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OMG, my 7-year-old sucked in a broken reed...

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Elk River
Mar 19, 2009 2:52 PM GMT

I got a shock today, my 7-year-old son was playing some kind of minor jazz-like concoction on one of the cheapies around the house.

Then he says “dad, the reed is in my mouth.” Next thing I know, he holds out his hand and there it is, about a half inch of reed that he had sucked in. OH MY GOD...

I had always had this in the back of mind, I've let them play harps since they were in diapers, but I've always kept an ear open for signs of reed fatigue and if one starts going flat, I intercept it. But this reed did not go flat and it wasn't something that had been played much at all. It had been sitting around the house for a long time, but it wasn't really played until my son found it yesterday. It lagged about an hour of playing time. So, not a lot of use. And I know, he was probably playing it too hard, but I do hold the reins on how hard they play... and I know that harmonica reeds are these little things that can break. When they play too hard, I make them stop and back off pressure and they do.

But you do consider things differently when your son nearly sucks a reed down his throat -- my first reaction was to renew my passport, fly to China and open up a can on somebody. It has been about three hours since and that continues to be my reaction.

I've checked out the reed to determine what happened. The reed probably started out with a pitch of F# or G and had been roughly tuned down to E, apparently with some sort of explosive or circular saw. The carnage of this extreme tuning had channeled this stress to one specific part of the reed, which I'm sure is why it broke without any warning signs, such as flattening of pitch. When this happened, we were heading to school, so there wasn't time to talk about it much, that'll have to wait until after school today. But he was aware on his own about what could have happened, he said “I'm glad I noticed it before it went down my throat.”

I haveNEVER seen such questionable workmanship on anything made by Seydel, Hohner, Hering, Rauner, Weiss, Tombo, Kratt (the old Kratt stuff has remarkable workmanship) or any of the other new or old oddballs that have come through here.

BUT I have seen this on several of these low-quality Chinese reeds, with the exception of Huang. I've never seen anything dangerous on a Huang, they seem to be OK.

I knowthat broken reed thingcould happen on anything, but when shoddy workmanship made it happen, you percieve it differently. I know this is a rare case, but when your son is that one in a hundred, you most definitely perceive everything differently.

I suspect my anger will eventually fade. What will remain, however, is the moratorium I imposed on such harmonicas. My children have Seydels, Hohners and a few Herings... most of which I've given a good going-over for manufacturing defects. There is no reason to have these harmonicas of questionable craftsmanship in the house. Thus, all these inferior harmonicas will be summarily shot with extreme prejudice, the only question will be which rifle is used and the distances from which they will be shot. We are very, very lucky that little David was paying attention and stopped as soon as the reed hit his tongue.

Shooting them... That's how I'm going to deal with my anger about this. Compared to the wants of my raw, paternal instincts, it's an extremely healthy coping mechanism.


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Comments (15)

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Mar 19, 2009 3:30 PM GMT
eric h Replied:

i am glad your son is fine. something like that is always scarey for a parent.


Mar 19, 2009 3:42 PM GMT
TN Harpman Replied:

I can understand your anger. Thankgoodness your son did not swallow the reed.


Mar 19, 2009 4:34 PM GMT
luke j Replied:

Every harp of the brand that your son was playing should be rounded up, put in your field and shot from point blank range with the gun from an A-10 Warthog!!!! then every man that could of possibly had anything to do with the manufacture,export and import shouldhave their entire families put in the same field and.. . . . . . . ..Glad your sons ok Dave


Mar 19, 2009 4:52 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Luke, thanks. I had not thought of the A-10. That's a very nice touch.


Mar 19, 2009 5:24 PM GMT
HarpDog Replied:

Glad your son is unhurt.

I had this happen to me on a brand new Hohner once. Rather than metal fatigue it must have been a flaw in the new reed. Scary stuff. Imagine inhaling one of those sharp little buggers right into your lung.


Mar 19, 2009 9:32 PM GMT
Brutus Maximus Replied:

The same thing happened to me with an almost-new Hering about 10 years ago. At least if he swallowed it, eventually it would pass through him. I almost inhaled it down into my lungs. Now THAT's scary.


Mar 20, 2009 12:40 AM GMT
DukeofEarl Replied:

Damn, Dave! My 19 month old plays harps ALL the time. I just bought him a Suzuki Folkmaster and a Hohner American Ace and they are both made in China and are extremely cheap. I'm wondering now if I should let him play them. He's able to bend notes and is very aggressive on the thing. It's certainly crossed my mind that reed might break but now I'm worried I shouldn't let him play.


Mar 20, 2009 2:08 AM GMT
Todd G Replied:

i've got a 7 year old girl that just wails on the blues band. I may hide it from her now

thanks Dave


Mar 20, 2009 3:51 AM GMT
Robb L Replied:

Sorry for your scare, glad he is ok.

Several years ago, at a time when I was gigging a lot, I twice swallowed reeds.

I was playing way to hard, totaly my bad. They were both hohner harps.

Sad, but sometimes bad things happen to good harps


Mar 20, 2009 10:25 AM GMT
Elk River Replied:

I haven't shot anything yet, but I'm not as mad as I was yesterday. It'd be a shame to uncouple kids and these harps...

Now, I'm starting to focus my anger a little more appropriately on the real issue, the harmonicas, and there are many such, with no company name, thus no return address. Hohner Bluesbands have a return address. While I am no fan of the Bluesband personally, I have seen poor milling on those, but never what I saw on the yesterday's problem reed.

I probably wouldn't be here today if my dad hadn't bought mea Chinese Hohner when I was five and there's probably a lot of us with that same story. Duke of Earl, what I might do instead is make a visual inspection of the reeds and make sure the child doesn't blow and draw at maximum pressure like they like to do, and it's probably good to build that respect for instruments anyway. Also, watch for reeds going flat. At the first sign of flatness, throw it away. I used to give my kids harps that I blew out. I wouldn't do that anymore unless I physically removed that flat reed. That should ward of most issues. Yesterday was a real wake-up call for me.

That was Dave Payne of Elk River Harmonicas talking above. Dave Payne Sr., the father of Dave Payne II, still wants to get that passport renewed and buy that plane ticket ;)


Mar 26, 2009 5:21 PM GMT
steve j Replied:

Id be ready to open up a can myself. Glad you kiddo is ok. As a father, I know its one thing when it happens to you , but another when it happens to your baby , no matter how old that baby is.

I would love to see a pic of the said harp w/ a .45 hole dead center


Mar 26, 2009 8:29 PM GMT
Colby S Replied:

What brand was it? A complete no namer? Makes me want to let Claire play the 1847 when she wants to play.


Mar 30, 2009 1:31 AM GMT
Elk River Replied:

A complete no namer, it had some kind of name on it, I don't remember what it was, but it wasn't anything well known. Steve, there will likely be video at some point ;)


Apr 10, 2009 2:37 AM GMT
Will Vogtman Replied:

I'd choose a 16 guage Model 12--shoot the harp off a trap.

Better yet, how about the world's first sporting clays course for harp players--discount for bringing your own harps.

BTW, have you ever thought of replacing the blade on a Hildebrandt Spinner with a bent harp reed? I've often thought the 0 and 00 sizes were still too big.

What about using an old reed as a wingcase on a nymph? Beadhead without the bead?

Glad to hear your son's OK. Both my sons honk on the things as well (I wish one would want to LEARN).


Apr 12, 2009 6:43 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

You got it Will. Next time I'm tying, I'll tie some harmonica flies.



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