The Beginners Guide To Harmonica
Harmonica (Mouth Organ) is a wonderful small wind instrument which is quite easy to learn and play.
If you are a beginner to Harmonica music then you will be glad to know that it just requires 6-8 months of serious dedication to be the next Brendan Power and rock with your blues harmonica skills.
If you are reading this article that means you are equally interested in the performance of harmonica, its features, types and to how to spot the cheap and best harp among other.
We will try to cover every aspects of Harmonica in a short and sweet way.
Hope the journey of this article will lead to the conclusion of your answers.
So let’s get drown on the uniqueness and amazing tonal quality of this awesome wind instrument.
Without wasting anymore time we directly jump to the introduction of the harp.
What is Harmonica ? A Detailed Walk Through.
What does the word "Harmonica" means ?
The word "Harmonica" is derived from the latin word "harmonicus" which means musical in mid 18th century. The history of the wind instrument can be tracked back to 3000 years from China where it was known as "Sheng".
Harmonica came into lime light in mid 18th century when the company "Hohner" started manufacturing it in 1857 in Germany.
As per definition :
Harmonica is a free reed musical wind instrument consisting rows of reeds in the front part of the instrument. It is played by blowing or sucking the front section (rows of reeds) and moving side by side for producing the different harmonica notes.
Harmonica is also classified as Aerophone musical instruments, And is also known as French Harp, Mouth Harp, Mouth Organ, Tin Sandwich, Gob Iron, or Mississippi Sax.
It is popularly known for its use in many musical fields particularly in Blues, Jazz, Rocks, American Folk Music, and Classical music.
If we classify it in musical scale version the Harmonica can be divided in various types like :
The playing range is slightly over 4 octaves for 16-hole chromatic model and around 3 octaves for 10-hole diatonic model.
Modern day Harmonica consists of 5 parts that are Comb, Reed Plates, Cover Plates, Wind Saver and Mouthpiece comes under the essential parts of the harmonica.
Lets Look at the functionality of each part.
Functionality and Parts of Harmonica
The comb can be said to be the instrument’s main body which creates air chambers for the reeds when pulled together with the reed plates.
Originally, the comb of harmonica is made up of wood but currently it is also made up of plastics (ABS) or metals (produces high end instruments made from the titanium).
The newly designed fresh and new comb are multifarious, as the air is directed by them.
The importance of changing the material from wood to plastic gives the comb its durability, its ability to last long.
Specifically, due to player’s breath and its contact with tongue wooden comb can easily absorb the moisture from it.
This leads to a slight expansion of the harp making it inconvenient for the players to play and then contracting due to air tension created within.
A number of actions and types are considered in order to eradicate this problem.
Therefore, the new, wooden combed harmonicas are created which are less likely to bulge & shrink.
Check This Awesome Video Explaining Each Part and How Harmonica Works From Inside Out 👇
Reed Plates Of Harmonica :
Reed Plate is more like a plate of several reeds in a single housing.
It is made from brass, steel, aluminium and plastics but brass is used more often than others.
Each reed can either be directed backwards to the reed plate or can also be connected or attached in place.
Those reeds that are in the inner side of the reed plate those within the air chamber of the comb react to blowing, where as those that are in the outer side react to suction.
There are harmonicas that are manufactured with the comb being attached to the reed plate or each other.
Cover Plates :
Cover Plates are specially designed plates used to cover the reed plates.
It is mostly made up of metal although wood & plastics can also be used.
The selection of the material is purely subjective in natures as this affects the sounds created or produced from them.
The cover plates are of 2 types: traditional open design & enclosed design.
The traditional open designs are of stamped metal or plastic which is simply used to be held and the enclosed design bid a louder quality of sound.
Few instances of the enclosed designs are Hohner Meisterklasse & Super 64, Suzuki Promaster & SCX.
Wind savers are basically a type of valves which are usually one way.
These are made up of plastics, paper knit, leather or Teflon which are attached to the reed plate.
The wind saver can be seen in the chromatic harmonicas, chord harmonicas & other harmonicas that are tuned as an octave (octave tuned).
This part comes in action when the reeds which are sharing the same cell and seepage from the inactive reed is noteworthy.
As the name suggests, Mouthpiece is that part of harmonica which is to be found between the air slots of the device and the mouth of the user.
It may be essential using it with the comb like in diatonic harmonica, the Hohner Chrometta, or may be the part of the cover like in Hohner’s CX-12 or it can be a unit that is totally distinct, held by bolts that can be usually found in the chromatics.
