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Harmonica Buying Guide: Everything You Should Know

Stephan321 January 2, 2019

If you are a fan of the 19s era, then you are most likely familiar with the mesmerising sound of harmonicas.  The small portable and no-setup device revolutionized the blues music of that century.

The instrument is still ruling the chart with its new and attractive models hitting the market every now and then. The best part is, with tons of guides and tutorials available; you too can learn this marvellous instrument with ease.

You can experience the proud feeling of reinventing the blues era, with just a little step that is, learning to play harmonica. Of course, to learn you’ll need to have a harmonica.

Lucky for you, all the research you need is already done by us. In this post, we’ve covered all the things you need to know about harmonicas before you select yours.

Choice of harmonicas

There are many appealing designs of harps available in the market, but they all can be classified into three standard categories.

Diatonic – The standard ten holes’ harmonica is the best for beginners. It is designed with a specific key, mostly C, but you can find them in B, F, G and more. You can also use techniques like overblowing and bending to get better sound progression and multiple sound types.

Chromatic – It is a bit advanced version of the instrument that comes with a gear shift mechanism. It has 12 holes with a button that adjusts the chords so that you can play multiple chords. The harmonica is not entirely compatible with overblowing, bending, etc. But its adjustable gears makes it a good choice for experienced players.

Tremolo – This instrument is also referred to as “echo” harmonica. It has two reeds per note that are designed to produce sharp as well as flat sound, and their combo yields a very distinctive warbling sound. Its beat effect is somewhat close to the 12 string guitar, but it needs a lot of time and practice to play this complex instrument.

Sometimes the player needs particular chords progressions, and therefore unique designs have to be made. These designs are not standard in the market due to their complex playing techniques and practice requirement, but they use the same principles.

If you are experienced and desperate, you can try something like orchestral which has a better pitch range, or perhaps chord harmonica that plays 48 chords.

Quality and materials

You can get an entirely machine made model without any polishing, or you can get multiple coating wear, resistant models; it completely depends upon your choice. The thing that you need to consider is that a cheap model will come with poor construction quality. It can have air leaks; it is tough to play, and most decidedly less compatible with essential techniques. You can browse sites with harmonica for sale to get an idea of the pricing. Remember, the excellent quality harmonicas usually come with hard plastic casing and high-end cushion lining, which offers a very high degree of protection.

New vs old

Harmonicas are a lot cheaper in comparison to instruments like guitars and pianos. Therefore, it is recommended that you avoid a second hand instrument. The device has a direct mouth contact, which indicates that you can be prone to health issues on using a second hand instrument.

It is also possible that the used harmonica may have wear and tears. It will not seem a problem at the time, but you will soon notice the poor quality sound and the difficulties that come with it.

Harmonica combs

The comb is the body of the instrument, and even though the material doesn’t have much effect on sound, you need to choose it wisely for your comfort.

Wood – The wood combs are said to produce warm and pleasing sounds. However, wood gets affected by moisture and swells. If you still prefer wood, look for the sealed wood type models. The sealing makes the wood less prone to moisture as well as restricts its swelling.

Plastic – Most of the harmonica comb these days are made from this material. It is resistant to wear and tear and is also very easy on lips. But at the same time it is vulnerable to cracks and drop damages.

Metal – Some harmonicas also use aluminium plates, which indeed is wear resistant. The sound is same as plastic. However, the instrument is more reliable and expensive. On the flip side, metal is prone to oxidation and can develop abrasiveness due to it.

Harmonica keys 

Harps are found in almost all the 12 chord sounds but some are more preferred than the others. You can start with the basic keys and then take it to the next level. The keys that are most common are:

C major – This melodious key is standard for most of the harmonicas and perfect for beginners. The diatonic and special chromatic models usually use this key progression. C chord harmonicas, offer a sound that is neither too high, nor too low, it perfectly balanced.

B major – The key is most preferred for Irish music. The most significant advantage is you can turn the instrument upside down if you wish to switch to Irish c chord.

G and F major – F and F# enable most high pitch sound, and G offers the lowest pitch sounds.

E and B-flat major – E-flat allows you to play the key in straight harp, while the B-flat is played in cross harp. These keys are perfect for Bb clarinet and saxophone sounds.

End word

The thing that defines this instrument as unique is not its looks; it’s the love that you feel when you hear it, the emotion that overwhelms you and most of all the freedom and peace you sense while you play it.

Now, go ahead, find a harmonica for sale and start your instrument practice.


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