A Harmonica for you

What is it?

The harmonica is an Austrian instrument designed in 1824 by Anton Reinlein but various versions of the instrument appear all over the world at around the same time.

Here’s how it looks and sounds

Not to be confused with

Pronounced /hɑːrˈmɑːnɪkə/, from the Latin meaning harmonious and called harmónica in Spanish, harmonica in France and harmônica in Portuguese. A person that plays it it’s called a harmonicist

Category

The instrument is from the Wind family meaning the sound comes by blowing air in a mouthpiece into a tube(resonator). 

Variants

The types of harmonica are determined by holes, reeds and slides:

  • Diatonic: play in a single key.
  • Chromatic: has a slide that increases each note by a half-step.
  • Tremolo-tuned: has 2 reeds per note, one sharp and another flat.
  • Orchestral: bigger with up to 48 chords of notes, like the chord harmonica. 
  • ChengGong: 24 holes with a sliding mouthpiece.

There’s also the pitch pipe, is similar to an harmonica but it’s used for tuning

This can be confusing, just know that the most common variant is diatonic, and its range is C4 to A7.

In terms of materials, the options are usually wood or plastic. This particular one is commonly made of ABS, aluminum with some parts made of steel/aluminum. Does the material have no effect on sound? (our article here) but it does in price and durability.

Before you buy 

Getting a harmonica for sale? as a gift? If you do, here’s all you need to know.

The price of the instrument is around $3 – $3,600 USD, the cheapest we found was a 10 holes C diatonic harmonica and the most expensive was a Suzuki 12 hole chromatic harmonica. In the middle, we have something like the Suzuki 39 hole chromatic harmonica for $1,400 USD,

The size goes around 4 x 1 x 1  In (10 x 2.5 x 2.5 Cm) – 15 x 15 x 6 In (38 x 38 x 15 Cm) and has a weight from 1 Lbs (0.5 Kg) to 4 Lbs (2 Kg).                         

Now that you know, you can check on eBay here.

Accessories

There are a lot of accessories, but you don’t need much, the instrument should come with a case, but it’s especially important to have a cleaning kit for this one since it is so easy to get it dirty. A cleaning kit should have brushes (short and extremely long), oil, microfiber, and germicide.

Besides that, a harmonica holder will be very useful if you plan on using multiple instruments at the same time, like a guitar or a piano.

Start playing   

To learn to play each note you need a finger chart (or position chart).

We recommend learning to read sheet music to be able to adapt any song to harmonica, but you can also choose to learn harmonica tablatures to get the basics. We review resources to help you choose how you want to learn. Now that you know how to read them, you need to get some. 

Sheets come in different notations so we recommend checking various versions of the same sheets, searching for “scores” to get all instruments, and even the “song name for harmonica to save on translations.

Don’t forget all the details that combined make a big difference like the way you hold it, efficient warmups, positions, and techniques.

Remember, the harmonica is easy to learn and fast too, it should take you less than a day to learn your first song, it’s also similar to the melodica and ocarina, so you can combine those resources to help you learn.

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