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What's the Best Harmonica for Beginners?

Updated: Mar 6

So you want to learn to play harmonica. That's awesome! But what is the best harmonica for beginners? It's very important to choose the right instrument at the start so you don't waste time and money replacing it later on. This guide will show you which harmonicas are worth buying and which ones are better left on the shelf.

Top 5 beginner harmonicas

  1. Hohner Special 20 harmonica - key of C

  2. Hohner Marine Band harmonica - key of C

  3. Lee Oskar (Major Diatonic) harmonica - key of C

  4. Hohner Golden Melody harmonica - key of C

  5. Hohner Big River harmonica - key of C

What harmonica is best for beginners?

Today’s harmonica lesson is all about finding the right harmonica to get started with. We'll look at the best beginner harmonica for value and quality.

What type of harmonica do you need?

The answer to 'what type of harmonica do you need' depends on what type of music you want to play. Most blues, pop, rock, country and folk is played on diatonic harmonica. These are great for expressive, emotional playing but won't break the bank. If you're interested in complex jazz, classical or more specialist genres, you may like a chromatic/tremolo/custom-tuned harmonica, but I'm assuming you want to start with a diatonic.

What key of harmonica is best for beginners?

Most people start with a harmonica in the key of C. It's the easiest to understand because it contains the basic C major scale, plus most harmonica lessons use a C harmonica so you'll find it easier to learn. Plus C is a mid-range key (not too low, not too high) so some techniques can be easier to learn.

What harmonica brands are best for beginners?

It's important to get a good quality instrument so you can get the sounds you desire. However, you don't need to spend a fortune to sound great. I recommend the Hohner Special 20 as a good compromise in terms of value and quality:

Photo of a Hohner Special 20 Harmonica

Hohner Special 20 harmonica

The following are also very popular beginner harmonicas.

I've given you some plus and minus points for each.

Hohner Marine Band harmonica

GOOD classic sound and look

BAD wooden comb can swell/crack

Lee Oskar (Major Diatonic) harmonica

GOOD accessible for beginners

BAD sometimes tinny/squeaky

Hohner Golden Melody harmonica

GOOD sweet and melodic

BAD shape can be awkward

Hohner Big River harmonica

GOOD cheap and cheerful

BAD not precision-engineered


Note: I receive a small Amazon affiliate commission if you buy through a link on this page.



The perfect beginner harmonica combines quality and affordability, and you can't do better than a Hohner Special 20. That said, you'll have to find out for yourself what makes you sound and feel great. Good luck!

Thanks for reading this! Let me know how you're getting on in the comments below.

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1 Comment

Billy Bonilla
Billy Bonilla
Oct 01, 2021

Great blog you haave here

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