For most of the harmonicas, mouthpiece generally helps the player to play it more contentedly with ease.
Best Harmonica Brands
Almost all of the market gimmicks does a fair job in convincing that they are the best. But in reality we know "all that glitters is not gold".
So make sure you choose your mouth organ from the right brand if you IN for a long run.
Winner - Tremolo Mouth Organ
Boseno - Blues
What are Different Types Of Harmonica and Functionalities
The 1st type of harmonica is the Chromatic Harmonica, which was launched over 100 years back and created a buzz in the market as the innovativeness of this instrument’s sound clearly helped the players to produce brilliant tone in jazz, blues, classical music & pop genre from the very start.
To be specific, the modern era chromatic harmonica is still an outlined design from the Hohner Chromonica.
The chromatic harmonica is designed in such a way that a simple button stimulated sliding bar is used to transmit the air present in the hole of the mouthpiece to the desired & selected reed plates.
This instrument can play a total of twelve western chromatic scale notes.
Thus, one can say the chromatic harmonica is a different from the typical harmonica which is only known for playing the notes in a certain musical key.
Check This Quick Review of Beginner Friendly Chromatic Harmonica From Hohner 👇
The chromatic harmonicas are generally 12,14 & 16 holes long. The chromatic with 12 hole is offered with 12 keys and is same with the chromatic that has 14 & 16 holes in it, is available with 14 & 16 keys respectively.
It has unique tone which can be both soft & strong at a time. This makes the instrument capable of producing melancholy tunes along with probing for jazz beats.
This instrument is a boon to the beginners as well as the advanced players who are in search of the feel & dynamics that are present in the famous artist of classical player Larry Adler and the jazz player Toots Thielemans.
As said earlier, chromatic harmonica is a revolutionary invention, some of the invention includes:
The beginner’s professional Chromatic – DISCOVERY 48
The legendary Chromatic – SUPER CHROMONICA
The reborn of the legend – SUPER CHROMONICA 270 DELUXE and
The biggest chromatic – 64 CHROMONICA.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Chronic
Not So Good
Diatonic Type Mouth Organ
The next type of harmonica is the Diatonic Harmonica.
The term diatonic indicates those harmonicas that are precisely planned or designed to be played in a single key on a given scale.
It mainly comprises of the notes of explicit scale that holds all notes which mean may it be all tones or semi tones.
Although the regular “Richter tuned” (major scale tuned) harmonica has the capability to play other keys as well, by imposing a great pressure on its reed to play tunes which are basically out of its actual scales.
It is used in blues, rock, country & pop music.
Understand What's The Real Difference Between Chromatic Vs Diatonic Harmonica 👇
The Diatonic Harmonica is called or mean differently in different regions of the world, like in East Asia or China it may mean as the Tremolo harmonica or in Europe & North America it may be called as the Blue Harp.
This harmonica is built in two different sizes: 10 holes or 20 reeds – that comes with 3 octave range, and the other is 14 holes or 28 reeds – that comes with 4 octave range.
The diatonic harmonica with 10 holes are particularly more famous as compared to the 14 holes.
Few models of the diatonic harmonica are: FENDER Blues Deluxe; HOHNER Special 20; LEE OSKAR Diatonic; HARLEY BENTON 12 Harps Set; SUZUKI Hammond.
Not So Good
Tremolo - Tuned Harp
The other type one can find, is the Tremolo-Tuned Harmonica which has the most important part in the family of harmonica & are models of diatonic that are assembled with dual holes.
The term Tremolo means a quick reverberation of an identical note or a modification between 2 or more notes.
It means a deviation in the volume of note or a musical tone which gives rise to a tremor or vibration.
Accordingly, tremolo tuned harmonica can be understood as that kind of harmonica which has 2 reeds per note.
It is divided into 16 to 28 holes among them 24 hole harmonica is most famous among the Asians.
Due to the divider present in the middle of the comb, which significantly helps in doubling the actual number of holes.
Actually, tremolo is combination of two harmonicas which sounds to some extent a little different and is played in harmony.
Learn The Basics Of Tremolo Harp Keys 👇
While playing this instrument, the occurrence of beating between the notes leads to the creation of tremolo sound or quiver.
However, the amount of beating differs with subject to the effects preferred by the players.
In those harmonicas, where the reeds are far away from each other from the reference pitch the beating tends to be faster, these are called as “WET” and where the reeds are close to the reference pitch or to the tunes, the beating tends to be slower or has low audibility these are called “DRY”.
