For over 160 years, Hohner has been producing some of the world’s finest instruments. Many models are still handcrafted in Trossingen Germany and provide the ORIGINAL sound that legendary musicians such as Little Walter, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and many more used to inspire the world.
If you are looking for the perfect gift this holiday season, look no further than the Harmonica! The 10 hole harmonica, affectionately known as the Harp, is a fabulous accompaniment for Rock, Blues, Country and much, much more.
Sure there are a lot of different harmonicas, but it all boils down to two different types: Diatonic and Chromatic, and then the various keys.
So what is the difference? The short answer: Tuning.
Harmonicas are either Diatonic, or Chromatic. Diatonic harmonicas usually have ten holes and cover one key. They are typically available in A, Bb, C, D, E, F and G. Some models are also available in minor keys. Diatonic harmonicas are most commonly played in the context, of blues, rock and country music.
Why all of the different keys? Well, if you are playing solo, a harmonica in the key of C, A or any other key you desire is fine. However, if you are playing in a band, you need to know the key of the song in order to pick the correct key of the harmonica you need in order to compliment the song.
Once you get started, it’s good to dive into the world of 1st position (Straight Harp) and 2nd position (Cross Harp). In Straight Harp position, you play in the key the harmonica is tuned in, otherwise known as Ionian Mode. In Cross Harp position, you play a fourth under the actual tuning of the harmonica, otherwise known as Mixolydian mode. For example, the band is playing a song in the key of A, you would choose a harmonica in the key of D. This position is most commonly used by blues players.
There is also a 3rd position also known as Double Cross position, but we’ll leave that for you to discover. Hint! Check out Little Walter Playing on the 1951 Muddy Waters recording of his song “Lonesome Day.”
As you may begin to realize, there is an entire world in this little instrument!
For your convenience, every Hohner Diatonic harmonica has a handy key chart on the side of the box like the one below:
Which Diatonic model is a good start for you?
If you are new to the harp, we recommend the Hohner Special 20 in the key of C or A. The Special 20 is a very versatile instrument and is used by more professional players than any other harmonica. As a bonus, all Hohner Harmonicas come with 30 days of free online lessons.
What about Chromatic harmonicas?
The Chromatic Harmonica has four reeds per hole and has a button slider mechanism on the side to re-route air over the selected reeds. With a chromatic harmonica, every four holes are a complete octave. Chromatic harmonicas allow you to play across the entire chromatic scale.
As they are tuned for solo playing, they are the perfect choice for jazz and folk tunes. Have a listen to Stevie Wonder’s solo in his song “Isn’t She Lovely” and you will get the idea. Afterwards, have a listen to Toots Thieleman’s solo on his song “Bluesette” to get an idea of what inspired Stevie Wonder.
A great starter Chromatic is the Hohner Super Chromonica 270BX-C, but if you want Stevie’s tone then go for the Super 64 Performance Chromatic Harmonica, or the Super 64X Performance Chromatic Harmonica.
**Get a free Hohner Digital Album with the purchase of any Hohner Harmonica before December 31 2018. For more info visit hohneroriginals.com**
Check out this playlist of a few choice harp tracks for you to enjoy and perhaps be inspired to start playing!
Here are some suggestions of artists and lessons materials to check out. Have fun exploring their work!
David Barret: https://bluesharmonica.com/home
Ronnie Shellist: https://www.harmonica123.com/skype-lessons.html
Yvonnick Prene: https://www.harmonicastudio.yvonnickprene.com/
Chris Janson: http://www.chrisjanson.com/tour
Rick Estrin: https://rickestrin.com/home
Dennis Gruenling: http://dennisgruenling.com/epkdd/
Kim Wilson: http://fabulousthunderbirds.com/
John Popper: https://bluestraveler.com/