Harmonica

Harmonica

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The harmonica, also called harp, French harp, blues harp
Blues harp
The Richter-tuned harmonica, or 10-hole harmonica or blues harp , is the most widely known type of harmonica...

, and mouth organ
Mouth organ
A mouth organ is a generic term for free reed aerophone with one or more air chambers fitted with a free reed.Though it spans many traditions, it is played universally the same way by the musician placing their lips over a chamber or holes in the instrument, and blowing or sucking air to create a...

, is a free reed
Free reed aerophone
A free reed aerophone is a musical instrument where sound is produced as air flows past a vibrating reed in a frame. Air pressure is typically generated by breath or with a bellows.- Operation :...

 wind instrument
Wind instrument
A wind instrument is a musical instrument that contains some type of resonator , in which a column of air is set into vibration by the player blowing into a mouthpiece set at the end of the resonator. The pitch of the vibration is determined by the length of the tube and by manual modifications of...

 used primarily in blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

 and American folk music
American folk music revival
The American folk music revival was a phenomenon in the United States that began during the 1940s and peaked in popularity in the mid-1960s. Its roots went earlier, and performers like Josh White, Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Richard Dyer-Bennett, Oscar Brand, Jean Ritchie, John Jacob...

, jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, country
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

, and rock and roll
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

. It is played by blowing air into it or drawing air out by placing lips over individual holes (reed chambers) or multiple holes. The pressure caused by blowing or drawing air into the reed chambers causes a reed or multiple reeds to vibrate creating sound. Each chamber has multiple, variable-tuned brass
Brass
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin...

 or bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 reeds, which are secured at one end only, leaving the other free to vibrate.

Reeds are pre-tuned to individual tones, and each tone is determined according to the size of reed. Longer reeds make deep, low sounds and short reeds make higher-pitched sounds. On certain types of harmonica the pre-tuned reed can be changed (bending a note) to another note by redirecting air flow into the chamber. There are many types of harmonicas, including diatonic, chromatic, tremolo, orchestral, and bass versions.

Parts




The basic parts of the harmonica are the comb, reed-plates and cover-plates.

Comb


The comb is the term for the main body of the instrument, which contains the air chambers that cover the reeds. The term comb originates from the similarities between simple harmonicas and a hair comb. Harmonica combs were traditionally made from wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

, but now are usually made from plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

 (ABS
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a common thermoplastic. Its melting point is approximately 105 °C ....

) or metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

 (including titanium
Titanium
Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It has a low density and is a strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant transition metal with a silver color....

 for very high-end instruments). Some modern and experimental comb designs are complex in the way that they direct the air.

Comb material was assumed to have an effect on the tone of the harp. While the comb material does have a slight influence over the sound of the harmonica, the main advantage of a particular comb material over another one is its durability. In particular, a wooden comb can absorb moisture from the player's breath and contact with the tongue. This causes the comb to expand slightly, making the instrument uncomfortable to play. Various types of wood and treatments have been devised to reduce the degree of this problem.

An even more serious problem with wood combs, especially in chromatic harmonicas (with their thin dividers between chambers) is that the combs shrink over time. Comb shrinkage can lead to cracks in the combs due to the combs being held immobile by nails, resulting in disabling leakage. Much effort is devoted by serious players to restoring wood combs and sealing leaks. Some players used to soak wooden-combed harmonicas (diatonics
Diatonic and chromatic
Diatonic and chromatic are terms in music theory that are most often used to characterize scales, and are also applied to intervals, chords, notes, musical styles, and kinds of harmony...

, without windsavers) in water to cause a slight expansion, which they intended to make the seal between the comb, reed plates and covers more airtight. Modern wooden-combed harmonicas are less prone to swelling and contracting. Players still dip harmonicas in water for the way it affects tone and ease of bending notes.

Reed-plate


Reed-plate is the term for a grouping of several reeds in a single housing. The reeds are usually made of brass, but steel, aluminium and plastic are occasionally used. Individual reeds are usually riveted to the reed-plate, but they may also be welded or screwed in place. Reeds fixed on the inside (within the comb's air chamber) of the reed-plate respond to blowing, while those on the outside respond to suction.

Most harmonicas are constructed with the reed-plates screwed or bolted to the comb or each other. A few brands still use the traditional method of nailing the reed-plates to the comb. Some experimental and rare harmonicas also have had the reed-plates held in place by tension, such as the WWII era all-American models. If the plates are bolted to the comb, the reed plates can be replaced individually. This is useful because the reeds eventually go out of tune through normal use, and certain notes of the scale can fail more quickly than others.

A notable exception to the traditional reed-plate design is the all-plastic harmonicas designed by Finn Magnus in the 1950s, where the reed and reed-plate were molded out of a single piece of plastic. The Magnus design had the reeds, reed-plates and comb made of plastic and either molded or permanently glued together.

