Picking up a new tool can feel like an overwhelming undertaking. Learning how to play is often time-consuming (particularly if you never took classes ), not to mention the fact that lots of musical instruments — even in the entry level — can be costly, pricing out some potential gamers who must stick to a budget to get their new pastime. The harmonica, however, is decidedly neither of these things. It is tiny, comparatively easy to pick up and start playing, and generally cheap, with many specialist models coming in at under $50.
If you’re looking for a beginner harmonica, the experts we talked with counsel sticking to diatonic harmonicas (or even harps) as opposed to chromatic harmonicas, because harps are simple to learn, even without an extensive musical history. “You can begin enjoying a few notes straight away, and intuitively, without understanding music theory,” clarifies Yvonnick Prene, who teaches at both the New York Harmonica School and Harmonica Studio. Harps typically have ten holes and are best for playing rock, blues, or folk music. Regardless of what starter harp you decide on, though, musician and music instructor Sasha Vallely recommends obtaining it in the key of C, because”this is the easiest key to find out on and memorize the notes” To locate the best harmonicas for novices, we asked Prene, Vallely, and four other harmonicists and educators to advocate their favorites, which we have listed below.
Best complete harmonica for novices
Four of the experts we spoke with recommend beginner harmonica players start out using the dependable and well-designed Hohner Special 20. This version includes a plastic comb that is comfortable on the mouth, even after practicing for long intervals. Additionally, at under $50, it is a cheap starter tool that you won’t have to ditch in case your hobby becomes a fire, since the Special 20 is also the”go-to harmonica for professional gamers on a budget,” according to Grammy-nominated blues harmonica player David Barrett.
Best harmonica for learning single notes
Three of our specialists (Vallely, musician Brian McIniss, and New York City–based artist and private instructor Marcus Millius) such as the Lee Oskar harmonica because it has slightly larger holes than other versions and also a bright and clear tone which makes it easy to understand how to isolate and play single notes — some newcomer pupils frequently struggle with. Millius says it’s also a great model for studying how to bend notes, which can be among the primary methods in harmonica playing. “These are very airtight, and because of that most of my beginner students find it ideal for studying bending,” he states.
Greatest harmonica with a wood comb for beginners
Compared to the Special 20 (that has what is called an enclosed structure ), this Hohner Marine Band harmonica has side vents which give it a”brighter, more vibrant sound,” says Barrett, who calls it the”gold-standard harmonica model” (He especially enjoys the Marine Brand Crossover, that is very much like this but includes elevated cover plates, a rounded-off comb made from oak wood, and also a screw-fitted structure for easy cleaning.) However, McIniss notes while Marine Brand harmonicas have an excellent quality of sound, novices may find this version more difficult to play than the Special 20 because of its mouthpiece’s layout. “But do not let this stop you from picking up one for yourself.”