Looking for a quality harmonica?
Whether you’re a beginner, pro, blues player or singer-songwriter, there are plenty of products to choose from.
But for the most part, there are only a few brands that have the market cornered because of the quality of instruments they make.
So, let’s look at the best harmonicas in a few different categories.
Top Harmonicas For Beginners
The number one thing beginners will be looking for in a harmonica is an instrument that’s easy to play.
So, that means chromatic harmonicas are probably out. It can be difficult to know which notes to play in a given song unless you have a good grasp of music theory.
Meanwhile, harmonicas designed for a specific key (i.e. diatonic harmonicas) are great for beginners, because you can’t play a wrong note (assuming you’re playing along in the right key).
Some other things beginners are likely looking for in a harmonica is one that sounds good and is affordable, lightweight, durable, comfortable and easy to maintain.
So, here are a few harmonicas that fulfill on most if not all the above criteria.
#1 Best Choice: Seydel 1847 Silver Harmonica – Key Of C – Great For Blues And Jazz
The Seydel 1847 Silver Harmonica is bar none one of the best options for beginners and honestly, it’s a great choice for pros too.
The German-made Seydel offers plenty of volume and is perfect for blues and jazz.
Constructed with metal (largely stainless steel), this is a lightweight, comfortable and durable harmonica. It’s also water- and corrosion-proof.
The only downside to this harp is its price point. Although not high, it’s not exactly cheap either and a beginner might not want to spend this much.
The Seydel is still worth a look for aspiring harmonica players.
The Cheap Anwenk Harmonica Key Of C 10 Hole 20 Tone Diatonic Harmonica
The Anwenk Harmonica is an option for budget conscious beginners thanks to its low price point.
It’s a chromatic style 10-hole harmonica in the key of C in a diatonic package.
Machine-designed, portable and lightweight, this would be a great instrument for pop, blues and folk.
Its tone is crisp and rich, which is amazing for the price. This would be a worthy instrument in practice, but probably not for performance.
It’s hard to argue with the Anwenk and a beginner is sure to have a lot of fun with it.
Fender Blues Deluxe Harmonica, 7-Pack With Case
To round out this section, we have something a little different.
The Fender Blues Deluxe Harmonica seven-pack comes with 10-hole harmonicas in the keys of C, G, A, D, F, E and Bb, which is plenty for most musical situations.
If you’re planning to jam with others at all, this kit is probably your best bet. People tend to play songs in a variety of keys, and you can be ready for them if you have the common keys covered.
Of course, diatonic harps are the easiest to use for beginners because you can’t play a bad note.
This seven-pack also comes with a vented plastic hard case for carrying around and protecting your instruments.
Not a perfect product by any means, but Fender has done a good job of offering up an affordable package that beginners are sure to enjoy.
Best Harmonicas For The Pros
A pro is more experienced with a harmonica. They’ve likely spent hours practicing, going to rehearsals, performing and perhaps even recording.
They may be able to play a variety of genres if called upon, and they know what sounds good.
Additionally, a pro probably isn’t intimidated by any type of harmonica, or they’re at least willing to give something new a try, whether it’s a chromatic, tremolo or something else.
Someone playing in a professional capacity might be looking for a harmonica built with specific materials as well, for increased comfort or tonal qualities (based on preference).
Here are a few pro harmonicas worth looking at.
Seydel 1847 Silver Harmonica
Now onto the Seydel 1847 Silver Harmonica.
As I’ve already hinted at, there’s no denying that what makes for a great beginner harmonica also happens to make for an excellent expert harmonica too. But why?
Well, you will pay a little more for this harp compared to most others mentioned here, but that alone doesn’t justify its position.
What makes it great is that it’s sensitive to dynamics, responsive and incredibly consistent because of its stainless-steel construction.
Stainless steel takes longer to break down compared to materials like brass, which makes this a dependable harmonica too.
As a pro, you may prefer harmonicas made with other materials, which is fair. But if you’re looking for a harp you can count on night after night, you’ve found it.
Seydel is a trusted brand in the harmonica market, and they have other great products too.
Collectors Edition Professional Harmonica – Suzuki S-64C Sirius Chromatic 16-Hole 64-Note Harmonica, Cross Alignment
There’s no way to call this list complete without the presence of a chromatic harmonica.
