The harmonica, also sometimes called the “Blues Harp“, is a small and simple wind instrument played in a variety of different music genres. Most notably in blues, rock, country, and jazz.
The harmonica is played by using your mouth to direct air in and out of the different chambers, sliding the harmonica with your hands when necessary. Here’s a video of a pair of harmonica players in action covering a pop song –
Learning to play the harmonica is one of the easiest instruments for beginners to learn due to the simple nature of the instrument. While there are more advanced techniques to learn, beginners can easily comprehend how the instrument works and how to play different notes.
Different Harmonica Keys
Unlike most other musical instruments, harmonicas come already tuned to a certain key. The most common key for beginners is C. This gives you the notes of C,D,E,F,G,A,B across 3 different octaves. This will cover the vast majority of songs you want to learn, and is definitely the best option for your first harmonica. The below chart lays out how the notes are situated on a 10-hole harmonica.
With that in mind, we’re going to recommend the best harmonicas for beginners that are all in the key of C. If you’re looking for a second harmonica, one in the key of G is a great choice and plays well with guitars.
Buying Your First Harmonica
Now that you’ve decided to buy a harmonica, you’ll have to decide on which one is right for you. The first question you have in mind is likely “how much will it cost”?
For a beginner harmonica, it’s advisable that you spend at least $25 to get a quality instrument that’s not just a toy. There’s plenty of options out there for $10, but it’s very much worthwhile to invest more money to get a quality instrument that will last you for years.
Another thing to consider is brand name. We recommend going with a well-known and respected brand name that has a reputation of consistently producing quality instruments. Let’s give you a few harmonicas from great companies that are perfect for beginners!
Best Overall Harmonica for Beginners
Hohner is a company that’s synonymous with quality harmonicas. They have been producing German-made harmonicas for over 150 years! To be in business that long, they have to be doing a lot of things right.
The Marine Band harmonica is one of their most famous models, used by professional artists like John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen. We find it very encouraging to know that you don’t need some exotic, thousand-dollar instrument to play what the pros play.
Here’s what one reviewer had to say about his Marine Band Harmonica –
The Marine Band is the quintessential harmonica. It is the classic choice among blues and rock musicians. The great thing about this harmonica is that it is also perfect for beginners. It is easy to play and has a beautiful sound. It is extremely made and durable. This one will last a long time- plus Hohner stands behind their products!
Bottom line- if you are going to buy a harmonica then this is the one. It’s affordable, well made and sounds great! This IS the best harmonica for your money.
Best Sounding Harmonica for Beginners
You probably best know Suzuki as a company that makes vehicles, but Suzuki has been making harmonicas since 1953. Offering a wide variety of harmonicas for all skill levels, the Promaster Hammond is best suited for those who want a professional sounding harmonica that they will never outgrow. Still made in Japan after all of these years, this is the best sounding harmonica you’ll find in the beginner price range.
One reviewer shared their story of buying the Suzuki Promaster Hammond –
I started with an $8.99 harmonica. After about a month felt certain that I would enjoy and pursue learning this instrument. I started doing some homework on harmonicas. I chose this one because of the sound. I watched many videos of different harmonicas. The Suzuki Promaster Hammond in C has a beautiful sound – I’ve worked with piano, guitar, banjo and ukelele but you cannot carry them in your pocket. This harp will travel with me and give me many hours of joy. I also use it as a breathing exercise for my COPD conditions.The price was a little high to me, but it has proved to be worth every cent. I would recommend it to anyone who has decided to pursue this instrument.
Best Cheap Harmonica for Beginners
Finally, if you really don’t want to spend more than $30 on your first harmonica, consider this Suzuki Folkmaster. As with most cheap harmonicas, this one is manufactured in China instead of Japan, so you likely won’t get the same quality as the Promaster or Hohner harmonicas above. This harmonica is still a good starting point for a beginner who isn’t sure if they’ll stick with it for very long.
Here’s what one musician had to say about this harmonica –
I love it. although it may be a little shaky at first, but once you break it in you can get the bends and play a pretty good blues scale. this has been my backup harmonica and it is pretty reliable and cheap where other harps fail.
Learning the Harmonica
Once you’ve gotten your harmonica, it’s time to learn how to play it! We recommend learning from Harp n Guitar, which has hours of harmonica instructions that will take you from the basics to playing like a pro!
You can get started for less than the cost of your Netflix subscription and cancel at any time. They also have guitar lessons available on the same subscription, allowing you access to learn to play two instruments for the price of one, should that be a dream of yours.