Most harp collectors will know of the Boomerang models and
anyone who has a copy of Charlie Musselwhite's "Ace of
Harps" album will have seen just one of the many varieties
of Boomerang harmonicas. Finally, it is possible to get a brand
new one. But first, some history...
C.A. Seydel Söhne have been making harmonicas in the Saxony
region since October 1847, making them the oldest harmonica
manufacturers still in business. In the 1920s they bought out
the Carl Essbach company and were later merged with F.A. Rauner
and F.A Böhm, all of them well-known names to harmonica
collectors, with a period as a state-owned company before the
fall of the Berlin wall. Over the years they have made harmonicas
under the names Bandmaster, Clover, Vermona and more recently
they have been the manufacturers of the Weltmeister and Bushman
Probably their most famous models are the various Boomerangs,
which they produced for an Australian music store owner called
Frank Albert. They ranged from 5-hole mini harps, through single
reed diatonics and tremolos, to chromatics. Some were shaped
like a boomerang, others had flared covers and yet others were
regular instruments with the Boomerang name on them. As well
as these models, there were a whole bunch of other harps made
for the Australasian market with such names as Kia-Ora, Corroboree,
etc. Five or six years ago, Seydel resissued some of the more
normal shaped Boomerang chromatics, using the original stamps
to produce the covers.
However, the most famous of all the Boomerang models is the
12-hole diatonic version as featured on the "Ace of Harps"
cover and as I recently mentioned, there will be a limited run
of 1,000 of these made available by Vintage Harmonica Editions.
This will be the first in a series of limited runs of famous
harps from the past.
I have been fortunate enough to acquire a pre-release sample
for review and I have to say that I am quite impressed. It is
a very faithful reproduction of the original, using the same
machines that stamped out the covers 75 years ago and the same
type of wood for the comb. The only obvious difference from
the original is the use of eight Pozidriv screws to secure the
reedplates. There has been a lot of hand finishing and the instrument
is very comfortable to hold, with no sharp corners or edges.
The covers are mild steel, plated with what I believe is a nickel-free
Obviously, with only 1,000 individually numbered instruments
being made, this is being sold as much with the collector in
mind as the musician. Still, judging it purely as a musical
instrument, it's a good one. The 0.9mm thick reedplates lie
nice and flat against the comb, the reedplate tolerances are
good and the reeds are very well adjusted - all of which makes
it a very playable instrument. Bends are nice and easy and mid-range
overblows are there without having to tweak the reeds. I confess
that whilst I have seen several Boomerangs, this is the first
one that I have played and it is surprisingly comfortable in
the mouth. The rounded comb partitions make a very nice playing
surface, the extra length of comb to the left of the first (more
than double what you would get on a typical diatonic) makes
for very comfortable tongue-blocking and the V shape would make
it tough for even a beginner to get lost in the 12 holes. The
spacing of the holes is noticeably wider than on a standard
10-holer, but not quite as wide as on as a Hohner 364 or 365.
Tuning is pretty good, all the octaves sounding without beats.
It seems to use a light compromise temperament based around
A=445/446, with the draw notes just a little sharper (perhaps
just a fraction too sharp for my taste). The tuning appears
to have been done by file, but without scarring the reeds too
The 12-hole tuning is the same as the standard 10-hole in C,
with E and G added as extra blow notes in the top two holes
and B and D added as draw notes. I am told the instrument will
also be available in the key of A. They are certainly not cheap
instruments, which isn't too surprising as I imagine they quite
expensive instruments to make. Having said that, they are cheaper
than buying one of the originals on eBay, plus you know that
you are not going to have to deal with cracked combs, broken
reeds or 75 year-old bugs hiding inside of them! As well as
simply collecting them to display on the wall, they would also
make a great visual prop for a gigging harp player.
You can order them from http://www.vintage-harmonica-editions.com/.
Isabella Krapf, founder of Vintage Harmonica Editions, speaks
very good English and I'm sure she will be happy to answer any
questions you might have. I hope the Boomerang reissue is successful
enough to ensure that we get a steady stream of brand new old
harmonicas coming from the Seydel workshops.