The Essential Guide to Finding the Best Blues Harmonica + Reviews
If you are short on time and want to know what the best blues harmonicas are, then you are in the right place. Our team has spent time carefully examining the quality and value offered by some of the most sought-after blues harmonicas and they have concluded that the Hohner Accordions 532BX-C is the instrument that you should look for. It’s a good blues harmonica because it can suit the needs of beginners and professionals alike, it provides consistent tone and volume and the wood comb helps to make it very bendable. If you are unable to find our first recommendation, then you should try the Fender Blues Deluxe.
Our Top Choice
This classic instrument is what you need if you are a creative person. It features ten single holes with 20 reeds and a wooden comb for a fuller tone. And because the seller is generous, you also get a plastic carrying case to make your life easier on the road. The blues harmonica is a 4-inch diatonic model.
The only thing that people didn't like about it is that it has a metallic taste when you first use it.
Its stainless steel cover plates make sure the unit will be your loyal companion for many years. It provides an authentic blues sound, and it has a pleasant shape and texture, things which are going to invite you to play it more often.
The harmonica is designed to be highly versatile and ideal for beginners and experts. It rocks a classic tone and pitch due to its molded PVC comb and brass reeds. Moreover, the model has a traditional shape and chromed metal covers that will make your instrument comfortable and easy to play.
One of the most recurrent complaints was its shiny surface, which is prone to smudges.
Note that the reed plates it comes with are replaceable. The box also includes a vented hard plastic case so you can forget about microdamage and scratches. Lastly, the unit is available in seven keys: C, G, A, D, F, E, Bb.
This piece is a thing of beauty. It has a gorgeous design, and it feels comfortable in your hands as you use it. As expected, it comes with brass reeds, and the manufacturer also added a helpful plastic case and a cloth in the box. Lastly, note that the instrument is available in all twelve major keys.
Keep in mind that this item has a more modern blues sound and it is not as traditional.
The Blues King harmonica has a delightful tone thanks to its brass reeds that are recessed into its sturdy shell. This design improvement prevents air leaks and allows for seamless note bending, which is a sign of greatness.
11 Best Blues Harmonicas (Reviews) in 2020
We have selected some of the critically acclaimed harmonicas and presented them below. The selection was also made based on specialized forums, sales figures and consumer reports.
- 1. Hohner 532BX-C Blues Harp, Key Of C Major
- 2. Fender Blues Deluxe Harmonica – C
- 3. Johnson BK-520-C Blues King Harmonica, C
- 4. Suzuki Bluesmaster Harmonica in C
- 5. Fender Blues DeVille Harmonica – C
- 6. Hohner Special 20 Harmonica, Major C
- 7. Fender Blues Deluxe Harmonicas 7-Pack
- 8. Fender Blues DeVille Harmonica – G
- 9. Mugig Professional Harmonica Standard Diatonic 10 Hole
- 10. Diatonic Harmonica 10 Hole – Blues Harp with Case
- Yearly guide and report
- Frequently asked questions
1. Hohner 532BX-C Blues Harp, Key Of C Major
A classic instrument, the harmonica has been shaping the sound of blues, rock or folk for fifty years. This one is designed for the specific blues sound, but it has a modular system that allows it to be transformed into an instrument capable of playing many genres. If you’re an advanced player you will enjoy it and if you are a beginner it will make learning easier.
This instrument is made for consistent tone and volume when playing blues and it is comparable to the harmonicas used by the best players. The sound it brings out is a dark, rocking one and because the harmonica has a wood comb, it brings out a full tone and it’s very bendable. It is available in twelve keys, with twenty reeds and it has replaceable parts.
The harmonica creates its signature wailing sounds through the undivided air channels that permit techniques like bending and overblowing reeds to be used.
The harmonica is highly bendable with a consistent tone and these qualities make it very popular among musicians, especially amateurs and intermediate players.
This choice is built to last and if you are serious about playing the harmonica and you don’t want to settle for less then this is the choice that you should get.
It can provide consistent tone and volume which makes it ideal for playing blues since the results are comparable with the instruments used by the best players.
This model combines a wooden comb, high-quality reed plates and high covers without side vents which manage to give it that iconic bluesy sound.
It is available in all 12 major keys and it has replaceable parts that make it easy and inexpensive to repair.
