John Cook Harmonica Repair Workshop

Together we stand, divided we fall
In 2016, John Cook attended Hohner’s prestigious harmonica accreditation training programme at their headquarters in Trossingen, Germany. He was subsequently appointed a member of Hohner’s worldwide accredited Service team.

Today, John manages and operates an excellent harmonica repair and modification service from his base at East Coast Music in Hornchurch, UK.

In a very short space of time, Jonh has become the go-to repair and modification engineer for Hohner harmonica owners, not only in the UK, but internationally.

Come on now people, let’s get on the ball
Periodically, John runs small harmonica repair workshops, and this autumn we joined him alongside a small band of harmonica repair enthusiasts. Covering a wide range of essential skills, from blueprinting new harmonicas out of the box, to standard maintenance procedures and fixes, the day was fully hands-on and well worth the effort.

We dismantled harps, we cleaned harps, we tuned reeds, we gapped reeds, we replaced reeds, we embossed slots, we chatted and we laughed. We even took our first steps in harmonica customisation; by which time we’d gathered a wealth of top tips and handy tools. Best of all, we came away knowing how to approach and solve a range of problems that lurk beneath the average diatonic cover plate.

Come on, come on, let’s work together
If you need help restoring or repairing a broken harmonica, you’ll find a link to John’s website below. But perhaps you’d like to meet John yourself and learn some helpful skills like sanding your harmonica comb and draw reed plate for greater air tightness, correctly gapping your reeds for improved response and, of course, tuning your own instrument confidently.

In which case, get along to the UK’s annual National Harmonica Festival, Harpin’ By The Sea harmonica festival, or to the Blues Weekend in Bucks, where John leads some wonderful drop-in sessions for diatonic and for chromatic players.

Alternatively, check out John’s website and book yourself in for a super Sunday of indulgence in the dark art of harmonica repairs and maintenance. You know it make’s sense.

John Cook Harmonicas

Calling all Junior and Youth players

Your chance to shine!

The UK’s International Harmonica Festival 2017 takes place 28th-29th October, in Bristol (UK). There are workshops and trade stands to enjoy, and on Saturday 28th October the annual music competition takes place, with dedicated sections for Junior players (7-11 yrs) and Youth players (12-15 yrs).

Some young players have already chosen their pieces and entered the competition online, but there is plenty of time for you to do the same, and you have all summer to practise! Simply choose a song you’ve enjoyed learning (one you could perform for two to three minutes), or something completely new, and the National Harmonica League (NHL) team will help you bring it all together. There are separate categories for chromatic and diatonic harmonicas, and sections for the different styles of music chosen.

The cost involved is one Under 18 day ticket and one Under 18 competition entry, which comes to £18.00 (GBP). Mum’s, Dad’s and immediate family can accompany competition entrants free of charge as chaperones and supporters. Full details and tickets are online at the National Harmonica League website here. Once you’ve bought your ticket, you can submit the details of your competition piece here.

Umcha, Umcha – Brothers of Mothershovel


In a good country, virtues wouldn’t be necessary. Everybody could be quite ordinary.
Mother Courage Bertold Brecht

All you young people, now you listen to me
It was a chilly spring morning. Wood smoke whispered from the Harp Surgery chimney. Unshaven, the Doc stood admiring the laburnum, a steaming mug of Ringtons in one hand and a toasted tea cake in the other. He was listening to Rory McLeod’s Farewell Welfare and contemplating the day ahead when there was a knock on the Surgery’s back door.

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Wiping warm butter from his chin, Doc turned down his Sonos and opened the top gable. ‘Morning saviour! A package for you from the dark side.’ It was Otis the mailman. ‘Really? Where’s that then?’, the Doc murmured blearily. ‘Croydon,’ Otis answered, reaching in for one of Monica’s warm buns.

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Harp Accesories

pinegrove-logoHigh quality leather accessories for harp players

For the past two summers, I have had the great pleasure of leading the beginner’s harmonica workshops at Blues Saturday in High Wycombe (UK). Organised by the utterly wonderful Aron Woodall’s (Big Azza to his mates), Blues Saturday is a great day, and night, out. 8-pack-leather-harmonica-case-iIn 2015, Azza adopted ideas from our annual Harpin’ By The Sea festival, and now produces his own programme for folks closer to the Central Southern UK. It’s a fabulous event, which we highly recommend. This year it takes place just before the May half-term break and you can find out more by clicking the red text in our workshop link to the right of the screen.

single-harmonica-pouchBack on message. Last year, half way through the day, Azza gathered his attendees for the prize draw. And as he announced the list of sponsors, heads turned involuntarily at the mention of Pinegrove Leather. Was this a secret fun day for harp swingers, as well as slingers? Was there cheap furniture up for grabs? The attendees shuffled their feet and avoided eye contact.

We needn’t have worried. Pinegrove is synonymous with top-of-the-range, hand made, leather accoutrements for musicians. Their portfolio includes shoulder straps and plectrum cases for guitarists, stick holders for drummers, and a host of well-designed bags and pouches for harmonica players. Everything is made in England from high quality leather, which is beautifully hand stitched and expertly finished. Proper craftsmanship, with highly desirable results.

ever-ready-case-iI contacted Rod Boyes at Pinegrove’s Yorkshire headquarters in Hebden Bridge for a chat, and his knowledge about the professional needs of harp enthusiasts was immediately apparent. He ran through his range of harmonica carriers, all of which are illustrated on Pinegrove’s website, and we talked about new ideas he’s developing. Pinegrove’s products are now sought after, and being shipped, right around the globe. And we can proudly announce that Pinegrove has also agreed to sponsor this year’s Harpin’ By The Sea festival.

