How can I reuse or recycle … old “broken” harmonicas?

HarmonicasIf you live anywhere near Dewsbury, West Yorks (in the UK) and like music, real ale and sausages, you should head down to the pub in the train station this weekend for their “Beer, Bangers and Blues” festival.

How does this link to recycling, you might be saying to yourself? Well, John’s “acoustic folk-country-scifi-gospel fusion band” The Gillroyd Parade are playing on Saturday and like all good acoustic folk-country-scifi-gospel fusion bands, harmonicas are used quite liberally throughout the set.

I didn’t know until recently that harmonicas have a limited life span. I just assumed they were like trumpets or whatever – with care they’ll last for years and years – but the reeds inside harmonicas get warped quite easily (particularly when the player bends notes) and once they’re damaged, that’s pretty much it unless you want to play bum notes.

HarmonicasSo what can be done with these harps once they’re no longer fit for their musical role? Any practical or arty ideas? I’ve included the second picture to show off the individual inside bits of the instrument, which I guess could be used separated.

(Photos by cralize for Wikimedia Commons)

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7 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle … old “broken” harmonicas?”

  1. dan b says:

    Maybe your experimental musician friends might like a harmonica with some bum notes…

    For future harmonica buyers: some models of harmonicas (like the Hohner MS line) you can get replacement reed plates. With those you’d only have to figure out what to do with a bad reed plate and not the whole instrument.

  2. Trish says:

    kids don’t care, you could always give them to a kid.

    Find a junk artist, who will be able to use them in a piece.

    If they’re really old, you might ask a small museum if they would like them.

    Use them as paperweights?

  3. Jill says:

    if its windy where you are and you like crappy harmonica music, hang one or a few from string outside and see if the wind plays them, almost like a windchime.

  4. Maz says:

    I’m a mixed media artist and I love working with metal so I’ll take them off your hands if you like!!

  5. Oisin says:

    Hey…you don’t have to throw them away when a note goes flat. The reeds can be re-tuned very easily by scrapping a tiny bit of metal off the reed a) at the top of the reed to increase pitch and b) from the base of the reed to decrease pitch. If the reed is past it e.g broken, then it can be replaced. This is s little more difficult to do but very possible. I have loads of harmonicas and have NEVER thrown one away and I’d bet most serious harmonica players would agree with this. I even buy old buggered ones off ebay to restore.
    One last thing…the statement above about all harmonicas wearing out is just not true. If you look after your harp and play at a reasonable pressure then your harp will last for years. My favorite harp is one made in 1936 which plays as good now as when it was new. Never chuck that harmonica away….sell it on ebay and someone like me will buy it!!!

  6. molliewobbles says:

    Oisin is absolutely right! My dad is a pro harmonica player and we have a dresser filled with old harmonicas to be used for parts. If you’re just not into fixing them up, then I think the art idea is a good one!

    • molliewobbles says:

      Hey, saw your comment…I have a “old standby” #34 harmonica in primo condition which sounds brand new. Still in original red box with an anchor and half-moon & star logo on box…It was my great uncles and I am in my late fifties! Do you have any idea if has any value? Would like to know! Appreciate it if you help…Thanks, Jana

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