One of the things that’s really obvious at this SPAH is that the number of manufacturers making good-quality harmonicas has increased drastically.  In my youth, the only manufacturer of (barely) usable harmonicas was Hohner, and their idea of product development back then was putting a new box on the harp.  Up until a decade ago, there were still only 2 to 3 manufacturers in the game.

At this show, there are instruments on display from Suzuki, Seydel, Hering, Hohner, Lee Oskar (Tombo), and subsidiary brands like Bushman.  And that’s not the whole list.  Off the shelf harps can now be purchased at prices ranging from about $20 up to $80, with quality roughly proportional to price.  I bought a Seydel model 1847 (a new model with stainless steel reeds) in G for $80, and it’s a very impressive instrument.  I can’t remember the last time I bought a G harp that punched like this–it’s almost like one of Filisko’s custom harps. 

All these manufacturers in the game can only mean one thing–a lot of people are buying harmonicas out there.  But who?  Maybe all those Asian kids I keep hearing about, few if any of whom are at SPAH.  I can’t believe that it’s the aging American hobbyists who are floating all these new high-quality manufacturers.  But who knows.  Retired people often have money to spend, and an incentive to spend it.

Anyway, it’s VERY nice to have all these different instruments available.  Electronic instruments get better and cheaper all the time–it’s great to see the ones made of metal and wood (or plastic) getting better and cheaper too. 

Had a great personal moment when Rupert Oysler told me that he’d given one of his students in North Carolina a stack of CDs to listen to, and the kid told him that my first solo release, “The Act of Being Free in One Act,” was the best CD he’d ever heard, period.  I mean, I don’t know if the kid has heard Beethoven yet, but I loved it.