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Half-Valving Harmonicas

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HarpMan Freeman
Nov 22, 2009 3:48 PM GMT

At SPAH, Brendan Powers ( and PT Gazell( gave a workshop on half valving. So I gave it a try and I'm enjoying the results. I'm not an overblower, so half valving allows me to access those hidden notes using blow bends on the lower holes 1-6 and draw bends on 7-10.

Note:(I pasted this paragraph in from my post on "ManjiExperience" under GeneralDiscussion)

On Hoots harmonica blog, PT shares about half valving:

On this YouTube of Brendan Powers he discusses the subject:

I was surprised to see the YouTube Search results on Half-valving:

At the workshop, PT recommended "Ultra-Suede" as the best material to make valves. It's waterresistant, flexible and has the right weight. You have to go to a fabric store to find it.

I particularly like the tone and sound that comes from this technique. I can hear the unique tone in PT Gazell video's, who uses Seydel 1847.

I've tried half-valving a Lee Oskar, a Golden Melody and a Manji. So far I'mlikingit.

Anyone else hadexperiencewith Half-Valved Harps?

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Comments (6)

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Nov 22, 2009 11:53 PM GMT
PT Gazell Replied:

I have been playing half-valved exclusively now for 5 years. The expressiveness alone is worth exploring this technique in my opinion. You can hear examples at:


Dec 11, 2009 9:23 PM GMT
Not a Replied:

So how do you attach the valves? I understand one ought not to use super glue. Is there any kind of adhesive that works best? I'd like to give this a try, but I want to do it the right way.Did you use "ultra-suede"? or somethign else? Mylar?

Dec 12, 2009 12:13 AM GMT
jht Replied:

i'm valving only the second hole on all my harps, i'm using chromatic valve and superglue ;-)

Dec 13, 2009 11:46 PM GMT
Not a Replied:

Well, okay... I just did it to an old but still playable Spec 20 in D. I made y own valves using mylar and micropore tape. I had the micropore already (from the time I decided to experiment with micropore gasketing.), and believe it or not, I found the mylar when I was buying wrapping paper. Apparently they sell it as a form of "tissue paper" for putting into gift bags. The stuff I got appeared to be a bit thinner than the stuff they use for potaoe chip bags and balloons. From what I read, this thinner stuff is better for making valves. I cut a little strip of it, and then carefully laminated a bit of the micropore tape onto it, being careful not to have any air bubbles. Then I used and exacto knife and astraight edge to cut little strips (just a LITTLE wider than the reedslots). I used superglue (I was worried about it's toxicity, but apparenbtly it's not harmful after it dries) to attach the strips, micropore side down. I then trimmed then to length and reassembled the harp. It played very well, and is much more airtight. The tone of the lower blow holes has definitely changed, sounding more tight. I can't yet get any valved bends, but I literally just finished putting the harp back together. The procedure from start to finish of making the valves and putting them on took me about 30 minutes. I also made enough valves at this time for two more harps, so I think it would take a bout 5 minutes per harp to just glue the pre-made vlaves on. Price was like $1.50 for the mylar, the tape was on hand, but I think it wasn't too expensive ($5 or something like that). I had super glue. I buy mine form Ace (Ace brand) and use the kind with the little brush in the cap of the bottle. This brush makes iit really easy to apply to the vlavels. Difficultly was moderately easy. If you have bad eyes or poor manual dexterity, it won't be easy, but for most people it should not be too hard. Much easier than embossing, and only a little bit harder than gapping.

I'll report back on how I proceed with getting the valved bends.

Dec 14, 2009 6:25 PM GMT
Not a Replied:

I just got my first vlaved bends this morning. This is roughly 12 hours after I first valved the harp, and after trying for about 30 minutes all together. Compare that with about 6 months of trying before i got my FIRST overblow, and another 3 months before I could control them. I'm still working on controling the vlaved bends, but they are there and I can get them to sound out. This has been a VERY interesting experiment so far.

Dec 14, 2009 8:26 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

With a half valed harp, you have to treat it just like a diatonic setup for overblows or a chromatic, meaning that the harp is more hypersensitive to the amount of breath force you use than usual. When you try and hit any bends too hard, just like a chromatic, they'll choke up and blank out on you, so your attack has to be much better focused than every before. Time to really woodshed with this.

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