Saturday, November 29, 2008

Seydel Harmonicas - the new Sheriff in town?

I have been playing Hohner Harmonicas since 1972. I started out with the Marine Band, moved on to the Special 20, and have been using the Golden Melody model for years now. In my opinion, one thing has always been consistent with the Hohner harps over the years - poor quality control.

Buying harmonicas at the music store is problematic, because, unlike other instruments, you can't play the darn things before you buy them! Every store has the totally inadequate countertop bellows device that can be used to blow air through the harp, but all this tells you is if the reeds are working, not how hard (or easy) the thing is to play. I can't tell you how many times I've found a brand new harp impossible to play, and, because I've had it in my mouth, the store won't take it back.

Seydel Silver harp with plastic comb.

What to do? Well, you can buy a Hohner from the music store then send it out to a customizer, who can dramatically improve the playability of the instrument for a typical fee of $100-$150 (for a 10-hole diatonic harp). Of course, the pros keep these guys pretty busy, so the waiting times can be long. Plus, once you add the customizing fee to the current $30-$40 price of off the shelf Hohners, you are looking at a pretty large hunk of change for a complete set of instruments.

So, I was intrigued a few weeks ago when Seattle blues harp maestro Bubba McCoy called to tell me that he had been set up as an authorized distributor of the Seydel line of harmonicas. I had been hearing about the Seydel harps for a while, so I ordered a Seydel Silver harp in the key of C to replace the terrible Hohner Golden Melody I had purchased recently.

Wow - what a difference! The Seydel sounds great, plays beautifully, and feels good in the hand and mouth. On of the nice things about Seydel is that you can order the instruments (including chromatics) in all sorts of tunings, including the hard to find "low" tunings, which means I can finally buy the low F harp that I've been wanting. Of course, the Seydels should be an improvement over the Hohner - at a list price of $90 a pop for the Silver instrument (with a plastic comb), they are not cheap. However, if the quality of the next Seydels I purchase is the same as this first harp I bought, I will start retiring the Hohners.

Interested? First, check out the Seydel web site for more information on the product line, then give Bubba McCoy a call at 206-799-7675 for pricing and availability. Tell him the Playboy sent ya!

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