Aspiring harmonica players should
start with a standard 10-hole diatonic harmonica in the key of C.
There are no sharps or flats in the key of C so the music theory is a
bit easier. Also, the body of the harmonica should be made of plastic. While
many professional players have traditionally performed on wood-bodied harmonicas,
more and more are using plastic as time goes by. Plastic is a much more
constant medium and requires less maintenance. Plastic-bodied harmonicas
will not swell from moisture, are less abrasive on your lips, and more
airtight for greater volume. So, unless you're dead set on one of the
classic wooden harmonicas, like
the Hohner Marine
Band or Hohner Blues Harp, start with
a plastic model.
Learn to play on a budget
choices are easy if you're going for a really inexpensive harmonica --
anything under $12, like the Hohner Hot Metal or Hohner Blues Band. Made in the Orient, these harmonicas are perfect for
kids or beginners
of any age. You'll be amazed at the big blues sound they deliver.
Learn to play on a professional harmonica
If you're of a more serious mindset despite being a raw
beginner, the good news is that even an artist-level 10-hole
diatonic harmonica is not that expensive when compared to most other instruments.
Pro harmonicas, like the German-made Hohners and Lee Oskars can be had for $25
to $45. These instruments have better tone, tuning, and
longer life than their cheaper cousins.
You can easily identify the better harmonicas because they're
manufactured in multiple keys. But you should still start with one in
the key of C, since most instructional books, videos, and DVDs will
assume that's what you're using. And, since "C" is one of the
four or five most commonly used harmonicas among professionals, you won't
outgrow your harmonica if you do decide to begin with a pro-level.
suggest that you check out the Hohner
Big River Harp, the Hohner Special 20 and the Lee Oskar Major Diatonic.
The Big River
Harp is a relatively new model that is attracting the attention of pro harmonica players. It's Hohner's least-expensive German-made model.
It seems to have the life expectancy of the Special 20, yet it's
dollars cheaper. The contour of the cover is somewhat higher than
Hohner's other models, giving the Big River a thick profile that's easy
to hold. And, it has the advantage of having replaceable reed plates,
which is a money-saving alternative to throwing away an out-of-tune
Special 20 is
our favorite Hohner diatonic for price and quality. It's also the first
choice of demanding players like Blues Travellers' John Popper. If you look closely at the
cover plate, you'll see the inscription
"Marine Band" in small letters. Therein lies an explanation
for its broad appeal: it has the reeds, tone, and feel
resemble the world-famous wood-bodied Hohner Marine Band. However, the
Special 20 has all the advantages of a plastic body. Why not make it
your own first choice?
The serious beginner can't go wrong with a
Oskar Major Diatonic, the choice of many pros for playing blues, rock,
folk, jazz and country. Constructed with a
plastic body and with replaceable reed plates, its durability and tone
Okay, you have your first harmonica. If you are ready to learn to
play, go to our Tips for Beginners page.