Cover plates


Cover plates cover the reed-plates and are usually made of metal, though wood and plastic have also been used. The choice of these is personal — because they project sound, they determine the tonal quality of the harmonica. There are two types of cover plates: traditional open designs of stamped metal or plastic, which are simply there to be held, and enclosed designs (such as the Hohner
Hohner
Hohner Musikinstrumente GmbH & Co. KG is a company specialising in the manufacture of musical instruments. Founded in 1857 by Matthias Hohner , Hohner is identified especially with harmonicas and accordions. The Hohner company has invented and produced many different styles, and most of the...

 Meisterklasse and Super 64, Suzuki Promaster and SCX), which offer a louder tonal quality. From these two basic types, a few modern designs have been created, such as the Hohner CBH-2016 chromatic and the Suzuki
Suzuki
is a Japanese multinational corporation headquartered in Hamamatsu, Japan that specializes in manufacturing compact automobiles and 4x4 vehicles, a full range of motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles , outboard marine engines, wheelchairs and a variety of other small internal combustion engines...

 Overdrive diatonic, which have complex covers that allow for specific functions not usually available in the traditional design. It was not unusual in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to see harmonicas with special features on the covers, such as bells
Bell (instrument)
A bell is a simple sound-making device. The bell is a percussion instrument and an idiophone. Its form is usually a hollow, cup-shaped object, which resonates upon being struck...

, which could be rung by pushing a button.

Windsavers


Windsavers are one-way valves made from thin strips of plastic, knit paper, leather or teflon glued onto the reed-plate. They are typically found in chromatic harmonicas, chord harmonicas and many octave-tuned harmonicas. Windsavers are used when two reeds share a cell and leakage through the non-playing reed would be significant. For example, when a draw note is played, the valve on the blow reed-slot is sucked shut, preventing air from leaking through the inactive blow reed. An exception to this is the recent Hohner XB-40 where valves are placed not to isolate single reeds but rather to isolate entire chambers from being active.

Mouthpiece


The mouthpiece is placed between the air chambers of the instrument and the player's mouth. This can be integral with the comb (the diatonic harmonicas, the Hohner Chrometta), part of the cover (as in Hohner's CX-12), or may be a separate unit entirely, secured by screws, which is typical of chromatics. In many harmonicas, the mouthpiece is purely an ergonomic aid designed to make playing more comfortable. However, in the traditional slider-based chromatic harmonica it is essential to the functioning of the instrument because it provides a groove for the slide.

Accessories



Amplification devices


Since the 1950s, many blues harmonica players have amplified their instrument with microphones and tube amplifiers
Instrument amplifier
An instrument amplifier is an electronic amplifier that converts the often barely audible or purely electronic signal from musical instruments such as an electric guitar, an electric bass, or an electric keyboard into an electronic signal capable of driving a loudspeaker that can be heard by the...

. One of the early innovators of this approach was Marion "Little Walter
Little Walter
Little Walter, born Marion Walter Jacobs , was an American blues harmonica player, whose revolutionary approach to his instrument has earned him comparisons to Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix, for innovation and impact on succeeding generations...

" Jacobs, who played the harmonica near a "Bullet" microphone marketed for use by radio taxi dispatchers. This gave his harmonica tone a "punchy" mid-range sound that could be heard above an electric guitar. As well, tube amplifiers produce a natural distortion when played at higher volumes, which adds body and fullness to the sound. Little Walter also cupped his hands around the instrument, tightening the air around the harp, giving it a powerful, distorted sound, somewhat reminiscent of a saxophone
Saxophone
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846...

, hence the term "Mississippi saxophone".

Rack or holder


Harmonica players who play the instrument while performing on another instrument with their hands (e.g., an acoustic guitar) often use an accessory called a "neck rack" or holder to position the instrument in front of their mouth. A harmonica holder clamps the harmonica between two metal brackets, which are attached to a curved loop of metal that rests on the shoulders. This device is used by folk musicians, "one man bands" and singer/songwriters such as Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

, Tom Harmon
Tom Harmon
Thomas Dudley Harmon was a star player in American college football, a sports broadcaster, and patriarch of a family of American actors...

, Neil Young
Neil Young
Neil Percival Young, OC, OM is a Canadian singer-songwriter who is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of his generation...

, Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder is an American musician and singer-songwriter who is best known for being the lead singer and one of three guitarists of the alternative rock band Pearl Jam. He is widely considered a cultural icon of alternative rock.He is also involved in soundtrack work and contributes to albums...

, Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen , nicknamed "The Boss," is an American singer-songwriter who records and tours with the E Street Band...

 and blues singers Jimmy Reed
Jimmy Reed
Mathis James "Jimmy" Reed was an American blues musician and songwriter, notable for bringing his distinctive style of blues to mainstream audiences. Reed was a major player in the field of electric blues, as opposed to the more acoustic-based sound of many of his contemporaries...

 and John Hammond Jr..

