Tested model: Discrete Comb with Big River
MS reedplates in G
Some time ago I received a Discrete Comb, made
by Winslow Yerxa. The Discrete Comb (DC) is custom machined
on a CNC milling machine. After that, the comb is sanded with
abrasives to smooth sharp edges, remove cutting marks, and,
most important, make the surfaces that contact the reedplates
as flat as possible for purposes of airtightness.
Winslow came to the idea of building a comb with separate
chambers for each reed when he played and examined a little
banana harp that had a single reedplate with a blow and a draw
reed side by side, each in a single hole.
After learning more about opening and closing reed action
and dual reed bends he decided to build a DC with each of the
10 holes divided into upper and lower halves so it was like
having two rows of holes in a vertical stack. This allowed him
to bend every reed in a single reed bending action.
The comb I reviewed was made from clear acrylic...almost the
same dimensions as any other diatonic "bluesharp"...
The length and width are "normal"...but the comb is
bit taller.... I came to think of a XB40 .
It was built to mount Hohner MS reedplates so I used a set
of Big River MS reedplates in the key of G. No customizing,
just reedplates out of the box.
I play diatonic and chromatic harp and maybe that's why I
didn't have to get used to the shape of the comb.
The harp played like a standard Big River...maybe a bit more
responsive. All regular draw bends and blow bends came easy....no
loss of air.
BUT..... the DC can do much more! It is built to be able to
play overblows and overdraws in a single isolated reed action,
simply by tilting the harp a little and directing the air stream
to the other half of the hole. So...blow on hole 1, tilt the
harp a little to isolate the draw reed on hole 1 and the overblow
comes very, very easy. The same goes for all other overblows/overdraws.
Another example, draw on hole 7, tilt the harp a little, draw
on the blow reed and the overdraw is there. It works as described
in the booklet that came with the harp, very helpful because
of the well-explained different reed actions.
It is possible to play isolated single reed bends on every
hole....draw bend, blow bend, overblow, overdraw.... It took
little time to get used to the tilting action; I only had to
adjust my embouchure a little. The isolated reed bend allows
the player to bend up (overblow) a reed more than 1 or 2 semitones.
I could overbend some notes 6 to 7 semitones...the same with
I haven't played the harp much but I'm sure that with practice
its possibilities are almost unlimited. Bending up goes fluidly;
overbends+vibrato - no problem.
The sound was fine, pretty loud, and to my ear like a customized
Big River or even a more expensive customized harp (Marine Band/Golden
Melody or my own Bending Machines, Hering Vintage 1923).
My next experiment will be to mount a set of customized MS
reedplates (customizing= embossing reed slots, changing reed
curve, chamfering reed slot at the tip of the reed, regapping,
I get the feeling this will improve the harp more and allow
me to (maybe..!!) bend up notes a whole octave.... I'm really
looking forward to play a DC during a jazz jam session....think
of all the amazed looks from the saxophone and trumpet players.....:-)).
The price of a DC is $25 plus shipping and this
is a more than fair price...simply buy a set of replacement
MS reedplates (which are better than the original MS plates!!)
and you'll have a fine looking and unique harp with unlimited