How to Deal With the Sticking Slide

I recorded a video on this topic and I posted it on YouTube and then I deleted it the next day. Why? It was 10 minutes long and the whole point of the video is that I put the slide button and edge of the slide under slow running water and work the slide back and forth to clean it and provide temporary lubrication. That was it and it didn’t need to be 10 minutes in length. Regarding my YouTube channel and video uploads, sometimes the camera is rolling and I get a little rambling and off topic and I must decide to wait for another day when there is more clarity, mental focus, and preparation to discuss the topic on hand. I want to respect people’s time.

Anyway back to the sticking slide issue, this thing with the water is really the only thing that works for me and my harmonicas. It may not be ideal but, since I don’t use wooden comb harmonicas, it’s not creating any problems. Theoretically a clean slide (periodically dismantling the mouthpiece assembly and cleaning the slide in warm soapy water) and the correct tension on the mouthpiece screws is supposed to yield a free moving slide. What do you do if you’re doing this on a weekly basis and its still sticky? You do what I do and get the end wet and work it back and forth. The water creates a temporary lubricant that seems to hold up for 15-20 minutes of practice. Its a hassle but not as much of a hassle as taking an instrument apart and putting it back together again. Actually its not a hassle at all it has just become a part of my practice and performance routine. If there is a bottle of water onstage I just use that.

There are two harmonica models I can think of that are fool-proof when it comes to the slide: The Hohner CX-12 and the discontinued Hohner CBH models. Both feature genius slide mechanisms that never seem to stick. But more traditionally built harps will always have an issue. At the date of this post I am using fairly inexpensive harmonicas. When I upgrade it may be less of an issue. If the slide is really stuck like not moving at all it’s best to play some warm chords at the top of the harp for a bit and then try again rather than being forceful. You can bend the slide a bit if you are pushing hard on it. If the slide is just moving sluggishly its time for some water on it.

I think there may be some harmonica players who disagree with the water on the slide idea and the harmonica police may come after me for this I don’t know.

Here is an article by Pat Misson who at least agrees that other forms of lubrication are a bad idea.

This topic is worth researching to see what other players are saying about it. The slide and the windsaver valves are frequently discusses areas of frustration in the chromatic harmonica community. In fact years ago I was trying to find advice on how to actually play the chromatic and all I could find was maintenance, repair, and gear discussions. Don’t let this stuff turn into a barrier to work on your musicianship.