The Hohner Auto Valve Octave Harp
The Hohner Auto Valve is a really neat instrument that plays two (2) notes simultaneously an octave apart. This produces an accordion like sound that is ideal for Cajun, Irish, Zydeco, and Country Music. Tuned like a standard 10 hole diatonic, the layout makes it easy to play. However, there are drawbacks. Anytime two or more reeds sound per holes there is extra air leakage. This certainly happens on many Auto Valves. The remedy for this is the installation of chromatic style wind savers and in fact, newer Auto Valves come with wind savers. The result is a marked improvement in playability. For a variety of reasons, the Auto Valve does not lend itself to bending and attempting to do so will cause uneven wear on either the top or bottom reed causing permanent deviations in pitch and premature reed failure. Bending is practically impossible on a fully valved harp like current Auto Valves. Auto Valve harps are also prone to comb cracking. The divided combs are very thin and are not sealed from the factory.
At 16:23, we have copied an idea proposed by Mr. Rick Epping and placed the Auto Valve reed plates on the body of a Hohner 260 (Koch Chromatic). The comb is sanded and sealed and the reed plates are attached with screws. The mouthpiece is kept on but the slide mechanism is removed. The result is a very high volume and responsive octave harp that is very easy to play and comfortable on the lips.
We prefer the harp to be re-tuned to either Paddy Richter, Country, or Melody Maker tuning as these note layouts lend themselves to the types of music octave harps are most commonly used. The cost of the pictured hybrid Auto Valve is about $175 + shipping. The cost includes the necessary purchase of both a complete Auto Valve as well as a complete Hohner 260 with a comb in perfect condition. Either the Auto Valve or Hohner 260 covers work equally as well and this simply a matter of preference. For an additional $15, we will re-tune to Melody Maker, Paddy, or Country. Above are some pictures to include a few of the stock Auto Valve unmodified. It should be noted that Hohner has stopped production of both the 260 and the Auto Valve although there are existing supplies. Both harmonicas have been manufactured since the 1940s. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.