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SPAH 51 St. Louis – August 5-9, 2014

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I’m happy to be attending SPAH 51 again this. As last year, I will be representing Seydel in the vendor booth area. SPAH has been going strong for over 50 years now and it is a busy but fun week where harmonica players of all skill levels gather for a time of jamming, teaching, clinics, performance, buying/selling, and and all other things related to our instrument. The vendor area is a central spot where the major manufacturers of harmonicas and related gear can showcase and sell their products. Seydel has an active presence at SPAH both as a contributor and a vendor. Seydel harps are available for demo and purchase and the selection will be extensive this year. As part of this, I will be on hand to answer customer questions, provide technical advice, and process your purchase. Both in the vendor area and around the hotel, you will see great harmonica players, including Jimi Lee and PT Gazelle who are are part of Seydel’s endorser program. On Thursday morning from 10-12, I will be leading a workshop on basic Seydel chromatic maintenance. We will cover ways to keep your Seydel DeLuxe and Seydel Saxony on stage and off of the workbench, as well as simple repairs. Please come by and say hello if you are attending. More information on SPAH is at the link http://www.spah.org/index.asp.

Photos below were taken by my good friend and harmonica player Keith Mitchell. He’s talented musically and as a photographer. Keith specializes in musical photography. For more of his work, see the link http://www.digitalaspirations.com/

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The Seydel DeLuxe Chromatic

The Seydel DeLuxe Chromatic is the perfect mid-priced chromatic harmonica that is ideally suited for the new player and the performing professional. The Seydel DeLuxe is a a brass reed instrument mounted on the standard chromatic 270 acrylic comb. Although most chromatic harmonicas come only in the key of (C) and in Solo Tuning, Seydel realizes that player needs and styles differ. The Seydel DeLuxe is offered as a stock instrument in several different tuning options and in many keys and octaves. This clearly sets the DeLuxe apart from other chromatics. The Seydel DeLuxe is also available as a personalized instrument with an infinite number of custom tunings and configurations. The stainless steel fastener makes the DeLuxe easy to disassemble and re-assemble for routine maintenance and repair. Replacement springs, slides, screws, and even reeds/reed plates are sold separately and are not only easily purchased but economically priced.  Pictured below is a Seydel DeLuxe with an upgraded round hole mouthpiece.  As you seek to make your next chromatic choice, consider the Seydel DeLuxe from 16:23 Custom Harmonicas. I will gladly walk you though the many options so you are playing the perfect chromatic for your musical preference.  Prices for the Seydel DeLuxe start at $150 + shipping. I prefer to process  your order via email so that I can make sure your harmonica is perfect for you.  I am happy to guide my customers through the various options.  For more information and ordering, email me at greg@1623ccustomharmonicas.com.  
 

 

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The Annoying Reed Squeal On Overblows/Draws

As overblow/draw (OB/OD) playing becomes more popular, complaints are increasing about the annoying reed squeal noise that can ruin a blue 3rd or jazz lick and send our audience to the ENT. Reed squeal seems to becoming more prevalent but this is most likely the result of more players becoming proficient in OB/OD and the quality of manufactured harps which permit players to venture into the technique. The video below is a demonstration of OB/OD on a stock Seydel 1847 with noticeable reed squeal. I treat the reeds with a small amount of nail polish and play the same notes later in the video. The nail polish certainly reduced the reed noise. The cause of reed squeal is up for debate but I think it amounts to high pressure air passing through the base of the isolated reed and causing a whistle. This theory is flawed in some respects, but it is the best I have right now. Nail polish is just one solution but I seem to be having success with it and at 16:23 we are all about finding the best and most efficient solution to this nuisance. Watch the vid and see what you think. If OB/OD playing is your goal, we would like to help you reach that. I believe that the stock Seydel will OB/OD with little modification but that it is possible the Seydel diatonic would benefit from treatment to reduce reed squeal.

The Stock Seydel and Overblows/Overdraws

If you get on any harmonica related forum you are sure to read discussion on overblows and harmonica customization. Considerable time is devoted to how expert technicians adjust and modify harmonicas to enable harmonica players to achieve chromatic play. It is important to note that  many of the greatest players do not use overblows in performance.  However, the technique is becoming more popular. At the same time, harmonica manufacturers are constantly improving and the quality of the stock harmonica is at its highest. We believe stock Seydel harmonicas are among the best and many of them can be played chromatically straight out of the box. The skills involved in making micro adjustments to harmonicas for optimal play are still needed, but not to the extent they were necessary years ago when manufactured harmonicas were not as responsive. The video below is a demonstration of the playing capabilities of stock Seydel 1847s in relation to overblows and overdraws.  At 16:23 Custom Harmonicas, we encourage players to buy and play Seydel harmonicas stock before investing in customization services. See for yourself what these harps can do straight out of the box.

