Custom Harmonicas

Custom Harmonicas by R. Sleigh

I build harmonicas with combs from Blue Moon Harmonicas. I also have some sealed pear wood combs that I use from time to time.

BTW, If you ever have problems with any combs that come with my harmonicas, contact me and I will repair or replace the comb.

How to get in the line for custom harmonicas:

I started making custom harmonicas in 1995 and from day one I have had more demand than I can keep up with. There is always a backlog of some sort. I had to create a system that works on mutual commitment. You get in the line by making a deposit. If you pay full amount up front, I will be able to ship your harmonica as soon as it is ready to go.

I order supplies (harmonicas, combs, etc) based on the orders that people make deposits on, and partially with the money from the deposit. I try to keep things as simple and fair as possible.

Please email me for current estimate of order completion. Here are the basic type of Marine Band Custom Harmonicas available with current prices:

All R. Sleigh Custom Harmonicas have the following:

  • All screw construction
  • Covers re-shaped for strength and as needed for low end reed clearance for harmonicas in the lower ranges
  • Your choice of Black Corian or Sealed Pearwood combs
  • R. Sleigh’s unique reed / slot upgrading based on 30 + years of experience. I  am constantly upgrading my techniques and skill. I never stop learning, and I apply the latest breakthroughs on whatever I am building right now
  • Your choice of All-purpose or Overblow/overdraw set-up.
  • My custom Marine bands are built from the Marine Band 1896 harmonica

What is the difference between my All-Purpose and Overblow harmonicas?

All Purpose Setup

The all-purpose setup is my version of the ideal harmonica for most players. Here is what you get:

  • The tuning gives you smooth chords without giving up melody lines. There is one pair of reeds that make the biggest difference with tuning formulas for the richter tuned diatonic harmonica ( richter tuning means the usual way the 10 hole harmonica is tuned) The 5 and 9 draw reeds can be tuned to make the chord totally pure and smooth, but then the melody notes are very flat sounding. This is the way the oldest Marine Bands were tuned. Most people give up the pure chord for the melody notes, and my compromise tuning makes these notes slightly sharp. This makes the harp sound a lot more in tune for 3rd and 12 position playing (D minor and F major on a C harp) and will also work for blues because you can bend the 5 draw down if you want to get the exact shade of pitch you want. This is the basic gist of how I tune All purpose harmonicas.
  • The all purpose harmonica is set up to make the overblows in 4, 5, & 6 much easier, without sacrificing the ability to hit the blow notes harder for emphasis without making them stick. I make this happen because I get the ideal reed curvature, which allows me to raise the reed a bit more than if the curvature is not quite right.
  • The All purpose harmonica has the bends working “like butter” as so many of my customers have told me.
  • The all purpose harmonica has blow #1 and Draw #7 raised a bit more than the reeds next to them to allow a harder attack.  Most people, especially blues players, hit these notes hard in 2nd position as accent notes. This makes the overblow / overdraw harder to do, but my experience is that when people are ready to use these notes all the time they either learn to hit them harder to get the overblow / overdraw or they are fine tuning their reeds to dial them in to their playing style. OR they are buying overblow harmonicas.

The all-purpose set-up with black Lifetime comb is $197

The Overblow Setup

The biggest difference between the all purpose setup and the overblow setup is the top octave. It takes a lot of extra time and effort to get the overdraws playing easily without sticking. The overblow setup will have the reeds sitting closer in Blow #1 and Draw #7 in particular to make those overbends easier. The chords are a little bit rougher than the all purpose tuning in order to get melody notes in all keys sounding in tune. I don’t do straight equal temperament unless you ask for it. The chords just sound too rough to my ears.

The Overblow/overdraw set-up with black Lifetime comb is $267.

One Comment

  1. Richard Sleigh
    Posted August 22, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    First, I am sorry this question got away from me for so long…

    The All- purpose harmonica is designed for the way most people play the harmonica most of the time. By that I mean occasional use of the overblows on 4, 5 & 6, reed plates tweaked to make all bends much easier & consistent, and tuned for smooth chords while keeping the melody notes on 5 & 9 draw up to pitch.

    The Overblow harmonica has extra reed work done to make the overblows on 1 – 6 and overdraws (upper octave) all functioning well with minimum effort.

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