Stevie Wonder, Bono (U2), John Lennon (Beatles), Bryan Adams, Steve Tyler (Aerosmith), Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Chris Martin (Coldplay)…All play the harmonica. Why? Because they’re portable, inexpensive and very, very cool.
Best Premium? The Suzuki HA-20-C Promaster Hammond Professional Harmonica. We’ve played many, many harmonicas and this one tops them all for sound quality at the price. Black enameled brass cover and black coated aluminum comb. It’s spectacular. Check discount here.
Best Budget? Don’t underestimate The Classic Suzuki Folkmaster Harmonica. Though this is manufactured in China as opposed to Japan, it will absolutely do a beginner proud and for the price – how can you go wrong? Find it here.
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 the 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 Value 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 the 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 of our readers had to say about his Marine Band Harmonica –
The Marine Band is a classic harmonica. I love it to death. There’s no better choice for beginners. It’s lovely to play and has a gorgeous sound quality to it. If you’re going to get a harmonica, you can’t go wrong with them… Pete A, Utah.
Best Premium 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 reader shared their story of buying the Suzuki Promaster Hammond –
My girlfriend gave me a really cheap harmonica for Christmas last year. I knew I wanted a better one very soon so did some pretty hefty research into it. The Suzuki Promaster Hammond in C has an amazing sound for the price. I play guitar, keys and drums – but you cannot carry around with you! If you’re after a great harmonica, this is your only choice! Craig Mac, Australia.
Best Budget 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’ve been playing for years. My dad taught me over 30 years ago now. The Folkmaster is my back up. Stays in the car until I need it. Does the job real nice! Benjamin D, North Carolina.
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.