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Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica

11 Jul 11 - 01:26 PM (#3185541)
Subject: suzuki folkmaster
From: paul vaughan

I've been playing a bit of harmonica lately since buying a couple of cheapies on holiday last year. I'm looking to upgrade and have been looking online at suzuki folkmasters. They seem to be good value but has anyone out there actually played them and would they reccomend them?
Many thanks in advance,

11 Jul 11 - 02:06 PM (#3185562)
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: Big Ballad Singer

I've played just about every major (and minor) brand out there, Paul. The Suzuki Folkmaster is OK... As a plastic-comb harmonica, it's decent, but they can be leaky. The comb/cover fit is not always great, and even tightening the covers doesn't always help with escaping air. The only place you want air to go in the harmonica is in and out through the holes, over the reeds.

Really, the Huang Silvertone Deluxe is a better choice, IMHO. It's got a wood comb which makes for better tone at that price.

If you're really looking to upgrade, get a set of Hohner Special 20 harmonicas. They have a plastic comb, the reed plates are replaceable, they have excellent tone and will last a long time if well cared for. I've always liked the action and ease of bending, etc. on the Special 20.

Lee Oskar is hands-down the best, however, in terms of build quality, tone, ability to change, modify and replace parts and durability. Yes, there are wooden-comb "trad" harmonicas like the Marine Band, etc, but you simply won't get the quality you get from Lee Oskar.

Fact is, Hohner got their butts kicked when the Lee Oskar brand got really popular. They hurried up and tried to sell their classic models with replaceable parts, etc, but in the scramble to catch up with Tombo (Oskar manufacturer), they decided to downgrade the quality of their entry-level harmonicas. The Bluesband, Hot Metal, Old Standby and others are now made of super-cheap materials and sound and play like crap.

Drop me a PM if you have any other questions. Glad to help.

11 Jul 11 - 03:38 PM (#3185622)
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: paul vaughan

Thanks for that B.B.S.
Looking on the website for my local dealer there's not much in it pricewise betwwen a folkmaster and a Lee Oskar, so I think I'll try one of those and maybe a special 20.
Thanks again for your help buddy, I'll let you know how I get on, you might even get a copy of my debut album!! (hee hee).

11 Jul 11 - 05:36 PM (#3185688)
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: Tootler

You might also consider the Seydel Session harmonica. I just got a couple and I am well pleased with them. Well made with robust feel, good tone.

I spent a bit more and got the Session Steel which comes with stainless steel reeds as I reckon they should last longer.

Also if you are using them to play dance tunes (aka jigs and reels) they do them in Paddy Richter tuning, though that costs a bit more.

11 Jul 11 - 06:41 PM (#3185720)
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: Steve Shaw

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.

11 Jul 11 - 06:57 PM (#3185730)
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: Steve Shaw

Incidentally, several investigations by the great and the good of the harmonica world have failed to find any significant differences in tone resulting from the materials combs are made of. If you want hassle-free harps at low cost, go for plastic combs every time. A harp that is all metal and plastic can be washed under the tap, which is exactly what I want.

Go to Pat Missin's website and look up his "ffaq" section. An excellent place to help you rid yourself of harmonica-related bullshit and received wisdom.

11 Jul 11 - 07:02 PM (#3185735)
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: Steve Shaw

I meant 5-blow and 8-blow, by the way, not 9-blow. Sorry.

11 Jul 11 - 08:14 PM (#3185760)
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: Big Ballad Singer

So, Steve Shaw thinks that my 20-plus years of playing and owning just about every major brand of diatonic harp out there add up to "no advice"? There's one gap you've forgotten to fix... no, wait, make that two.

He wasn't asking about buggering about with gapping and retuning reeds and so on. He was looking for something out of the box that would play well and sound good. You have ears like a bloody strobe tuner, so let's all bow down to you, Steve Shaw, because slightly flat reeds make you break out in rashes.

I've played the Huang Silvertones. I've never filed a reed, had someone customize a damned thing about any harp I've ever played. The guy asked for some basic advice, and you decided to tell him how he can spend on a harp and then SPEND AGAIN to have someone muck about with it.

