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SHOULD YOU BUY A BRAND OR A SECOND-HAND HARMONICA?

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I have received lots of questions on this matter, which I find very interesting.

 

Most of the “newbies” tend to opt for cheap and easy-to-play types to start the passion for harmonica. Usually those who opt for old harps are the ones with certain knowledge. The brands that you want to possess are those reviewed by many players, played by many artists or promoted by their manufacturers.

I’d like to share some objective points on how to make the best choice for your passion.

When it comes to choose a harp, you usually encounter a question: Should it be brand new or second-hand? This is true regardless of what type you are looking for: chrmatic, tremolo or diatonic.

 

Pros of second-hand harps: 

Cheap price and accessibility. I’m sure it is obvious that the price of a second-hand harp is about half or even 1/3 that of a new one. With the attractive price, you can easily buy genuine productions from famous manufacturers like Tombo, Suzuki, Seydel, Hohner. No one would want to buy second-hand but low quality ones (mostly Chinese harps but their prices are cheap already).

So, what’re the cons?  

Buying old harps is like a lottery. It can be a good quality one if the previous owner has just bought it and dropped or upgraded it. If the sellers are not reliable and experienced, the harmonica is unlikely to meet your expectations.

Actually there are no definite answers to this question. It depends on your preference and budget. But there’re some tips that can help you.

 

Table of contents :

+ Tip #1 Online shopping? New harps

+ Tip #2 Newbie? Don’t buy old harps

+ Tip #3 Only buy good quality second-hand

+ Tip #4 If you really want a second-hand one, get along with an experienced friend

+ Tip #5 Have clear future aims

Below are the five tips on what kind of harmonica to choose. These tips are based on my 10-year experience of buying and selling old and new harps. Keeps these tips in mind and if you think I’ve left out something, comment to tell me!

Tip #1: Online shopping? New harps.

If you don’t live in a big city with a big and dynamic community, online shopping should be a good choice. However, don’t by second-hand harps if you don’t get a chance to test it. You should also get an experienced friend to test it or buy from reliable vendors. Regarding the brand, it should be those receiving many positive reviews from the community. Depending on different shops, you can experience customer services like guarantee or return. These services are not usually available for ol harps and you are prone to potential risks.

 

Luckily, the risks are reduced if you buy new harmonicas. With modern production technologies, if you find a good harp in another city on your vacation, when you get home, you can order the same one without much worry. It can provide nearly identical sound.

Rule of thumb: don’t buy a second-hand harmonica if you haven’t tested it first, think twice before believing the reviews and unreliable shops as it can fall short of your expectations.

If you haven’t tried, don’t buy old harmonica from the Internet

 

Tip #2 Newbie? Don’t buy old harps

Second-hand harps can be a great ideas for amateaur or veteran players but it is no good for a newbie.

This can be a bad piece advice – but I have two reasons why newbies should not use an old harp.

 

  1. Newbies are usually not sure what they should seek for: if you never played a harp before, maybe you don’t know how to distinguish between a $15 and a $150 harp (only applicable for tremolo and diatonic, it should be 10 times more than that for chromatic >.< ) if there’s no price tag. Sure. How can you know? And hence that’s why it’s difficult for a beginner to spend such large sum of money for something that may not worth it. Only when they have obtained foundation knowledge can such people realize the differences.
  2. New harps for beginners are not so expensive: You have a tight budget? No problem. You can buy standard tremolos and diatonics there’s a bunch of cheap chromatics. Even with just $15, you can begin with a standard quality one (just for basic practice, there are reasons the price ranges from $15 to $1500, depending on your experience and other factors, which I will cover in another post) .

 

Here are some good harmonicas cheaper than $20 for beginner:

 

Tip #3 Only buy good quality second-hand

The question whether to buy new or old harp only concerns with the tremolos or diatonics of $50 to $150, or a brand new chromatic above $150. As for the cheap segment, you don’t have to care about this. Why? First is the price when you resell it. Let me explain.

If you’re considering buying your first chromatic, for example the Hohner super64X, which usually costs more than $400, you may feel satisfied with about $200 (depending on its newness and appearance) for a second-hand or better segment. Thanks to its endurability and the famous brand, you can easily resell it for nearly what you have paid. I don’t think you would want to sell it but what if you want to upgrade to a better segment? Just like what I did!

It is difficult or impossible to sell a Chinese harp whatever the price, because most people do not have positive attitude towards “Made in China” things and in fact, the quality of Chinese harps is not good. If you buy one for about $150, after weeks or months, depending on how frequent you use it, it can be broken or worn out. But it’s normal for a $350 harp, for example, Tombo Hope 21, to maintain its quality for years because of the quality of the material is really. I have tried the harmonicas that can generate quality sound despite their ages of 8 to 10 years (hygiene can be a problem for players with little experience on maintenence).

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Only buy second-hand harps from original brands.

Tip #4 If you really want a second-hand one, get along with an experienced friend

Some old harps were played by just one to two people and are still quite new, some by 10 or so before they reache you. Some underwent maintenance or were disassembly many times. In some cases the reed is broken, the comb dilates or the thread is worn out. Such harps are reconstructed in different ways, such as installation of unoriginal parts (I used to replace the reeds of Tombo tremolo with Chinese ones and did the same with Chromatics’ windsavers). The harps are fixed, to a certain extent but the experience is greatly reduced. Some old harps need thorough customization before it can be used. If you don’t have much experience on that then a second-hand harp can fail you.

Get a veteran to recheck you better your experience a lot.

 

Even if you yourself are veteren, it would still be better if a friend with expertise can consult you. Credible vendors in the communities can also be reliable. Not all old harps can give you as good experience as a new one. I’ve tried lots, both old and new. Some old ones did not have the quality that I expected. If you do not have much experience, it would be even hard to set your own “expectations”.

I also advise going with a friend whenever you want to buy a harmonica because it would help a lot if he/she plays it while you feel the sound as an audience. You would be surprised how great it helps.

Tip #5 Have clear future aims

Finally, before making up your mind, it is usually money that matters. However one of the primary questions you should ask yourself is: I want it to be a worthwhile investmetn or just to try?

I know some people who have bought lots of harps, from old to new, to find something that can benefit them. In fact, what they received is not what they wanted. They may think those harps can give the sound like the recordings of the brands and famous artists. Actually that sound usually customized by the players or underwent edition. After they had bought them, they usually played a few times before reselling.

The decision lies within your preference. Some seek for perfection, others like to be collectors or look for experience. Whatever, you should have a long-term aim before buying a harmonica. Ask yourself: What will I do with these harps? Will I be playing it in one or two upcoming years? (The age of original harps can be longer than that if you don’t “accidentally” drop them or try to be a harmonica engineer ^^ ) If yes, then what do I want?

Famous harmonica brands: Tombo (tremolo), Seydel (diatonic and chromatic) , Hohner (Diatonic , chromatic), Suzuki (all three types).

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Tombo band, a popular tremolo brand.

Conclusion:

Finally, what I want to say is: if you’re new, choose a cheap one.

And if you really want a high quality, expensive one but your budget is tight, consider the second-hand. Otherwise, choose a new one. Second-hand harmonicas possess risks that can be annoying and waste time and money.

 

Free harmonica check and “second-hand” consultation and help with guarantee are available in The Harmonica .

If you’re interested in new and second-hand harps, feel free to contact us via : https://www.facebook.com/HarmonicaSuperKid/

 

Hopefully with my sharing, you can make choices that are suitable for your needs and budget!

 

 

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