As mentioned earlier, the layout of the tremolo is of dual reed, which means that one can play 2 notes at a time.
This also signifies that the players are unable to bent the notes of dual tremolo.
However, the notes of single tremolo can be bent to some extent.
This effect is commonly famous among the western free reed instruments & can be seen in harmoniums, accordions & reed organs under different names like VOX Jubilant, Celeste etc., and can also be used in the piano.
The Asian version of this harmonica which has the capability of playing all 12 semi tones is usually used in the East Asian Rick & Pop Music.
The harmonicas that originates from the tremolo are Stress Harmonica, Echo Harmonica, Big Tenor Harmonica, & Bass Harmonica are boon to the music industry.
Reasons To Buy
Reasons To Avoid
Orchestral Harmonica is a type of harmonica which is mainly planned or designed for playing the Ensemble Harmonica.
The Orchestral & Ensemble Harmonica is known for adding new element to the playing styles and a harmonica’s orchestra is formed by using a bass, tenor & treble players, etc.
The orchestral harmonica can be classified by its popularity which includes:
1. Hohner Chord 2. Suzuki Double Bass 3. Hohner Chromatica 263 4. Hohner Bass 78 5. Suzuki Chord Bass BCH48 6. Suzuki Slide Chord 56 7. Suzuki Alto Single AS 37 8. Suzuki Soprano Single SS 37 9. Tombo Pocket Bass
Basically the Orchestral Melody Harmonicas are of 8 kinds among which the HORN harmonica is popularly used by the East Asians.
This harmonica has a solitary large comb which comes with blow only reed plates installed on the uppermost & lowermost part of the harp.
Every reed is placed within the comb’s individual chamber.
One of the style in this harp copies the structure of the synthesizer or piano or mallet instrument, having the regular tunes of diatonic scale of key C present in the minor region of reed plates & loud and uniform tone present in the major region of reed plates.
See The Wonderful Performance From Jacob Venndt With His Orchestral Harmonica
Another style comprises of the “sharp” tone which is immediately above its “natural” tone in the minor section and has equal quantity of reeds present on both of the plates.
Thus, takes into account both E# & B#. The Orchestral or Horn Harmonicas offer numerous varieties of tones, the lower tone begins with the 2 octaves down the middle C while the higher tone starts on the mid C itself.
Therefore, they hold a 2 or 3 ranges of octave.
They are an extension of a chromatic harp which is commonly found in the East Asia’s harmonica orchestra and the “Push Button” harmonica is found in the ethnicities of the Europe & The America.
There’s another kind of orchestral melody named Polyphonia, among which few are Chromatica.
The 12 chromatic notes are consigned on the similar row of the harp.
Chord Style Herp
What do you understand by the term Chord?
Let us start from knowing what it actually mean! Like the term harmony implies two or more than two notes that are played simultaneously, just in the same way Chord accurately means three or more than three notes that are played simultaneously.
The chord Harmonica is the one which comprises of 48 chords such as the major, minor, seventh, augmented & diminished which are used for playing ensemble.
Check This Demo and Sound of 48 Chord Harmonica From Suzuki
Consigned with four- note groups, making the sounds which feel different while breathing out & breathing in.
Every hole has basically two reeds for each individual note and is modified accordingly with a single octave of one another.
There are instances, when countless orchestra harmonicas are precisely produced to work as both bass & chord harmonica.
The chord harmonica has more of its own kind like the one which functions in the same way as the chromatic harmonica, termed as Chordomonica and the one which naturally offer 6 chords, termed as Junior Chord Harmonica.
The accurate example of the 48 chord harmonica designed with an addition of 14- hole chromatic harmonica is The Suzuki SSCH- 56 Compact Chord Harmonica.
The ChengGong Harmonica is a great invention by the Chinese investor, Cheng Xuexue and was awarded for the same in the year 2000.
The term ChengGong is pronounced in Mandarin Chinese which literally means “success”.
The harmonica is divided into two parts namely the main body & a mouthpiece that slides from left to right.
The main body is designed similar to diatonic harmonica and has 24 hole that ranges from B2 to D6 covering the three octaves to the reed.
The mouthpiece has 11 hole which slides from left to right of the harmonica and provides the players with several ranges of chord and expressions such as 7 triads, three 6th chords, seven 7th chords & seven 9th chord that concludes the total of 24 chords.
