Waxing the Rivet End
A common problem in overblow playing is the occurrence of torsional vibrations in the choked reeds. When choking a reed, escaping air, which passes along the sides of the reed, can cause the reed to waggle in the slot, producing a high-pitched squeak.

Tombo reeds are notorious for doing this and are therefore not preferred by most overblow players.

Since all reeds have a tendency for torsional vibrations depending on how they are gapped and how straight they are, a fix has been found using beeswax or nail polish.

I prefer the wax because it lasts longer and is easier to rework if something goes wrong.

A small amount of wax is placed around the rivet end so that it is just on the reed. This stabilizes the reed and helps prevent the torsional vibrations.


The wax deadens the reed slightly and makes it respond more directly to the player's breath. An untreated reed will vibrate for a short time after the player has stopped the airflow to the reed. The dampening effect of the wax causes the reed to stop sooner after the airflow has stopped. Though this might be seen as a negative side effect, it is actually quite useful in overblow playing because it shortens the time needed to choke a reed.

An additional bonus to the overblow player is that the wax closes any gap between the reed and the plate around the rivet.
Even when the reed is arced in such a way that it bends down into the plate, it will never fully close off the slot because the reed necessarily curves up to above the plate where it is riveted. The wax seals this opening thus taking away another bit of leakage.

People have asked me what reeds to put the wax on, personally I put the wax on all reeds. The wax slightly alters the tone of the reed and it shortens the decay time of the note. Because of this I put wax on all the reeds to get a sound that is as even as possible on all the notes. However if you only want to use the wax to play better overblows and overdraws then putting wax on the blowreeds that you overblow and the drawreeds you overdraw would suffice.

I have now started to use orthodontic wax, it works slightly better than the normal beeswax and is available online and in drugstores. It is also more convenient to carry around since it comes in nice little portable cases.

User Contributed Notes
19-06-2016 01:55
Thanks Tinus i'll get the wax.
18-06-2016 22:29
@Gar: yes detal wax!
18-06-2016 21:35
Tinus i'm about to wax the reeds on my harps. Reading the above do you recommend the dental wax above using nail polish? I see that dental wax on ebay and i might get it.

02-05-2016 23:36
@Adam: yes higher reeds are more prone to this as are some brands and models.
A misalignment in the reed will make squeeking much more likely. Aligning the reed will probably fix it.
02-05-2016 17:39
Adam Lark
Hello, is it possible that harps in a higher key tend to show more of the high pitched noise? At least I have a blues harp on D, which just doesn't want to stop making that noise. Even with wax. Or may this noise be caused by a non symmetric placement of the blow read? Seems to me a bit shifted to one side...
I don't have such severe problems with the 6th over low in my other harps in A, C or G.

Regards, Adam
19-03-2012 23:28
@Nate: no the other modifications have very little effect on the torsinal vibrations. The torsional stiffness of the reed is a function of the stiffnees of the material used and the shape and size of the crosssection in relation to the length of the reed. None of the modifications change these properties so if a reeds is prone to squeeking this won't change it.
Not all wax melts because not all "wax" is actually wax. I think Buttlers is very constant under varying teperatures but the I live in a very moderate climate. However there are 3 alternatives: the first is bluetac, it is not a wax but a type of rubber so it will not melt, the second is nail-polish and the third is turbo tape. The first two are applied just like the wax is but the turbo tape is applied differently. Get a very small piece of tape (just cellotape works) and stick it in the center of the reed on the plate side of the reed. Read this article for more info: http://www.bluestime.it/harmonica_house/new/turbotape.html
19-03-2012 22:56
I have Suzuki Firebreaths and Manjis. Both overblow nicely. The trouble is with the buzzing/ringing. I refuse to put wax on the reeds, because wax melts and ruins harps. Tinus, isn't there a way to get the reeds smooth enough, scooped, embossed, and the rest...so that I don't need the wax???? In other words, won't taking care of all the other modifications collectively remove the buzzing/ringing???
13-04-2010 12:36
I freaking LOVE your site. I have been playing for 25 years and despite it's merits and the encouragement of my teacher (back in the day), I never learned to overblow. I always said that some day I would learn when I have the time or if someone makes a website that breaks it down the molecule.

