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Harmonica Workbench: BluesXlab SP20 Combs

11 October 2011 7,371 views No Comment

Kinya Pollard by Kinya Pollard

 
What’s not to love about the perfectly milled SP20 combs made by BlueXlab (Italy)—makers of the vintage switchcraft lookalike Amphenol connector volume control. With exquisite materials and seductive finishes, I was fully expecting the BlueXlab (www.bluexlab.com) combs to provide me with my next favorite Special 20 harmonica.

 

Shown in aluminum

 

Check out the detail on this olive wood comb:

 

Unfortunately, there was a design flaw that prevented this from happening. For those harmonica players on the quest for big fat tone, you probably spotted the “fly in the ointment”—the mouthpiece.


No, it was not the round versus square holes, which I had an issue with. The sticking point for me was the extra 2mm of material that restricted me from utilizing the “fat tone” embouchure.


To understand why, you need not look much further than a close up photograph of one of your favorite harmonica heroes (or better yet, stand at the foot of the stage ;o). As a reference, virtually all the pro harmonica players who had participated in Harmonica Sessions “Celebrity Hands” feature over the years had adopted an embouchure that maximized their tone and performance.

These players insert their harmonicas as far back into their mouths as possible, with the upper lip touching the back crest of the blow cover plate. The players do this to properly position the reeds into the tone chamber of rich and warm breath—sort of like the epicenter of the harmonica player’s universe. Conversely, the further the harmonica is pushed away from this area, the weaker the tone. You know what I’m referring to, right?… breathy, pitchy and weak.
So what is the solution to this BlueXlab SP20 comb conundrum? Use a precision disc sander to mill away the extra material!

This issue is going to be one of those cliff hangers, “Stay tune to the next exciting episode of Harmonica Session’s Workbench to see how things turned out”!

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“Play the notes people want to hear” © 2008www.HarmonicaMasterclass.com Workshop Instructor
MelBay’s
www.HarmonicaSessions.com Columnist
www.BluesHarmonica.com Harp-Tech Expert

Kinya Pollard
The Harpsmith

Musician & Harp-Tech

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