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
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
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.
Note from the editor:
Seydel has released an interesting brand new website