When Your Valves (windsavers) Turn Against You.

And They Will..........

In the "Things We Know But Don't Always Do" Department (Second floor, to your right,end of the aisle), the advice "never play on a cold chromatic harmonica", is probably a good thing to at least listen to, nod wisely, and then the rhetorical "Who has time for that? rears its drooling head and valves start sticking and your performance might become flawed.

(Useful info on valve replacement is at the bottom of this page.)

There are Pluses and Minuses to this.

Sometimes, when a note doesn't play, it's
a Good Thing.

The Plus: When you, God Forbid, make a Human, non-sticky valve-related, error in your playing, in spite of Kenny Werner's admonition "there are no wrong notes", you still can just look at The Instrument, shake it out, and "VIOLA", it clearly it was not your Personal Error, but one of those Mechanical Error things.

The Minus: Valves stick, notes don't play, which, in some cases, is also a Plus.


Glad you asked. I have a good method, and it seems to work nicely for me here at home, for my collection of Hohner Deluxe 270's. Gather this list of things (2) together:

  1. MacBook Pro
  2. Five(5) Deluxe 270 Chromatics, by Hohner

While the MacBook Pro might have other uses, for now, it's great for keeping the instruments warm when I'm not playing them. One cause of sticky valves is the wetness that happens when You (or anyone) blows hot air into a cold instrument. This happens on ALL wind blown instruments, flute, sax, clarinet, oboe and chromatic harmonica. To make the valves stick even more, you should eat candy while playing.



You could just put them under your arm or near another source of mild heat until they warm up a bit.

Not the classiest way, but it might work.

At this point it would be good to view a video on quick fixes by Brendan Power, so here's a link.

How To Replace A Valve

The glue you use is up to you. Various people offering various types of valves have opinions on what glue to use, from SuperGlue, to Pliobond, which is what I use.

Two criteria to consider, other than you want it to stick, in no particular order, with a bonus extra criterion:

  1. You don't want to get the glue into the slot or on the reed.
  2. You don't want to get the glue into the slot or on the reed.
  3. You don't want to get the glue into the slot or on the reed.

The safest way I can think of is to get a tiny bit of glue on the proper place, ON THE VALVE, slide the gluey valve into place FROM THE RIVET SIDE of the slot, toward the reed flapping end, trying not to reverse direction. You're sliding the valve from just before where it'll end up,  into the correct position.

Be sure that, when you move the valve to its final destination from wherever on your bench you apply the glue to it, you don't carry it thru the airspace over the reed plate, or your box of valves, your $2,000 exotic fish tank, or anything important, lest a drop fall off and into an unfortunate location, and in my case, ruin my abillity to have sushi without leaving my home.

The benefit, if there is one, of a slow-setting glue, like Pliobond, is that you can reposition it easily, for a few minutes after putting it in place. The non-benefit of Pliobond is that it smells a lot like Pliobond.

IF you have a wooden comb, subject to tempermentally changing size at times, in  certain circumstances, you MIGHT want to place the valve just a tiny bit off center, so that the wooden "flute" , or partitions, don't end up blocking the valve's motion... but just a tiny bit. If you put them too off-center, on the draw, one side of the valve might be sucked into the slot and give you yet another "non-you" excuse for errors.

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