Well in NYC there never is too much time but yer website makes up for it. You just saved me like a thousand hours of trial and error. God bless you dude.

Holy crap your site is awesome; with the videos, the sound files, the great writing, the forum....and it's been out here for years it seems.

Awesome. Thank you. I destroyed a reed on Friday night (after a solo that was definitely worth killing a harp for), I'm gonna start practicing on it for overblows and working the reeds etc. I have exhausted almost every musical possibility with only the draw note bends and top 9 and 10 hole bends etc. This is going to be a whole new universe. Oh and then you have scales up too....ahhhhh

10-03-2010 23:18
@Bob: I think that superglue would be too hard. The wax has to dampen the reed enough to stop the torsional vibration but not enough to change the pitch of the reed.
10-03-2010 17:57
Bob Snow
what about adrop of superglue
21-02-2010 14:38
Yes I use wax on all reeds.
21-02-2010 08:55
Do you wax the rivets on both the blow reeds and draw reeds?
06-01-2010 12:55
I use a razor blade to cut away the wax that interferes with proper placement of the comb.
06-01-2010 10:49
The blowreeds are a bit difficult to wax so that the wax won't get in between the plate and the comb (because the blowreeds are on the comb side of the plate). Any tips for doing that?
02-10-2009 23:30
No that does not happen with me. Did the pitch also change? If it did then there is too much wax on the reed itself.
02-10-2009 23:19
Billy V
But when you pu the wax on it will make it sound less as loud and you will need more air pressure when you blow no? That happens to me
20-09-2009 18:38
I bought the orthodontic wax from the local drug store and it is easy to use. Little expensive though - but on the other hand you don't need very much of it and it includes a nice little box..
15-09-2009 09:11
I started doing this to my harps after finding your site about a year ago and I love the way it sounds. Here's my question- I unfortunately left 2 of mine in the hot car and the biscuits of wax melted into the plate/reed space. I tried soaking the plates in boiling water and using a toothbrush to scrub out the wax to no avail. The damn things won't play anymore - any suggestions or am I just out of luck?

Thanks- Love the site.

10-09-2009 14:08
I have tried the blu-tack and it works well, but the orthodontic wax works better. It is stickier and easier to form. The orthodontic wax is also easy to buy in drugstores.
10-09-2009 13:41
Have any of you tried blu-tack fo waxing? I mean it's designed to stick and it is cheap and available in most of the regular shops etc. And you can use it to put your harmonica tablature on the wall with the excess.. ;)

