The Essential Guide to Finding the Best Harmonica + Reviews
If you are looking for the best harmonica on the market, but you’re in a hurry, we have here all the information you need. According to customer reviews, sales figures, and other data we gathered, the number one model on our list is the Hohner Special 20, due to its popularity and excellent features. The molded mouthpiece is very comfortable while playing, and the harmonica feels natural in your hand. The beautiful sounds you can create with it make it suitable for a large variety of musical genres. You will also get 30 days of free lessons when you purchase this item. If the Hohner Special 20 is no longer available, try the Hohner Marine Band, as it is a best second choice.
Highly Recommended Choices – Reviews & Comparison
There are many harmonicas for sale, but only one is the most suitable for you. To help you identify the model that will appeal to you the most, we put together a list of the most popular harmonicas on the market, so you can quickly take your pick.
Hohner Special 20 (B007J49GPK)
If you are looking for outstanding quality at a decent price, the Hohner Special 20 is precisely what you should have on top of your list. This model was among the first of its kind ever to be released and continues the tradition by remaining one of the top diatonic harmonicas sold today. What makes this model stand out is the reed plates recessed into the comb.
The projected mouthpiece created in this manner is very comfortable for the user, which means that you will get more hours of playing or practicing. Be aware that many have copied this model throughout the years, but if you want the original, you should pick the Hohner Special 20.
Made in Germany, it abides by the highest quality standards. You will get many extras with your purchase, such as 30 days of free lessons, and a carrying case. It sounds fantastic in a duo with an acoustic electric guitar.
Hohner Marine Band (B0002D00H8)
The Hohner Marine Band is such a recognizable model that you might feel the need to reach for your wallet right away. This harmonica has been used by famous harmonica players such as John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young, just to name a few. If you want a harmonica with an endorsement from big names, this one is for you.
The manufacturer goes as far as to say that the harmonica blues would have never existed without this particular model. Crafted by German harmonica makers and perfected over 100 years of making such musical instruments, the Hohner Marine Band stands out from the crowd.
Just like for a cello or any other musical instrument, the amount of research and tradition invested counts. The precise craftsmanship minimizes loss of air and creates volume for the sounds you are playing on your harmonica. The model is available in all the major keys.
Hohner MBC Marine Band (B001GF9AS6)
The neoprene case will protect all the five harmonicas against damage, and you will be able to carry them around with ease, for concerts and occasional gigs. One thing to bear in mind is the case can carry seven harmonicas if need be, should your band be larger than five harmonica players.
This beautiful handmade set is ideal for those who love playing as a band. Each harmonica has a comb made from pear wood, and the arched covers have side vents and are made of stainless steel.
Mugig Diatonic Standard (B01MZ2NI8T)
The body of the harmonica is made from durable materials. The comb is made from ABS resin and very durable, while the covers are made from stainless steel. It must be noted that the materials used will not cause any irritation even after playing the harmonica for hours. The ABS construction can be washed, and it is safe for you.
The reeds are made from phosphor bronze, and this aspect contributes to the rich, beautiful sounds you will create with this harmonica. It must be noted that this model has a compact construction and you can take it everywhere with you.
SWAN SW1040 (B01FVRL3C0)
The plastic body is durable and engineered to perfection so that you will notice the high quality from the first glance. The reed section is made of brass, but it is plated with chrome, for a beautiful effect, but also for convenience and easy maintenance.
As it is made of metal reeds, you can expect this model to last for a long time. Seeing that you will pay a lower price than for other models on the market, you will know that you are making an excellent investment. Beginners will surely love this model. Just as there are student flutes for those who want to play the flute, this harmonica is an excellent choice for aspiring harmonica players.
Fender Blues Deluxe (B00KZHMZ1K)
This type of construction allows the harmonica to create a classic sound, which you will recognize and love right away. The Fender Blues Deluxe is available in the key of C. Everything about this model will make you think of the classics. Besides creating a classic sound, it also looks like a traditional harmonica.