And, in the case of the Suzuki S-64C Sirius, we’re not scraping the bottom of the barrel. This is a beautiful, high-priced Japanese chromatic harmonica.
As you can imagine, this harp’s tone is clear, powerful and thick. It’s quite responsive too.
It’s also a comfortable harmonica thanks to its ABS plastic comb with weighted brass. This makes it a sturdy instrument.
For pros regularly recording and performing, this is sure to become a fast favorite.
But no matter how good the harmonica, you’ll find yourself needing to do maintenance work periodically. So, that makes the price point a little harder to swallow.
This product can also be harder to find.
Still a great harmonica, the Suzuki might be worth investing in if you’re a serious player.
Hohner Marine Band Crossover – Good For Country & Folk Music
It’s hard to find a better harmonica out of the box.
The Hohner Marine Band Crossover was created with the help of customizer Joe Filisko. Thanks to his contribution, the Crossover is easy to play, clean and powerful.
It’s quite responsive with bends too.
The comb is made of bamboo, which offers a warm and clear tone. It’s also easy to disassemble for maintenance purposes.
This is a great harmonica for all levels of players and is well-suited to blues, country and folk.
If you’re just looking to purchase one harmonica, the cost of a Crossover is moderate. But if you want to purchase one for all keys, that will obviously cost you a little more.
Hohner is a highly regarded brand with great instruments.
Suzuki Harmonia HA-20-C
Suzuki is a well-regarded brand, and their 10-hole HA-20-C harmonica, in the key of C, is no slouch either.
Suzuki has branded the HA-20-C as a Hammond organ for your mouth.
I’m not entirely sure where that comparison comes from, but there’s no question it sounds great. And, it does carry the Hammond logo too.
Harmonicas are sometimes called mouth harps or mouth organs so there’s no arguing there.
To me, this harmonica sounds full, warm and rich. And, as you can tell, it looks great.
The HA-20 comes with phosphor bronze reeds and a hard-shell carrying case.
The Suzuki won’t break the bank, either. Naturally, you will pay more if you need to buy multiple harmonicas in different keys, but per unit it’s quite reasonable.
Best Harmonicas For The Blues
There are a few genres the harmonica is associated with, like country, folk and singer-songwriter. Of them, the blues is perhaps the strongest connection there is.
Mainly comprised of three chords, the blues is a simple but deep genre full of powerful emotion and intricacies.
So, when you’re looking for a harmonica that’s ideal for the blues, you’re generally seeking out an instrument that cries and screams and lets the audience feel your pain.
Here are a few harmonicas well-suited to the blues, and some are even great for folk and jazz too.
Lee Oskar Harmonica, Key Of C, Major Diatonic
The Lee Oskar Harmonica comes with a plastic comb and a brass reed. Its cover plates are made of stainless steel.
This harmonica is great for folk, country, blues and even rock and pop thanks to its bright full tone, and easy bending capabilities.
As an added benefit, the Lee Oskar is easy to maintain and repair, as the replacement reeds are economical and straightforward to install.
Reportedly, this is not a great harmonica for advanced techniques like overblowing, but beginners and intermediate players are sure to get plenty of mileage out of it.
Fender 0990702001 Blues Deville Harmonica, Key Of C
The Blues Deville 10-hole diatonic harmonica comes with an ABS plastic comb, attractive coated stainless steel cover plates and durable bronze phosphorous reeds.
This is a great, nice-looking harmonica out of the box and it’s economical to boot. Honestly, it’s probably the best harmonica in its price range.
The Blues Deville is a durable and hefty instrument, so if you’re not used to that, it’s something to be aware of.
Its sound is thick, loud and rich. It’s especially noticeable if you compare it side by side with the Fender Blues Deluxe.
The Blues Deville is also surprisingly responsive. Fender knew what they were doing when they developed this product, in a market dominated by well-recognized brands like Hohner and Seydel.
Much like the Blues Deluxe seven-pack, you can also get a Blues Deville seven-pack. Definitely something to consider if this is the harmonica you end up choosing.
Of course, the seven-pack won’t fit a tight budget. It’s still cheaper to buy the seven harps than some standalone higher end harmonicas though.
