Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Ben Bouman interview

March 09, 2023 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 81
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Ben Bouman interview
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast +
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Ben Bouman joins me on episode 81.

Ben is a Dutch blues player who always strives for originality in his playing, partly inspired by his admiration for the playing of Paul deLay. Ben’s current band is The Marble Tones, who took their name from the amplifier company, with Ben helping develop their range of harmonica amps.
Ben also helped Seydel prototype their steel reeds before they released them some fifteen years ago, and he tells us all about polishing and profiling steel reeds, his own business selling customised Seydel harmonicas, and how he helped persuade Seydel in moving over to Compromised Just Tuning.
The Harpgame Is On! is the name of Ben’s self-produced album and he regularly posts YouTube videos, including his recent tuition videos on different harmonica themes.


Ben’s website:

Webshop to buy Ben Bouman custom harmonicas:

Marble amplifiers:

Viola Barends:

Seydel festival and harmonica competition:

Hohner CBH chromatic:


Paul deLay Harmonica Party:

Marble Tones band videos:

Ben's Tone in a cup:

Viola Barends harmonica orchestra:

Ben playing Watermelon Man:

Ben playing blues chromatic:

Ben gear demo recording, including Pignose amp:

The Monkey Speaks His Mind with The Marble Tones:

Podcast website:

If you want to make a voluntary donation to help support the running costs of the podcast then please use this link (or visit the podcast website link above):

Spotify Playlist:
Also check out the Spotify Playlist, which contains most of the songs discussed in the podcast:

Podcast sponsors:
This podcast is sponsored by SEYDEL harmonicas - visit the oldest harmonica factory in the world at

Support the show
Ben lives in Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands
Started playing harmonica when he picked up a chromatic which his father used to play in a harmonica ensemble
Played chromatic for a few years before moving over to diatonic, with first harmonica a Hohner Blues Harp and started buying blues records
Harmonica ensembles were popular in Netherlands in father’s time due to low cost of harmonicas versus other instruments
Blues artists who influenced Ben and sold all blues records 25 years ago
Ben was a big fan of Paul deLay, liking his originality
Favourite recordings of Paul deLay
Found some excellent live recordings of Paul deLay from YouTube, and the joy he shows when playing
Still working on the Paul deLay recordings
Paul deLay probably developed his original approach to playing the harmonica by listening to jazz horn players, or like a guitar player
Ben also strives to have an original sound, and not play standard harmonica licks
How Paul deLay influence Ben’s playing
Paul deLay died in 2007. He was also a great singer, writer, arranger and bandleader
Likes Paul deLay live recordings best
First diatonic Ben purchased was a Hohner Blues harp
Charlie Musselwhite was another big inspiration and discovering different harmonica positions
Played a little saxophone as an adult but the noise upset the neighbours
Played clarinet as a child for a few months but gave that up when teacher said not to play among with the radio
Joined first band age 16 or 17, more rock than blues, and then another band with brother
Current band is The Marble Tones
Marble Tone is the name of an amp, which is where the band got it’s name
Ben helped develop the prototype of the Marble Amp for harmonica
The range of Marble Amps available for harmonica
Ben uses the Marble Amps Harpwood mainly when gigging
Ben had an amp with a 15 inch speaker designed for James Harman
Likes to turn amp loud as possible before feedback so can play harmonica gently, to draw out the subtleties of the instrument
Uses the Marble Max, the smallest amp in their range, for smaller gigs
Other amps that Ben uses, including a Masco amp, and solid state Quilter Microblock 45
How you play the harmonica and build your tone is more important than the amp
Ben released a self-produced album called The Harpgame Is On!
Likes to regularly record licks and ideas at home
Uses Rode NT1A modified large condenser microphone for home recordings
Also plays in a blues duo called Blue Bridge and value of having a harmonica playing guitar accompanist
Puts a lot of videos out on YouTube of mostly improvised recordings
Recently released a series of YouTube tuition videos
Concept of ‘vocal playing’ is theme 24 from YouTube tuition videos
No longer sings in bands as doesn’t feel his singing is strong enough
Ben has a business selling customised Seydel Harmonicas
Ben helped Seydel’s engineer, Karl Pucholt, develop the companies steel reeds
Bertram Becher asked Ben to test some prototype harmonicas, which had steel reeds
What does Ben like about steel reeds
Ben visited the Seydel factory weekly to test how good the new steel reeds were for customisation work
Steel reeds are good to work with, and more elastic than brass
Need to work harder to remove material when tuning steel reeds
Polishing the steel reeds
Ben also changes the shape / profile of the reeds
Ben sells customised Seydel Harmonicas, with three levels of customisation applied
Cost of Ben’s customised Seydel’s isn’t much more than standard price
Sets harmonicas up for overblows, but only uses overblows a little himself, not really liking the sound of them
Offers free 30 minute lessons to anyone who buys one of his custom harmonicas
Ben’s partner is Viola Barends, who runs harmonica camps and is especially strong on harmonica ensemble work due to her musical background
Ben is involved in the Seydel Mundharmonika festival, which runs every year in Klingenthal, Germany
10 minute question
Teaching technique
Focuses on improvisation rather than melodies
Plays a little chromatic
CBH chromatic from Chamber Huang is favourite for tone
Tone and groove are the main things for Ben
Does some set-up of Seydel chromatics and would like to develop customisation of chromatics
Diatonic of choice is own custom Seydels
Loves the full range of diatonic harps, from low diatonics to making the F harp sound more mellow
Different tunings
Has the ability to remember licks he played years before
Persuaded Seydel to move from Just Intonation to Compromised Just Tuning
Initially lip pursued and then discovered tongue blocking when the internet first arrived in Holland
Likes to use a Pignose amp for home recordings, inspired by Frank Zappa
Microphone: likes a brush crystal
Likes to use effects sometimes, and what’s on pedal board
Plans to develop a harmonica with replaceable screwed on reeds