Chromatic harmonica




The chromatic harmonica uses a button-activated sliding bar to redirect air from the hole in the mouthpiece to the selected reed-plate, although there was one design, the "Machino-Tone," which controlled airflow by means of a lever-operated movable flap on the rear of the instrument. In addition, there is a "hands-free" modification of the Hohner 270 (12-hole) in which the player shifts the tones by moving the mouthpiece up and down with the lips, leaving the hands free to play another instrument. While the Richter-tuned
Richter tuning
Richter tuning is a system of choosing the reeds for a diatonic wind instrument . It is named after Joseph Richter, a Bohemian instrument maker who adopted the tuning for his harmonicas the early 19th century and is credited with inventing the blow/draw mechanism that allows the harmonica to play...

 10-hole chromatic is intended to be played in only one key, the 12-, 14-, and 16-hole models (which are tuned to equal temperament) allow the musician to play in any key desired with only one harmonica. This harp can be used for any style, including Celtic, classical, jazz, or blues (commonly in third position).

Diatonic harmonicas



Strictly speaking, "diatonic" denotes any harmonica that is designed for playing in only one key (though the standard "Richter-tuned" diatonic can be played in other keys by forcing its reeds to play tones that are not part of its basic scale; see Blues harp
Blues harp
The Richter-tuned harmonica, or 10-hole harmonica or blues harp , is the most widely known type of harmonica...

). Depending on the region of the world, "diatonic harmonica" may mean either the tremolo harmonica (in East Asia) or blues harp (In Europe and North America). Other diatonic harmonicas include octave harmonica.

Tremolo harmonica




The tremolo harmonica's distinguishing feature is that it has two reeds per note, with one slightly sharp and the other slightly flat. This provides a unique wavering or warbling sound created by the two reeds being slightly out of tune with each other and the difference in their subsequent waveforms interacting with each other (its beat
Beat (acoustics)
In acoustics, a beat is an interference between two sounds of slightly different frequencies, perceived as periodic variations in volume whose rate is the difference between the two frequencies....

). The Asian version, on which all 12 semitones can be played, is used in a large amount of East-Asian music, from rock to pop music.

Orchestral melody harmonica


There are eight kinds of orchestral melody harmonica: the most common are the Horn harmonicas that are most often found in East Asia. These consist of a single large comb with blow only reed-plates on the top and bottom. Each reed sits inside a single cell in the comb. One version mimics the layout of a piano or mallet instrument, with the natural notes of a C diatonic scale in the lower reed-plate and the sharps/flats in the upper reed-plate in groups of two and three holes with gaps in between like the black keys of a piano (thus there is no E#/Fb hole nor a B#/Cb hole on the upper reed-plate). Another version has one "sharp" reed directly above its "natural" on the lower plate, with the same number of reeds on both plates.

"Horn harmonicas" are available in several pitch ranges, with the lowest pitched starting two octaves below middle C and the highest beginning on middle C itself; they usually cover a two or three octave range. They are chromatic instruments and are usually played in an East Asian harmonica orchestra instead of the "push-button" chromatic harmonica that is more common in the European/American tradition. Their reeds are often larger, and the enclosing "horn" gives them a different timbre, so that they often function in place of a brass section. In the past, they were referred to as horn harmonicas.

The other type of orchestral melodic harmonica is the Polyphonia, (though some are marked "Chromatica"). These have all twelve chromatic notes laid out on the same row. In most cases, they have both blow and draw of the same tone, though the No. 7 is blow only, and the No. 261, also blow only, has two reeds per hole, tuned an octave apart (all these designations refer to products of M. Hohner).

Chord harmonica


The chord harmonica has up to 48 chords: major, seventh, minor, augmented and diminished for ensemble playing. It is laid out in four-note clusters, each sounding a different chord on inhaling or exhaling. Typically each hole has two reeds for each note, tuned to one octave of each other. However, less expensive models often have only one reed per note. Quite a few orchestra harmonicas are also designed to serve as both bass and chord harmonica, with bass notes next to chord groupings. There are also other chord harmonicas, such as the Chordomonica (which operates similar to a chromatic harmonica), and the junior chord harmonicas (which typically provides 6 chords).

ChengGong harmonica


The ChengGong 程功 harmonica has a main body, and a sliding mouthpiece. The body is a 24-hole diatonic harmonica that starts from b2 to d6 (covering 3 octaves). Its 11-hole mouthpiece can slide along the front of the harmonica, which gives numerous chord choices and voicings (seven triads, three 6th chords, seven 7th chords, and seven 9th chords, for a total of 24 chords). As well, it is capable of playing single- note melodies and double stops over a range of three diatonic octaves. Unlike conventional harmonicas, blowing and drawing produce the same notes because its tuning is closer to the note layout of a typical Asian tremolo harmonica or the Polyphonias.

