Finding the best harmonica for you
A harmonica buying guide
Harmonicas are versatile instruments that accompany almost any music style you choose. The best harmonica to buy is one that achieves the sound you want. Different types of harmonicas are designed to play a variety of notes with different tones. Use this harmonica buying guide to get familiar with factors that help determine which harmonica to buy.
>> What type of harmonica do you want?
Among the many types of harmonicas available to you, two of the most common and versatile are diatonic and chromatic harmonicas. Chromatic harmonicas are designed to easily create a wide variety of notes. Chromatic harmonica designs are a solid choice, whatever the genre of music you play.
Diatonic harmonicas offer you a more limited range, but can deliver traditional sounds and satisfying authentic tones. Experienced diatonic harmonica players enrich the instrument's range with the ins and outs of each breath.
The chart below provides some useful information for popular types of harmonicas.
Type of harmonica
Type of sound
|Chromatic ||A chromatic harmonica makes a clean, clear sound. ||A button on the side of this harmonica design lets the player easily access all the notes on the scale. ||Chromatic harmonicas can be used in any genre. They're versatile instruments. ||More chromatic harmonicas can access three octaves. If you want more versatility, look for a four octive chromatic. |
|Diatonic ||Diatonic harmonicas play blended tones as the player switches between notes. ||The inhalation and exhalation methods to access different notes on the diatonic harmonica give it a sound that makes it popular in certain genres. The techniques, called bending, create a unique sound. ||The bending effect makes the diatonic harmonica popular in blues, rock, country and folk music. ||When learning the diatonic, start bending at lower octaves. Bending is more challenging as the notes get higher. |
|Tremolo ||Every note in a tremolo harmonica has two reeds, which creates two slightly different sounds that play off each other. ||Tremolo harmonicas can play many notes, but all of them have a reverberating effect because of the two-reed harmonica design. ||East Asian tremolo harmonica styles are commonly used in Asian folk music and classical music. Other tremolo harmonica designs are used in ensemble groups for folk music. ||Tremolo harmonicas come in wet and dry varieties. Wet harmonicas make the two different tones more noticeable, while dry harmonicas create a more blended note. |
If you are looking for a fun music instrument and karaoke accompaniment, for example, you likely want either a chromatic or a diatonic harmonica. The flexibility of these harmonica designs makes them suitable for many music genres. A chromatic harmonica's tonal versatility generally makes it the best harmonica to buy when you want karaoke equipment.
Of the numerous other types of harmonicas, most are crafted for specific tones or designed for you to play with particular styles. Some harmonica designs help you find pitch. Others feature a sliding valve you use to create unique sounds. One of these harmonica designs could be the best harmonica for your individual tastes and needs.
>> Who is playing the harmonica?
Different types of harmonicas are suited for different music levels, as is the case with any band instrument. If you need a good type of harmonica for beginners, for example, a basic three-scale chromatic harmonica can be your answer. This harmonica style facilitates development of your basic harmonica skills before you move on to learn bending on the diatonic harmonica.
For more advanced harmonica design, search for one that accesses more octaves, or one fashioned for a particular genre. If you play with a musical group, your band's individual sound and style should guide your harmonica selection.
If you want harmonicas as children's toys, look for colorful plastic models. Children's harmonica sizes are scaled down for the little fingers and faces that use them.
Assess levels of skill and dedication for yourself or the player you are buying for, and you'll find that selecting the best harmonica gets easier.
>> What materials should the harmonica be made of?
Of importance when learning how to buy a harmonica are the materials that compose the design. Familiarity with some essential harmonica parts is useful to you at this point. The comb of the harmonica overlays the reeds with small vertical bars. The cover of the harmonica forms the main structure of the body. Your possible harmonica selections feature combs and covers of various materials, each marked by its own strengths.
A wooden comb gives you a classic look. In a humid climate, pick up protective coating to help keep your wooden comb in shape and in tune.
Plastic commonly composes toy harmonica combs. Plexiglass provides the texture for combs in many premium harmonica brands. Another option for fine harmonica combs is metal, which can last for a long time.
Most harmonica covers have open backs that allow a big, clear sound. Open-backed harmonica styles are popular and available for you in lower and higher-end models. If you choose a closed-back harmonica cover, expect a tighter but warmer sound. Closed-back covers are often a component in premium harmonica brands.
The sound you want determines a lot about which harmonica to buy.
>> What accessories do you want with your harmonica?
Numerous music instrument accessories complement your harmonica. If picking between two harmonicas has you torn, the one that includes the nicest accessories could be the best harmonica for you.
A hard, protective case can add to your harmonica's lifetime. A cleaning kit helps you keep your harmonica pristine for years to come. Harmonica amps are premium accessories that are useful if you want to perform in a large space.
For the best harmonica options, carefully select the accessories that add the most to your favorite harmonica designs.