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Harp Reviews

by Pat Missin

Seydel Blues and Seydel Blues MusicMaster

As well as the Boomerang, I also received a couple of other Seydel harps for review. It is a while since I had the chance to look at some of their harps and I must say that their production standards seems to have improved considerably in the last few years.

First we have the Seydel Blues Musicmaster. As I mentioned in my review of the Boomerang, Seydel's factory has made harps for a variety of different companies and the Musicmaster is essentially the same harp as the Weltmeister Blackbird and the Bushman Soul's Voice, except for differently finished covers. The covers are plated mild steel, painted with a green finish and attached with those pesky hex-head bolts. The comb is plastic (ABS?) and the reedplates are fully recessed into it in the style of the Special 20 and Lee Oskar, with no brass exposed to the player's mouth. One thing that sets Seydel's harps aside from those made by most other manufacturers is a slightly wider hole spacing. An octave span on the blow notes of this harp is about 24mm, as compared with about 22mm on most other brands of 10-hole diatonic, although I'm not sure how many players would really notice this difference. The reedplates are of fairly standard thickness (about .9mm) and attached to the comb with three Pozidriv screws. The reeds and slots appear to be machined with good tolerances. The reeds look very much like those used on Hohner HandMade/Classic harps, although the reed profiles are quite different. This is most noticeable in the lower octave where the weighted tips of the reeds are much longer than they would be on Hohner reeds of the same pitch. Another uncommon feature is that all the reeds are the same width. Most manufacturers use narrower reeds at the upper end of the instrument and older Seydels used to have particularly narrow reeds up there.

This particular harp is in the key of A and uses a compromise temperament, perhaps a fraction sharper than I would choose myself, being rooted relative to about A=444. Octaves are for the most part nice and clean, with little or no beating. The tuning has been done with diagonal file marks, but the tuner appears to have used a very light touch. The reed adjustment is very consistent, using a slightly lower gap than you would typically find on most other brands. Response is very even over the full range of the harp. All the bends are easy and the mid-range overblows are there without requiring any further tweaking. It is available in all keys from Low C to High A. Yes - I did say LOW C. As far as I know, Seydel are the first company to manufacture a standard 10-hole tuned an octave below the regular C instrument. However, if you think that is low, let me introduce you to the Seydel Blues in Low G.

Once upon a time, harps were available in 12 keys, if you were lucky. Some models were only available in a few keys, but generally 10-hole diatonics covered a range from G at the bottom, to F# at the top. Lee Oskar upped the ante by introducing the Low F and the High G. A few other manufacturers followed his lead and before long, we were treated to harps all the way down to Low D. If you wanted anything lower than that, you either had to switch to one of the 12-hole or 14-hole models (with substantially wider hole spacing), order a customised harp, or make one yourself. Now you can buy an off-the-shelf harp tuned a whole octave lower than the regular key of G instrument.

The Seydel Blues uses the same comb as the Musicmaster, but has brass covers shaped a little like the Hohner Meisterklasse. The reedplates are also identical to those used on the Musicmaster, but are secured with eight screws rather than three. Opening it up, I was a little surprised to see that the reeds are not machined to this extra-low pitch, but have been retuned from a higher pitched model. However, they must have originally been quite low in pitch as the reeds as far up as hole seven are milled with thicker tips. The lowest two reeds an each plate has been additionally weighted with solder - regular readers will know that I have some reservations about this method, but they appear to have done an exceedingly neat job. The remaining reeds have been retuned using abrasion along the length of the reeds. The first three reeds on each plates are valved - this not only improves the response of these reeds, but also reduces their travel, preventing that annoying rattling against the cover you might otherwise get with the lowest draw reeds (although it does seem that the covers on this model give more clearance than you get on many other harps). Overall, the response is extremely good and the chords sound nice and crisp. You can probably pretty much forget about bending notes in the first two or three holes, but that's due to the laws of physics rather than any flaw in the instrument's design.

The relative tuning is excellent, almost spot-on traditional 7-limit JI tuning, however the overall pitch is rather sharp, being rooted relative to something like A=448. I'm not sure if this is deliberate or whether the tuning of the harp has drifted sharp since it was retuned. I suspect the former, as the relative tuning of the harp is so good, but I shall be keeping an eye on the tuning to see how steadily it holds.

The Seydel Blues is available in all keys from Low G to High A - I make that a whopping 26 different keys for the standard major tuning alone and that is before you add in the alternate tunings available for this and several other Seydel models. And your spouse thought you already had too many harmonicas...!

Seydel harps are available online from several retailers. I'm not sure that they have an Australasian distributor, but Isabella Krapf of Vintage Harmonica Editions speaks good English, deals directly with the Seydel factory and accepts credit card payment. She can be reached at:

Vintage Harmonica Editions
Gruenentorgasse 37/8
1090 Vienna

In addition to the various tunings that Seydel are producing commercially, they have also expressed an interest in making custom instruments in virtually any tuning you wish and I suspect that Isabella would be the best route to explore these possibilities if you do not speak German.

Pat Missin

Note from the editor:

Seydel has released an interesting brand new website at

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