Pitch pipe


The pitch pipe is a simple specialty harmonica that provides a reference pitch to singers and other instruments. The only difference between some early pitch-pipes and harmonicas is the name of the instrument, which reflected the maker's target audience. Chromatic pitch pipes, which are used by singers and choirs, give a full chromatic (12-note) octave. Pitch pipes are also sold for string players, such as violinists and guitarists; these pitch pipes usually provide the notes corresponding to the open strings.

Harmonica techniques


'Vibrato' is a technique commonly used while playing the harmonica and many other instruments,to give the note a 'shaking' sound. This technique can be accomplished in a number of ways. The most common way is to change how the harmonica is held. For example, by opening and closing your hands around the harmonica very rapidly you achieve the vibrato effect. Another way is to use a 'head shaking' technique, frequently used in blues harmonica, in which the player moves the lips between two holes very quickly. This gives a quick shaking technique that is slightly more than vibrato and achieves the same aural effect on sustained notes. The vibrato might also be achieved via rapid glottal (vocal fold) opening and closing, especially on draws (inhalation) simultaneous to bending, or without bending. This obviates the need for cupping and waving the hands around the instrument during play.

In addition to the 19 notes readily available on the diatonic harmonica, players can play other notes by adjusting their embouchure
Embouchure
The embouchure is the use of facial muscles and the shaping of the lips to the mouthpiece of woodwind instruments or the mouthpiece of the brass instruments.The word is of French origin and is related to the root bouche , 'mouth'....

 and forcing the reed to resonate at a different pitch. This technique is called bending, a term possibly borrowed from guitarists, who literally "bend" a string to subtly change the pitch. Bending also creates the glissandos characteristic of much blues harp and country harmonica playing. Bends are essential for most blues and rock harmonica due to the soulful sounds the instrument can bring out. The "wail" of the blues harp typically required bending. In the 1970s, Howard Levy developed the overbending technique (also known as "overblowing" and "overdrawing".) Overbending, combined with bending, allowed players to play the entire chromatic scale.

In addition to playing the diatonic harmonica in its original key, it is also possible to play it in other keys by playing in other "positions" using different keynotes. Using just the basic notes on the instrument would mean playing in a specific mode for each position. Harmonica players (especially blues players) have developed terminology around different "positions," which can be confusing to other musicians.

Another technique, seldom used to its full potential, is altering the size of the mouth cavity to emphasize certain natural overtones. When this technique is employed whilst playing chords, care must be taken in overtone selection as the overtones stemming from the non-root pitch can cause extreme dissonance.

Harmonica players who amplified their instrument with microphones and tube amplifiers
Instrument amplifier
An instrument amplifier is an electronic amplifier that converts the often barely audible or purely electronic signal from musical instruments such as an electric guitar, an electric bass, or an electric keyboard into an electronic signal capable of driving a loudspeaker that can be heard by the...

, such as blues harp players, also have a range of techniques that exploit the properties of the microphone and the amplifier, such as changing the way the hands are cupped around the instrument and the microphone or rhythmically breathing or chanting into the microphone while playing. Blues and folk players refer to the instrument with a range of less-common names including: hand reed, Mississippi saxophone, licking stick, pocket sax, toe pickle, tin sandwich, ten-holed tin-can tongue twister, and French Harp.

History


The harmonica was developed in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 in the early part of the 19th century. Free reed instruments like the sheng
Sheng (instrument)
The Chinese sheng is a mouth-blown free reed instrument consisting of vertical pipes.Traditionally, the sheng has been used as an accompaniment instrument for solo suona or dizi performances. It is one of the main instruments in kunqu and some other forms of Chinese opera...

 were fairly common throughout East Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 for centuries and were relatively well known in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 for some time. Around 1820, free reed designs began being created in Europe. While Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann is often cited as the inventor of the harmonica in 1821, other inventors developed similar instruments at the same time. Mouth-blown free reed instruments appeared in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 at roughly the same time.

Early instruments


The harmonica first appeared in Vienna, where harmonicas with chambers were sold before 1824 (see also Anton Reinlein
Anton Reinlein
Georg Anton Reinlein was a musical clock maker in Vienna.A patent was granted to him in the year of 1824 for improving of the Hand harmonica .The Instrument had free reeds of Chinese manner and a bellows that war hand operated.- Patent :...

 and Anton Haeckl
Anton Haeckl
Anton Haeckl was a musical instrument builder in Vienna, who built the first physharmonica in 1818. Two of his instruments from 1825 can be seen in the Vienna Technical Museum....