Maybe he'd just like to get a tune out of the damned thing first?

11 Jul 11 - 08:32 PM (#3185765)
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: Steve Shaw

Getting a tune out of the damned thing is a damn sight easier if you get the right damned thing to start off with. Huang harps are notorious for arriving out of tune, having uneven response and going south very quickly. I don't care how long you've been playing (nowhere near as long as me as it happens, but I won't make a big thing of it). The advice to go for Huang harps, with their rotten quality control, is bad advice for a beginner, and will put him off, and your comment about wood and tone is simply received wisdom. Go off and read that Missin page I suggested.

With harmonicas you definitely get what you pay for. In response to his question, yes, Folkmasters are good value at their low price, but there are caveats. It is only fair to point these out to inexperienced players who are asking honest questions.

12 Jul 11 - 01:25 PM (#3186164)
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: paul vaughan

Blimey, I wish I'd never said anything!!!
Thanks for the advice Steve but, I have to say BBS has got it spot on.
I'm just looking for something simple for a bit of fun to play in a rack along with my guitar and banjo! I picked up a special 20 yesterday and am really pleased with it, mind you after the cheap shit I was playing anything would seem good!!!
I'm going to have a go at a Lee Oskar next and see how that goes, mind you those Seydel harps look good too - and I fancy a go at a "country tuned" harp as well - The minor tuned ones look interesting as do the tremolo harps and I might...........
Oh God, here we go another expensive hobby.
And to think, all this started from buying a 3.99 harmonica on holiday!!!!
Take my advice people, if you get the urge to buy a cheap harmonica while on holiday, after too much to drink..... DON'T
(hee hee)
Happy harping guys!! :-)

12 Jul 11 - 06:19 PM (#3186302)
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: Steve Shaw

He certainly hasn't got it spot on, but as long as you've injected your enthusiasm with an element of caution as to any advice as a result of this thread, 'tis no bad thing. I say again: anyone who doesn't want to have to meddle with their harps in order to get them to play nicely should avoid (a) cheapies, (b) anything with "Huang" on the box! Please yerself! Thank you and goodnight!

12 Jul 11 - 07:38 PM (#3186337)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: Joe Offer

Well, I've enjoyed reading the opinions expressed here, even if they aren't Gospel.
I have a couple of Folkmasters, and I really like them. They have a sweet, rich tone; and they feel good in my mouth. For fifteen bucks apiece, they ain't bad.


12 Jul 11 - 08:05 PM (#3186346)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: Steve Shaw

Aren't Gospel? I'll have you know that this avowed atheist has sneaked into many a village church in Devon and Cornwall and played Amazing Grace on my G Suzuki Bluesmaster. The devil may well have all the best tunes but God has all the houses with the best acoustics...

Those Folkmasters are raunchy little harps, great for stuffing into the pants pocket on a just-in-case basis. For the money they are super value, but for a pinching few dollars/quid more you could have a Bluesmaster, and a couple of those will play sweetly for you for many a long year. What's parked next to my laptop? Why, a G Folkmaster and a low D Special 20...

13 Jul 11 - 12:57 PM (#3186804)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: paul vaughan

The most revealing thing in this thread is that a Folkmaster will set you back $15 in the states while it's 21.99 here in good old rip off Britain!!!
I don't know the current exchange rate but that's probably near double the price!?!
I wondered why I was left with a bitter taste in the mouth from my special 20.
Still mustn't grumble, :-(

13 Jul 11 - 01:33 PM (#3186833)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: The Sandman

Hohners,blues harps, HAVE the advantage that Dannecker will replace the and reset the reedS that is important., which is slightly cheaper and better than a new unset hohner
Steve Shaw thinks he is a harmonica guru,it is true he is a good player, I am sure big ballad singer is too., it just shows that opinions vary
I have found lee oskars very reliable and I prefer the metal and plastic combs, but i spend more time with the concertina

13 Jul 11 - 01:48 PM (#3186847)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: Steve Shaw

I do not think I'm anything of the sort. I have simply reported my honest experiences with the harmonicas I happen to have bought over the years (and it's been a lot of years, and I've bought at least several of each sort I mention, so I don't diss a particular harp because I've had a negative exprience with just one sample). I can't tell you a darn thing about Herings, Seydels or the more expensive Suzukis, or even about some of the Hohner 10-hole harps. I can tell you about the money I've wasted on Huang Silvertones and Star Performers. The point I'm trying to get across is that harmonicas with a poor track record apropos of quality control are very bad news for beginners, designed to put 'em off forever, fine (possibly) for those who like to do their own tweaking.

