Welcome back to my harmonica gear pages! Today I want to introduce you to some really great harmonicas, microphones, and pedals that will help you achieve the sound you dream about! Read on and get to know AGC custom harmonicas.
André Coelho has been playing the harmonica for over 20 years. Originally from Brazil, where the interest for the instrument began, he now lives in Portugal and is dedicated fulltime to harmonica related work.
It is not news to any players that out of the box harmonicas are sometimes a hit and miss. Wheter poorly setup or playing just fine, the vast majority of harmonicas benefit from some work to unleash its fullest potential. That is also true for modern gear, this is why he also started building custom mics and pedals specially for blues harmonica playing.
“Being very very curious on how things work, I naturally started opening my first harmonicas. First one I ever bought back in mid 90´s was one of the earlier Hohner Special 20 MS Series. That looked promissing with all the marketing about precise automatic tuning and interexchangeable parts.
As a begginer, we tend to blame the harmonica rather than our own poor technique, but I never felt completely comfortable with its sound. It was just so leaky. It was not so easy to find other models where I lived, despite having a national company dedicated to making harmonicas, Hering (and I will get back on those later). Eventually I got two Huang harmonicas which were back then fine harmonicas used by some professional players. Sound was just so much more alive despite cheap materials and workmanship, but they felt harsh on the lips due to the sharp corners.
Despite those shortcomings, my interest on the instrument only grew and soon I got my first Lee Oskar. It is not my favorite tone today I reckon, but at that point, it just solved all the problems I had with the other harps and sounded like a real professional instrument despite my poor playing. It was at that point that I started trying to improve the sound by mixing combs and covers, very basic reedwork and then some retuning work. A whole new world was opening to me. Still, it was an expensive instrument back in my student days and with all the duties for imports in Brazil.
The solution was to use the home option, Herings. Those were nice instruments, and I love their chromatics until today, but I was into the diatonics, and while they had a fine sound, there were so many inconsistencies from batches that out of the box they were really a hit and miss. I guess their weakest point back then was the reed alloy, they did not last long. Although frustrated, that forced me to try solutions and then I learn to change my first reeds.
Playing another instrument, the guitar, also forced me to look at the harmonica not as a simple folk song instrument (or even blues only for that matter), but as an instrument that can play different roles in a band. Back then my father gave me my first mic and amplifier, and I asked myself how cool it would be to use more effects on that. Needless to say I decided to understand how pedals and microphones work and began doing my first experiments.
For the next years I have played several different music styles, but with roots always deep in the blues. Played as much as I could, living for a bit in Norway and then in Portugal for the first time. It was always a hobby that i took very seriously, and I got to record 3 CD´s with my old band. Still, my full-time work with risk consultancy and quality management, plus my growing family and a second band wouldn´t allow me to dedicate further. I was, despite of that, very attentive to the new techniques and custom work by great guys back in my country, and discussions on different forums outside, asking for advice and sharing what I knew.
With the kids growing up, the general situation in my country, and my wife´s family (she is portuguese), we decided to move to Portugal for good now.
Whoever moved before knows how things are not so simple, and my case wasn´t any different. Harmonica scene is pretty much non existant and it is hard to stablish professionally on a new environment. We had our different attempts without much success, and then COVID striked.
I guess that was the point in which I decided that if I was going to stay home (my wife is a nurse so those have been troubled times for her and someone had to be there), I might as well start doing what I love for people that love the harmonica too. Initially, I was focused on harmonica repair only. But it was the beggining of AGC Custom Harmonicas.
A good friend I made here, Dr. Gilberto Torres, saw one of my adds and sent his many harmonicas to be worked on. He was very happy with the results and was very encouraging in this process. He also met the great chromatic player Antonio Serrano from a workshop and recommended my work.
I worked on a few of Antonio´s chromatics, to which he made a very kind review, and that started to bring me more and more work from other countries. That also forced me to become more active again on the online communities, and though many may say facebook is a thing from the past, for harmonica players I feel it is still the best meeting point. Soon enough people started asking me for custom harmonicas and I am greatly happy how this is all turning out so far.
Custom harmonicas take a lot of time to be done right, and I have pretty high standards, so it is normal that they will surpass the cost of a mass produced instrument. But from begginers to pro players, they all felt it was a well worth investment. Bends will come easier, intonation is better, response is quicker and louder with a great dynamic range and for the people into overbends, reedwork becomes absolutely necessary.
Between those harmonicas, I decided to launch some products I have been developing for my personal use these years and made some videos demos. It was a small microphone with a switch inside intended for blues playing. From the stock sound which is a very bluesy one already by using a hi-z element that can drive any amp into nice crunch, I wanted to add the option for a different tone, one that has a more overdriven and darker sound on the fly.
The result was so nice that I went on to make it in a pedal form too, so it could be used with any other hi-z dynamic type mics, such as the famous Shure 520.
I also made some mods to amplifier to better suit blues harmonica playing.
Word spread quite fast and I sold the first two batches really quickly. The response has been tremendously positive so far. I am all about providing a great service so I always want to establish a long lasting relationship rather than an ocasional sale.
The great thing about doing it is seeing the progress on the begginer / intermediate players I have sent my products to, but when I got contacted by players I really admired for years and they were completely happy with my work (which will be used in their albums, I was told), that is the best feeling you can get - knowing you are on the right track.
To date, I have sent my harmonicas and gear to the USA, Sweden, Japan, Norway, France, Spain Canada, Mexico,Brazil, Australia, Poland, Belgium,UK, Hungary, Portugal and Italy. Like i heard from a great harp technician, it is not all about famous models, expensive liquor and fast cars... sometimes we have to glue valves!
Jokes aside, I love what I do and just don´t see myself doing another thing. It is hard like any other job, but there is a lot of potential in this market.
There are many great customizers and gear builders around the world and I am working hard everyday to be among them!”
If you want to reach me,send a message to
or messenger - take a look at my profile page on facebook (pictures, demos, harmonica videos etc)
Website is still under development.