The chrome plated covers make this model stand out. The vented case contributes to the sound accuracy that this harmonica delivers. The reed plates can be replaced, so you will not have to replace your beloved harmonica if they become deprecated.
Lee Oskar Major Diatonic (B000Q847M8)
The reeds are responsive, and overall, you will find playing this harmonica convenient and easy to use for practice. Created for blues and rock harmonica players, it is an awesome choice for anyone who’s in love with these music genres.
The company offers replaceable plates, at a competitive price. The plastic comb features large holes, so it will be easy for you to create sounds. Created by a company with a long-standing tradition of making harmonicas and any other type of instrument, this one will not disappoint you. You will love everything about it, and you will find it a great instrument all around.
Boseno Double Tremolo (B01G71AYSS)
Let’s take a look at the construction of this harmonica. The phosphor bronze reeds are designed to resist corrosion, as well as wear and tear so that you can enjoy the clear sound of this instrument for a long time. The copper plates are thick, and they help create a melodious sound that you will surely appreciate.
The ABS construction used is safe for you and you can play your harmonica for hours without fear that there will be chemicals leaking from the instrument. While the harmonica is easy to clean, you should be aware not to wash it with chemical cleaners, alcohol, or hot water.
Mugig Blues Professional (B06XDJJCLZ)
You will also appreciate the phosphor bronze reeds that will lend your harmonica its rich, deep sounds. The model is really easy to use, and you will love its responsiveness; a simple thing like this will make you like to practice more often.
The thick base will help obtain louder sounds, and will also provide the means for minimizing air loss. When you try playing more difficult pieces, you will notice that the way this harmonica is built helps a lot. This model is suitable for a broad variety of musical genres.
CA Seydel 1847 Silver (B007VC6ABS)
The covers have rounded edges, so you will not have to worry about hurting your lips; it is also no issue if you want to play your harmonica while having a beard. There are no cuts in the mouthpiece, so there is no risk here. Everything about this harmonica will make you think that it was built with ergonomics in mind.
The harmonica offers a full range of sounds, and it is loud, helping you achieve the effect you want. Due to its fast response, it is an excellent pick for beginners.
Mugig 21 Tones (B071SBFNTW)
As a beginner, you will find this harmonica easy to use. As a more seasoned harmonica player, you will find it ideal for trying more difficult pieces. Either way, this is a model you should consider. Let’s not forget its beautiful design.
With a white lid and a transparent cell, it will look like a magical instrument. While you may not particularly care about the looks of your harmonica, seeing that you already get high quality in this model, the fact that it also looks cool comes as a bonus.
Pyle PHARM21 (B077V7MPWY)
You can use this harmonica for any music genre, be it jazz, pop, or classical. Compared to a diatonic harmonica, this allows you to play melodies that need more and a 7-note scale, be it major or minor, which is the case with diatonic models.
Consider this particular model if you intend to use it as an instrument for learning. The reinforced construction makes it durable, and the machined slots on the inside will increase the airflow for maximum accuracy. The reed plates are resistant to corrosion, and overall, this is a sturdy model.
Johnson BK-520-G (B000J40GEW)
The model comes with its plastic case, and you will also receive a cloth for cleaning it, so you will have a mini-set with everything you need to carry your harmonica around and clean it when need be. In case you purchase a set, this also comes with a case that allows easy transportation.
The sound quality is what matters most for a harmonica, and this is where the Johnson BK-520-G doesn’t disappoint you. The way the reeds recess into the shell does not allow air leaks, and, in consequence, you can obtain more generous notes.
The name of this model comes from Manji Suzuki, the man behind the company creating it. Despite his old age, Manji Suzuki is still in charge of the company he created more than 70 years ago. The first model he ever created was made by hand, and the harmonicas he still creates today strive to sound as good as traditional models.
This model will not crack or warp the sound, as it is built in such a manner that the sound you hear is as close as possible to a traditional harmonica. For a harmonica that combines the knowledge of tradition with new technologies, choose this one.
Best harmonica holder
Hohner MZ 2010 (B008V1O0IS)
A harmonica holder should be designed with comfort in mind. This one comes with a rubberized neck brace, so it will not chafe the skin on your neck. Also, the frame is durable and sturdy, so that your harmonica does not fall from the holder by accident.
