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What Harmonica Should I Buy As A Beginner?

Hello! In this video I'll tell you which harmonica to buy as a beginner. We'll look at the different types of harmonica (chromatic, tremolo, bass, chord, and diatonic) and I'll give you my recommendation for the best beginner harp to get you started on the right path.

The Different Types Of Harmonica

The easiest answer to the question "What beginner harmonica should I buy?" is a Hohner Special 20 in the key of C (more on this later) but there are several different categories of harmonica that you need to understand in order to kniw which type is really the right one for you, because they all have different strengths and weaknesses. Let's look at each type of harmonica in turn...

Chromatic Harmonicas

The chromatic is the type of harmonica played by both Stevie Wonder and Larry Adler. It has a distinctive sound and is very versatile because - put simply - chromatic harmonicas have "all the notes". 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, and you might not find the tone you want with this type of harmonica.

MOST POPULAR FOR: jazz, classical

RECOMMENDED MODELS: Hohner Super Chromonica, Hohner CX12

Tremolo Harmonicas

Tremolo harmonicas (and the very similar "octave" harmonicas) have two rows of notes, tuned ever so slightly apart from each other so that they produce a beating - or tremolo - effect. 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

Bass Harmonicas

As the name suggests, bass harmonicas are tuned extremely low so that they can do the job of a bass instrument. They are very expensive and only really used in orchestral situations and as part of specialist harmonica groups.

MOST POPULAR FOR: Orchestras and harmonica bands

RECOMMENDED MODELS: Hohner Bass 58, Suzuki Double Bass SDB39

Chord Harmonicas

Like bass harmonicas, chord harmonicas are used mainly in orchestras to play chords. They are usually extremely large in order to fit a big range of chord arrangements. They're amazing to see, but extremely expensive and pretty cumbersome to play!

MOST POPULAR FOR: Orchestras and harmonica bands

RECOMMENDED MODELS: Suzuki SCH-48, Hohner Chord 48

Diatonic Harmonicas

The diatonic harmonica is probably what you think of when you think of a harmonica. It's what you will see Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen playing, and you may have noticed them in Western movies or heard them on the radio. They usually have 10 holes and are known for their expressive capabilities, bending sounds and use in a range of popular styles including rock, folk, country and, most often, blues music. They are small, affordable and a great place for beginners to start. They have a limited range of notes, but you can learn to fill in the gaps with bending and overblowing techniques. Regardless, any serious harp player ends up with several diatonics to play in different keys. The diatonic harmonica is the most common choice for beginners.

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

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

The Best Brand & Model Of Harmonica

Hohner is probably the most well-known harmonica maker and produces a wide range of models. They offer several diatonic options for beginners, but I recommend a Hohner Special 20 in the key of C. This is a mid-range model, good quality but without making you spend too much. You can get much cheaper harps (like the ones you get free with a teach yourself book): beware, they look very similar to a Special 20 but they are terrible instruments and should be avoided because they'll make everything more difficult to play.


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Finding the perfect instrument is a personal journey so it's worth trying several diatonics to see which is right for you. Other models that are very popular include Suzuki Bluesmaster, Seydel Session Steel and Lee Oskar Major Diatonic.

I hope this guide has helped you to understand more about harmonicas. Let me know if you have any questions!

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