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Brendan Power
 
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China Patent: CNIPA ZL 202021186934.6.

Introductory video


EXTREME REED SHIFTING!

For well over a century, all the major harmonica manufacturers have produced exactly the same type of diatonic harp. It has just two reedplates: one on top of the comb for the 10 blow reeds and the other on the underside of the comb for the 10 draw reeds. If, as inevitably happens, a single reed fails, long-suffering players have had to buy either a complete new harmonica, or at the very least a set of brand-new reedplates. What a waste of 19 good reeds, just to replace the one that broke! Not to mention the high cost involved...

Beginning in the 19th century, several inventors have tried redressing this obvious issue by creating harmonicas with replaceable single reeds; either just the reeds themselves, or a reed on its own mini reedplate which can be inserted in the instrument, one way or another. Unfortunately, all of them had some fatal flaw, which led to their eventual disappearance from the market.

However, I believe the replaceable-reed idea is a good one, and deserves a fresh look! After much trial and error, I've come up with my own patented design which introduces several innovations to the concept. It's being released initially in a Limited Edition of 70 harps, each numbered and signed by me.

THE MODULAR-REED HARMONICA: A True Game-Changer!

My Modular-Reed harp rips apart all the old rules imposed by standard harmonica construction. Instead of just two reedplates for a typical 10-hole harp, it has 20 individual reedplates - each with a single reed attached. Not only does this slash the cost of replacing reeds, it opens up HUGE new possibilities for the creative harmonica player who wishes to break away from the boundaries set by the restrictions of traditional commercial models. That's because the reeds are now free to move around wherever YOU decide. Now a given reed is no longer set in just one position and blow-draw function, it can be given a completely new orientation - in several ways:
  • Flipped over - changing a blow reed into a draw, or vice versa...
  • Moved vertically from the top of the comb to the bottom, or vice versa...
  • Moved around horizontally on the comb surfaces...

Here are some of the crazy new reed configurations possible (shown in a random arrangement for illustrative purposes).
Modular Reed Harmonica Modular Reed Harmonica Modular Reed Harmonica
Once you start thinking about it, the novel possibilities this opens up are literally mind-blowing! Players who like to experiment with alternate tunings will love the Modular-Reed Harmonica, because they can now test out different tuning concepts without the tricky business of filing reeds. Many find this too challenging to attempt, so they simply don't bother. Now it's child's play: just pop in a fresh reed, suck it and see! If you don't like the change, replace the previous reed, undamaged by filing. As well as small changes, entirely new types of harp can be created too - for example, cool chord harmonicas in the convenient size of a 10-hole diatonic... And it doesn't stop at 10 holes either: we have plans to offer bespoke combs that will take more modular reeds, for even greater possibilities!

Check out the video for a comprehensive demonstration of the Modular-Reed Harmonica.

CONSTRUCTION AND ASSEMBLY

For the initial launch I chose the popular Kongsheng Amazing 20 harp as the base model for my Modular-Reed Harmonica. This model has long comb chambers, giving more radical possibilities for moving reeds around from hole to hole without snagging, and its lipped comb design ensures good mouth comfort whilst holding the 20 single-reed plates in position behind the covers.
Modular Reed Harmonica Modular Reed Harmonica Modular Reed Harmonica
Already patented in China, my Modular-Reed Harmonica System includes several innovative features compared to previous replaceable-reed models. It uses comb gaskets with a low-tack adhesive to hold the reeds lightly in place whilst the covers are removed, and ensure an airtight seal around every reed when fully assembled. A lifting notch at the rear of each mini-reedplate allows it to be levered off easily with a toothpick, or small screwdriver. The reeds can be dropped in place instantly and held there with the adhesive comb gasket for fine tuning without the worry of them falling out. The harp is then fully assembled by screwing on the coverplates, which have specially designed spring-loaded brace parts inside that press firmly down on all the mini reedplates to ensure perfect airtightness. The result is a Modular-Reed harp which plays as well as the stock model - not to mention all its fabulous extra qualities!

