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.
A misalignment in the reed will make squeeking much more likely. Aligning the reed will probably fix it.
I don't have such severe problems with the 6th over low in my other harps in A, C or G.
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
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
Thanks- Love the site.
Although that orthodontic wax is propably better - I actually used it back when I had braces.
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 :)
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.
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.
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?
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?
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. :)
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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"?
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.
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.
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
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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