Harmonica is one of the most inspirational and versatile instruments out there. It fits in your pocket giving you the ability to take it anywhere you go. It is one of the easiest instruments to learn especially with the online great courses available right now. Harmonica goes with any style whether it is blues, folk, tango, country, basically open-ended. You can buy a decent Harmonica for $10, which is basically the only instrument for that budget.
For all of the reasons above and beyond, we thought it is best if we give you the full guidance for harmonica so that in a matter of 10 minutes you can learn about:
- The history of harmonica
- How the instrument works
- Styles and the Best Players
- Best value harmonicas you can buy
- How to learn harmonica
The History of Harmonica
Harmonica originated from China. It was called “Sheng” and had bamboo reeds. It soon became a prominent Asian instrument for traditional music. The Sheng was then introduced to Europe in the late 18th century.
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In the early 19th century, European instrument makers began experimenting with instruments using metal reeds, instead of the wooden ones used in the Sheng. In about 1820, a young instrument maker named Christian Friedrich Buschmann created an instrument with metal reeds, which he called “The Aura”.
Around 1825, a European named Richter invented an instrument which has become the modern harmonica.
Mass production of harmonicas began in Vienna in 1829. Harmonicas were soon produced in other cities as well. In Trossingen, a village in Germany, Christian Messner and his cousin Christian Weiss began producing harmonicas in their spare time (their main craft was clockmaking). This business became successful. Some years later, another Trossingen clockmaker, named Matthias Hohner, visited Messner and Weiss, and learnt their harmonica construction technique. He then began his own harmonica business.
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Matthias Hohner was apparently not a very good harmonica player, however he was an excellent businessman. He bought out his competitors, and in 1862 began exporting harmonicas to the United States, which soon became his largest market.
How Harmonica Works
When the player exhales through the harmonica’s chamber, air passes over the upturned reed, causing it to vibrate at a certain pitch. If he inhales, the incoming air causes the downturned reed to vibrate. While playing, he uses his lips and tongue to cover the harmonica’s other chambers, allowing air to flow through the desired chambers.
Styles & The Best Players
Harmonica is a small instrument with a big sound. If you see live performances, then, you will soon realize harmonica can easily become a leading instrument of the band.
In the United States, the harmonica became very popular as a blues instrument. In the 1930’s and early 1940’s a man named John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson became well known.
After the second world war, Chicago became a major centre for blues, with great players such as Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson II) and Little Walter. Many people consider Little Walter to be the greatest blues harmonica player.
While the harmonica has been known mostly as a blues instrument, many people were introduced to the harmonica in the 1960’s through the folk music of Bob Dylan. In recent years, great players such as Kim Wilson and Rod Piazza have continued the blues harmonica tradition, drawing on its history while moving it forward.
Harmonica accompanies with all sorts of styles including tango. The below video is harmonica leading the amazing Liber Tango composed by the one and only Astor Piazzolla.
All these and more clearly shows that harmonica may be one of the smartest choice you can make if you want to pick a new instrument to learn.
Harmonica Buying Guide
When it comes to easy playability, affordability and portability, it’s hard to beat a harmonica. Despite their modest size and cost, harmonicas are capable of producing an amazing array of tones, and this versatility is reflected in the music genres in which the mighty little mouth harp plays a part. From the more obvious categories such as blues, country, and rock to more surprising musical territory such as jazz and classical music, the harmonica with its often human-like voice easily fits in.
The best harmonica type to start learning is 10 hole instruments with key of C. You can buy one for as little as $10 and improve your skills and start to really enjoy within 30 days practicing 5 minutes a day.
How to Learn Harmonica
There is a wide range of online sources to learn from.
You can learn from one of the top rated books.
You can learn the basics from Youtube, however, we recommend that you learn from an instructor or a professional course online.
Takelessons.com and Udemy.com have great sources to learn online.
With Takelessons, you hire a professional instructor whether to learn via Skype or meeting the instructor physically if you are in the same area.
Udemy, one of the biggest online video instruction platform has a number of great harmonica courses with hundreds of high-rated reviews that cost $10 with lifetime access.
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So, basically, within a month, you can learn to play and enjoy a great instrument paying $10 for the harmonica and $10 for the course totaling $20 which is unprecedented time spent and budget to learn basically anything.