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What You Should Know About the Harmonica

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Learning a new instrument can easily be one of the most fascinating hobbies to take up. Instruments get your mind going and your creativity flowing. Studies show that learning music helps improve your verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and even literacy skills.

Using both sides of your brain will optimize it and help you use it to the max. Starting with any instrument and learning it is enough to get you going on to other instruments as well. The harmonica, invented in 1821, one of the older instruments created, is a beautiful and simple instrument that creates exquisite tunes.

Read on to find out what you should know about the harmonica.

One of the Easiest Instruments

If you want to take up learning music and are into jazz and blues, then learning the harmonica is for you. Learning the piano or the guitar is extremely rewarding but the older a person ages, the more difficult it becomes to learn them.

With the harmonica, given that you do not have to maneuver both hands simultaneously, it is not that difficult to learn. You still have to learn the musical notes as each hole in the harmonica has a note similar to any other instrument. The better you get at playing the harmonica the more you can play it one-handedly as many professionals do.

Different Types

Before you start learning how to play harmonica, you need to know that there are different types and what differentiates them from each other. The three types are diatonic, chromatic, and tremolo. Each one of them has a purpose and a level but they look similar to a large extent.


For pop, blues, and folk music, the most common type of harmonica is the diatonic one. They are the simplest to play and are played in one specific key. In diatonic harmonicas you can “note bend” which means you try to reach a different pitch of a note that is not actually on the harmonica.

This is done by controlling your own mouth movement and the notes will differ according to the way you blow into the harmonica.


The chromatic harmonicas are a little bit more difficult to play. They have a button-activated lever that will direct air into the reed plates (the tools within a harmonica that respond to your blowing), which include the 12-tone scale notes.

The chromatic harmonica does not bend notes as easily as the diatonic ones but there are more notes accessed due to its button-activated function. This harmonica is used to play difficult jazz scales; if you want to know what it sounds like, just research Stevie Wonder chromatic harmonica and you will get to hear the riveting tunes this small instrument creates.


A tremolo harmonica, also known as an “echo” harmonica, is the most difficult to play of the three. It has two reeds per note, one sharp and one flat. The tremolo is not exactly a harmonica on its own, there are chromatic harmonicas as well as diatonic harmonicas. They create a gorgeous tune that creates a “beating effect” similar to that of a guitar with paired strings.

There are of course other specialty harmonicas like the chord and orchestral harmonicas, but these are not as common, and are not designed for beginners.

Comb and Cover Plates

Each harmonica is made up of a comb, reeds, and cover plates. They are made of different materials, and it is up to you to choose which you prefer.

A comb is what has the air chambers, and it can be made out of wood, metal, or plastic. Wood creates a warm sound, metal is the most expensive, and plastic is the most common.

Cover plates are where acoustic sounds are actually made and there are two types: the traditional open cover, and the closed or cover-all. The first one is made of either metal or plastic and are screwed into place. The latter allows for a much louder sound.

Playing a new instrument requires practice and patience. No matter how many times you have read that the harmonica is easy to play, it is still an instrument, so comparatively it is easy to play but that does not mean it can be learned in a sitting.

Take the time to understand the harmonica you have, whichever you have chosen to purchase and play, and research how you can play it and sound professional. Keep at it and continue practicing, one day you will truly be thankful that you persisted.

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  1. Van Morrison turns 75 tomorrow…

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