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Manji Suzuki first started making Suzuki harmonicas in the late 1940s in his small room in Sumiyoshi. Expansion was rapid, due in part to the Japanese Ministry of Education's policy of making harmonicas a mandatory instrument for children to learn in schools.
During the 1960s the company expanded into producing keyboard-based harmonicas, which also proved popular in the education sector, both within Japan and throughout the world.
Today, Suzuki manufactures a wide range of musical instruments, including electric pianos and xylophones, and even owns the famous Hammond brand, but harmonicas remain perhaps the most important product within the company's offering.
Where are Suzuki Harmonicas Made?
Like Hohner, Suzuki's lower end harmonicas, such as the Easy Rider and Winner tremolos, are made in China. However, once you go beyond entry level, all harps are made in Japan, and tend to feature phosphor bronze reeds, which have a distinctive tone and feel, and generally last longer than traditional brass reeds.
Suzuki Harmonicas - Tuning and Temperaments
Like other Japanese manufacturers, such as Tombo (who produce Lee Oskar diatonics), Suzuki harmonicas are generally tuned to equal temperament (as opposed to the various compromise tunings favoured by European manufacturers such as Hohner and Seydel). This makes them particularly suitable for melody-heavy playing, rather than chords, although the difference is subtle. Alternative tunings also feature on the Majnji harmonica, which is available in natural minor, harmonic minor and country tunings for players looking to expand their repertoire beyond the traditional major diatonic range.
Suzuki Phosphor Bronze Reeds and Innovative Composite Comb
Besides the phosphor bronze reeds, which are more durable than traditional brass reeds, and provide a distinctive bright tone, one of Suzuki's primary unique selling points is the composite comb, which features on the Manji and Olive diatonic harmonicas. This combines the tone and feel of wood with the durability and swell resistance of plastic or metal. Both of these harps are also supremely air tight, making them particularly suitable for overblows and bending in general.
Replacement reed plates are available for all of Suzuki's Japanese made harmonicas, meaning that when a reed does eventually fail, the harp can be returned to full playability for significantly less than the price of a whole new harmonica.
Suzuki Pure Harp
Suzuki has experimented with alternative materials for other areas of the harmonica as well. The Pure Harp, for instance, features a Koa comb and cover plates, making it the world's first production harmonica produced primarily from wood.
Suzuki Chromatic Harmonicas
Suzuki also makes some of the world's finest chromatic harmonicas. The SCX range, in particular, offers probably the best bang for buck of any chromatic harmonica currently on the market. At the higher end, the Gregoire Maret range can go head to with any chromatic harmonica on the market.