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How Many Harmonicas Are There?

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People often ask 'How many harmonicas are there?' and the answer depends on what you mean by the question. Let's find out!

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How many TYPES of harmonica are there?

There are lots of different types of harmonica: diatonic, chromatic, tremolo, bass, chord and more. But the three most common types are diatonic, chromatic and tremolo. Let's briefly explore the features of each.

Diatonic Harmonica

Hohner Special 20 diatonic harmonica

This is probably what you picture when you think of a harmonica. Diatonic harmonicas are tuned to a single key, and usually have 10 holes containing 20 reeds. Diatonic harmonicas are the most common type of harmonica and are used in a variety of musical genres including blues, folk, country, pop and rock.

Famous diatonic harmonica players include Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, and you may have noticed them in Western movies or heard them on the radio. They are known for emotive bending sounds. They are small, affordable and a great place for beginners to start.

MOST POPULAR FOR: Blues, pop, rock, folk, country

RECOMMENDED MODELS: Hohner Special 20, Suzuki Bluesmaster, Seydel Session Steel, Lee Oskar Major Diatonic

Chromatic Harmonica

Hohner Super Chromonica chromatic harmonica

The chromatic harmonica is a type of harmonica that can play all 12 notes of the chromatic scale. This means that you can play any song in any key on a chromatic harmonica. Because of their melodic dexterity, chromatic harmonicas are often used to play jazz, classical and pop music. Famous chromatic harmonica players include Stevie Wonder and Larry Adler. The button on the end gives you the sharps and flats, meaning the instrument can play any melody. The trade-off is that it isn't necessarily the most expressive when it comes to textures and bending.

MOST POPULAR FOR: jazz, classical, pop

RECOMMENDED MODELS: Hohner Super Chromonica, Hohner CX12

Tremolo Harmonica

Tremolo harmonica

Tremolo harmonicas produce a tremolo effect. This effect is created by having two reeds per note, one tuned slightly sharp and the other slightly flat. When you play a tremolo harmonica, the two reeds vibrate at slightly different frequencies, creating a wavering or warbling sound also known as 'tremolo'. They are tuned to play simple melodies and are very popular in Asia and with Irish folk musicians.

MOST POPULAR FOR: Celtic and Asian folk music

RECOMMENDED MODELS: Seydel Sailor Steel Tremolo, Suzuki Humming SU-21M

How many KEYS of harmonica are there?

Pile of harmonicas in various keys

A related question is "how many keys of harmonica are there?". The answer is there are as many keys of harmonica as there are keys in music. There are 12 tones in the musical scale, so there are 12 keys of harmonica. The lowest standard key of harmonica G, the highest is F#. However, once you factor in extra high and low keys (which are equivalent harmonicas tuned to the octave above or below the standard range) plus special tunings (minor keys and all sorts of other exotic scales), you can have dozens of different keys of harmonica.

As mentioned above, diatonic harmonicas are tuned to play in one key so they are produced in various keys to accommodate the needs of harmonica players. Chromatic harmonicas (and other types) also come in various keys to allow different ranges of notes, even though a single chromatic harmonica can be played in every key.

How many harmonicas are there WORLDWIDE?

Young boy and girl playing harmonica

So how many harmonicas are there in the whole world? Now there's a million dollar question! Harmonica is the best-selling instrument in the world. It is very difficult to know how many harmonicas there are in the world, but it is estimated that over 100 million harmonicas have been sold worldwide. Here are some of the reasons why the harmonica is the best-selling instrument in the world:

  • Portability: The harmonica is a small, lightweight instrument that can easily be carried in a pocket or backpack. This makes it a great instrument for travel or for playing on the go.

  • Affordability: Harmonicas are relatively inexpensive instruments, making them a more accessible option for beginners.

  • Ease of learning: The harmonica is a relatively easy instrument to learn to play. The basic technique is simple, and it requires little to no finger dexterity.

  • Variety of genres: The harmonica can be played in a variety of musical genres including blues, folk, jazz, and rock. This makes it a versatile instrument that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and musical tastes.

If you are looking for a fun and easy-to-learn instrument to play, the harmonica is a great option. It is the best-selling instrument in the world for a reason!

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