MAKE YOUR OWN CHORD HARMONICA

CHOOSING YOUR MODULAR-REED HARMONICA

The huge new possibilities offered by the Modular-Reed Harmonica for players to create their own bespoke harps posed quite a task for my website-guru David Ireland - but he loves a challenge! After initially tearing his hair out at the mind-boggling complexity of all the various options, David has invented (patent-pending) a user-friendly interactive interface for selecting reeds.

It comes in two types: Basic and Advanced.

The Basic Selection Table is the most straightforward way to start. You simply choose the key and tuning you want from a list (Richter, PowerBender etc), or change any of the notes to make your own tuning, add fine-tuning if desired - and it's job done! David's sound-test selection buttons mean you can hear how the final harp will play. Watch Andre Coelho's video of how he does it on his phone .

The Advanced Selection Table is all of the above but takes things to a new level for the alt-tuning experimental types! You can dial right down on every hole to decide further individual reed options: blow or draw breath orientation, on the top or bottom of the comb, front or rear-mounted reed, a huge choice of reed pitches... You can experiment wildly to your heart's content, the old rules simply don't apply!

Why not give it a whirl, it's a lot of fun!

Once you've selected your Modular-Reed Harmonica, we'll get to work, create the harp you've ordered and mail it to you. Since each harp is a complete one-off it takes a little time to make, but posting will be within a week of ordering.

BUYING INDIVIDUAL REEDS

Of course the beauty of the Modular-Reed harp is that you can pop in new reeds whenever you wish! The choice of ordering extra single reeds will allow you to keep them on hand - as replacements for reeds that you might often blow out, or to conduct alternate-tuning experiments. Whatever your particular use, this radical new single-reed replacement option gives players so much more control than they ever had in the past, whilst ultimately reducing the costs of keeping the same harmonica going for many years.

(Or decades, centuries even! The Modular-Reed harmonica is a bit like George Washington's axe. If over many years all its reeds had been gradually replaced, would it still be the same harmonica? Ah, the old conundrums are still the best ;-) ...) Order your reeds here.

Getting the game-changing Modular-Reed Harmonica ready for release has involved a lot of hard work, time and expense over several years. Despite this we've managed to keep the price down to a reasonable level which won't break the bank. I believe its unique functionality to shape-shift into different tunings, and the amazing ability to be kept playing indefinitely, make it well worth the initial cost. But remember, this is a Limited Edition of just 70 Signed harps. Once they're gone, they're gone - so don't delay!

Build your Modular-Reed harmonica now!

MODULAR HARMONICA BUILDER

Load Tuning: Load Key:

First Release Limited Edition 70 Harps only.

Each Modular-Reed harp numbered and signed by Brendan.
Price includes International Tracked Postage.

£90


Watch the video for a guide to using this page...


Display Advanced Options

Overbends
UPPER REED PLATE

12345678910
LOWER REED PLATE
Bends


Rules and Logic

The Modular-Reed Harmonica tosses all the old rules about diatonic harmonica reeds out the window! There is no longer such a thing as a "Blow Reed" or a "Draw Reed": whether a given modular reed plays as blow or draw all depends on which way the mini-reedplate sits on the comb. If you can see the whole reed, it's a draw reed. If you flip it over so the reed is inside the comb, the same reed functions as a blow reed. And that applies for whether the reed is on the upper surface of the comb or the lower surface, since you can now move reeds about vertically!

In terms of horizontal positioning of the modular reeds in holes 1-10, the primary determining factor is where the reed is fixed, or mounted: at the front or back of the mini-reedplate. On a standard diatonic harp the blow reeds are all mounted at the front of the reedplate (facing away from the player), and the draw reeds at the rear (facing in). With the Modular-Reed Harp, the blow/draw rules are gone but the mini-reedplates still have a front and rear edge. This needs to be adhered to when you are putting them in the comb, regardless of other variables. You can always tell the back of the mini-reedplate because it has an indent, for lifting it out of the comb. This can be in the shape of a central notch or a diagonal cutaway: the two batches of reeds are interchangeable.

Below are the logic rules we've used to calculate the tables. Reading these will help you understand the reasoning behind the reed choices you can make. Please study the annotated photos first, to make sure you understand the reed terms.

