Mudcat Café message #3185720 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #139028   Message #3185720
Posted By: Steve Shaw
11-Jul-11 - 06:41 PM
Thread Name: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
Oh dear. No advice is good advice, as demonstrated here so far.

Huang harmonicas are cheap and not very nice. If you are lucky enough to get one that plays well out of the box, without need for tuning and gapping, you are luckier than nearly everyone else who ever buys them. If you're up for that kind of tweaking, good for you, go ahead, but your harp still won't last you very long.

Folkmasters are good value for money, but bear in mind that that isn't very much money. They are very small but have a nice, raucous tone. You will probably have to do some work to get them to be ideally responsive, and they don't last very long. They are the harps you want for sticking in your pocket in case of emergencies. Cheap and very cheerful, I have stacks of 'em, but I wouldn't want to rely on 'em for long, loud gigs or sessions.

Lee Oskars are well made, loud and long-lasting, though their tone is slightly shrill, and overblowers don't care for them much. I've found that I generally have to adjust a few gaps for my style of playing, but mebbe that's me. Yes, you can buy new plates for them, but by the time you need new plates (which are expensive anyway), you may feel that you might as well buy a new harp. Not harps to fall in love with, despite their longevity.

Hohner modular system harps can be quite nice, but there's something slightly unlovable about them which I can't quite put my finger on. Personally I prefer Marine Bands, though they are hard to dismantle and put back together if you need to work on them and they will play you up at times. I have one Marine Band Deluxe (pricey) and am not impressed, but I might not be being fair.

Special 20s are very nice harps and are not too difficult to work on. They are comfortable in the mouth and good specimens are nicely responsive. Their tuning is something of a compromise, and I routinely retune mine to equal temperament (another compromise, but at least 5-blow and 9-blow don't sound flat). Most harp players of some experience will probably tell you of SP20s that were absolute pigs out of the box and next to impossible to put right, but these Friday harps are the exception these days. I love my low D SP20s for playing Irish tunes.

I have never purchased a Seydel harp so I can't comment.

In the budget range, there's no doubt in my mind that the best box-tickers I've experienced are Suzuki Bluesmasters. They play nicely, they are comfortable, they stay in tune and they last at least as well as Lee Oskars. I usually have to regap a reed or two on mine, but, again, mebbe that's just me.

I tend to get my SP20s set up for me by Anthony Dannecker these days (he knows exactly what I like, mind you), who transforms a run-of-the-mill but decent harp into something wonderful for something like an extra 15 quid. Brilliant. I have a Pro-Harp that he made up and it's my favourite G harp of all the harps I have. He only does Hohners.