Seydel BIG SIX “Blues” Harmonica – Key Of C
With all this ranting and raving about Seydel, surely you knew their name would pop up again.
The BIG SIX Blues Classic is a little unusual in that it’s a diatonic harmonica with six holes.
But its stainless-steel construction allows for great tone, and fewer holes makes it easier for you to wrap your head around (both intellectually and physically).
This harp is full and loud and bending notes is easy too.
Of course, if you’re used to 10 holes, this Seydel may not be for you.
But if you don’t mind spending a bit of time adapting, this could end up being one of your favorite harps. Its price point isn’t too shabby either.
To add to its novelty value, this harmonica comes in a tin can along with a lanyard for wearing the harmonica around your neck.
Best Harmonicas For Folk, Country, Celtic, Jazz, Eastern Music & Other (Honorary Mentions)
In most cases, one of the above harmonicas should more than meet your needs.
As you can see, most harmonicas are not terribly expensive.
If you need to buy one in every key, that’s where it can start to add up a little, but as you’ve seen, there are also convenient bundles that make this more economical.
Still, there are other great harmonicas worth mentioning, whether it’s because of their price point, tone or because they’re better suited to specific genres.
So, here are a few honorary mentions.
Mugig Professional Harmonia, Standard Diatonic 10 Hole
Its price might just blow your mind. That’s one of the reasons the Mugig Professional Harmonica is worth mentioning.
And that goes for the Standard, Professional and Diatonic versions (though the Standard might be slightly cheaper), all of which look quite appealing.
But it’s not just affordable. It’s a sturdy, responsive, nice-sounding harp. It might be a little heftier than other harmonicas, but if that doesn’t bug you, you’ll learn to love it.
This mouth organ comes with a small case and it’s great for practice sessions. Beginners will also be glad to know it’s durable, portable and it produces a solid sound.
It may not be a pro level instrument, but still highly regarded by its users, the Mugig might be perfect for aspiring harpists.
Despite being a newcomer to the harmonica market, it seems Mugig is out to prove something and their product reflects it.
Swan 10 Hole 20 Tones Harmonica
It simply doesn’t get any cheaper than this. The Swan 10 Hole 20 Tones are fun for beginners, as they come in Black, Blue, Gold, Red, Coppery and Silvery.
The Swan comes with a plastic case and cloth. Obviously, it can’t compete with big brands, but its sound is surprisingly decent. It doesn’t look half bad, either.
Supposedly, this harmonica doesn’t produce much volume and the sound holes aren’t all consistent. But that’s to be expected at this price point. You can’t win them all.
The Swan is for absolute beginners or those on a tight budget. Aside from that, you’ll probably want to consider other harmonicas.
Boseno 10 Holes Double Tremolo Harmonica
No best harmonica list would be complete without a tremolo harmonica, and Boseno happens to make a killer harp, especially for the price.
The diatonic Boseno Harmonica comes with imported phosphor bronze reed and 1mm copper plate, giving it a clear tone.
This harp is quite durable and is made with quality materials overall.
For its price point, this harmonica is incredible value. If a tremolo harmonica is what you’re after, you’re going to want to check out the Boseno.
What Should I Look For In A Harmonica?
When it comes to buying a harmonica, there are several criteria that will likely factor into your decision, such as:
- Your level of experience and how comfortable you are on the instrument.
- The style of music you typically play.
- How much money you can afford to spend.
- How comfortable the harmonica is to play, and how it sounds.
Here’s a deeper exploration of some of the elements you should consider when buying a harmonica.
Tone makes a big difference.
Certainly, a pro can make a cheap harmonica sound good and an amateur can make an expensive harmonica sound bad.
But that has more to do with technique and experience than it does with the harmonica’s natural tone.
What makes for a great harmonica tone? That depends on who you ask.
As we often do in music, we characterize tone with relatively vague terms like warm, bass-y, clear, crisp, cutting, tinny, full, rich, thick, deep or otherwise.
And, whether we have positive or negative associations with each of those words is also individual.
Additionally, sometimes we find these terms have nothing to do with how we hear a harmonica at all.
When someone says “warm” it might refer to the instrument’s loudness, and a tone we describe as “full” might be narrow on the frequency spectrum.