Modular Reed Harmonica Modular Reed Harmonica Modular Reed Harmonica

FRONT-MOUNTED REEDS (typically the blow reeds in a standard harp)

  1. Every FM reed can be flipped over to act as a blow or a draw reed.
  2. Every FM reed can be moved three holes to the right (for example, a hole 1 FM reed can work in hole 4).
  3. Every FM reed can be moved as many holes to the left as are possible. The most extreme case is moving a 10 FM blow reed to hole 1. It still plays - not brilliantly, but it makes the note.
  4. Every FM reed can be positioned according to the rules above on either the top or bottom of the comb.

REAR-MOUNTED REEDS (typically the draw reeds in a standard harp)

  1. Every RM reed can be flipped over to function as a blow or a draw reed.
  2. When playing with draw function, every RM can be moved to any hole on the harmonica! In the most extreme cases, a 1 draw reed can work in hole 10, and a 10 draw reed can work in hole 1. (Performance can be affected in the latter case, but the reed will still sound).
  3. When playing with blow function, every RM reed can play in its original comb hole position and any hole to the left, but cannot be moved to the right.
  4. Every RM reed can be positioned according to the rules above on either the top or bottom of the comb.

FINE TUNING

In my opinion, being able to fine-tune is an essential skill for any serious harmonica player, as reeds drift in tuning over time; knowing how to fine-tune will allow you to return them to pitch. Secondly, every player has a different mouth shape, embouchure and breath pressure. This can mean that a harmonica will sound sharper or flatter depending on who's playing it! Being able to fine-tune your own reeds will mean YOUR harps play right for YOU. I show the techniques in this video.

Because the reeds in the Modular-Reed Harmonica could be placed in many different places in different tunings and keys, for practical reasons they all need to be tuned with a universal Tempered tuning. This means, with a normal breath pressure, the reeds in your harp and reed case will sound a little over A440. Octaves will be decent, but the harps will not be tuned for chords - because rich chords require some reeds to be substantially sharp or flat compared to others. If rich chords are what you're after, I highly recommend you fine tune the harps as you want them. There is plenty of information about this on the internet. A very good source is Pat Missin's site.

If you can't (or don't wish to) fine-tune your reeds, you can send your Modular-Reed Harmonica to a specialist harp tech who will do it for you. There is a list of good customisers here.

INDIVIDUAL REEDS


Watch the video for a guide to using this page...
Select the hole and reed mounting: Front-Mounted (FM) or Rear-Mounted (RM). (See first photo below for picture of front and rear mounted reeds.)

The available notes will be highlighted in the table - click the sound icon to hear the note or the plus icon to add the reed to your order.

The numbers after each note refer to the pitch of the reed - low numbers mean low pitch (e.g. C4), high numbers mean high pitch (e.g. C7).

Key

Selected optionReed is availableRM Reed can be blow or draw Add Reed to Order


REED FIXINGHOLEPITCH
Price per reed:
1-2 = £3, 3-6 = £2.25, 7-10 = £1.95

Your Reeds

You can order extra reeds from the adjacent table (they will appear below this text) as repair/replacements or to try out alternate tunings. Ordered alone, they will be marked and wrapped in tissue for protection during postage.


N.b. You can change quantity once added to cart.
Limited to 10 extra reeds per customer per time (not including reeds ordered in a Modular Harmonica) .

Reed Container Case

If you want your spare reeds permanently protected and easy to find, buy one of our sturdy Reed Cases.

Size:


(reeds not included) Modular Reed Cases

Rules and Logic

The Modular-Reed Harmonica tosses all the old rules about diatonic harmonica reeds out the window! There is no longer such a thing as a "Blow Reed" or a "Draw Reed": whether a given modular reed plays as blow or draw all depends on which way the mini-reedplate sits on the comb. If you can see the whole reed, it's a draw reed. If you flip it over so the reed is inside the comb, the same reed functions as a blow reed. And that applies for whether the reed is on the upper surface of the comb or the lower surface, since you can now move reeds about vertically!

In terms of horizontal positioning of the modular reeds in holes 1-10, the primary determining factor is where the reed is fixed, or mounted: at the front or back of the mini-reedplate. On a standard diatonic harp the blow reeds are all mounted at the front of the reedplate (facing away from the player), and the draw reeds at the rear (facing in). With the Modular-Reed Harp, the blow/draw rules are gone but the mini-reedplates still have a front and rear edge. This needs to be adhered to when you are putting them in the comb, regardless of other variables. You can always tell the back of the mini-reedplate because it has an indent, for lifting it out of the comb. This can be in the shape of a central notch or a diagonal cutaway: the two batches of reeds are interchangeable.

