with some careful  measurement. After that I would tune the G# scale down half a step to make it your G scale. Then I would tune the G scale down half a step so that it becomes a Gb scale. I would do this by adding weight to the reed, rather than removing any metal from the rivet end. And after all that you will have the flat slide G chromatic that you desire.

Have you performed a retuning this way?  If you're adding material, then just doing one reed plate would be easier in my opinion than doing both. 

Edit: I agree that flipping the slide might have been an easier approach.

Why flip the slide and tune both sets of reeds? That seems like a lot more work. And the Suzuki is crosstuned (ie. the F#/G reeds alternate between both reed plates) so wouldn't flipping a zigzag slide change the relationship between the reeds in slide in & slide out? I think this would work on a non-CX12 Hohner or the aforementioned Hering though.



Offline GregH

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #22 on: August 06, 2019, 07:52:19 PM »
If I wanted a G/F# flat slide chromatic I would take the F# bottom plate off of an F Hering chromatic "combo" and pair it with the G top plate, comb, MP, and covers off of a G Hering chromatic. I would mount the plates on the comb and add the mouthpiece and covers.

Done in 20 minutes with screwdrivers... no soldering.

Doug S.

That does sound simple. I know nothing about the Herings - what's the quality like compared to Seydels?  I found a couple of Hering "Irish" flat-sliders on Ebay, which is an even quicker solution. Although there's limited stock out there, at least from my limited Google search - are they still being made? 

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2019, 11:57:57 PM »
All my keyed Hering chromatic harmonicas are older, so I can't speak to current quality. I bought from Farrell and Coast to Coast before they were bought out. For a while Hering was not available in the US, but they seem to be back in production. Musicians Friend has some listed. I don't know about Hering Irish flat side chromatics. If they are built on the ABS comb and assembled with screws they could be OK.

I really like their air tight build and their mouthpiece. I like how they allow easy inflection.

However, the reeds are softer brass and more easily damaged by hard playing. They used to sell replacement "combos" at a very reasonable price. They were comb and reed plate assemblies. Add the mouthpiece and covers from the old chromatic to the combo for a new chromatic. I have a supply of old parts left now.  Also, a vendor sold out old stock combos on clearance at a SPAH, so I have a supply of several keys of combos for future replacements.

I still play Herings as well as 270s and a Caberet. Herings and 270s are straight tuned and have interchangeable covers and mouthpieces, but Herings have ABS plastic bodies and use machine screws, not nails.

The hering Irish flat slide harps may be good for you depending on price and whether you play softly or very hard.


Doug S.

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #24 on: August 07, 2019, 01:30:42 AM »
On ebay eezyreeder has a combo for sale, F#/ Irish G for $89.95. If you have either Hering or Hohner 270 mouthpiece and covers this could be your solution. The flat or sharp slide depends on how you choose to mount the slide.

Eezyreeder has 100% positive rating. He was at the same SPAH auction/clearance sale I attended going through the Hering stock. So was Stan Harper...

I don't remember his name, but he mentioned his ebay store, and soon after I saw Hering combos and chromatics listed on his ebay store.

This F#/G is listed as the last one available.

No affiliation beyond the above notes.

Doug S.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2019, 01:34:24 AM by dougharps »

Offline Gnarly He Man

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #25 on: August 07, 2019, 01:52:51 AM »
That's Fred Klett, "Rabbi Chittlins".
He's a nice guy, I met him at SPAH.
BTW, I do flat slide retunes for folks--along with all the other retune work that comes my way.
I just retuned a pair of Hering Vintage 40 harps to Brendan Power's Slide Diatonic tuning.
The little screws in the front of those Hering harmonicas are easy to damage! The heads get blown out when you try to remove them--they are made of the same soft brass . . .

Offline BeauKim

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #26 on: August 07, 2019, 03:56:31 AM »

Have you performed a retuning this way?  If you're adding material, then just doing one reed plate would be easier in my opinion than doing both. 

Edit: I agree that flipping the slide might have been an easier approach.

Why flip the slide and tune both sets of reeds? That seems like a lot more work. And the Suzuki is crosstuned (ie. the F#/G reeds alternate between both reed plates) so wouldn't flipping a zigzag slide change the relationship between the reeds in slide in & slide out? I think this would work on a non-CX12 Hohner or the aforementioned Hering though.

I thought we were talking about straight tuned harmonicas here, as most 12 hole chromatics are.  My mistake.  I would definitely consider what Doug is talking about as it should save you a ton of time.  Gary can do the work professionally for your Suzuki since there's no other choice for it. 

Offline streetlegal

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #27 on: August 07, 2019, 06:58:57 AM »
I have done a number of these flat slide conversions on cross-tuned CX12 and even my 16 hole 280, which was an even bigger job. I would spread the work of the retune out over a week or more. Trying to do this kind of intense work all at once would probably drive me crazy - or crazier perhaps! 

My thinking on this is that it is better to have all of the reeds lowered than just half of them, for better uniformity within the instrument. But I have my own way of going about these things, just to please myself and I had an interest in tuning that I wanted to explore. And yes it is necessary to work out (on paper) your new cross-tuned layout for flatslide - it is a tricky business when you do this for the first time. The best route for a flat-slider might well be to order one of the custom chromatics from Seydel. I must say the Seydel Steel chromatics look like a good option - for those with more cash than time of course.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2019, 07:05:07 AM by streetlegal »

dougharps

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #28 on: August 07, 2019, 08:58:56 AM »
Gnarly, I have disassembled Hering chromatics on many occasions to adjust reed tuning and to do a coup!e reed replacements. You need to use the appropriate small screwdriver and be very gentle. I never damaged one of those thin screws. However, I did mail a couple to someone who had.

I really prefer Herings to my 270s except for the vulnerability of the reeds if you play hard. Sometimes loud stages have encouraged me to try to move too much air through harmonicas resulting in flattened reed pitch damage.


Doug S.

Offline GregH

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Re: How far up & down can you retune?
« Reply #29 on: August 07, 2019, 05:36:54 PM »
I have done a number of these flat slide conversions on cross-tuned CX12 and even my 16 hole 280, which was an even bigger job. I would spread the work of the retune out over a week or more. Trying to do this kind of intense work all at once would probably drive me crazy - or crazier perhaps! 

My thinking on this is that it is better to have all of the reeds lowered than just half of them, for better uniformity within the instrument. But I have my own way of going about these things, just to please myself and I had an interest in tuning that I wanted to explore. And yes it is necessary to work out (on paper) your new cross-tuned layout for flatslide - it is a tricky business when you do this for the first time. The best route for a flat-slider might well be to order one of the custom chromatics from Seydel. I must say the Seydel Steel chromatics look like a good option - for those with more cash than time of course.

Thanks, spreading out the work is very good advice for me as I can get obsessed with fixing things. Once I got a water-damaged Sears & Roebuck one-row melodeon at a pawn shop, and I worked pretty much two 14 hour days with only the shortest meal breaks to rebuild it. It was a crappy box though, and barely worth the paper it was printed on. But fun to fix.

I'm making a map & I'll mark every reed before I start. I'm still not 100% committed to this project, and the mapping will help me think it through. The Deluxe Steel looks great - I was trying to rationalize buying one before, but it's pretty expensive.

What key harmonicas do you play in sessions? I'm wondering about getting a D chromatic down the road, because maybe it's got better coverage with only one slide-in note for both the keys of A and G depending on the tune.

Want to have an Irish flatslider thread?
« Last Edit: August 07, 2019, 05:39:51 PM by GregH »