This harp has the ability to play not only the single note melodies but also dual stops over the range of 3 octaves of diatonic.
Puffing in & drawing out creates a similar tone as the tonal quality is very near to the arrangement of note, of a typical Asian tremolo harmonica or the Polyphonias.
Reasons To Buy
Reasons To Avoid
The pitch pipe harmonica is yet an another kind of harmonica which deals with the area of interest of the players and offers a reference pitch to the vocalist & another instruments.
The name of the instrument being the one and only difference between the vintage pitch pipes and the harmonicas which leads to marking an impression on the targeted spectators of the manufacturer.
Most of the vocalists & choir uses the chromatic pitch pipes that provides a total of 12 note i.e. a full chromatic octave.
This harp is also available for the players of string instrument like the violinists & the guitarists.
If you are looking to buy a Harmonica, the below recommendation may help you to overcome the complexities that might have clouded your thoughts and will help you in making better judgement by selecting the best one available out there in the market.
So here are the lists of best harp that we would like to suggest you.
Best And Cheap Harmonica For Beginners
Hammond HA-20-C From Suzuki
The first in our list is the SUZUKI HARMONICA HA 20 C.
Suzuki is a Japanese company which was set up in the year 1953.
The 1st product that had been produced by them was the harmonica.
Since the date of inauguration the company tried its best to diversify its musical instrument business into other beginners’ instruments.
Well, now this giant corporation is capable of producing pianos, recorders, tone chimes, chimettes, Orff instruments and many more.
Being a beginner, Suzuki instrument is the best to be looked upon.
As the harmonica was the 1st product produced by the Suzuki it is a matter of fact that they won’t have compromised in its quality, thus, it stands on everyone’s expectation and makes the player feel superior.
The HA- 20 C Series of Suzuki is designed in a way that it can be easily fit in one’s pocket, its small size enables the player to carry it along with them.
The sound quality of this series is on another level compared to the others, it has strong and loud sound irrespective of the size.
The harmonica comes with 14 varieties of keys, therefore, one can buy the collection of HA 20 or can just pick the key that suit your music taste.
Reasons To Buy
Reasons To Avoid
Suzuki Humming Tremolo 21- C Harmonica
As mentioned above, Suzuki never ceases to surprise its customers, yet again comes up with its new innovative idea that are brilliantly installed in its new series named Suzuki Humming Tremolo 21- C Harmonica.
Hence, tremolo 21- C holds the 2nd place.
Suzuki being a recognizable brand is not the sole reason to buy the harmonica rather the tremolo 21- C has something best to offer, the tremor effect.
It has a brilliant natural quiver that makes it special among others.
It is essential to include this series in your list as the vibrant tremolo effect is important for harmonica repertoire and makes the player feels it resonance.
Moreover, Suzuki Humming Tremolo 21- C has the main key as key C which implies one can play with a series of different instruments.
The sound is rich & strong.
Reasons To Buy
Reasons To Avoid
Swan Harmonica SW 1040
The third in our list is the Swan Harmonica SW 1040 which is produced by the Swan Musical Instrument company situated in China.
Presently, the Headquarter of the Swam is located in Colorado & the brand is known for producing instruments such as Harmonica, Recorder & Melodica. Among these instruments Harmonicas are most famous.
Well, one may ask, what is so special about Swam Harmonica?
To them, we can proudly say that it’s the cheapest and affordable product among all the harp in our list.
Not only the price value but also quality is great and is suitable for beginners.
The physique is build-up of plastic, the reeds present are of brass and the whole instrument is chrome plated.
It plays most of the genres and the key C makes it easier to play.
Reasons To Buy
Reasons To Avoid
Hohner 560PBXC Special 20 Diatonic Harmonica, C-major
The fourth Harmonica that we would like to recommend is the Hohner 560PBXC.
Hohner is one of the best known brand when it comes to Harmonica, and was the first brand ever to manufacture Harmonica for commerical use.
The Brand Hohner knows all the In/Out of the musical instrument and its just impossible to mimic the tonal quality they offer and 560PXBC is a perfect example of that.
560PX BC provides tremendous bendability and un-matched response.
Each Harmonica manufactured by Hohner is tested for Sound Quality and the perfect rich tuning they are known for before leaving the manufacturing facility.
560PX BC is available in 13 Style Keys options to choose the instrument according to your need.
Hohner 560PBXC (A Special Twenty Series) is a diatonic Harmonia and what makes it unique is the smooth internal adjoint between reed and comb.