). Richter tuning, invented by Joseph Richter (who also is credited with inventing the blow and draw mechanism), was created in 1826 and was adopted nearly universally in the subsequent years. In Germany, violin manufacturer Mr. Meisel from Klingenthal bought a harmonica with chambers (Kanzellen) at the Exhibition in Braunschweig in 1824. He and the ironworker Langhammer in the 3-mile-away Graslitz copied the instruments; by 1827 they had produced hundreds of harmonicas. Many others followed in Germany and also nearby in what would later become Czechoslovakia. In 1829, Johann Wilhelm Rudolph Glier also began making harmonicas.

In 1830, Christan Messner, a cloth maker and weaver from Trossingen
Trossingen
Trossingen is a town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated in a region called Baar, between the Swabian Alb and the Black Forest. Stuttgart is about an hour away, Lake Constance about half an hour, and the source of the river Danube can be reached in about twenty minutes by car.Trossingen...

, copied a harmonica his neighbour had brought from Vienna. He had such success that eventually his brother and some relatives also started to make harmonicas. From 1840 onwards, his nephew Christian Weiss was also involved in the business. By 1855, there were at least three harmonica-making businesses: C. A. Seydel Söhne
C. A. Seydel Söhne
Christian August Seydel was the founder of the C. A. Seydel Söhne harmonica factory in Klingenthal/Sachsen more than 150 years ago. Steeped in tradition, the firma C. A. Seydel Söhne is the oldest harmonica factory in the world still in existence...

, Christian Messner & Co., and Württ. Harmonikafabrik Ch. WEISS. Currently, only C.A. Seydel
C. A. Seydel Söhne
Christian August Seydel was the founder of the C. A. Seydel Söhne harmonica factory in Klingenthal/Sachsen more than 150 years ago. Steeped in tradition, the firma C. A. Seydel Söhne is the oldest harmonica factory in the world still in existence...

 is still in business.

Owing to competition between the harmonica factories in Trossingen and Klingenthal, machines were invented to punch the covers for the reeds. In 1857, Matthias Hohner, a clockmaker from Trossingen, started producing harmonicas, eventually to become the first person to mass-produce them. He used a mass-produced wooden comb that he had made by machine-cutting firms. By 1868, he began supplying the United States. By the 1920s, the diatonic harmonica had largely reached its modern form. Other types followed soon thereafter, including the various tremolo and octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

 harmonicas.

By the late 19th century, harmonica production was a big business, having evolved into mass-production. New designs were still developed in the 20th century, including the chromatic harmonica
Chromatic harmonica
The chromatic harmonica is a type of harmonica that uses a button-activated sliding bar to redirect air from the hole in the mouthpiece to the selected reed-plate desired. When the button is not pressed, an altered diatonic major scale of the key of the harmonica is available, while depressing the...

, first made by Hohner in 1924, the bass harmonica, and the chord harmonica. In the 21st century, radical new designs are still being introduced into the market, such as the Suzuki Overdrive, Hohner XB-40, and Harrison B-Radical.

Diatonic harmonicas were designed primarily for the playing of German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and other European folk music
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

 and have succeeded well in those styles. Over time the basic design and tuning proved adaptable to other types of music such as the blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, country
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

, old-time and more. The harmonica was a success almost from the very start of production, and while the centre of the harmonica business has shifted from Germany, the output of the various harmonica manufacturers is still very high. Major companies are now found in Germany (Seydel, Bushman, Hohner
Hohner
Hohner Musikinstrumente GmbH & Co. KG is a company specialising in the manufacture of musical instruments. Founded in 1857 by Matthias Hohner , Hohner is identified especially with harmonicas and accordions. The Hohner company has invented and produced many different styles, and most of the...

 - the dominant manufacturer in the world), Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 (Suzuki
Suzuki
is a Japanese multinational corporation headquartered in Hamamatsu, Japan that specializes in manufacturing compact automobiles and 4x4 vehicles, a full range of motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles , outboard marine engines, wheelchairs and a variety of other small internal combustion engines...

, Tombo
Tombo
Tombo can refer to:*Tombo a Portuguese registry for land and royal revenue.*Tombo language, one of the Dogon languages.* A character of that name in Kiki's Delivery Service*The Japanese word for dragonfly, とんぼ....

 - the manufacturer of the popular Lee Oskar
Lee Oskar
Lee Oskar is a Danish harmonica player, notable for his contributions to the sound of the rock-funk fusion group War, which he formed with Eric Burdon, his solo work, and as a harmonica manufacturer...

 harmonica), China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 (Huang, Johnson, Leo Shi, Suzuki, Hohner, Swan, AXL), and Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 (Hering, Bends). The United States' only contender in the harmonica market was Harrison Harmonicas, however the company folded in July 2011 due to production issues. It was announced soon thereafter that the rights to the Harrison design were sold to another company to finish production of orders already placed. As of September 2011, it is unknown what company purchased the rights to the B-Radical, or if they intend to continue production after previous demands are met. Recently, responding to increasingly demanding performance techniques, the market for high quality instruments has grown.

