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  Your First Harmonica
Tips For Beginners

Your First Harmonica


Hohner Hot Metal harmonicaAspiring harmonica players should start with a standard 10-hole diatonic harmonica in the key of C. Most instructional books and videos will assume that "C" is the key you are using.

Consider a harmonica with a plastic comb. While many professional players have traditionally performed on wood-comb harmonicas, more are using plastic as time goes by. Plastic is a much more constant medium and requires less maintenance. Plastic combs will not swell from moisture, are less abrasive on your lips, and more airtight for greater volume. So, unless you're set on one of the classic wood-comb harmonicas, like the Hohner Marine Band or Hohner Blues Harp, start with plastic.

Hohner Blues Band harmonicaLearn to play on a budget

The choices are easy if you're going for an inexpensive harmonica -- anything under $20, like the Hohner Hot Metal or Hohner Blues Band. Made in the Orient, these harmonicas are perfect for 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 Hohner and Lee Oskar cost $40 and up. These instruments have better tone, tuning, and longer life than their cheaper cousins. And pro harmonicas are manufactured in all keys.

Hohner Big River HarpCheck out the Hohner Big River Harp, the Hohner Special 20, and the Lee Oskar Major Diatonic.

The Big River Harp 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 several 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 replaceable reed plates, which is a money-saving alternative to throwing away an out-of-tune harmonica.

Hohner Special 20 harmonicaThe Special 20 is our favourite 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 "Marine Band" inscription in small letters. Therein lies an explanation for its broad appeal: it has the reeds, tone, and feel that closely resemble the world-famous wood-comb Hohner Marine Band. However, the Special 20 has the advantages of a plastic comb. Why not make it your first choice?

Lee Oskar Major Diatonic harmonicaThe serious beginner can't go wrong with a Lee Oskar Major Diatonic, the choice of many pros for playing blues, rock, folk, jazz, and country. Constructed with a plastic comb and replaceable reed plates, this harmonica's durability and tone are renowned.


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