Here are some quick tips and links to additional information on which harmonica to buy and what to look for when you shop for and purchase a harmonica. Quality, cost, and type of harmonica are all important considerations.
- What are the different types of harmonicas?
The most common and useful types of harmonicas are either 10-hole major diatonics (for blues, rock, country, and folk) or chromatic harmonicas (commonly used for jazz or classical, and for melody playing). Most other types like tremolo, octave, minor tunings, bass and chord harmonicas, tend to be for special purposes.
Visit our Harmonica Types Defined page for more information. Visit our sister-website, HarmonicaLessons.com for a more in-depth comparison of diatonic and chromatic harmonicas.
- How much to spend?
As with most products in most industries, you get what you pay for. We don't list the cheap, border-line toy harmonicas, so anything you find listed at HarmonicaStore.com will be good to superb quality and great for any player at any level. Cheap harmonicas which tend to leak air are very difficult for beginners to learn on (especially if you would like to learn to bend notes for blues, country, rock, etc.)
A good beginner, yet still pro quality, 10-hole diatonic harmonica is somewhere between $35-$90. A good quality, chromatic harmonica will cost somewhere between $120-$250. If you buy a harmonica within these prices ranges, you can spend more, but you won't necessarily get a harmonica that plays or sounds better. With a good quality harmonica in your hands, the next step is lots of playing and practice. This will make your harmonica sound even better.
- Which harmonica key should I buy?
Usually the key of "C" is the best first key for diatonic. Recommended diatonic keys after the key of "C" include: "A", "D", "F", "G", and "Bb" (roughly in that order—or you can buy all six keys packaged together). Of course, if there is a song in a particular key that you want to play along with, then you would need the correct diatonic key for that song.
For chromatic harmonica, we always recommend "C". Learning and working with scales will allow you to play your chromatic harmonica in any key you choose. Unless you have a special purpose or reason, you do not need to buy a chromatic harmonica in any key other than the key of "C".
- Wood or plastic or metal harmonica comb?
Plastic combs tend to play better and last longer than wooden combed harmonicas that have not been sealed. Keep in mind that for diatonic harmonicas, most wood combs are now sealed and therefore will not expand and contract with moisture. This was not true before 2010, but it's true today.
There is very little difference in tonal quality between the plastic and wood combs. Most of the overall harmonica tone quality is derived from the player's technical ability. Metal combs will last forever and may be a bit brighter than plastic or wood combs due to their density, but again, it's more about the player's personal preference then the comb type.
- What do I do with the harmonica once I buy it?
A somewhat silly question, but basically, play and have fun. You can play simple songs, make up melodies, play with friends, or play along (jam) to your favorite bands and music. You don't need to be a technical wizard to play songs and have fun.
At some point, you will want to start working on your playing techniques like single notes, breathing, bending notes, slides, hand effects, etc., to give you a better sound and more options. For more information on how to do all this, visit our sister-website, HarmonicaLessons.com..
- Do you still have a pre-sales question about harmonicas?
If your question wasn't answered on this page, please email us from our Contact Us page, and we will do our best to answer it.