The biggest advantage of a holder is that it allows you to have your hands free so that you can accompany the musical composition with another instrument, such as a guitar. You will love the black design and slim profile that make the holder look elegant.
Hohner 154B (B0095F4I4U)
Why do harmonica players need a holder? First of all, because it allows them to play another musical instrument at the same time. With the help of the Hohner 154B, you can be a one-man orchestra and create music without any help from others, if you so choose. Many seasoned harmonica players were also fantastic guitarists, like Bob Dylan.
The sturdy frame guarantees the overall quality of this model. You do not want a holder that might break or become loose in the middle of a performance. Since this is a universal model that you can pair with almost any harmonica, you will know you are making a sound investment.
Hohner HH01 (B000EELFTW)
This one-size-fits-all model is your ideal purchase if you intend to play another musical instrument while continuing to use your harmonica. An artistic arrangement involving a harmonica and a guitar is nothing unusual, and, for concerts, a comfortable holder like this one will help you go a long way.
You will notice the double wingnuts on the holder. These are used for locking the harmonica in a playing position. The distance the holder secures the harmonica from the mouth is comfortable, and it will help you perform better.
Best harmonica microphone
Audix FireBall (B0009F6OYW)
It has its carry pouch for easy transportation, and there is also a clip that will allow you to place it somewhere convenient, while you perform. The frequency response is 50-15k, and it is smooth and uniform, resulting in a rich sound that you will appreciate.
This mike is excellent both for live performances as well as studio recordings. Sounds as loud as 140dB are handled without any distortion and, overall, this model offers top-notch performance. It works with long cable runs, without suffering from interferences.
Peavey H5C (B003OURTAW)
Sound quality is superior, and you will see right away how amazing it is to have this handy. The rotary dial for volume lets you control how much sound you want to be delivered, while the convenient on and off switch is placed on a side so you can quickly operate it.
The rubberized construction makes this microphone extra durable, and you will appreciate the fact that it comes with its XLR to ¼ inch cable. It is lightweight, so not at all a bother to carry around as you see fit.
Beyerdynamic TG-I56C (B0064JFEZM)
The gooseneck will allow you to find an optimal position for the mike, and you will feel that it is comfortable to use. You will especially appreciate how well the microphone performs during live concerts. While it is created with harmonicas and accordions in mind, you can pair it with a bandoneon or a zither, without a problem.
A simple clamp is delivered and can be used for carrying the mike around, without fear that it might break. The capsule that is resistant to shocks will not allow vibration or mechanical noises to affect the overall performance of this model.
Yearly Guide & Report
The harmonica is considered a musical instrument that is easy to learn and it can easily be your gateway to the world of music. Famous artists have played the harmonica, even if they played other musical instruments, as well. If you are interested in getting a good harmonica, here is a buying guide that will give you all the actionable information you need for an excellent decision.
What types of harmonicas are available?
If you take a look at various models on the market, you will notice that harmonicas are available in a few types. The most common and popular is the diatonic type. It is quite a commonly used harmonica in blues and folk, but it is versatile, and it can be included in many various musical arrangements or used for playing multiple music genres.
One thing you may observe right away when you read the specs offered by the manufacturer is that a diatonic harmonica is available to play in a particular key. The most common is the key of C, but you will quickly learn that there are diatonic harmonicas available in all the major keys, sometimes even the same model.
However, this does not mean that a diatonic harmonica limits your choices. Famous artists have come up so far with fantastic overblowing techniques that expand the scope of the diatonic harmonica. “Forcing” your harmonica to play in a different key is not impossible, and this simple possibility may help you hone your skills as a harmonica player in the making.
Still, if you want your harmonica to be genuinely versatile, you should probably go for a chromatic harmonica. This type comes with a special lever that you can use to direct air to the reeds, to obtain different sounds. That means that, with the right training, you can make your harmonica playing in all the major keys.
