Best harmonica for beginners.

I’m thinking about learning to play the harmonica. What would be the best one for a beginner?

I have a Hohner Blues Band, but I heard it’s not very good.

I thought any Hohner products were better than most, even low-end ones, so I guess I have more questions: What harmonica should I get under $30? Bonus points for adding an option with more than 10 holes.

Disclaimer, I play harp worth shit. I don’t read about harp, I have no friends who play harp…I am not a harp guy.

I’ve owned 2 harmonicas in my life. ( not at the same time)

1 Lee Oscar
1 Marine Blues band

I couldn’t tell the difference. Not that there isn’t a difference, but as someone who is a musician, but not a harp player, I never said…“gee, the other one sounded better/ was easier to play”.
good luck on your journey/Make a joyous noise:D:cool::cool:

Hohner Blues Band isn’t bad, and that’s what I started on, then went to a Marine Band, but now (well, it’s been years since I’ve been into playing harmonica or really any instrument regularly, but when I did), I really enjoyed the Special 20 and the Golden Melody. The plastic combed harmonicas are much easier on the lips than the wooden ones, and I don’t really notice any sweetness in the tone that makes them better (and some blues harpists used to soak their harmonicas to make it more airtight and get a better tone or some such stuff like that, but it would drastically shorten the harp’s life.)

So, long story short: Get a Hohner Special 20.

You cannot go wrong with that. As for key, C is fine starter key. It will let you play G blues. A is another worthwhile choice if blues harp is your thing, because that will give you E blues, and E is probably the most common key for guitar blues. (When you play blues on harmonica, you generally play in a style known as “cross harp” or “second position,” where the key you play your harmonica in is a fourth below the key of the harmonica. That’s not the only way to play it (3rd position is another one), but that’s the first thing you’re going to learn if you’re trying to get that bluesy harmonica sound.)

Aren’t harmonicas key specific? Do you have to buy one for each key?

I was watching a 2-piece band at a restaurant/bar a few years ago, and was quite impressed with the harmonica player. Between sets I chatted with him about playing harmonica, and he showed me a case containing at least a dozen harmonicas. I asked him why he has so many. “Oh, they’re in different keys. This one is in the key of C, and this one is in the key of A…”

I never knew harmonicas were made in different keys. It’s a much more complex instrument than I originally thought.

There are diatonic harmonicas and there are chromatic harmonicas. The latter are, well, chromatic so you don’t have to buy a bunch of keys. The former are the usual 10-hole types that fit comfortably palmed into your hand. They come in various keys. They are tuned to the major scale of that key from holes 4 through 7, and then the other holes have other in-scale notes, but not necessarily adjacent notes in the scale. So, if you have a key of C harp, you can play the C major scale using holes 4-7. On holes 1-3, you’ll be missing an F and an A; at 7-12, you’ll be missing a B. You can fill in these gaps, though, with bends.

Furthermore, with diatonic harps, you actually can get all the notes of a chromatic scale if its set up right and you learn advanced techniques like overblowing and overdrawing. Here’s an example of a great diatonic harp player, Howard Levy, playing over a blues progression in six different keys on a single Golden Melody (diatonic) harp.

But, more usually, you only play in a couple of keys on a diatonic harmonica.

I would say that’s because they’re a much simpler instrument, actually.

There are also chromatic harmonicas.

As for what harmonica to get… I have a golden melody which I like. It sounds nice. I can’t really play, though.

You can get a chromatic harmonica but then you’ll have to learn the scales and key signatures. It’s easier to get a harp for each key you want. Back in my coffee house days, you could get a Hohner Blues harp for about $4.00, so I ended up with C, G, A, and D Blues Harps in that box in the neck of my guitar case. There was no way to store the harmonica holder IN the case so I either hung it around the handle or wore it around my neck.

I DREAMT of having a harmonica holder.

Played coffeehouses back in the late beatnik/early hippie days, and just bent a coathanger to hold my “harp” (Marine Band; had a G and a D, was saving up for a C and an A…).

But, man, I could make that thing wail like I was a big, blind, black bluesman, or a lonesome cowpoke. Even got asked to sit in with other bands just to play harmonica. Which felt great (like I’d achieved Vagabond Status), to wander down the street to a gig, with all my music equipment in my shirt pocket.

Another vote for the Hohner Special 20, key of C. It’s the one I have in my briefcase (OK, it’s a backpack), and the one I most see recommended.

I just wish I could play the bloody thing! Oh sure, I can pick out tunes. But I need someone to hang out with who can teach me Blues. I could listen to Blues and try to pick out and copy the harmonica, but there just isn’t the time when I’m home. I need to get out of the house for some ‘dedicated learning time’.

As for the Hohner Blues Band, I think they’re great. But again, I can’t play so what do I know? I have a bunch of them scattered around. Like one in each car, spares, one or two to give away once I can play well enough to teach a kid… They used to be $4.95 at various convenience stores. They’re cheap enough to buy just to ‘test the waters’, and they’re actually playable. But there’s a reason people recommend the Special 20 or Marine Band. The Blues Band does leak a bit, as do all cheap harmonicas, so it’s a little harder to play. So get a Blues Band if you want to play When The Saints Go Marching In and Oh, Susannah (my level of ability), or get a Special 20 for really playing.

I started with a a Blues Band and there is nothing wrong with them. I can double draw on the low notes and it has held up well over the years. I lso have a couple of Marine Bands and they are nice little instruments as well. Keep the BB and add as you go. C,D,A, etc.

:smack: Oh, Blues Band! I was thinking the wooden combed Blues harp. The Blues Band is a plastic combed harmonica. I’ve never played those so I have no idea as to how well they play.

What a confusing name. The Hohner Blues harp is wooden combed. The Marine Band is wooden combed. But the Blues Band is plastic combed, and more of a budget harp. I’d still spend the extra bucks and get a Special 20 to learn on, rather than chance it with some cheapie instrument. It’s a harmonica, so it’s not gonna cost you too much, but I think they’re around $40 these day.

And, yes, if the Blues Band is as air leaky as reported above, that’s gonna make learning bends (the souls of blues harmonica) an extra pain in the ass to learn.

Not as well as a Special 20, but at 1/5th the price. The Blues Band is perfect for a beginner/dabbler who doesn’t want to invest a lot. They can be a bit airy, but ISTM not as bad as other ones in the Enthusiast series. (And they’re the least expensive.) But if you really want to learn, the Special 20 is the one to buy.

Just stay away – far away – from the Piedmont Blues. They’re all plastic, and are basically toys. More air than sound. I bought a set just for the case (which is pretty good), and bagged the harps and stapled them to the telephone pole outside so kids could play with them.

Plastic reeds are better. They dry quicker.

Wood reeds get wet and clog the harmonica.

My dad’s harmonica was my first and it constantly clogged up. Slapping it on my hand. Id finally gave to let it dry a day before I could practice.

I want to hang out with pulykamell so he can teach me. :cool:

Oh, wow, that’s actually a pretty looking case. The harmonicas themselves look kinda cool, almost like the Hohner Pro line. But, unsurpringly, all plastic toys at that price.

I’m kicking myself for not keeping track of my harmonicas. In college, I had a Blues harp, a few Special 20s, a couple Marine Bands, a Pro, and a Golden Melody. Keys of C, D, E, F, G, A, and Ab I think. I may have had an Eb harp, too. All of these have disappeared. One bad thing about harps is that they’re so easy to lose track of, being a small instrument. I even bought one a few years ago, and that one’s missing, too!

Not as good as the older cases, but worth the price of the ‘toys’.