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Author:  FitzCollins [ Wed Mar 18, 2020 1:53 pm ]

Hi all, today marks one year since I embarked on the journey to learn to play the harmonica. I write this pose to expose some of the hidden challenges and hopefully to inform on ways to save time and money, - lots of money. Mainly because of where I live, access to harmonicas and harmonica players is basically non existent, and there are different types of harmonicas to choose from. - google and YouTube has been my main source of information, so for me it has been all trial and error, and error is where time and money is lost
Firstly, - to buy your first harmonica, one has to have a clear feeling for what they want to play. Harmonicas are mostly promoted to play the blues, and most of the info on the internet is about blues. But there are many other styles of music, jazz, country, folk, celtic, reggae, melodies etc. If you want to play the blues, most diatonic harmonicas will work. If jazz is your thing, then you would be better off with a chromatic harmonica rather than a diatonic one. There are also alternate tuned harmonicas that are best suited for melodies.
Second, - Do not be tempted to start with a cheap $10 harmonica. They are not built properly and are probably the reason many aspiring harmonica players fall by the wayside due to frustration. - they leak air like a sieve causing fatigue. I suggest one between $20-35. There is also a massive consideration that concerns lip comfort. Diatonic harmonicas are made in two styles, there is the one called the tin sandwich model with exposed reed plates and are enormously uncomfortable to the point of causing possible lip bleeding and there is the recesses reed comb model which is very comfortable. Having wasted much money experimenting with both models I will suggest that the Harmo Polar, the Hohner Special20, and the Lee Oskar's are easy to fall in love with but they all cost over $40. The Harmo and the Lee Oskar also comes in alternate tuning which is best suited for folk, country, and melodies.
Third, - 99% of learning info on the internet is done in the key of C so it is important to have one in this key for learning but as a melody player I prefer a G or a A as I find key of C too high pitched for me.
Fourth, - Be prepare to learn the hard expensive way how to do harmonica repairs as they are very moody and require constant tuning and reed gaping.
On the playing side of things, the hardest part for me is proper breathing. - the harmonica is the only instrument that requires breath in two directions so your breathing has to match what you are playing, the next is what is called in blues circles a "bending", since I have no intention of learning the blues , I buy alternate tuned harmonicas (Harmo paddy richter or Lee Oskar Melody Maker) which plays more like a chromatic over two octaves and requires no "bending" techniques. - The note layout to me is more logical.
Learning to play the harmonica is not for the faint of heart and requires a deep passion if frustration is not going to win the spirit. Hope this will be helpful, happy harping, - pursue and never give up, - the satisfaction is worth it, I can now play Bach's Jesu Joy, Theme from a Summer Place, Amazing Grace, the Beatles Yesterday, & And I love Her, Scarborough Fair, Sounds of Silence, Blowing in the wind, Blueberry Hill. :thumbsup:

Author:  fatmac [ Thu Mar 19, 2020 4:21 am ]

I'll second not buying cheap, just money down the drain.

A reasonable diatonic will cost £25 upwards, a tremolo about £30 upwards, a chromatic can be had fairly cheaply, if you buy a valveless, such as the Kmise 1040 or Swan 1040, but for a valved chromatic, you are looking at £120 upwards.

Diatonics for blues/country or ad-lib'ing, whilst they can play melodically, you will most likely need to learn to bend some notes.

Tremolo are good for folk type tunes, & other slower ones.

Chromatics can play anything, they have all the notes & accidentals, (sharps & flats).

Author:  busterbill [ Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:25 am ]

I broke my hand a few years ago and inspired by our local Jim Conway here in Chicago I tried the harmonica. I'd played around as a kid and had some decent memories. I ended up healing and abandoned the quest, but it can be done quite nicely! Enjoy. :D

Author:  Mudchutney [ Wed Mar 25, 2020 1:50 am ]

Really good advice, thanks guys. I'm one of those people that bought a cheap (ish) one a few years back and then failed to persevere with it. I wish I had, it's a lot lighter to carry around than an accordion!!

Author:  Sequimite [ Sat Apr 11, 2020 8:48 pm ]

I've gotten intrigued lately. After fooling around with a used Golden Harmony I decided to buy a new Special 20. I came across a shop wanting to get rid of old stock and and so bought seven; all the common keys except A and some uncommon for a good price.

I'm working with the Dummies book. I used to play guitar with a world class harp player, Sandy Weltman, who learned from Howard Levy, which is both inspiring and daunting. My goals are quite modest.

Author:  Mudchutney [ Mon Apr 20, 2020 8:37 am ]

I'd love to know what your goals actually are, and how you progress towards them.

Author:  RoberTunes [ Fri May 29, 2020 7:32 pm ]

I agree to avoid the cheap harmonicas because they fight back instead of cooperating to make music. They also break faster, they usually can't produce musical high notes (top octave responds poorly) and instead they scream or squeal. The first harmonica I ever bought was a cheap little Hot Metal by Hohner, and it was quiet and responded poorly, I'd only use it now for last resort, but don't own one so who cares.

In the lower-to-mid priced harmonicas I had good luck with the Hohner Big River in G, and actually played it by the river here, so that works. It's loud, is fairly expressive, durable and great tone. I really like the Suzuki HarpMaster, a mid-priced well-made harmonica. Suzuki is very reliable that way across the range of their products.

Price higher, the Golden Melody is very nice, is a very easy playing, comfortable, reliable and great sounding harmonica. s. I've had two Lee Oskars and they were very well built and reliable, with very good tone.

My next harmonica will be a chromatic. I'm just so frustrated with how limited it is to only have the one key, even with the inhale + exhale options and bending, so much music is just multi-key, I need a chromatic.

I'm also very curious to try some of the Seydel models for their tone and playability, they seem to impress a lot of talented players.

Author:  fatmac [ Sat May 30, 2020 3:07 am ]

I first got a couple of Hohner Special 20, but after buying a Seydel Session Steel, that's all I'll buy now. :)

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