Don’t forget that you may still need to learn to play if you want to get better. Search online for the best harmonica lessons, watch YouTube videos from seasoned players, and overall, try to practice every day. No matter what type of harmonica you purchase, you will still need work and dedication to become great.
A little bit about the overall construction
Go back to the list of specs for any harmonica you intend to buy. Do you notice how the manufacturer offers information on the type of material used for the comb and the plates? Also, you will see that something is said about the reeds, too.
Traditionally, the comb for harmonicas was made from wood, and famous blues bands, like the Hohner “Marine Band”, used only such models back in the days. It is believed that a wooden comb is capable of making your sounds warm and rich, but, with the technologies used today, modern harmonicas do not fall short in this respect.
ABS plastic is more common today than wood, and it does not have the disadvantages of wood. It does not swell with moisture, it is easy to hold on your lips, and it can be cleaned with ease. If hygiene issues are a bother to you, you can choose a model with a stainless steel comb, but be aware that this is expensive.
The plates are usually made of metal, and they are there for a practical purpose. More than the material they are made from, their design matters. If you are looking to achieve a “more open” sound, traditional covers are the way to go. Cover-all models can be found in expensive harmonicas.
This type of plates will muffle the sound, but it will trap it inside, making it resonate with a mellow, warm effect. However, you should not forget that all such extras come with a cost, and, if you are just a beginner, you may want to settle for a model that does not cost a lot.
The reviews of good harmonicas mention that you should get a model with reeds that will help enhance the overall performance when you play your favorite musical instrument. Pay attention to all that is said about various models available, and pick the one that suits your tastes and budget.
What does the key mean?
Diatonic harmonicas usually come in the key of C, and they can be used to play in other keys, as shown earlier. Chromatic models are available in all the major keys, and they are more versatile. But let’s focus a bit on what the key means and what impact this can have on how you play.
The key of C is the standard one, and you may observe that most of the harmonicas reviewed by experts and users are tuned in this key. It is a versatile key that you will love because most songs you will play are usually played in this key. So, if you are not particularly pretentious, the key of C is an excellent choice for your harp.
The B major is used for Irish music, so it is a pretty specific key. If you want to adjust your harmonica for Irish music, you can do so by reversing the slide; this way, you will be able to achieve the more flattened notes particular to this key. G major and F major are common, too.
If you intend to accompany your harp music with a clarinet or a saxophone when in a band, you may want to consider the E-flat major or B-flat major. The musical arrangement matters and you should not overlook it, especially when you are part of a band, regardless what music genre you prefer.
What accessories do you need for your harmonica?
A good idea would be to have a carrying case. While a harmonica is not as sensitive as other instruments, you probably don’t want it damaged before you manage to perform.
Also, you should consider a microphone for live and studio performances. This will help you enhance the volume and sound quality. As for comfort, if you intend to play another instrument at the same time, a harmonica holder would be an excellent pick.
Frequently asked questions about harmonicas
Who are the best harmonica players?
There may be quite a debate among music lovers when it comes to a firm decision regarding the best harmonica players. However, if there is one thing they all seem to agree on, that would be that Little Walter deserves the first spot. The man’s Chicago style of playing harmonica is still a textbook recommendation for anyone looking to learn how to play this instrument.
There are other many big names on the list, but we can only mention a few. For instance, Big Walter Horton is considered the one who created the power blues genre for harmonica players. To mention just one of the greatest female harmonica players, let us say just this name: Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton.
Can a harmonica be washed?
Depending on what materials your harmonica is made from, you should choose one way or another when you want to wash it. It is recommended to run some basic maintenance on your instrument as a general rule. A model made with a plastic, or sealed wood body can be washed with lukewarm water.
Always tap your harmonica after playing to eliminate the saliva that gets inside. It is a good idea to take care of your oral hygiene, too, to limit the contaminants that can reach inside. Heavy duty cleaning that involves removing the plates can also be performed, but with extra care.
Can a harmonica be tuned?
Normally, harmonicas are sold already tuned, and they should remain like this for a long time. However, if you do happen to need to tune your harmonica, this is something that can be done. The idea is to work on the reeds as they are the ones responsible for producing the notes.
