Originally posted Dec 2013
A reader named Alena wrote in to ask about her 4 draw. She said her 5 draw was nice and clear but 4 wasn’t playing. From her description, it sounded like maybe her 4 draw reed was stuck.
What To Do
Step 1: Puff In & Out
Try puffing air rapidly in and out on 4. Does that free it up? If not, use stronger air pressure. This does the trick most of the time.
Step 2: Toothpick
If still no response, poke a toothpick in hole 4 at a downward angle. You don’t have to reach far in; aim close to the hole opening. It’ll either unstick the draw reed or confirm that there IS no reed (sometimes they break).
These instructions will work for a blow reed also, but you’ll want to poke the toothpick in at an UPWARD angle and aim for the far end, deep inside the harp.
Preventing Stuck Reeds
Play with a clean mouth! If drinking anything other than water, swish with water before playing. After eating, clean your mouth: brush, floss, and rinse with water to avoid getting dried burrito inside your harp.
In the winter, it can also help to warm your harp in your pocket for a minute or two before playing, to raise it closer to body temperature and prevent jams caused by condensation.