Half-Step bends

The size of the top four chambers are significantly smaller in a Short Slot Dark comb™ than a Long Slot (standard) comb. This helps you match your embouchure to the resonance required to control the first semitone blow bend on the ten hole.

If you are struggling to hit that note cleanly in a higher key diatonic harmonica, don't be hard on yourself. It may not be your technique. It may just be physics.

The smaller overall space of the slot decreases the amount of compressible air in the system.

More importantly, the depth of the slot can affect what frequency is reinforced by the channel. The reed dimensions and weight distribution determines the frequency obtained when air flows through the slot and past the reed. But the slot itself can want to behave like a pan flute and the column of air can compress and expand at it's favourite frequency.

On the top end of the harp, it's difficult to compensate for that using your own embouchure alone.

The back wall of Short Slot combs' holes 7, 8, 9 and 10 are closer to the opening than those of a long slot comb. This changes the frequency that is reinforced to one that does not compete with that first semitone blow bend.

You can't change the laws of physics but you can change the slot sizes so that physics works in your favour!

See more about my Dark Combs™ here: Dark Combs

Altering Standard Richter to Spiral Tuning

Spiral tuning has the notes of the major scale alternating between the blow and draw notes. It provides draw bends and overblows from holes 1 to 10.

It also provides a lot of chords. You can add a major or minor seventh to many of the
chord triads shown here.

You can alter the tuning of a Standard Richter harmonica to Spiral Tuning.

Here is a visual aid to the modification:

Shown above are the offsets in semitones. You only need to lower the pitches. And you only need to modify 12 of the 20 reeds.

You can use solder. You can also use BluTak which is a very effective and stable way to lower the pitch of a reed by several semitones. It's the easiest method, too!

Second Position Spiral is another alternative where the tonic is the 2 draw.

The chords available are as follows:

Here are the modifications. You need to alter an extra reed:

Custom Harmonica 2022

To those who have reached out to me about a custom harmonica, thank you!

I have responded to all the emails I can find. If you reached out to me and I have not answered, would you please let me know?

I have been away from my workbench due to a few challenges. I am now back to 100 per cent capacity.

To follow a process that's fair, I am responding to requests in the order they came in.

I look forward to hearing from you.




I had been facing a challenge when it comes to the tips of my tines. I use products that are environmentally sound, safe to put in your mouth, comfortable, durable and beautiful. Recently, I have had to change my recipe and method due to factors outside my control. This was really bad timing for me.

You may notice that combs you have bought in the past few months have had slight variations in the appearance of the tips of the tines as I was forced to try new products on-the-fly.

I now have found a wonderful new recipe and method to finish the tips of the tines of my Dark Combs.

As with all my products that are hand made, I make them to order. I have high standards when it comes to my combs' flatness. I triple check the flatness before they leave my workshop.

They are all durable, comfortable and beautiful. As a handmade product, they are subject to slight cosmetic variations. These are not products that are mass produced by a machine.

The cosmetic variations are due to the effects of being made by human hands. I am not a robot.

To me, that's part of the charm of an artisan product.

Hohner PentaHarp

Hohner has released a new altered tuning diatonic harp called PentaHarp.

In Pat Missin's Altered States list of altered tunings, this tuning is 11.15, "Blues Scale Tuning" which has been known since the 90s.

PentaHarp offers you draw bends from bottom to top. The same breath pattern is repeated and there are no blow bends.

You can order pre-tuned PentaHarps but it's possible to convert a Standard Richter harmonica. The conversion to PentaHarp is a pretty big job. The blow and draw reeds in four holes need to be swapped to avoid having to sharpen notes. It's much more effective to lower the pitch or reeds instead of raising them. The job is much easier and the reed playability will stay protected.

PentaHarp adds three semitones to the total range of the instrument compared to Standard Richter. We will add these extra semitones on the bottom end of the instrument, not the top.

So we will start with a harp that is three semitones sharper than the key we are aiming for and tune it down.

Here is a visual aid to the modification:

Alteration checklist:
1- Swap blow/draw reeds 7, 8, 9 and 10. This will really make things easier.
2- Perform coarse tuning adjustment. Lower pitch using BluTak or Solder.
3- Perform other customizing and improvements
4- Perform fine tuning. No major chords are present but there are lots of opportunities for harmony in splits and octaves. Tune all minor thirds to zero. Tune Fourths and Fifths to be in harmony with the tonic (Fourths are about -2 cents and Fifths are about+2 cents)

The Reed Plate Holder

The Reed Plate Holder will help you hold the reed plate steady as you straighten it with the Reed Plate Claws. Once you get comfortable with the claws, you may no longer need the Reed Plate Holder.

It has two slots to accommodate many different sizes of reed plates. Use the smallest
slot that fits.

The Reed Plate Holder ships with a sticker on the under side. The adhesive will help hold the plate in place. Once it loses its stickiness, you can peel it off and replace it with any kind of tape you have on hand. If you no longer need the additional help from the adhesive, don't bother replacing it.

Experimental Golden Melody comb

This design was created to open up the back area of the Hohner Golden Melody. There is less comb material in back of the slots and that shapes the sound differently both acoustically (in air) and cupped in a mic. I feel this provides more power which I attribute to less attenuation or kinetic energy lost.

I will be looking for testers.

What do you think?


Subscribe to RSS - blogs