Another important consideration is how the harmonica sounds in context with a band or a mix, unless you’re planning to play your harmonica alone all the time.
I know I took a bit of a detour in addressing the importance of tone, and I’m essentially circling back to the first statement I made, which is that tone makes a difference.
But just because someone else likes a certain harmonica doesn’t mean you’ll like it too.
So, go on YouTube and have a listen to different harmonicas and discover what sounds good to you.
You can’t very well rent harmonicas and try them out for yourself, so you’ll either need to listen on YouTube or go find a friend who plays harmonicas to get some recommendations.
A Harmonica Suited To Your Genre Or Playing Style
Someone with a bit of experience can probably identify what harmonica would be right for them based on how they play.
A beginner wouldn’t know, but if you’re just getting started, you’ll probably want a diatonic harp in the key of C, and you’d be set for a while.
With that in mind, there are plenty of options.
To use a cliché, there are different ways to skin a cat. One harmonica player might use a chromatic harp to play the blues, while another chooses a diatonic one.
You can use harmonicas not intended for specific genres and there are no rules against it. If it sounds good, why not?
So, a huge part of this is just knowing what you like.
If you buy a harp you like, you’re going to enjoy it more, play it more and become better at it quicker.
Use classification as a general guideline when looking for a harp. Be willing to experiment and find your own way.
The Right Type Of Harmonica
As you’ve already discovered, in a general sense, there are only three types of harmonicas: diatonic, chromatic and tremolo.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t other types of harmonicas, but most players are going to want one of the three just defined.
As you’ve likely figured out by now, a diatonic harmonica may have more than seven holes (and sometimes fewer), but it only features seven notes.
A chromatic harmonica may have more than 12 holes, but you can only play 12 notes with it.
A tremolo harmonica has two reeds per note. One reed is tuned slightly flat while the other is tuned slightly sharp. That creates a distinct warbling effect (I happen to think it’s cool).
As with tone, there isn’t necessarily one right choice.
A beginner will probably feel less at home with a chromatic harmonica. But aside from that, it’s a matter of what you like and what works in a specific musical situation.
If you’re a more experienced player, you should have an idea what you’re looking for.
And, if you’re a beginner or intermediate player looking to stretch yourself, you might be interested in getting yourself a chromatic harmonica.
But these are all loose guidelines and you can ultimately get whatever mouth organ you feel is right for you.
Comfort is going to depend on the materials the harmonica is made of as well as its holes, cover plate and comb.
Sharp cover plates are naturally more uncomfortable, and you could even cut your skin or your lips.
Likewise, if the comb is made of materials that are less than ideal, playing it for long hours might prove fatiguing and even painful.
Generally, you get what you pay for. So, discomfort on a cheaper harmonica is somewhat forgivable since it doesn’t cost a ton.
But you should always research whatever harmonica you’re thinking about buying. Even expensive ones can sometimes be rough.
In some cases, you may be able to modify your instrument so that it’s more comfortable. But it is much nicer to get a harmonica that’s perfect out of the box.
Still, in cases where you love the harmonica and not its feel, it might be worth modifying. That is, of course, assuming you can do it safely.
What Types Of Harmonicas Are There?
Harmonicas can basically be broken down into three categories – diatonic, chromatic and tremolo, where tremolo harmonicas are less common.
A diatonic harmonica is one that includes just seven notes. Since most scales are seven-note scales, a diatonic harmonica gives you the ability to play in a specific key signature.
A chromatic harmonica is an instrument that includes all 12 notes in music. They have a button on the side that allows you to play the notes in between the natural notes (i.e. sharps or flats).
As an experienced harmonica player, you should be able to pick out any scale at any moment. So, a chromatic harmonica might be ideal, because you don’t need a harmonica in every key.
But that doesn’t mean pros don’t use diatonic harmonicas, because they do.
A tremolo harmonica has two reeds per note, where one is slightly sharp and the other slightly flat.
So, they have a bit of a “warble” that make them ideal for Eastern music, but they can be used in other styles too.
Does It Matter How Many Holes The Harmonica Has?
Six holes. 10 holes. 16 holes. Does it make any difference?
After all, there are only 12 notes in music, and just seven notes in a given scale, right?
Well, let’s think of the piano just for a second. Most modern pianos have 88 keys.