Early use


Shortly after Hohner began manufacturing harmonicas in 1857, he shipped some to relatives who had emigrated to the United States. Its music rapidly became popular, and the country became an enormous market for Hohner's goods. President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 carried a harmonica in his pocket, and harmonicas provided solace to soldiers on both the Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 and Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 sides of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. Frontiersmen Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was an American gambler, investor, and law enforcement officer who served in several Western frontier towns. He was also at different times a farmer, teamster, bouncer, saloon-keeper, miner and boxing referee. However, he was never a drover or cowboy. He is most well known...

 and Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid
William H. Bonney William H. Bonney William H. Bonney (born William Henry McCarty, Jr. est. November 23, 1859 – c. July 14, 1881, better known as Billy the Kid but also known as Henry Antrim, was a 19th-century American gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War and became a frontier...

 played the instrument, and it became a fixture of the American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 musical landscape.

The first recordings of harmonicas were made in the U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in the 1920s. These recordings are 'race-records', intended for the black market of the southern states with solo recordings by DeFord Bailey
DeFord Bailey
DeFord Bailey was an American country music star from the 1920s until 1941, and the first performer on the Grand Ole Opry...

, duo recordings with a guitarist Hammie Nixon
Hammie Nixon
Hammie Nixon was an American harmonica player.-Life and career:Born Hammie Nickerson in Brownsville, Tennessee, he began his music career with jug bands in the 1920s and is best known as a country blues harmonica player, but also played the kazoo, guitar and jug...

, Walter Horton, Sonny Terry
Sonny Terry
Saunders Terrell, better known as Sonny Terry was a blind American Piedmont blues musician. He was widely known for his energetic blues harmonica style, which frequently included vocal whoops and hollers, and imitations of trains and fox hunts.-Career:Terry was born in Greensboro, Georgia...

, as well as hillbilly
Hillbilly
Hillbilly is a term referring to certain people who dwell in rural, mountainous areas of the United States, primarily Appalachia but also the Ozarks. Owing to its strongly stereotypical connotations, the term is frequently considered derogatory, and so is usually offensive to those Americans of...

 styles recorded for white audiences, by Frank Hutchison
Frank Hutchison
Frank Hutchison was an early country blues and piedmont blues musician.-Biography:...

, Gwen Foster
Gwen Foster
Gwen Foster was an old-time/country harmonica player who was known for work in The Carolina Tar Heels and the Blue Ridge Mountain Entertainers. - Written references :...

 and several other musicians. There are also recordings featuring the harmonica in jug band
Jug band
A Jug band is a band employing a jug player and a mix of traditional and home-made instruments. These home-made instruments are ordinary objects adapted to or modified for making of sound, like the washtub bass, washboard, spoons, stovepipe and comb & tissue paper...

s, of which the Memphis Jug Band
Memphis Jug Band
The Memphis Jug Band was an American musical group in the late 1920s and early to mid 1930s. The band featured harmonicas, violins, mandolins, banjos, and guitars, backed by washboards, kazoo, and jugs blown to supply the bass; they played in a variety of musical styles...

 is the most famous. But the harmonica still represented a toy instrument in those years and was associated with the poor. It is also during those years that musicians started experimenting with new techniques such as tongue-blocking, hand effects and the most important innovation of all, the 2nd position, or cross-harp.

The harmonica's versatility brought it to the attention of classical music during the 1930s. American Larry Adler
Larry Adler
Lawrence "Larry" Cecil Adler was an American musician, widely acknowledged as one of the world's most skilled harmonica players. Composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold, Darius Milhaud and Arthur Benjamin composed works for him...

 was one of the first harmonica players to perform major works written for the instrument by the composers Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

, Malcolm Arnold
Malcolm Arnold
Sir Malcolm Henry Arnold, CBE was an English composer and symphonist.Malcolm Arnold began his career playing trumpet professionally, but by age thirty his life was devoted to composition. He was ranked with Benjamin Britten as one of the most sought-after composers in Britain...

, Darius Milhaud
Darius Milhaud
Darius Milhaud was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as The Group of Six—and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and make use of polytonality...

 and Arthur Benjamin
Arthur Benjamin
Arthur Leslie Benjamin was an Australian composer, pianist, conductor and teacher. He is best known as the composer of Jamaican Rhumba, composed in 1938.-Biography:...

.

The United States experienced a shortage of harmonicas during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Wood and metal materials that were used for harmonicas were in short supply due to military demand. Furthermore, the primary manufacturers of harmonicas were based in Germany and Japan, who happened to be the Axis powers opposed to the United States and the allied forces in the war. It was during this time that Finn Harkon Magnus, a Dutch-American factory worker and entrepreneur, developed and perfected the molded-plastic harmonica. The plastic harmonica used molded plastic combs and far fewer pieces than traditional metal or wood harmonicas, which as a result made the harmonica more sanitary and far more economical to mass produce. Though these harmonicas produced a less distinctive (and, to many ears, inferior) sound than their metallic counterparts, Magnus harmonicas, as well as several imitators, soon became commonplace, particularly among children.