Seydel High A & G Stainless – A Workable Solution

Play in any acoustic setting and you no doubt have the issue of being heard above the guitars when playing 2nd position (Cross) in (D) or (E).  We’ve all been there and noticed that the harp is playing at exactly  the same range as the other instruments and hearing yourself play is next to impossible and forget others hearing you.  This has been one of the reasons harmonica companies occasionally produce High A and High G harmonicas.  Seydel still has both in production although only in brass reed models.  The reason for this is that a given reed length can only be made to produce a finite number of pitches.   The pitch range of a reed is significantly smaller on stainless steel and hence, the higher octave harps are not produced in stainless.  There is a very workable solution to this using  what is called a “shift”.  Shift tuning merely moves the notes over to the right or left 1 hole into the usable pitch range.  For example, a typical diatonic (G) harp is laid out as follows.

G  B  D  G  B  D  G  B  D  G     BLOW

A  D  F# A   C  E  F#  A C  E   DRAW

These pitch ranges are not available in stainless steel an octave higher.

However, we can shift all the notes over 1 hole and get into the workable range.   Of course, the layout is slightly different, but it still follows the same basic pattern. You lose the notes on the 10 hole, but at that octave those would be too piercing, anyhow.  The other advantage is the additional notes added on hole 1 fit perfectly for 2nd position play.  Under this tuning scheme, the player gets a full 3 octaves of 2nd position.

The shifted layout would be as follows:

D  G  B  D  G  B  D  G  B  D    BLOW

F# A  D  F#  A C E  F# A C   DRAW

Listen to a sound sample of a little informal jam using a HIGH A 1847 that has been shift tuned.

Shift Tuned HIGH A Seydel 1847

This is a great option for those needing a higher octave harp in bluegrass, country, and other acoustic type settings.  It takes only a few minutes to figure out the layout.  I can build this type of harp in the 1847 for about $110.  Contact me for more details at greg@1623customharmonicas.com See below for a video demonstration.

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The Crucial Major 7th

The major 7th is an important note in modern music. If you sing or hum any recognizable melody, you will undoubtedly pass the major 7th which is the last note in the major scale.  It is 1/2 step below the root note.

When we play a harmonica that is in the key of (C) and we are playing in cross harp/2nd position, the 7th note of the scale would fall on the 5 draw.  This note on a (C) harp is an F, but in 2nd position key of (G), we need that note to be an F#.  Harmonica players for years have struggled with this situation.  Although the note is not absolutely necessary in many blues progressions, it is crucial in jazz, country, popular music, and bluegrass.  We can find this note on hole 2 draw bent 1/2 step and can also get the pitch on the upper end on hole 9 and a 1/2 step blow bend.  However, most want to be able to get the note in the middle octave, as well.  

The use of an over blow on hole 5 will get us the major 7th.  The 5 over blow can be a difficult note to hit, especially on a fast passage. So some players have opted for country tuning which raises the pitch of the 5 draw reed 1/2 step.  The half-valved harmonica is another option and allows the player to hit the major 7th pitch as a blow bend on hole 6.  Watch the video below for a demonstration of these options.  At 16:23 Custom Harmonicas, we enjoy working with players to help them become the best they can be. Sometimes this involves working through their musical challenges.  Contact me if I can help you.  I sell all Seydel diatonic and chromatic harmonicas and am able to modify your Seydel harmonicas for your playing preference.  greg@1623customharmonicas.com

 

Love Me Do Harp

If you are over 40 and play harmonica, there is a good chance you were inspired to play after hearing the Beatles sing that wonderful song “Love Me Do”. The harmonica part is unmistakeable whether played with the song or while on the front porch. John Lennon played a chromatic on the song. It is probably the best instrument to use when covering Love Me Do. However, many tribute bands and groups like to play the song and don’t have a dedicated player for the harmonica part. This means one of the members has to either abandon his primary instrument or play it on a harp rack. Featured here is a specialty tuned diatonic harmonica that has all the notes in the lead and solo part to play “Love Me Do” without the need for bends. The tuning is as follows:

D F G C C E G C E G – BLOW
E F# A B D F A B D F – DRAW

Listen for yourself. At 16:23, we can build this harp for you. We suggest the Seydel Session Steel with 1847 covers. Email me for more details: greg@1623customharmonicas.com

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