And, the further to the left you go, the lower the note is. The further to the right you go, the higher the note is.
The 12 notes in music don’t change just because you’re playing piano, which means the piano has a lot of repeat notes.
So, yes, the number of holes does matter.
On a diatonic 10-hole harmonica, it means there are three repeat notes that are the same pitch as the original notes but at different frequencies (this is what’s called an octave).
A harmonica with more holes gives you more flexibility in terms of the frequency spectrum.
But you won’t get anywhere near the number of options you would have with a piano.
A harmonica is a relatively high-pitched instrument, which is what allows it to cut through a mix. It’s basically a lead instrument, though it can be used in other ways.
Fewer notes is not worse or better. It mostly comes down to your technique, playing style and creativity.
Does It Matter What Materials The Harmonica Is Made Of?
Watch enough reviews and you’ll get the sense that the materials a harmonica are made of do matter.
Firstly, it will affect the instrument’s overall comfort level.
Comfort is an important factor when it comes to playing for longer hours, whether it’s practice, rehearsal, live performance or recording sessions.
Injury, pain and discomfort are generally avoidable if you have the right instrument.
Secondly, the materials will affect the instrument’s tone.
Just as tonewood plays a part in how a guitar sounds, mouth harp materials like stainless steel and brass do have different characteristics.
A beginner probably won’t notice much difference, and that’s typically how it is when you’re first getting started.
As you begin gaining more experience, however, you will notice the difference between more affordable instruments and more expensive ones.
What’s The Best Harmonica Brand?
The ones featured in this guide are essentially the best.
Beyond that, it’s mostly a matter of preference. Some people like Suzuki. Others like Lee Oskar.
The brands mentioned here all create quality products at different price points.
So, let’s review those harmonica brands once more so you know which to browse:
- Lee Oskar.
Are there other great brands? Certainly. There are new ones popping up frequently and you never know what they might be up to.
What Key Of Harmonica Should I Buy?
If you know how to play a chromatic harmonica, you have a solution for every key. But sometimes even pros prefer diatonic harmonicas.
A diatonic harmonica is convenient because if you’re playing in the right key, you can’t play a wrong note.
So, for those who’ve decided diatonic harmonicas are the way to go, what key of harmonica should they buy?
The key of C is a great starting point, as it happens to be the easiest key for keyboard instrumentalists to play in.
Beyond that, the key of G and D as well as F and Bb are common and easier keys to play in.
On guitar, in addition to those, you would add the keys of A and E. C, A, G, E and D are basically the most common keys for guitar.
So, if you’re on a tight budget, C, G and D are good places to start. If you have a bigger budget, you should add the keys of A, E, F and Bb.
Ideally, though, you would buy a harmonica in every key. It makes it so much easier to jam and play along with others.
Don’t forget – there are 12 keys in music. So, if you had a harmonica for every key in music, you’d have 12 harmonicas.
What About Minor Keys?
This is where knowing your theory could make a big difference.
I know that A minor is the relative minor of C major, B minor is the relative minor of D major, C# minor is the relative minor to E major and so on, without even having to think about it.
What I’m saying is that if you know the relative major, you can instantly identify which harp to pull out of your case.
I’m a guitarist, and I’m often playing lead. That means I must know my key signatures.
Since I’m quite comfortable with the box pattern, I’m always thinking in terms of relative minors. It just makes it easier for me to know what notes I can play in a given key.
Memorizing the circle of fifths can make a big difference in helping you find relative minors.
Also, don’t forget that the sixth degree of the major scale is always the relative minor. If you remember that, it should help.
Best Harmonicas For Beginners And Professional Players Conclusion
I know I often hammer this point home but there is no right way or wrong way when it comes to picking an instrument.
Arguably, a diatonic harmonica is easier to play than a chromatic mouth organ. In the same breath, they are basically different instruments requiring different techniques to master.
If you’re determined to learn, you will find your way regardless of how the instrument sounds or feels. And, at some point, you’ll probably upgrade.
Harmonicas are not expensive and it’s relatively easy for beginners to learn. The learning curve gets much steeper as you get better, but that’s true of most instruments.
So, no matter how or where you start, have fun. Learning the harmonica is a blast and there’s a lot more to it than you might think.