1950s blues players


The harmonica then made its way with the blues and the black migrants to the north, mainly to Chicago but also to Detroit, St. Louis and New York. The music played by African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

s increasingly began to use electric
amplification
Instrument amplifier
An instrument amplifier is an electronic amplifier that converts the often barely audible or purely electronic signal from musical instruments such as an electric guitar, an electric bass, or an electric keyboard into an electronic signal capable of driving a loudspeaker that can be heard by the...

 for the guitar
Guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

, harp
Harp
The harp is a multi-stringed instrument which has the plane of its strings positioned perpendicularly to the soundboard. Organologically, it is in the general category of chordophones and has its own sub category . All harps have a neck, resonator and strings...

, double bass
Double bass
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, standup bass or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2...

, and a crude PA system for the vocals. Alec Rice Miller, better known as Sonny Boy Williamson II
Sonny Boy Williamson II
Willie "Sonny Boy" Williamson was an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, from Mississippi. He is acknowledged as one of the most charismatic and influential blues musicians, with considerable prowess on the harmonica and highly creative songwriting skills...

, is one of the important harmonicists of this era. Using a full blues band, he became a popular act in the South with his daily broadcasts on the 'King Biscuit Time', originating live from Helena, Arkansas. He also helped to popularize the cross-harp
Blues harp
The Richter-tuned harmonica, or 10-hole harmonica or blues harp , is the most widely known type of harmonica...

 technique, which became an important blues harmonica technique.

A young harmonicist named Marion "Little Walter
Little Walter
Little Walter, born Marion Walter Jacobs , was an American blues harmonica player, whose revolutionary approach to his instrument has earned him comparisons to Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix, for innovation and impact on succeeding generations...

" Jacobs revolutionized the instrument by playing the harmonica with a microphone (typically a "Bullet" microphone marketed for use by radio taxi dispatchers cupped in his hands with the harmonica, giving it a "punchy" mid-range sound that can be heard above radio static, or an electric guitar
Electric guitar
An electric guitar is a guitar that uses the principle of direct electromagnetic induction to convert vibrations of its metal strings into electric audio signals. The signal generated by an electric guitar is too weak to drive a loudspeaker, so it is amplified before sending it to a loudspeaker...

). He cupped his hands around the instrument, tightening the air around the harp, giving it a powerful, distorted sound, somewhat reminiscent of a saxophone
Saxophone
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846...

.

Big Walter Horton
Big Walter Horton
Walter Horton, better known as Big Walter Horton or Walter "Shakey" Horton, was an American blues harmonica player. A quiet, unassuming and essentially shy man, Horton is remembered as one of the premier harmonica players in the history of blues...

 was the favored harmonicist of many Chicago blues
Chicago blues
The Chicago blues is a form of blues music that developed in Chicago, Illinois, by taking the basic acoustic guitar and harmonica-based Delta blues, making the harmonica louder with a microphone and an instrument amplifier, and adding electrically amplified guitar, amplified bass guitar, drums,...

 bandleaders, including Willie Dixon
Willie Dixon
William James "Willie" Dixon was an American blues musician, vocalist, songwriter, arranger and record producer. A Grammy Award winner who was proficient on both the Upright bass and the guitar, as well as his own singing voice, Dixon is arguably best known as one of the most prolific songwriters...

. His colorful solos used the full register of his instrument and some chromatic harmonicas. Howlin' Wolf
Howlin' Wolf
Chester Arthur Burnett , known as Howlin' Wolf, was an influential American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player....

's early recordings demonstrate great skill, particularly at blowing powerful riffs with the instrument. Sonny Boy Williamson II
Sonny Boy Williamson II
Willie "Sonny Boy" Williamson was an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, from Mississippi. He is acknowledged as one of the most charismatic and influential blues musicians, with considerable prowess on the harmonica and highly creative songwriting skills...

 used the possibilities of hand effects to give a talkative feel to his harp playing. Williamson extended his influence on the young British blues rockers in the 1960s, recording with Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE, is an English guitarist and singer-songwriter. Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and...

 and The Yardbirds
The Yardbirds
- Current :* Chris Dreja - rhythm guitar, backing vocals * Jim McCarty - drums, backing vocals * Ben King - lead guitar * David Smale - bass, backing vocals...

 and appearing on live British television. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevland Hardaway Morris , better known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and activist...

 learned harmonica at age 5 and plays the instrument on many of his recordings. Jimmy Reed
Jimmy Reed
Mathis James "Jimmy" Reed was an American blues musician and songwriter, notable for bringing his distinctive style of blues to mainstream audiences. Reed was a major player in the field of electric blues, as opposed to the more acoustic-based sound of many of his contemporaries...

 played harmonica on most of his blues shuffle
Shuffle
Shuffling is a procedure used to randomize a deck of playing cards to provide an element of chance in card games. Shuffling is often followed by a cut, to help ensure that the shuffler has not manipulated the outcome.-Shuffling techniques:...

 recordings.

