How to choose a harmonica

Harmonicas are most often connected with country, folk and blues. The harmonica is a very practical instrument – it isn't expensive, doesn't require any special care, fits in your coat pocket and isn't difficult to learn (with a bit of talent you can even teach yourself). The following is some advice on buying a harmonica.


Universal harmonicas suitable for all types of music and ideal for beginners are diatonic harmonicas. Each is tuned to a specific key, e.g. C. Therefore, if you play a song in the key of C, everyone else will tune to your harmonica.

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About the instrument

Harmonicas are classified as a wind instrument. The player uses their mouth to blow air into or draw air out of the holes in the harmonica, vibrating the reeds inside and creating the sound. There are several types of harmonicas available today: diatonic harmonicas and chromatic harmonicas. Melodicas (harmonicas with a keyboard) are a special group of harmonicas.

Playing in a band

If you plan to play a diatonic harmonica in a band, you will need a whole set of harmonicas in various keys so you can play in tune with your bandmates. For example, for country and bluegrass a player should have at least two diatonic harmonicas (C and G), as they are the predominant keys in these types of music. A harmonica holder worn on the neck allows you to play a second instrument, usually a guitar, at the same time.

Types of harmonicas:

Diatonic harmonicas

Diatonic harmonicas are designed to play a single scale (major, minor). They are divided into those with a complete scale and Richter-tuned harmonicas. Diatonic harmonicas with a full scale usually come in major scales. Richter-tuned diatonic harmonicas do not have a full scale, and the player must deal with this fact by using the technique of bending tones. Richter-tuned harmonicas have a broad range of uses, but are connected mostly with blues, folk and bluegrass.

Chromatic harmonicas

Chromatic harmonicas feature a full chromatic scale (i.e. a sequence of pitches, each a semitone above the other). In the past they were the most common type of harmonica, especially in country and jazz music. And while the chromatic harmonica is still the ideal instrument for these styles of music, it has its limits, and therefore the chromatic harmonica has been gradually replaced by the more universal Richter-tuned diatonic harmonica.

Melodicas (harmonicas with a keyboard)

Melodicas (harmonicas with a keyboard) are a cross between a harmonica and an accordion. As such, they are often used as a practice instrument for future accordion players. And yet, the melodica remains rather rare and is mostly heard today in reggae, ska and dub songs.

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