What I can tell Paul is that he's been looking in the wrong places for his Folkmasters. Eagle Music (heartily recommended) will sell him one for 14.99.

13 Jul 11 - 02:27 PM (#3186881)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: The Sandman

I can tell you about Herings, they are good quality,I understand that there is a connection with hohner, but that they are cheaper becuase they are made in brazil cheaper labour costs.
you are right about beginners being put off.
however Big Ballad singer has a different opinion to you over good cheap harmonicas, you are not God, although your opinion is of value because you are a good player.
but the following comment illustrates your patronising and superior attitude
Subject: RE: suzuki folkmaster
From: Steve Shaw - PM
Date: 11 Jul 11 - 06:41 PM

Oh dear. No advice is good advice, as demonstrated here so far.

13 Jul 11 - 02:44 PM (#3186895)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: Steve Shaw

Pointing to what I know to be outright bad advice does not make me God. I'm not going to be on this forum and stay silent when someone recommends harmonicas with poor quality control to a beginner, makes an incorrect and misleading assertion about wood combs being superior, and (something I haven't mentioned yet) makes ludicrous remarks about Hohner's reaction to Lee Oskars.

13 Jul 11 - 02:55 PM (#3186900)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: paul vaughan

Heee Heeeee this is great!!!
I could sit and read this all night but I have to go out now and play some real music in front of some real people and drink some real beer!!
You guys keep swinging your handbags and I'll check back in later for a good laugh!!!!
Tara :-)

13 Jul 11 - 03:03 PM (#3186907)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: Steve Shaw

Fine, Paul, but just remember you won't have any beer money left after having been ripped off for that Folkmaster. If nothing else, at least I might have saved you a few quid, but who am I? (not God, that's for sure).

13 Jul 11 - 07:01 PM (#3187076)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: GUEST,mike

suzuki HARPMASTER is the one, on a levbel with hohner special20 and Lee Oskar for quality and sound, either 1st or 2nd position

14 Jul 11 - 04:18 AM (#3187233)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: paul vaughan

Hello again chaps,

Just thought I'd let you know I tried out my new harmonica rack last night at my weekly session. I hope to christ nobody caught it it on their mobile!!!

I obviously hadn't tightened it up properly causing it to slowly drift away from my gob as i was trying desperately to give a definitive performance of "Six days on the road". I then lost track of the chord changes, so tried singing another verse, at which point I got a fit of the giggles as my guitar strap came undone! As I tried to replace said strap I knocked my glasses from my face leaving me looking like a bereft Cpt Mainwaring from Dads Army!

Oh well, there's always next week, and if somebody did record it I might be in line for 250 quid from Harry Hill!!!!

15 Dec 11 - 05:57 AM (#3274090)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: GUEST,Dick Triller

If you play or played a Huang, then you made your first mistake early on, and it's hard to take your advice seriously. Hohner for first harp, marine band, Ok, then Hohner Blues Harp, okay, then Special 20, Pro harp, then Lee Oskar. Still at Lee Oskar (goodest yet, in typical goodest harp price range), looking at the Suzuki and Seydels. Seydel maybe, maybe try a Suzuki Harpmaster too. Interested in Silver reed Seydel. Yes, BBC condescending comments takes his comments out of the mix. Get some social skills, and I doubt if you are that good, God!

28 Sep 12 - 02:17 PM (#3411456)
Subject: RE: Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica
From: GUEST,Sonny boy stuart

FoLkmasters on ebay for 1 penny plus 10 postage they take forever to arrive ( if ever ) and sound like crap .43 years of playing blues ..... Its the Special 20 for me every time and i only pay 22/26 each from buy it now ebay sites !!!! HAPPY HARPIN !!!!!