The Hohner Super 64 Chromonica is a nice chromatic harmonica. I inherited one from a dear relative. A dear old relative who could really croon, but whose slobber and old food bits I don’t care to inhale or smell while playing.
So I set about learning how to clean it. Some instructions recommended soaking in water, mineral oil, bees wax, or other materials. Really there weren’t very thorough instructions. Still, the slobber wasn’t going away, so I got started. It turns out that cleaning the harmonica is really easy if you’re willing to take it all apart. If you’re looking for a shortcut, I don’t really have one. If you are afraid of losing a screw, this is not the how-to for you. In fact, it’s not really a how to at all. I am not a professional harmonica cleaner. This is just what I did. Your Super 64 was expensive, follow these instructions at your own peril.
You will need a small thin screwdriver, the screws are somewhat recessed so if you don’t want to scratch your harmonica, the screwdriver needs to be thin and narrow. I used a small electrical screwdriver and a small pocketknife.
Unscrew everything, and keep track of each screw! Laying out each piece is a bad idea since it would make it easy for a screw to roll off the table. At least if you’re like me. I end up bumping the table, or brushing against something, and suddenly a screw rolls on the floor and I’m crawling around wondering why I didn’t put the screws in a tupperware like I meant to.
If you do lay out each thing on the table, it will look like this:
With the Chromonica taken apart cleaning becomes a pretty simple task. The all metal parts and the plastic piece can be cleaned with rubbing alcohol. The tricky part and the part you are probably most interested in cleaning is the reed plates.
Here’s the trouble with the reed plates, at least on my model. The reed plate are made of a brass (?) plate with thin reeds riveted to it. You will also notice some paper and plastic valves (the little strips). The paper and plastic strips are the valves that make the harmonica play just one one when you blow or suck. They also complicate cleaning the reed plate. If you get the paper wet it will stick to the reed plate.This means you have to keep alcohol and water off of the paper valves. Worse than sticking is if you crinkle one of the valves it may make the note unplayable or cause it to always play when that hole is blow in to.
So….what do you do? I dipped q-tips in rubbing alcohol, dabbed them till they were just damp and not dripping. I then carefully avoided the valves. Does it make it 100% cleaned? No, but hopefully it is enough to bring down the dried spit levels to something reasonable.
If you do happen to wrinkle a valve or the valves came wrinkled, you can try pressing them flatter. Doing this fixed 4 of the 6 notes that wouldn’t play on mine.
Once you’re done, just screw it all back together. If you have a gap between the mouthpiece and the top plates as you put it back together loosen the top plates slightly until you can push them forwards.
If someone else has better way of cleaning your harmonica, let me know in the comments!
And now, I’m off to learn something more than “I’ve been working on the railroad”.