Which creates an extruded plastic mouthpiece for easy benadbility and playability.
560PXBC is a cheap and one a of kind unique Diatonic Harmonica with un-matched tonal quality for any genre available. In short a must have choice for any harmonica lover specially for beginner.
Reasons To Buy
Reasons To Avoid
Lee Oskar Harmonica
Our fifth recommendation in this cheap and best harmonica for beginners list is manufactured by one of the Top Harmonicist in the world - "Lee Oskar".
Lee Oskar is a famous Danish harmonica player, who is known for his remarkable role in the music industry by producing fusion sound of rock, funk & jazz of the group WAR.
He is the creator as well as the prime harmonica player of the group.
Lee is the one who created the Lee Oskar Harmonica in association with the Tombo Manufacturing of Japan in 1980s.
Lee Oskar Harmonica is specifically famous for its superficial quality but are amazingly good for the beginners.
This harmonica too, comes with key C and has huge holes & comb made from plastic, making it easy & simple for the players to play as compared to other instruments.
Moreover, the layout is sealed allowing no air to pass and the reeds are active and quick to respond.
The sounds created by this harp is bright and remarkable.
This is best suited for the rock songs, so if you are planning to play rock, go for Lee Oskar.
Reasons To Buy
Reasons To Avoid
Johnson Bk- 520- C Blues King Harmonica
The last harmonica that we would like to suggest is the one from the Johnson.
The Johnson Musical Instrument is known since 1993 and for all the good reasons.
Although, initially they produced guitars & fretted instruments but soon they diversified their line of production and started producing guitars, dulcimer, ukuleles, concertinas and Harmonicas.
Johnson Bk- 520- C Blue King Harmonica has the versatile presence of the key C and is sealed or air tightly designed.
It is a diatonic model of 10 hole that has reeds of brass, comb of plastic & the cover plate is metallic.
The reeds can create a varied range of bending pitch. This harmonica is made for beginners as well as for advanced players.
Reasons To Buy
Reasons To Avoid
Our list ends here but trust me this is just a sample of what “THE HARMONICA” actually is.
If you really want to know about its fascinating feel & unique tone then it’s time for you to be the Owner of one such instrument, I’m sure it won’t disappoint you at any cost and will definitely makes you feel superior.
Wrapping It Up
If you are planning to accumulate extra musical instruments to your array, the harmonica is a good option to have it.
These small yet bold wind instruments has the capacity to produce strong & loud sound and so we assume that our recommendation will help you bring out its uniqueness.
Now, the question arises: “Which among the above mentioned harmonica is the most reasonable to have in one’s possession?”
For this question, we have a couple of suggestions which we hope will help to make a wise decision.
You can choose either the Suzuki Ha-20-c or the Later version.
No doubt Suzuki is one of the most noted Harmonica brand with superior quality sound and service.
And if its Swan, then no one can compete with its price range.
It is much more affordable than any other harp also is a great instrument for the beginners as they don’t have to empty their pockets.
So, if you are looking to have harmonica which is cheap and has all the qualities that a player especially a rookie wishes to have in it, then you can go for Swan.
But if you are an experienced player and cares more about the tonal quality, its services and wishes to carry a strong brand, then no other than Suzuki defines it better.
Personally, between both the HA-20-C from Suzuki and 1040 from Swan, I would like to recommend Suzuki.
The reasons being very clear, not all that shines are gold here it means the cheap harp is not always good in quality, therefore, the Suzuki of Japan has the capability of eliminating all disadvantages that can occur in a typical harmonica.
Not only this but only its experience makes it more refine and the product so produced by them are super amazing.
The model HA-20- C is built with all those qualities.
Also, the rich sound makes it more strong and the presence of key C and the hard case and its portability, all these things make it durable and fashionable.
Therefore, Suzuki is the logo of one hell of a great harmonica that are desired by many.
And trust me, no other can compete the Japanese model Suzuki in its quality of tone and simple yet bold appearance.
Some Other Resources To Learn More About Herp
Harmonica Finger Chart
How To Play Mouth Organs ?
As our site is solely dedicated in providing in-depth analysis of musical instruments, we now feel that we miss a great opportunity to help our readers by not providing learning resources.
Soon, you will see a whole new category dedicated to learning but for meanwhile here are some video Lessons explaining How to Play Harmonica For Beginners ?
Note : Most Harmonica Lessons On Free Platform are for C Key Harmonica