Now, depending on what you want to achieve, you can try one thing or another. If you want your notes to have a lower pitch, you should put more material towards the tip of the reeds, such as putty or solder. If you are interested in a higher pitch, you should remove some of the bronze at the tip of the reeds.
Can you learn harmonica by yourself?
The harmonica is considered a light instrument compared to other musical instruments. While for playing other instruments, you normally need a teacher and plenty of practice, the harmonica is the type of instrument that you can learn how to play just by having fun and trying it out.
Many people say that they got the hang of playing the harmonica, just by grabbing a cheap harmonica and starting to blow in it. Of course, if you want to get a little better, you will find plenty of tips and tricks online to help you. And there are many easy to understand books on playing the harmonica.
Can you play harmonica with braces?
This is a legitimate question since there are people with braces who would love to play the harmonica, but they believe that the braces could be in the way. The truth is that playing the harmonica requires you to put the instrument in your mouth, and you must close in any possible way for the air to get out.
This can be particularly tricky when you’re wearing braces. But a bit of practice can take you a long way. If you are beginning, you may feel like you have a severe handicap because you wear braces. However, by struggling a bit in the beginning, you may become a better harmonica player later on, compared to others.
Where was the harmonica invented?
While history teaches us that instruments were resembling the modern harmonica in older times, and on different continents, the harmonica as we all know it today, comes from the instruments that were invented in the first part of the 19th century, in Vienna.
Here, there were harmonicas available to buy before 1824. A few improvements made the appearance of the modern harmonica possible. A special type of tuning, called Richter tuning, was invented in 1826, and from that point forward, it was adopted universally. The real father of the harmonica is Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann.
What are harmonica players called?
Harmonica players are often called exactly that, and if you don’t want to overcomplicate things, you can stick to this name. Harmonicist is not commonly used, although ‘harmoniciste’ is the only term used by the French, for instance.
Since a common name for harmonica in blues is the harp, it is nothing wrong with calling someone who plays the instrument a harper. Also, you can refer to them like a harp player, in the same way, you can call them a harmonica player. Harpist, just like harmonicist, is not widely used, although it is a real word.
Best harmonica brands
This company is one of the leading manufacturers of harmonicas and accordions, and its history goes way back, to the 19th century, when the first modern harmonicas were ever created. Founded by Matthias Hohner, in 1957, in Trossingen, Germany, the manufacturer has undergone a lot of changes, yet one thing remained the same: their dedication to creating fantastic instruments for musicians.
The company has also created and continues to expand a network of musicians and teachers, responsible for spreading the love for this instrument in all the corners of the world.
You most probably know Fender as the world’s leading guitar manufacturer, but they make more than just guitars and the same dedication to good craftsmanship and quality motivate them when making harmonicas. Fender’s history goes back to its beginnings, in 1946, when a new world of music was emerging, after the Second World War.
With an influence on every modern music genre, from rock ‘n’ roll and blues to modern rhythms, Fender is a name that is synonym of excellence. You will find many high-quality harmonicas created by this company on the market.
Who could be more interested in creating high-quality musical instruments than a musician? Lee Oskar proves that someone who knows the music inside out can be the most qualified person to create the tools for creating that music. The former leader of a funk/jazz group, Lee Oskar is a harmonica player himself, and he knows exactly what other musicians are looking for in such an instrument.
Together with Tombo Manufacturing, a harmonica maker from Japan, Lee Oskar founded a company that now can compete on the global market with other famous makers of musical instruments. Their focus is on harmonicas, as they don’t produce other items.
Mugig may be a newcomer to the market, but if you are thinking about getting a harmonica that performs decently at an equally decent price, this is a name you should remember. It is a Chinese manufacturer, and they make a broad range of musical instruments, from bamboo flutes to ukulele, just to mention a few.
Beginners will find the harmonicas made by Mugig a good option since they are inexpensive and designed to help people who are just starting out get the hang of this musical instrument. Whether you need cymbals or just a new harp, they have a wide selection for you to choose from.