REPAIR TIP…more on ghost buzzes.
It can happen that a reed will not sound with a pure tone when played, but will have secondary harmonics which almost sound like 2 reeds playing at once.
The cause of this is that something is keeping the reed from vibrating freely. This is typically caused by 1 of 2 things…listing most common first…
– The end tip of the reed (free end which vibrates) just barely touches the end of the reedplate. Or, the reed may touch the reed slot on one side down a millimeter from the tip…these create secondary harmonics just as a guitar string will if touched lightly along it’s length.
To test for this; you backlight and wearing magnification glasses, use a small tool such as a dentist’s tooth tool to push the reed gently into the reed slot just a teeny bit…all you are looking for is clearances. Look for where the reed is actually touching the end or side of the reedplate…using the backlight to help you see the problem..you actually look at the teeny gap between reed and reedplate. You can see it when they touch each other.
(Note it is not typical that the problem is the lower portion of the reed, it will be at the tip or withing a millimeter or two of the tip.)
To fix it, first slip an industrial razorblade gently under the reed tip about a quarter of an inch, being careful not to disturb the lay of the reed. You want the reed raised just a bit to make it easy to file it…but be VERY careful not to bend the reed out of shape, or to disturb surrounding reeds or breathsavers with the razorblade. You use the razorblade because it’s so thin, and easily goes under the reed, and raises the reed a half a millimeter to make filing easy. The razorblade goes no more than 1/4 inch along the reed, don’t go down further or you’ll bend the reed. You may have to fuddle with the razorblade to get it to clear the other reeds and breathsavers…take your time.
The reed can now be gently filed in the offending section, with the file resting on the razorblade for support. Also, I often stabilize the reed itself while filing with a finger, so the filing does not disturb its positioning.
This is picky work, but it solves the problem. Do not reshape a reedplate…only a reed, as reeds are inexpensive to replace.
– The second most common cause is that the factory, or you, put too much glue on the breathsaver, and it oozed a bit into the reedslot, and is holding the breathsaver to the reedplate past the beginning of the slot, which you do not want.
This is an easier repair IF you have the gear. First, prepare the breathsaver; if you have the right size, great, if not cut a longer one to smaller size, being careful to note that the lower portion of the breathsaver is a bit longer than the upper part. Copy the look and design of the other breathsavers. I use crazy glue because it does not degrade and let go over time, but you have to move fast…you have about 2 seconds to place the windsaver correctly.
First I test the length of the breathsaver, then apply the glue to an index card, then use a toothpick to place the glue…making a tiny dot on the reedplate about 1-2 millimeters behind where the reed slot starts. Then I place the breathsaver into position too low on the reed slot (hanging over the reed a tad) and push the breathsaver UP into position, this ensures no glue gets into the reedslot again.
Sometimes I’ll press the glued portion with my thumb to seat it if needed. Let dry a few hours and you’re good to go.
DO NOT play a harp for several hours after using crazy glue, when drying it’s not safe to breath.
Using these techniques you can likely repair ghost buzzing reeds at home safely and to good effect.
(Photo: a reed with a bit too much breathsaver glue applied, which dribbled into the reedslot creating a ghost buzz.)