What Really Matters in a Harmonica Comb?


I took a look in my gig box of harmonicas and did an inventory of combs on my harps. These are the harps I use for studio gigs or playing out solo or with a band. My main box. 38 harmonicas. Here is the breakdown: 2 corian combs, 1 acrylic comb, 2 bamboo combs, 1 silver plated brass comb, 2 sealed composite wood comb, 1 stock special 20 comb, and the rest were sealed 1986 Marine Band Combs.

The truth is, the comb makes almost no difference at all as far as the sound of the harp. I’ve participated in controlled experiments with people guessing what kind of comb different players were using, as well as listening myself and trying to guess what kind of comb was being played. My guesses were as good as anyone else, and were not very accurate at all.

The thing that matters most to me is if the face of the comb feels smooth when I am playing the harp, particularly for heavy tongue blocking or tongue switching.

I used to make custom harps with corian combs and later on, acrylic. I don’t do that¬†anymore. I’ve found that as long as the face has no sharp edges and has a good slippery clear epoxy coating, that plain old Marine Band combs get the job done just fine.

When it comes to harmonica combs, how important is eye candy to you? When you watch someone like Kim Wilson, do you remember the color of the comb of the harmonica he is playing? I doubt it. Rick Estrin and Dennis Gruenling both show up for gigs with eye catching threads. They know how to look sharp. The fact that most of their harps are beat up and plain looking doesn’t matter cause 90% of the time they are completely covered by hands and microphones. My point is that spending $90 on a cool shirt will get you a lot more attention in the eye candy department than the same amount spent on some flashy combs.



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