What harmonica should a beginner use–and NOT use?

A blues harmonica pro offers quick answers to common questions about the instrument. With Adam Gussow of Modern Blues Harmonica.


Mitchell Jackson says:

That was so cool!!!

nathan byrd says:

I’m just starting out. I started with a set of hohner Piedmont blues. They are trash. But then again I only paid $40 for the whole set. I paid $15 for a folk master made by Suzuki. And it’s not the greatest I’m sure. But it’s good enough for me to learn on. It’s in the key of G. It’s the only one I have really. I gave the hohners to my 7 year old to play with. I plan on buying more. Possibly another Suzuki but a special 20 when I can spend the money on one.

gary meschede says:

I learned a lot in a very short time. Thank you. My grandmother played one for years

Kenneth Settles says:

Before I post this, I believe the following is just an old “____” preaching to the choir (62 now). Best to stop now, or not, and read on:

The best way to discourage someone from playing an instrument is to have them try to learn on one not right for them. This includes crap cheapo ones, or good ones that just for some reason isn’t right for them, but may be perfect for someone else (in my case, a Les Paul is a great guitar, but my fingers and hands were more comfortable on a narrower neck when I started out playing the guitar (like a strat, I love my strat). Later down the road, they will have the skills and judgement to go back to something that wasn’t right to start on. I believe I have heard that theme throughout your video
Just a thought, start a kid on an electric guitar instead of an acoustic (what many are forced to play) so that they will practice with headphones and sis won’t be yelling at mom to turn you down. To bad Harmonicas don’t have earphone jacks (at least not that I know of), wouldn’t it be great.

Our faces, lips, teeth, tongues, aren’t the same. Just like our fingerprints, they are similar, but for one person a type of harmonica, may be good, for another, it may be just not quite comfortable. So they blame themselves and drop it. As long as we encourage those who come after to just step up and ask and we will help them get started, the next generation is secure.
I have not trusted wooden combs for funny reasons, plus when starting they weren’t comfortable. Maybe I will revisit that also someday.
I was using a C Golden Melody Hohner as a way to stay awake during long drives as a trucker. Then I came off the road for awhile and someone told the Music leader at our church that I played harmonica. No I didn’t. But he encouraged me to get some other harmonicas in the keys they played in (mostly flat keys since the leader was a keyboardist), and to keep at it. Then a professional saxophone player gave me encouragement and what help he could, and I kept at is. Can’t say I ever reached Pro status, but I enjoyed it and others enjoyed my playing (now I wish I had passed the hat).
Anyway, I enjoy those who post “encouraging” videos that don’t condemn because you don’t do it “their” way, but rather, “Great, but have you thought about this”.
Deep pocket books are usually not the realm of us mortals who don’t make a living at this. We also can’t afford to buy everything that comes along that a “PRO” says will make us great (and they won’t give us endorsement instruments). But, when they say things that will actually help us get started (cheap crap is cheap crap) and progress, the fruit on the tree of responses here and other places will help us non clairvoyants know when to listen.
Finally, I totally agree, get the best you can afford. In this case, at $40 you can buy 20 harps for what a new guitar player should pay for his first guitar. Most guitars under $500 will need another $200 to $300 at a luthiers to get them decently playable (I may be way off, but under $200 guitars are usually crap and if repairable, will be over $100 to make them usable).
I do so remember and chuckle at the movie Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure. They had just made a bunch of noise in their garage and stopped and looked at each other. Now we got a great band name, do you think we should learn to play these instruments (or something like that). That was so true when I first picked up an electric guitar, and then later a harmonica.
Some one here said to start with 2 to 3 harps and get good with them. At amateur band levels, most of the time if you have one singer, you are usually playing only in a few keys. As you get better with the ones you got, add other keys as you go. By the time you are a pro (or even an active amateur), you will need a full set, plus. Then, when you are committed, learn how to adjust, tune, repair and maintain your instruments (including your body parts involved).
Wow, yes mommy, I will get off my soap box now. Thanks for listening to my late night musings.