The reed plates have a slight upturn at the front of the plates which can hurt or even cut your upper lip.
It leaks a lot of air which makes it difficult to play the draw notes.Buy from Amazon.com
2. Fender Blues Deluxe Harmonica – C
This harmonica can be a safe gift for every player because it is made to be highly versatile and easy to play by everybody, no matter the level of the player. It’s tuned in the key of C and the tone and pitch that it provides are given by a body composed of a PVC comb and brass reeds.
It comes in a traditional shape so you will have no problems in holding it. That makes playing more comfortable. To ensure it lasts longer, the plastic comb is moisture resistant. This brings a bright sound and tuning stability to it.
The reed plates are replaceable if needed. The chromed metal covers offer it a stylish look. For keeping it safe, you can use the vented hard plastic case included. Offering reliability for a long period, this harmonica is fitted with 10 holes that offer a classic sound.
This classic harmonica incorporates modern technologies that allow it to be more durable and easier to clean.
As far as sound is concerned, musicians love the crisp and clear sound that this instrument produces.
It is a great blues harmonica and its modular system allows it to be adjusted and changed to fit all your needs so that you can experiment with new sounds.
Whether you are a beginner or an advanced musician, this model is perfect since it is easy to play and it gives you room to grow as an artist.
It is an inexpensive choice that anyone can try, even if they’re on a tight budget.
While the non-airtight design makes the unit easier to clean, it also means that you will need to put a lot more effort to create the sound you want.
The edges are a bit sharp so you’ll need to be careful when handling the unit.Buy from Amazon.com for ($11.44)
3. Johnson BK-520-C Blues King Harmonica, C
This can be considered one of the cheap blues harmonicas, but it is surely not cheap in quality. It delivers a better sound than expected. This instrument is a 10-tone diatonic harmonica that is composed of brass reeds, a plastic comb and a metal cover plate. It doesn’t have an airtight design and this can lead to some loss of air and the need to blow harder in it.
What represents an advantage, especially for beginners, is that the harmonica also comes with a case and cloth for cleaning purposes. You need to keep it clean, if you want the best sounds out of it. The tone is nice, on point, the instrument is easy to play, and it allows for basic and more complex techniques.
If you are looking for an affordable harmonica, suitable for beginners, this instrument can be your option.
It is one of the few options on the market that is cheap without compromising quality since this model delivers as far as sound and build quality are concerned.
It features metal cover plates, brass reeds, and a plastic comb that when combined allow this inexpensive harmonica to perform very well.
The tone is very good and so is the playability of the instrument and even beginners can use this harmonica.
You also get a few extras, namely a nice case and cleaning cloth which are very important for beginners since it will help them keep the unit safe and clean.
The main issue with this model is that some air will get lost when playing, and that means that the player will need to overcompensate to achieve the desired tone and volume.
The plastic comb lacks smoothness and quality but given the price, it is easy to overlook this problem.Buy from Amazon.com for ($11)
4. Suzuki Bluesmaster Harmonica in C
This one is another 10-hole diatonic harmonica. It is composed of a plastic comb and thin phosphorous bronze reeds. It has a nice look, given by the stainless steel reed covers. The way it is built makes it sound nice and warm. It’s an affordable harmonica for beginners and it can be used by experts as well.
The harmonica is well constructed and it lets air flow smoothly through it, while it doesn’t require a powerful blow to sound clear. It’s suitable for live audience situations or for learning to play such an instrument. The comb and the cover plate line up right, as they should, and that makes it stable and easy to play.
The thin reeds can break easily, but they can be replaced. However, the covers are durable and designed for comfortably playing the instrument. If you can avoid damaging the reeds by using too much force, this harmonica can last you a long time.
It has a stainless steel cover that provides the unit with increased durability while its ergonomic design will make it very easy even for amateur musicians to hold and play the instrument.
Because it doesn’t need much air to play each note, this unit is versatile enough to be used both in concert settings but also as a learning tool for novice musicians.
Another feature that increases the playability of this product is the quality of the comb and the cover plate since they line up perfectly.
You get excellent value for the money seeing as this instrument manages to offer premium construction and features for a very low price.
The reeds are very thin and that makes them more susceptible to breakage but the good thing is that they are easy to replace and quite inexpensive.