Mitt Gamon Interview – Part 2

Welcome to the second instalment of our interview with Mitt Gamon. In this half, Mitt talks about the London Punk scene and his involvement with the Gang of Four, Ruts DC and Ian Dury. We ask him about the rig he uses, his latest album Harmonica Electronica and get a hint of an exciting new project in that’s in the pipeline. 

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What precipitated your move into the 1970’s/1980’s punk scene?

Mitt & The ModulesIn the middle of the 70’s, Jazz Fusion had happened. I used to frequent a pub down at the Oval called The Cricketers. One of the resident bands there was S.F.X. and they used to let me jam one song every week. Alan Murphy (RIP) played guitar with them, as well as Kate Bush and a few others. Anyway, I got fronted enough by a friend to make a single, and so I asked S.F.X. if they’d be my studio band. Lucky old me. Mitt and the Modules was born, and the first single (and last) was called Ha-Money-Ka. It tanked. But not surprisingly, as on the cover, I have short died blonde hair. Yes, that whole ‘punk’ thing was occurring. I followed that single closely with Chairman Youth, a band formed around the Archway area. It tanked too! (more…)

The Little Walter Diaries – Introduction

LogoIn search of the inner Walter.

I am officially a liberated blues harmonica player. I woke up this morning and admitted to myself that I just don’t get Little Walter. I never have. I’ve been denying the fact for years, cowering in the deepest recesses of the blues closet, fearful of public ridicule. But now I’m out. O U T, out.

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Everyone knows mastery of Little Walter’s diatonic blues dialect is an essential step in any half-decent harmonica apprentice’s development. If you can’t recite Juke note for note, name all his hits and tongue block them, you’re nobody. Well, I can play the intro to Juke from draw two or blow three, with or without octaving blow six, I can tongue-block or purse it at will, but I’ve never stopped to learn the whole piece. The reason for which is two-fold. Firstly, there was a timing issue I just couldn’t unravel, whether or not it was a mistake on Walter’s part. Secondly, for love nor money, I simply couldn’t copy Little Walter’s phrasing, nor did I feel the urge to do so. Oh, and there was another reason. Big Walter.

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Win A Copy Of The New William Clarke CD

So many smiles down through the years

CD 01Harps down, heads up! Harp Surgery has been chatting with the lovely Jeanette Lodovici, former wife of the late great William Clarke, about her latest CD release: William Clarke – Live Bootleg Cassette Anthology. Read on to find out how you can win a copy!

Jeanette explained how the project came about: “There are so many pirate recordings out there of my late husband. Two of his fans sent me some of this bootleg music. Unfortunately it was poor quality, so I sent it to three different studios and finally we got a decent sound out of this badly recorded material.

I still had my doubts on the quality of the recording though. I promised Bill that I would never put anything ‘bad’ out of him. So I sent a few songs to eight people I respect. Seven of them told me it was great stuff and the quality really didn’t matter. Well, I went with the majority. (more…)

Seydel Söhne Competition Winners

Congratulations to our competition winners

Seydel Quiz VouchersWe know that many of you have been waiting for news of the competition result and now that all the formalities have been completed, we can bring you up to date. Thanks for your patience! Thanks also to Bertram Becher at Seydel Söhne for making this special event possible.

As advertised, on the 11th January three names were drawn at random from our pool of correct replies and the winners were notified by email. We are delighted to announce that the lucky recipients of a Seydel e-shopping voucher are Matthew Squires (USA), Tony Westlake (USA) and Jörge Lange (Germany). Congratulations to Matthew, Tony and Jörge and a big thank you to everyone who sent in an entry. (more…)

Merry Christmas from the Harp Surgery

Arthur TolcherNot Now, Arthur!

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a little bit of Morecambe and Wise, so here’s a tribute to classic comedy.. and a forgotten harmonica hero.

Arthur Tolcher was born in Staffordshire in 1922, and his family theatrical history meant he was destined to tread the boards of music hall. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular tunes and and played a variety of harmonicas, interspersing that with sight gags and jokes. It would do Arthur a disservice to call him a ‘novelty act’ since he was tremendously accomplished and was called upon for sessions whenever a harmonica was required.

Eric and Ernie often toured with Arthur, but as their star rose, his career seemed to stall. However, the two comedians found a little place in the TV spotlight for Arthur. Dressed in full concert garb, harmonica in hand, he would rush on at odd moments (or after the credits rolled), and would just manage a brief burst of the Spanish Gypsy Dance before Eric cut him off with a classic catchphrase.

Here are Eric and Ernie happily explaining Eric’s classic paper bag trick to David Frost (you’ll all be trying this at home) when Arthur dashes on for a quick tootle.

Arthur passed away in 1987 and was the subject of a retrospective on BBC Radio 4 in 2007, his story told by Roy Hudd. Thanks for the memory, Arthur.

Merry Christmas everyone!