Tony Goodwin says:

Nice one thanks

Harmonica Guy says:

Well now I do harmonica videos so tell me how I’m doing…

Randall Selinger says:

Jesus, complaining about a few bucks, really??? Some of you remind me of the guitar playing morons who have a $2000 guitar and complain about the tone and yet are too cheap to buy new strings at $10 a pop or put on decent machine heads ( even expensive guitars can have inferior heads ) or ebony, boxwood, or bone bridge pins…..does it really matter if a good harmonica costs $40 to $80?????? They last for a very long time, duh! If you don’t wanna sew your own clothes, make your own shoes, etc. etc. etc. you have to pay somebody else to make them for you.

gary ho says:

2:26 sorry but XD.

joe blow says:

I like the marine band I have a few that are 30 years old and they still sound good

Dirk Hoekstra says:

Why do you call it a harp?

MrOopee says:

Just visited Lidl and bought a 5€ harmonica… And here I am trying to make sense if it was worth it

pete bartel says:

tosses plastic harp in the garbage…=(

bigdawg roadhawg says:

I bought a 10$ 10 hole Mugig from Amazon. It Sounds ok but I think I’ll buy another more professional one

guitarjoe411 says:

Hi I’m a beginner and a while back I picked up an E & A Hohner Hotmetal harmonica wanting to learn to play along with my guitar. they were pretty cheep what do you think about that kind I’m thinking about going and getting a C & D as you said they would better keys for beginners.? thanks!!

Prasoon ADVENTURE says:

In India you can use “swan” brand harmonica which is best.

Lizard Crimson says:

I got a Hohner old standby $15 lol! key of A. but it does me fine lol! I’ll be sure to get a marine band C when I can afford it

Daniel Castle says:

Would a 10 hole key of g be good for beginners

Joel Pierson says:

How about Lee Oskar harmonicas?

nacoran says:

The good brands, as I understand it-
Hohner, Lee Oskar (Tombo outside the U.S., and they have more models available outside the U.S.), Suzuki, Seydel, Hering (if you can get them, they seem to be having some distribution issues), Bushman (also have distribution problems- get them from someplace like Rockin Rons), and I’m hearing good things about Easttop (Brendan Powers has a relationship with them).

(Bends were supposedly good, but they went under, and of course Harrison, but they went under).

I think Danneker is more in the customizer category.

Fender is releasing some harps, but they are just rebadged versions of other brands. They’ve got a Seydel and a Lee Oskar and a couple others. I forget which are which.

Personally, I like the plastic combs, particularly if you are starting out. They are easier on your lips. I actually started out on a Blessing Tremolo and then a Hohner Blues Harp, and didn’t get far with either because they tore up my lips. As my embouchure improved plastic became less important, but I’d be a few years farther along if my first attempt had stuck.

SnakeBitesTattoo says:

Of course that’s going to be the biggest qu . If someone is interested in doing something they want to know where to start . I took your advice and got the Horner Marine c very happy with it. Just have to figure out how to do these Bends

Mohammad Bilal says:

I m from Karachi want to learn about harmonicA
which harmonica should i buy for begining
large or smallar one?

Xíren Seo says:

I started on this Hohner silver star, it can’t play much individual notes, more of a soothing, like, higher pitched acapella feeling one, not a wide range, 10 holes. I have noooo idea what this is

Mike Evans says:

I still can’t figure out how to bend the harmonica I’ve watched your vid and so many others can you give me some tips? I’ve been playing for about 3 years and still can’t get it

Christopher Robinhood says:

The easiest harmonica to create bends (isn’t that why we play this crazy instrument) is unquestionably the Golden Melody. I made no progress for years with a Marine Band…found it very unforgiving and hard to bend unless I soaked it to swell the comb (which kills the longevity of the harp). The MB is really a pro’s instrument. You can grab a GM and sound like you know what you’re doing in 5 minutes. The shape is a little goofy and it does have a plastic comb, but if you get past that your playing will advance very quickly.

Dan Schonski says:

I got 3 Golden Cup Harmonicas for like, $40 all together, I’ve got D, A and C.. what do I do? I’m a singer and guitar player/ songwriter looking to upgrade my horizons.. help?

Jon Luci says:

If you want to play the blues easily and very well, then yeah… Get a really nice harp to start with. But if you’re like me who only plays simple folk melodies in first position it doesn’t matter much besides the only matter of …. how long will this cheap harmonica last? Other than that I’m ok. I own lee oskars but I save that for my technical playing with all the bends and different positions

kia kaha says:

A marine band was my 1st harmonica in which i bought in the early 90s i still have it.

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