It is small and compared to the larger models, you won’t be able to put a lot of air through it.Buy from Amazon.com for ($31.46)
5. Fender Blues DeVille Harmonica – C
Rock and blues are the two genres that this instrument excels at. When you first see it, the matte black and gold finishing catches your eye. The phosphor bronze reeds and the molded ABS comb allow it to play precise notes, with a rich tone and a clear pitch. Durability is also ensured by the quality comb and covering plates.
For keeping it safe, you can use the hard plastic case that it comes with. If you feel that the reeds are getting old, you can always replace them with new ones.
The overall tone is pleasant, the instrument is air tight and it doesn’t need a strong blow for getting the right notes out. If you are a learner, you might want to know that the holes are not numbered. If mistreated, the harmonica can get damaged and will prevent you from getting the sound you want.
This stylish harmonica is a perfect training tool for beginners since it is versatile enough to suit all abilities.
It has a traditional shape and structure that promotes a comfortable grip so that you can play it for long periods without your hands getting tired.
This option comes with a beautiful plastic case that offers excellent protection to the instrument and it will make it easier for you to take it with you everywhere you go.
Seeing as this is a Fender product, you can be certain that you’ll get a reliable instrument that sounds and looks good.
The molded PVC comb and the precision phosphor bronze reeds give this option a richer tone and pitch.
You need to blow really hard for the notes on the high side of the harmonica to play well and this can tire you quickly.
It isn’t particularly loud when compared to other harmonicas.Buy from Amazon.com for ($34.99)
6. Hohner Special 20 Harmonica, Major C
This is an instrument created for the professionals, although the key of C is suitable for beginners as well. It is a diatonic harmonica and it’s made to last for as long as the brass reed plates will. Everything is covered in a plastic body that allows you to easily play it, even when you want to approach complicated and fast music styles.
The materials used are of the highest quality and the harmonica is built in Germany. If you play the instrument a lot, the reeds will wear out and you will need to replace them. Thankfully, Hohner Accordions manufactures reeds just for that purpose, and they have done so for this harmonica, as well.
A key to any harmonica is the airtight design. This one features that as well. The design makes the instrument easy to play and to bend. This is why it’s also suitable for beginners.
It is a versatile instrument which makes it perfect for beginners who are just starting their practice or for intermediates who want to reach pro levels.
The build quality is very good since the stainless steel covers with closed sides deliver an airtight design for easier bending and better playability.
It’s very easy to open the harmonica and do regular maintenance or replace the reeds once they wear off and then continue playing like it’s a new instrument.
It comes with a very convenient carrying case so that you can protect the instrument and take it with you when traveling.
The projecting plastic mouthpiece and the recessed reed plates make this instrument very comfortable to play.
It is a bit expensive, especially for beginners, but it tends to go on sale frequently.
There is a bit of inconsistency with this model since some harmonicas have a better build quality than others.Buy from Amazon.com
7. Fender Blues Deluxe Harmonicas 7-Pack
Practicing can be difficult when you don’t have the right equipment. This set, however, offers you the possibility to experiment and to advance your knowledge in playing all kinds of harmonicas. Impressively efficient, these blues harmonicas come in seven different tones. They are all made to be versatile and accessible to all kinds of players.
They have the same construction that includes a molded PVC comb and brass reeds. The style is given by the traditional shape and the chromed metal covers. Both the shape and the cover make the harmonicas comfortable to play.
This set is destined for practicing and it’s not advisable to use them in live performances because they do not offer the sound power of other, more specialized instruments. They are well crafted and the materials are high quality, but as is the case with harmonicas, the brass reeds need to be replaced from time to time.
You get a lot of value for the money with this set of 7 harmonicas that are available in different tones and you can use them to experiment with blues music and then play your own pieces.
The chromed metal covers are very easy to keep clean and they will provide the player with a comfortable experience for all styles of play.
The combs are made from durable ABS plastic that can deliver sonic brightness and tuning stability.
You also get a convenient zippered carry case with 7 slots for all the harmonicas so that you can transport and organize your collection easily.
If you want to get the volume up you will need to blow very hard which means that these Fender models are not suitable for live concerts.
