Harmonica : How to choose your instrument?

Light and discreet, the harmonica is one of those instruments that you can learn to play solo. Often used in blues, rock, folk or Irish music, it accompanies all types of instruments to perfection.

Here is a small anthology of the best models on the market to get you started in the harmonica.

Diatonic Hohner Harmonica

Made for over 100 years, the Marine Band is THE reference model from Hohner. The historic brand of professional harmonicists has been known since the end of the 19th century with models that are the exact copy, first used mainly by American bluesmen.

Today, the Marine Band is one of the most popular types of diatonic harmonica for beginners and experienced musicians alike. In addition to its soft, pleasant and rich harmonic sound, it also offers an attractive appearance, with its wooden body and stainless steel blade cover, finely engraved with ornaments reminiscent of late 19th century America.

Suitable for traditional blues music as well as modern playing, Hohner’s Marine Band is suitable for aspiring musicians as well as professional harmonica players. Accurate in both bass and treble, elegant, and relatively inexpensive for an instrument of this quality, it is probably one of the best harmonica models known to date.

Lee Oskar mouth organ in C Major

Major competitor of Hohner, Lee Oskar signs here a professional harmonica of high quality, ideal for beginners as well as for experienced harmonicists. It is particularly easy to play and, as is often the case with Lee Oskar harmonicas, offers one of the best playing comfort on the market: with its easy handling, its flowing sound – a little more metallic than Hohner’s sounds – and its easy alterations, it is ideal for playing the fastest pieces of folk or country music.

Its metallic body produces a simple, neutral and brilliant sound, unlike the Hohner’s, whose wooden body produces more enveloping – or “warm” – sounds, purists will say. Reliable and comfortable, this Lee Oskar is also particularly durable; if you follow the classic care precautions, you’ll keep it for years without a hitch.

It also comes with a protective case so you can take it with you wherever you go.

Hohner Blues Harmonica

Known for its superior quality models, with warm, enveloping and inimitable sounds, the German company Hohner does not disappoint here either, with its superb Blues Harp. It must be said that this prestigious and timeless brand has dominated the market for more than a hundred years, to the delight of beginners and/or professional harmonicists.

Light and compact, the Blues Harp offers an ideal grip – it is notably a little more imposing than other models of the same brand – and tones of incomparable accuracy. Not content with its sound qualities, it is also very attractive, with its wood and stainless steel body, its impeccable finishes, and its fine engravings on the blade cover that are reminiscent of Louisiana or New Orleans in the last century.

Complete and versatile, the Blues Harp also comes with a thin and sturdy carrying case that will keep it for years to come.

Hohner Blues Harmonica

This chromatic harmonica, delivered with its velvet protective case available in 3 different colors, is a good option for experienced harmonica players who want to switch from diatonic to chromatic. Beginners can also perfectly use it, even if the handling is always a little bit more difficult on this type of model.

The side slider allows you to raise the notes by a semitone and thus access all the notes of the chromatic scale. Despite its unbeatable price, this chromatic harmonica offers accuracy and precision in tone. And if you have the slightest concern, the manufacturer also offers a 60-day warranty, which is a guarantee of seriousness and reliability.

So you have a good quality-price ratio for an instrument that will suit all budding musicians. Solid and light, the Kmise chromatic harmonica comes with a cleaning cloth, a velvet case, and a detailed user manual.

What is a harmonica?

Born in the middle of the XIXth century in Germany, from the spirit of the watchmaker Matthias Hohner (and founder of the company that bears his name), the harmonica is part of the wind musical instruments, with metallic free reeds – like some organs or accordion.

Very popular in folk, blues, or American country music, the harmonica consists of 5 main elements: two plates that support the metal slats, two covers that protect the structure, and a central honeycombed windchest that directs the air towards the slats.

The sound is produced when the musician blows through the different holes (where the metal slats are located); the action of the air causes the slat to vibrate, and thus the sound. Depending on whether the harmonicist is suffering or sucking, the note produced will be different.

There are several types of harmonica :

  • The classical harmonica, the most commonly used, is the diatonic harmonica. Most beginners, as well as professionals, play on this model.
  • The chromatic harmonica, on the other hand, has a side pull that allows you to raise the notes by a semitone, and thus access more tones without any particular technique.

How to choose your harmonica?

It is relatively easy to learn how to play harmonica, alone or with the help of tutorials and other manuals found on the web. That said, harmonica playing is not only based on the quality of the instrument itself, but also on the technique applied by the player: the breath, the mouth, the tongue or the hands are very important in the clarity of the sounds produced.

In other words, choosing your harmonica is relatively easy, since most of the major brands offer similar models, all of which are of high quality and have clear tones. Your choice will depend on the type of harmonica you choose. Novices will prefer a traditional diatonic harmonica.

The chromatic harmonica, which is more technical – and also often a little more expensive – is a little more difficult to play and to handle. It will be more suitable for experienced musicians.