Thursday, November 17, 2011

Harping On: Gary Applegate

Gary Applegate is the inventor of HarpLock, a very innovative solution to hands-free harmonica playing. This a creative alternative to the cumbersome harmonica racks we are used to seeing, and in my experience, far more effective, as I have yet to find a rack that I find to be completely satisfying.

Gary took the time to answer some of my questions. It’s great to be able to find out how something like Harplock comes about!

Thanks, Gary!

First of all, what is your background and experience with playing harmonica?
    I use harmonica to accompany myself while I sing and play guitar. I am by no means a hot shot harmonica player and I've learned a ton about real harmonica players since I released HarpLock.

How/why did you decide to come up with HarpLock?
    I came up with HarpLock specifically to avoid wearing a rack while I was performing. (I've never had any luck with one.) In the beginning, I used a device that fit on a mic stand with one microphone for vocal and one microphone for harmonica. It looked like Medusa. In an effort to make things smaller. I chopped up a rack and a music stand, went to my neighbor Rodney Monroe's house and said: Can you weld this junk together on to a microphone to create a shelf for the harmonica? Wise man that he is, suggested we put brackets directly into the grill of the microphone using JB Weld, then bolt a shelf to the brackets. We did it. It worked. Harplock was born. HarpLock has changed significantly since that first version. Now, it mounts between the grill and the base of a microphone and has no brackets, bolts, or locking strips. But without that first version, HarpLock in it's current form never would've happened.

Did you have many ideas while designing it that didn’t work out?
    The original design actually didn't work out. It was fantastic for me, but it was clumsy and expensive to manufacture. So I created a single piece, stainless steel shelf mounted between the grill and the base of the microphone. I used the 3M locking strips from the original design to secure the harmonica to the shelf.

    Again, I thought I had it! I had some manufactured and began to promote. All were pleased with HarpLock's function, however many were not happy about putting an adhesive based locking strip on to their harmonica. Consequently, I began to pursue a version that would protect the musician's instrument and still provide the solid fit of the locking strips. The new magnetic version meets those criteria. I think HarpLock is probably in its 10th and final revision now. It's magnetic, I like the way it looks and I am getting a lot of positive feedback.

Aside from looks, I have two problems with the racks I’ve tried: embouchure and pressure. I have a difficult time getting a good embouchure on a racked harp. Also, if I tried to get a good seal, any pressure against the harp causes it to slide forward and away from my face. Will HarpLock help with these problems?
    Both versions of HarpLock place the harmonica securely at the grill of the microphone. If the microphone stays put, any potential problems with embouchure and pressure will certainly be minimized. You will need a sturdy tripod mic stand and you won't be able to use a gooseneck or shock mount on your mic. I recommend the DR pro with a standard Shure SM 58 mic clip. I've been using the HarpLock for about three years, and I can't imagine going back to a rack. I may have adjusted my playing style to use the unit, but if that's the case, it was easy to do and I like the way things work now.

Now you've introduced the magnetic Harplock. Can you tell us a bit about it? 
    HarpLock magnetic uses a rubber covered neodymium magnet to hold harmonicas in place. The magnetic version is the same size and functions the same way as the LS version, but the magnet takes the place of locking strips. The rubber on the magnet protects harmonicas and makes switching harps quieter. This version is so solid that I guarantee it for life.

How have customers responded to Harplock?
    The responses have been overwhelmingly positive. Here are a few:

    Eddie in CA wrote: Gary, I'm telling you, your concept is so simple It’s GENIUS! It's one of those "why didn't anyone think of this before?" when I first saw your video. And then when the magnetic one came out it was the same thing... "Why didn't he think of this before?" And the holder itself is SOLID. No chance of bending it I'm sure.

    Jim at Bottle O Blues wrote: I got it and am loving it. The harmonica locks into it beautifully with no movement at all. The metal tabs on the bracket were a great idea to keep it from sliding forward into the mic. Mine has the rubber on the magnet and I'm not getting any side to side slipping at all. I tried it with every type of harmonica I have - Suzuki Harpmaster, Special 20, Marine Band, Bushman, Big River, Lee Oskar, and Sydel 1897. They all locked in solidly.

I've been getting a lot of wonderful feedback.

Can customers order replacement strips once they wear down?
    The locking strips in the LS version last a very long time but will eventually need replacing. I've got tons of em here. I will add a buy button to the website so when they eventually wear out you can get replacements. (You could also go to your hardware store and purchase some 3M locking strips then cut them to fit)

Anything coming up? Products, promotions, projects?
    I certainly do keep busy around here. One thing that might be of interest. I have a few HarpLock's out being powder coated. If anyone has some special colors they might be interested in please contact me.
    I'm also actively seeking contacts to help me take HarpLock to a much broader base. The product really is revolutionary and I hope to find a company with an interest in acquiring, or distributing HarpLock on a larger scale. If anybody out there can point me in the right direction. I'd love to hear from you!

Any last words for HOOT?
    A Thanks first of all to you Alberto for helping me spread the word about HarpLock. I'd also like to thank the members who took the time to try the LS version it at the last meeting. If you'd like to get the whole scoop, take a look at


  1. Robert, you can see more of it at

  2. Just got one to use not on blues but some country, bluegrass, Buffet type stuff that we do that I also play mandolin on. I would never use a rack because they felt uncomfortable so I wouldn't play harp on these songs. With the Harplock, I feel that I can do both. Wish that I had invented it.


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