The quality control could be better since some harmonicas in the pack tend to make a buzzing sound after a little bit of playing.Buy from Amazon.com for ($59.94)
8. Fender Blues DeVille Harmonica – G
The Fender Blues Deville sounds fantastic, with a loud and gritty tone. You will have no problems with playing all the notes, because the instrument is airtight. It is tuned in the key of G and it’s heavier than other models, making it feel more solid and durable. The cover plates, which are finished in a matte black, give it a special look, but make the harmonica a bit rough.
Playing this instrument gives a pleasant feeling because it has a nice vibration to it. It also provides good sustain, meaning that the notes played can last longer and resonate. The phosphor brass reeds are more resistant than the bronze ones and give a different tone. The components make this harmonica wider than others and new players will need to adapt to this.
Another advice for the beginners is to pay attention when playing at the ends of the harmonica. The reeds get out in those places and can cause harm if the instrument is not played well.
The black metal cover has a beautiful and stylish gold trim that will make you stand out while playing and as a plus, it is also very easy to clean.
It comes with a vented plastic case for easy transport and storage and the vents will let it dry out faster.
It features an ABS plastic comb and phosphor bronze reeds that will add tuning stability and make your sound brighter and more soulful.
It has a classic style that is very comfortable to hold and that will give you years of reliable blues performance.
This unit is backed by Fender’s long history of producing high-quality and reliable instruments.
The reeds seem to stick a bit in the upper register and it takes a harder blow to get them to respond.
It is a bit on the expensive side which means that for amateurs this may not be a good choice.Buy from Amazon.com for ($32.99)
9. Mugig Professional Harmonica Standard Diatonic 10 Hole
A standard diatonic harmonica, this one is tuned in the key of C and is suitable for all genres — blues, folk, jazz or pop. It is an instrument that can be used for professional occasions. For better hermeticity and more precision in tones, this harmonica uses a 1.2 mm Thicken Plate.
The structure is made of strong stainless steel, built to last and be comfortable; everything is nickel-plated. The reeds are phosphorous bronze and built in. To minimize air leakage, the ends are airtight. As expected, this makes the instrument safe and easy to play. The harmonica is portable and it comes with a stylish case and a cloth for cleaning it.
It can be used for a lot of purposes, including producing sounds for animations, soundtracks or other similar entertainment practices. Something that is not usually seen in harmonicas is the comb made of aluminum.
The versatile design of this option makes it suitable for any occasion and not only blues since you can also use it for rock, folk, country, jazz and more.
Thanks to the portable design, you’ll find it very easy to take the instrument with you anywhere you go, especially since the unit comes with a convenient and durable drop-proof box.
The exquisite workmanship that this model boasts will have everyone admire your new instrument and you’ll feel very comfortable playing it since it is very responsive and easy to play.
It is suitable for beginners but it can also be used by intermediates to learn difficult harmonica skills.
The compact size of this harmonica makes it easy to use even by children.
The harmonica is not made from magnetic materials and since most holders are magnetic, this can be an issue.
The high note is hard to play since it requires you to blow very hard to make it sound good.Click to see the price on Amazon!
10. Diatonic Harmonica 10 Hole – Blues Harp with Case
Smaller than expected, and made of quality materials, this instrument is a great choice for kids and beginners. It’s a diatonic model, with 10 holes, tuned in the key of C. The styles that this instrument can approach vary a lot, and that is another reason why it’s suitable for beginners. The design is attractive and the chrome steel cover offers reliability.
The comb is made of plastic and the reeds are copper. This combination offers the possibility to reach higher pitched notes and it ensures an excellent tone quality and timbre. Being so small, this harmonica is easy to carry. It is pocket sized and it has fully enclosed ends.
In the set you can also find a case, a microfiber polishing cloth that you will use for cleaning the instrument and a manual that will teach you how to play. All of its features showcase that it’s a good choice for rookies.
It boasts a premium construction and unique features at a very accessible price point so that amateurs can get a good instrument without breaking the bank.
The set includes everything that beginners need to get started including a play manual that will help you learn the basics and a microfiber polishing cloth to keep the unit clean.
When not in use, the harmonica can be packed away into a chic, small case that comes free with the instrument.
The harmonica has a lively, bright sound quality that is suitable for both solo and band performances.
The compact pocket size makes the instrument easy to carry and use.
While the tone is more than adequate for a unit this cheap, it is not as good as with a professional diatonic one but given the price difference, we can’t complain too much.