Below are the logic rules we've used to calculate the tables. Reading these will help you understand the reasoning behind the reed choices you can make. Please study the annotated photos first, to make sure you understand the reed terms.

Modular Reed Harmonica Modular Reed Harmonica Modular Reed Harmonica

FRONT-MOUNTED REEDS (typically the blow reeds in a standard harp)

  1. Every FM reed can be flipped over to act as a blow or a draw reed.
  2. Every FM reed can be moved three holes to the right (for example, a hole 1 FM reed can work in hole 4).
  3. Every FM reed can be moved as many holes to the left as are possible. The most extreme case is moving a 10 FM blow reed to hole 1. It still plays - not brilliantly, but it makes the note.
  4. Every FM reed can be positioned according to the rules above on either the top or bottom of the comb.

REAR-MOUNTED REEDS (typically the draw reeds in a standard harp)

  1. Every RM reed can be flipped over to function as a blow or a draw reed.
  2. When playing with draw function, every RM can be moved to any hole on the harmonica! In the most extreme cases, a 1 draw reed can work in hole 10, and a 10 draw reed can work in hole 1. (Performance can be affected in the latter case, but the reed will still sound).
  3. When playing with blow function, every RM reed can play in its original comb hole position and any hole to the left, but cannot be moved to the right.
  4. Every RM reed can be positioned according to the rules above on either the top or bottom of the comb.

FINE TUNING

In my opinion, being able to fine-tune is an essential skill for any serious harmonica player, as reeds drift in tuning over time; knowing how to fine-tune will allow you to return them to pitch. Secondly, every player has a different mouth shape, embouchure and breath pressure. This can mean that a harmonica will sound sharper or flatter depending on who's playing it! Being able to fine-tune your own reeds will mean YOUR harps play right for YOU. I show the techniques in this video.

Because the reeds in the Modular-Reed Harmonica could be placed in many different places in different tunings and keys, for practical reasons they all need to be tuned with a universal Tempered tuning. This means, with a normal breath pressure, the reeds in your harp and reed case will sound a little over A440. Octaves will be decent, but the harps will not be tuned for chords - because rich chords require some reeds to be substantially sharp or flat compared to others. If rich chords are what you're after, I highly recommend you fine tune the harps as you want them. There is plenty of information about this on the internet. A very good source is Pat Missin's site.

If you can't (or don't wish to) fine-tune your reeds, you can send your Modular-Reed Harmonica to a specialist harp tech who will do it for you. There is a list of good customisers here.

BUYERS' COMMENTS

I think this is potentially the biggest thing to hit diatonic harmonicas since Lee Oskar introduced replaceable reedplates back in the 1980s. If you're the sort of player who blows out reeds on a regular basis, then this investment should pay for itself quite quickly and if you want an easy, non-destructive way to try out alternate tunings, this is pretty much the only game in town.

Read the whole review on Pat Missin's site

Pat Missin, USA
It's a really cool product with lots of possibilities, even if you just use a standard Richter tuned harp without any extra reeds. Here are some additional ideas, on top of the ones Brendan covered in his videos, which new owners could check out

INTERESTING RICHTER REED OPTIONS from EDVIN WEDIN
Feedback from several customers (Click images to enlarge)
Modular Reed Harmonica Modular Reed Harmonica
This changes everything!!! Repairs, tunings, on the fly!!!

Paul O, YouTube
Awesome, this is the greatest diatonic harmonica I ever seen. Congrats.

Miguel Jimenez, YouTube
wow, another great improvement in the Harmonica !! Hope it get adopted by the major manufacturers! Of course compensating Brendan into perpetuity!

Herb Levin, YouTube
Great, you have just made my shoe boxes full of old reed plates and combs redundant! Time to sell off on e-bay - quick! Do you know anyone who wants to buy my reed rivet tools?

Great innovations for those of us who like to tweak the chording for specific pieces of music.

R. Akers, YouTube

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