Although that orthodontic wax is propably better - I actually used it back when I had braces.
13-04-2009 02:07
About the orthodontic wax: I got some, bought it online for 2,95. They sent me two very compact little cases with 5 sticks of wax each. For that price you can get about a kilo of beeswax grains, but that won't come in a smart looking an highly portable container :)
Thw wax looks and feels very very much like ..... beeswax. I gues that if you want to make some kind of wax that is safe to put in your mouth and that is mouldable at room teperature and that sticks to metal there aren't to many options. This wax is slightly softer and stickier than the beeswax I use. It works like a charm. Sticks to the harp very well, is easy to work with and the result is a little better than the beeswax. With the beeswax I usually need a couple of tries to get it right this stuf sticks to the reed and the plates like glue and does the job in one go. So in the future I'll be using "Butler's GUM orthodontic wax". Maybe I can get them to sponser the site :)
13-04-2009 01:47
Thanks Alan, but that is the wrong key for me. Nice harp though, why are you selling it?
13-04-2009 01:42
Alan Hall
I have a Suzuki Firebreath. I'll sell it to you cheap.
11-04-2009 17:28
Yes I found it. I ordered some and I will try it soon and write about it.
11-04-2009 17:18
The orthodontic wax is used( for those that do not know) when you have to wear dental braces , and the little metal brackets create sore spots inside your mouth , so this wax is made to stick well to metal ,resistant to saliva , and also easy to remove , which makes it perfect for rivet waxing. Tinus ,I have one question do you wax both plates , draw and blow?
08-04-2009 16:31
Orthodontic wax sounds perfect. I have never seen it in the drugstores but maybe I just wasn't looking. I'll try to get some and try it out.
08-04-2009 16:14
I think that orthodontic wax is the right stuff to wax the rivets ,has the right consistency ,very safe , easy to remove , and you can find it in every drug store. Just make sure you get the unflavored one , unless you want your harp to smell minty.
27-07-2008 20:57
I don't have experience with the other Suzuki harps myself, but from what I have heard from others they too need anty squeeling fixes. But then, most harps do.
27-07-2008 14:48
I know the low-end Suzuki harps (MR-200, 250) require anti-squeal treatment, but I was wondering if you had any experience with other Suzuki models such as Promaster, Hammond Harp or Fire Breath?
13-06-2008 18:59
Hi Jason
I agree on your 1847 recommendation.
Get over the reluctancy though and just wax those rivets, since it's only 5 to 10 minutes work and it does the trick.
12-06-2008 01:34
Hey Jason,

I understand that the squeeking is produced by a torsional vibration in the reed. The torsion stiffness of a reed depends on a lot of factors. The stiffness of the material, the crosssection of the reed, the relation between length and width of the reed. Temperature and humidity also play a role and the shape of the slot and reed edges. Too many factors for any one person to understand fully I guess.
11-06-2008 22:38
jason Rosenblatt
Hey Tinus,

Great job on your site. Very helpful. I have been working with stock Golden Melodies for quite some time and never had to add wax to the rivets in order to get a nice sustained and squeal-free OB/OD. I am currently trying out some 1847s which I love and highly recommend. The main issue I'm having is the OB/OD squeal. Needless to say I am a little reluctant to add foreign material to an $80 harmonica in order to make it work to my specifications. (Whatever, happened to the days when you could just gap a $25 Golden Melody and get a great airtight instrument with sustainable OB-ODs) Do you happen to know the reason why Hohner harps tend not to squeal and others do. Does it have to do with with reed thickness or length or some other issue?



22-05-2008 02:16
Pat Williams
I never melt the wax, I use my fingers to warm it up just a little to get soft enough to apply it.
22-05-2008 00:04
It kept breaking apart when it was dry and when melted, it hardened too fast for me to apply it correctly... It was my first time, maybe I'll get better at it.
20-05-2008 15:13
With the turbo tape method I also found that the overall tone of the reeds that are treated becomes less bright, a little muffled. What was the problem with working with the wax?
20-05-2008 14:31
Wax was a lil tricky to work with, so I used bluetack, but it didn't work for me. So I went another way and applied a bit of tape right on the reed. It got rid of the squeal completely. Downside is that now, the treated reeds, especially the high ones, feel slightly heavier and a lil slow to respond.
13-05-2008 16:31
No, quite the contrary, the squeeling occurs primarily on the reed that is choked. White candle wax is probably good, but check to see if the components are safe.
13-05-2008 16:11
During overblows, the blow reeds are choked. So in order to stop the sqeal, do I put the wax on draw reeds only?

I play Suzuki Bluesmasters. On C harp, the 5 & 6 overblows will sqeal, but not all the time. Sometimes, they play nice unless I hold the note for a while, other times, they start sqealing immediately, especially 6.

Also, is plain white-candle wax OK to use?