With a weight of just 1 ounce, this harmonica may feel too light for some.Buy from Amazon.com for ($9.89)
11. Hohner Accordions Blues Bender
An inexpensive option for beginners that want to practice more, this harmonica features twenty brass reeds that produce a thin but pleasant sound. Be careful when using this model, because the reeds can be affected when you grip the instrument too hard.
Fortunately, the stainless steel acoustic covers and the thick plates make it more resistant to damage. If you want a harmonica that you can use for a lot of professional appearances, this one will not suit your needs, but it is a great choice if you intend to learn how to play this instrument.
It is designed primarily for making note bending easier and facilitating learning for new players and it produces pleasant bluesy notes. The airtight construction helps with obtaining the desired notes. The patented acoustic cover plates are useful for increasing the volume and maintaining a consistent tone.
It is designed primarily for entry-level players and it can be used as a practice instrument since it can allow everyone to access the bluesy notes needed to make any riff complete.
It has an airtight construction which will make it easier to bend notes and the thicker reed plates will provide a more consistent tone.
The patented acoustic cover plates are very effective at increasing the volume and maintaining a consistent tone, which means that this model can be used for live performances.
It has a sturdy design thanks to the stainless steel covers and the thick plates that are very resistant to damage, though we don’t recommend you drop the instrument too often.
You’ll need to be gentle when using this harmonica since the reeds can be affected if you grip it too hard.
This Hohner model may need extra tuning if you want to get the best sound out of it.Buy from Amazon.com for ($22.06)
Yearly guide and report
The most experienced harmonica players know how they want their instrument to sound and what their right harmonica for blues is. But since some people are unsure about what makes a good harmonica, we have written an analysis of the important features of a blues one.
Your first harmonica
Some instruments are easier to learn to play than others. For example, diatonic harmonicas are considered more suitable for beginners than chromatic ones. But that depends from one person to another, and that is why it’s important to know the differences between the types of harmonicas.
The diatonic harmonica is the most commonly used in blues, pop or folk music and it is designed to be played in a specific key. With enough experience and by using the appropriate techniques, one can play such a harmonica in different keys. Most blues songs use the notes of a pentatonic scale and for these, a harmonica tuned in the G key can complement the pentatonic C scale. You can obtain a nice sound if you pair such a harmonica with a blues guitar.
Most blues harmonica reviews recommend starting learning to play a harmonica on a diatonic model tuned in the key of C. These models usually come with replaceable reeds for sale so you can refurbish an older instrument rather than buying a new one.
As you learn more, you can get more diatonic instruments and expand your collection to cover more keys. This will help you discover which instrument you like more and also it will encourage you to play different styles of music.
If you feel that you are limited by a diatonic model, you can also get other models. Chromatic harmonicas have a lever that you can activate and change the notes played, at a push of a button. This makes for a versatile instrument that you can use to play almost any song. But it requires more skill to master. The larger reeds are also harder to bend and complex techniques are more difficult to execute.
Other, more complex designs include tremolo harmonicas. They are also referred to as “echo” harmonicas because they produce a warbling sound through the use of two reeds per note — one tuned higher and one lower. There are also specialty harmonicas used in orchestral settings.
Choosing the key
Because you can play most songs in the key of C major, this is the recommended key for starters. It’s a standard key, especially for diatonics. It is possible to play these instruments in different keys without the use of advanced techniques, or without bending.
If you want to play something different, like Irish music, a harmonica tuned in B is more suitable. It is fairly similar to the ones tuned in C, in terms of chromatic models. G major and F major models are pretty popular, because they produce almost the same notes as a harmonica tuned in C, so they are familiar to players that are not very experienced.
Ultimately, if you want to play all the blues that you know, you will need to get more harmonicas, each tuned in a different key.
The importance of the comb
When the instrument is properly made, the comb doesn’t influence how it sounds, but it has an impact in terms of maintenance. For the comb, harmonica makers use four kinds of material. The first of them is wood. It is believed that a wooden comb sounds better and has a warmer sound than others, but that is not proven.
As expected, a wooden comb has the disadvantage of trapping moisture and swelling. It is prone to humidity issues. This can be a big problem when the comb becomes too big and it gets out of the harmonica, resulting in a dangerous piece of material for your lips. This is rarely the case with newer models, where the wood is carefully treated and coated to avoid problems.
