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Which Harmonica to Buy

The instruction and songs and tabs on this website are samples and exerpts from Dave Gage's HarmonicaLessons.com. This "Harmonica Playing General Info" section is an introduction to the two most important types of harmonicas, which harmonica to get, and the difference between 1st and 2nd playing positions.

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Video: "Playing Critiques IV" (Archive #74)
  • This is an example of Dave Gage's HarmonicaLessons.com "Participation" classes where members can interact in real time.

  • The other HarmonicaLessons.com class type is a topic or lecture class. Topic classes include: "Vertical Slot Single Notes", "Bending I, II, III", "Breathing: Lessons I, II", "Tongue Blocking", "Beginning Jamming", "Country Harmonica", "Chugging", "12-Bar Blues". View a complete:
    List of Archived Class Videos (with descriptions).

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  • Key of "C" Diatonic (standard 10-hole) Harmonica- You'll need a good quality diatonic type harmonica to learn and practice on with hole numbers imprinted above each hole. The standard 10-hole diatonic harmonica is used for most blues, folk, rock, and country styles. We like the Lee Oskar Major Diatonic and the Hohner Special 20 (both in the key of "C") best for players just starting out. The Lee Oskar has consistent volume, tone, and excellent durability. The Hohner Special 20 is also one of the best diatonics around for the money—they may not last as long as some other models, but like the Lee Oskar, they sound and play great. (Can't decide? Pick one, and try the other when you need to buy another key.)

    Lee Oskar 10-hole Diatonic,
    Recommended harmonica: Lee Oskar diatonic in the key of "C".

  • Will my harmonica work with this site?- Visit the Recommended Harmonicas For Our Instruction page at HarmonicaLessons.com for lists of the 'Recommended', 'Acceptable', and 'NOT Recommended' models and brands.

  • Stick with a basic 10 hole harmonica in the key of "C"- Diatonic harmonicas come in all twelve keys (G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, F#), but for beginners it's easier if you start with a basic 10 hole harmonica in the key of "C" (generally speaking, the "G" harmonicas are very low and the "F" and "F#" harmonicas are very high pitch-wise, while the "C" is right in the middle). Key of "C" harmonicas are the most common, and they also make understanding music theory much easier.

  • Should I buy other key diatonic harmonicas as well?- As you improve and begin to play with others or start playing along with CDs, you will want to pick up some of the other key diatonics (click here the Harmonicalessons.com CDs: Song Keys section with over 90 CDs and the keys of songs). The "C", "A", "D", "F", and "G" keys are a good place to start- in roughly that order. The key of harmonica you need is determined by the key the song is in and usually set by the singer. If you are not playing along with other people or with CDs, all you need is a key of "C" for now.

    Additional harmonica keys
    Pick up additional keys when you are ready to play with others and jam with CDs.

  • Will a key other than "C" work at this site?-You should note that all keys of standard diatonic harmonicas are layed out and played the same way. That is, if you already own a standard 10-hole diatonic in a key other than the key of "C" (like an "A" or "D" for instance), it will work for the instruction and songs on this site. But, make the key of "C" your next purchase.

  • A cheap harmonica is tough to learn on- Prices may vary, but it is best to buy one for no less than $17 to $25, because a cheap harmonica can be extremely difficult to learn on. Poor construction of inexpensive harmonicas causes them to leak air and makes them hard to play and difficult to learn important techniques like bending.

  • Avoid these diatonics, and possibly 'upgrade'- Avoid wooden combed harmonicas if you are just starting out for the same air leak problems mentioned above. The harmonicas that are included in the 'Book with CD (or Cassette Tape) and Harmonica' packages are not recommended either. These are very inexpensive harmonicas that are included in the package for convenience, but are typically of low quality. If you have any serious intentions at all with the harmonica, you should plan on an 'upgrade'.

  • Should I buy a used one?- This is entirely up to you. But, we don't recommend it for obvious health reasons, and the fact that a brand new pro quality diatonic is between $20 and $60. Also, harmonicas do wear out over time. It's best to start with one that you know is in good condition and plays in tune.

  • The chromatic harmonica is not appropriate for most of the instruction/tabs at this website- Much of the instruction and information at Harmonics Lessons.com is geared towards diatonic harmonica, but a lot of the techniques and theory are applicable for both diatonic and chromatic harmonicas. For Chromatic Instruction, songs, and information, visit the chromatic harmonica section at HarmonicaLessons.com.

    Typical chromatics harps
    10, 12, and 16-hole chromatic harmonicas (harps).

  • Tremolo and "odd" harmonicas won't work with the instruction here- Double-row harmonicas (sometimes 8, 10, 12, or more sets of double holes) are called Tremolo harmonicas and will not work well with the instruction at this site. Visit this Harmonicalessons.com page, "Recommended Harmonicas For Our Instruction", for lists of the Recommended, Acceptable, and NOT Recommended models and brands.

    Tremolo harmonica
    Common double-row Tremolo type harmonicas.



Watch a "Full-Length Live Harmonica Class"

Video: "Playing Critiques IV" (Archive #74)
  • This is an example of Dave Gage's HarmonicaLessons.com "Participation" classes where members can interact in real time.

  • The other HarmonicaLessons.com class type is a topic or lecture class. Topic classes include: "Vertical Slot Single Notes", "Bending I, II, III", "Breathing: Lessons I, II", "Tongue Blocking", "Beginning Jamming", "Country Harmonica", "Chugging", "12-Bar Blues". View a complete:
    List of Archived Class Videos (with descriptions).

  • Take a look at the current Schedule for Online Classes page.

  • Member Benefits:- 75 Full-Length Classes -- Over 2500 minutes of Video Instruction (40+ hrs) -- Attend "Live Online Classes" (3-Every-week) -- Beginners thru Advanced -- Learn 24/7 -- Review video lessons as many times as you want -- 1.5 to 2 hrs. of Video added each week.

  • Check current Membership Pricing.



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