23-02-2008 06:40
Rob O'B
In the states a couple of other wax resources would be a mint flavored wax for people that wear braces. Pick this up from a drug store, like a Walgreens. Soft and very easy to apply. Another source would be a tube of wax for a bow string from an archery shop. Hope this helps anyone still looking.
Best regards
09-09-2007 04:23
tom goss
A friend uses nail polish instead of bee's wax, which is probably a bit easier to control than "hot melt" glue.
30-07-2007 04:37
In the U.S. beeswax can be purchased in art supply stores. Its used for modeling.
24-03-2007 20:00
As you describe it and if it is non toxic the hot glue sounds like good stuff to use. I put the wax on all the reeds all 20 of them. To get an even sound, to lessen the shrillness the embossing causes and indeed to stop torsional vibrations on all reeds.
24-03-2007 19:54
tom goss
"Hot Melt" glue is not actually glue at all, but is just a soft plastic that liquifies at temperatures above 100 C. When solidified, it remains somewhat flexsible at body temperature and it is widely used by home-craft folks to hold things together. Similar to "duct tape", it is multipurpose stuff. I don't know if it is actually non-toxic, but it seems no worse than the dried-up crud I find on my plastic harmonica comb, so I have given it a try. As I play Tombo "Lee Oskar" harps, it sounded like waxing was s good idea for the high end draw reeds. Once solidified on a rivet, if you don't like the way it set, it is easy to pull off in one piece without gumming up the reed. I tried the beeswax, but the stuff I got at the health-food store was difficult to soften by kneeding in the hand, As I could not clearly get the beeswax to work, I'm not sure if the "hot melt" stuff is working. Does waxing help the torsional vibration on all reeds, or just the ones you are trying to choke?
20-03-2007 18:33
Hot Melt glue? I never heard of the stuff. I guess not. it sounds dangerous. Don't put anything in your harmonica that you wouldn't want to eat. You will be breathing through the thing and you don't want it to poison you.
20-03-2007 17:21
Tom Goss
Has anyone tried to use "hot melt" glue rather than beeswax?
17-02-2007 20:47
het is Tinus hoor, maar dat geeft verder niet :-)

I buy wax from the "Salamander" drugstore on the marketsquare in Delft. I think it is the same place where Vermeer used to buy his colors. :)
17-02-2007 20:21
Hi Titus,
Can you give me the name of the drugstore you got the wax?
I have 'always' used beeswax from local beeholders for other perposes but it is to course it seems for things like this.
I actually melted kilo's of beehives with low-temperature and kind of filtered it afterwards. It seems to be simplier if you have a centrifuge for this work but still the quality is not the same probably as industrial-processed and cleaned beeswax. Looked in "Kruidvat" (yes, in Nehtelands) already but didn't find it. even no beeswax-candles anymore...

congratulations with the concervatory
15-01-2007 18:01
> Eduardo

No need to Shout! stay calm.

The wax I use I buy from the drugstore in small grains. I take a few grains of wax an roll them to a small ball of wax between the tips of my fingers. I place the ball of wax on the rivet and gently push down on it untill the wax is just on the reed and the plate. After doing this I check the reed to see if the squeeking has stopped. If not I push the wax further onto the reed and plate. If the reed doesn't play well anymore I push the wax back toward the rivet.
After applying wax to blowreeds I take a small knife to cut away excess wax that would interfere with placing the reedplate on the comb.
15-01-2007 16:53

11-10-2006 16:15
The XB isn't an overblow harp like the bahnson or suzuki overblow harmonicas, it is more a full bending harp. I personally am too used to the standard diatonic layout to find the XB very practical.
I expect thos overblows to come out and when they don't I feel uncomfortable. The same goes for valved diatonics, they are probably wonderfull if you don't overblow a lot, but if you do then it just feels weird to not have those overblows.
11-10-2006 16:00
dave toussaint
Interesting site.Thanks.Have you checked Pat Missin's tuning site?
I like to overblow Special 20's,Marine Band Deluxe and Golden Melodies plus some Hering harps and Golden Blues.
I did not get along with the XB overblow harp of Rick Epping-maybe with more practise?
what do you think?
12-09-2006 01:20
Blu tack can probably be found in an office supply store, this is the companys website:

About the high reeds I can say this: in order to produce good overdraws and bends you should try to get the reeds straightened out. If they have too much arc the won't overdraw because the drawreeds will never choke.
When setting up the reeds try to isolate them and see if they choke well that way it is easier to judge if you are setting them up right.
12-09-2006 00:47
Alan Hall
Maybe in Europe they have beeswax in the drug store, but I don't think so here. A friend has kept bees on my land for years and gives me some honeycomb every year. It was handy so I used it.

The wax made a 7 hole OD easy. This on an F harp. The 9 hole still only ODs if I block the draw reed with a finger. Should I emboss again? Most of my problems seem to be on the high end, especially the 10 hole bends on the high harps. Any technical suggestions? And where to look for "blue tack"?
11-09-2006 13:17
Chew the honeycomb? I just buy grains of beeswax at the drugstore, I don't go out to find and actual beehive and steal the wax from that. Where did you find an actual honeycomb?
11-09-2006 00:58
There is something called "blue tack" that apparently can also be used instead of the beeswax. You can also use nailpolish, but I don't like the smell and the taste when I play the harmonica after applying it.
10-09-2006 22:21
Alan M. Hall
First I had to chew the honeycomb, and then melt and render it in 160 F water!
Then I tried my first embossing and arcing on a factory Golden Melody.
Then I re-gapped and added the beeswax on 7 and 9 draw reeds and 4, 5, and 6 blow. I had good results on the 7 OD, less so on the 9 OD. I encountered a problem with waxing the 4,5 and 6 blow reeds as the top plate has the reeds to the inside and when I re-assembled, the comb hit the wax, squished it around and had to be totally cleaned off to free the reeds again. But once I got all that done, I had a much better harp! The embossing is a dramatic improvement. It really took a lot of force to emboss- I used a penny, and may get a small set of vise grips to hold the penny next time.

I wonder if there is a tape that could replace the beeswax?

Your site helped tremendously in gaining a hands on understanding of this technique. Thanks.
14-08-2006 00:29
The beeswax can be softened between the tips of the fingers. Be carefull with using direct heat because if the wax turns liquid and runs between the reeds you'll spend hours getting it off.
Yes the beeswax helps with overdraw reeds.

About the problem with the overdraws, All I can think of is to open the harmonica and try it whith a blocked drawreed. If you can get it to sound with a blocked reed than you can work on choking the reed until it feels the same as playing with a blocked reed.
In general the sound of rushing air when you have a reed choked is a bad thing. It usually indicates that the reed doesn't close well when chocked.
13-08-2006 21:40
Alan M. Hall
I guess you warm and soften the beeswax before applying it?
Will this help with the overdraw reeds?
They tend to torque and rattle terribly on some of my custom Marine Band harps. On other harps I can overdraw the 7 hole with no sound from the hole except air hissing, but cannot get the blow reed to sound. Any tips?

Great website! Thanks
15-02-2006 22:51
Yes the wax is on the reed and the plate. When I say "just on the reed" I mean that the wax is on the plate and the reed in such a way that it is also on a small part of the free reed, the part of the reed that is over the slot rather than on top of the solid plate.
15-02-2006 21:17
Nick Kirkes
Tinus, quick question:

I'm trying to make sure I understand what you have written here. You say: "A small amount of wax is placed around the rivet end so that it is just on the reed." By saying "just on the reed" I would assume that means that no wax comes in contact with the plate. The picture you have here looks like the wax spills off the rivet end of the reed and onto the plate itself. So from the picture I would think that wax is placed on the reed and plate. It's probably just symantics, but I can be rather dim at times and I'm having trouble really understanding what to do.

Can you clarify this for me?

Thanks for any advice and double thanks for the great site.

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