Plastic is a more modern alternative and is becoming the norm for harmonicas. It’s easy to maintain and it feels good on the lips. Plexiglas is an improved choice, mostly used in high-end models. It has the same qualities as the plastic one, but some consider it to be too delicate and prone to cracking.
Metals such as aluminum or stainless steel are used for combs. They produce the same sound as plastic, but they are less prone to damage. However, aluminum oxide can form on aluminum combs and that will cause injury to your lips.
Make sure that you choose the right materials and style for a harmonica before heavily investing into one.
If you found this review helpful and you want to see more reviews and guides, you can have a look on our top picks for the perfect ukulele for beginners and advanced players, several quality travel guitars, or a couple of models of accordions.
Frequently asked questions
Q: What is the best key for a blues harmonica?
Harmonicas are tuned to a specific key and if you are starting out as a beginner then it is best to get a model that is tuned to the key of C. This way you will be able to play up to 3 octaves on a C major scale and this will give you a lot of room to learn and improve.
Most of the songs that beginners learn are also tuned to this key which makes it so much easier for the player to learn. Furthermore, most blues harmonicas are played in what’s known as a “cross harp” or a “second position”.
This means that you can use the 2 draw hole instead of using the 4 blow house that is generally used for the original key and the first position. If the music is written in the key of G, you can still use a C harmonica in the second position to get similar results and this is the most common position for playing blues.
Q: Is the harmonica hard to learn?
As is the case with any instrument, practice makes perfect but there are some instruments that can deliver results quicker than others and the harmonica is one of these instruments. It helps if you are competent in playing other instruments since those skills are transferable and it makes learning the harmonica that much easier.
With that said, there rarely is a smooth gradient of continual improvement when learning an instrument so the key is still persistence, especially when it comes to learning to bend notes. It can take many fruitless hours before you achieve a variation in pitch but as long as you continue to practice, you will get better.
Thus, compared to other instruments, the harmonica has indeed a less extreme learning curve and it is not as hard to reach a high level of competence. To achieve mastery it will take you very long hours of study and practice.
Q: Who is the most famous blues harmonica player?
In this case, as in many others, the best is hard to define and it is mostly a matter of personal preference. There are many excellent candidates to choose from and it is hard to argue with the merits of each one.
The first answer that comes to mind is Marion Walter Jacobs and he is also known as Little Walter. He was a very talented American blues musician, singer, and songwriter and his approach to the harmonica has had a huge impact on the generations that followed.
Little Walter managed to alter the expectations of his listeners as to what was possible on a blues harmonica and for this reason, alone, he is a worthy choice for the title of not only the most famous but also the best blues harmonica player. His creativity and innovation made him the first and only harmonica player inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Q: How do you clean a blues harmonica?
You should tap your harmonica after each use so that the saliva and other contaminants don’t build up in the instrument which can make cleaning it very unpleasant. It’s best to try and be a dry harmonica player to reduce the amount of saliva that passes into it while playing.
Once you are done playing you should let the harmonica dry by leaving the case open or by purchasing a vented case. To perform heavy cleaning you should carefully remove the cover and reed plate. Place the reed plate into a solution of warm water and lemon juice or vinegar and let it soak for half an hour.
Next, you should clean the comb with soap and water and use a soft brush or toothbrush to get the deposits off the comb. Do the same thing for the reed plates once they are dry. Finally, reassemble the harmonica once all the parts are dry and clean.
Q: What is the difference between a diatonic and a chromatic harmonica?
The difference between these two types of harmonicas is quite simple. Diatonic harmonicas contain only the notes of a specific scale and these notes are mainly used for Blues, Country, Pop, and Rock music. Chromatic harmonicas, on the other hand, can play all the notes in the chromatic scale and they are used primarily for Classical and Jazz music.
Diatonic harmonicas can only play the notes of a given scale which is why you’ve probably noticed that they are advertised as such. This makes the diatonic variant cheaper to produce but if you want to be able to play all the notes on the chromatic scale with this type of instrument then you will need to use 12 instruments, one for each key.
With that said, it doesn’t mean that diatonic harmonicas are inferior since if this is your first time using this instrument then a key of C diatonic harmonica is the option that everyone will be recommending you.