The cover plates on a harmonica serve both decorative and practical purposes. It is where the manufacturer can put some nice decorative designs and they will of course keep your fingers away from the reeds when holding the harmonica. If you shop around fro harmonicas you may fins that some harmonicas have uneven harmonica cover plates. In this article I give a brief explanation on why they exist.
You are most likely to find uneven harmonica cover plates on low tuned harmonicas such as the Hohner Thunderbird or on custom harmonicas. The reason for this is quite simple, low tuned harmonicas have longer reeds and run a risk of hitting the cover plate causing a rattling sound. Custom harmonicas can often be played louder and harder than out-of-the box harmonicas causing greater oscillation amplitude on the reeds that can cause them to hit the cover plate.
Second position is often used in blues meaning the draw notes are important and the longest reeds are in the low end of the harmonica. For this reason it is often the bottom reed plate that is sticking out further on the low end of the harmonica. High pitched harmonicas are less likely to produce the rattle so there is less need to put the cover plate further away.
Alternative to uneven harmonica cover plates
If you have a harmonica with standard plates that rattles you can either buy new plates or modify the standard ones. The most common modifications I have seen is to either bend the bottom cover plate a little to allow more space between the reed plate and the cover plate or to punch a slot in the plate to give some extra room just over the draw 1 reed. It is up to you to decide if it is worth the work and the risk of ruining a working cover plate.
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