1960s and 1970s blues players


The 1960s and 1970s saw the harmonica become less prominent, as the overdriven electric lead guitar
Lead guitar
Lead guitar is a guitar part which plays melody lines, instrumental fill passages, guitar solos, and occasionally, some riffs within a song structure...

 became the dominant instrument for solos in blues rock. Paul Butterfield
Paul Butterfield
Paul Butterfield was an American blues vocalist and harmonica player, who founded the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the early 1960s and performed at the original Woodstock Festival...

 is a well known harp player of the era in the blues and blues-rock arena. Heavily influenced by Little Walter, he pushed further the virtuosity on the harp. Chicago harmonica player James Cotton
James Cotton
James Cotton is an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, who has performed and recorded with many of the great blues artists of his time as well as with his own band.-Career:...

 specialized in slow, magnificent note-bends.

Blues harmonica players who are primarily or mainly associated with the instrument include Norton Buffalo
Norton Buffalo
Norton Buffalo was a singer-songwriter, country and blues harmonica player, record producer, bandleader and recording artist best known as a versatile exponent of the harmonica, including chromatic and diatonic....

, Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy
Jerry Portnoy is an American harmonica blues musician, who has toured with Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton.-Biography:Portnoy grew up in Chicago's Maxwell Street neighborhood where his family owned a store...

, Lazy Lester
Lazy Lester
Lazy Lester is an American blues harmonica player, whose career spans the 1950s to the 2000s....

, Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

, Rabini Zami, Sugar Blue
Sugar Blue
Sugar Blue is an American Grammy Award winning blues musician, who plays the harmonica. He is probably best known for playing on The Rolling Stones' single, "Miss You"....

, Billy Branch
Billy Branch
Billy Branch is an American blues harmonica player and singer of Chicago blues and harmonica blues.-Career:...

, Charlie Musselwhite
Charlie Musselwhite
Charlie Musselwhite is an American electric blues harmonica player and bandleader, one of the non-black bluesmen who came to prominence in the early 1960s, along with Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield. Though he has often been identified as a "white bluesman", he claims Native American heritage...

, Corky Siegel
Corky Siegel
Mark Paul "Corky" Siegel is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and composer. He plays harmonica and piano. He plays and writes blues and blues-rock music, and has also worked extensively on combining blues and classical music...

, Junior Wells
Junior Wells
Junior Wells , born Amos Wells Blakemore Jr., was an American Chicago blues vocalist, harmonica player, and recording artist...

, Kim Wilson
Kim Wilson
Kim Wilson is an American blues singer and harmonica player. He is best known as the lead vocalist and frontman for The Fabulous Thunderbirds on two hit songs of the 1980s; "Tuff Enuff", and "Wrap It Up."-Career:...

, Slim Harpo
Slim Harpo
Slim Harpo was an American blues musician. He was known as a master of the blues harmonica; the name "Slim Harpo" was derived from "harp," the popular nickname for the harmonica in blues circles.-Early life:...

, Al "Blind Owl" Wilson of Canned Heat
Canned Heat
Canned Heat is a blues-rock/boogie rock band that formed in Los Angeles, California in 1965. The group has been noted for its own interpretations of blues material as well as for efforts to promote the interest in this type of music and its original artists...

, Jack Bruce
Jack Bruce
John Symon Asher "Jack" Bruce is a Scottish musician and songwriter, respected as a founding member of the British psychedelic rock power trio, Cream, for a solo career that spans several decades, and for his participation in several well-known musical ensembles...

 of Cream
Cream (band)
Cream were a 1960s British rock supergroup consisting of bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce, guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton, and drummer Ginger Baker...

 and John Sebastian
John Sebastian
John Benson Sebastian Jr. is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist and autoharpist. He is best known as a founder of The Lovin' Spoonful, a band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000...

 of The Lovin' Spoonful
The Lovin' Spoonful
The Lovin' Spoonful is an American pop rock band of the 1960s, named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. When asked about his band, leader John Sebastian said it sounded like a combination of "Mississippi John Hurt and Chuck Berry," prompting his friend, Fritz Richmond, to suggest the name...

.

Musicians who are primarily known as singers or performers on another instrument who also have recorded and performed harmonica solos include Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

, Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen , nicknamed "The Boss," is an American singer-songwriter who records and tours with the E Street Band...

, Donovan
Donovan
Donovan Donovan Donovan (born Donovan Philips Leitch (born 10 May 1946) is a Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist. Emerging from the British folk scene, he developed an eclectic and distinctive style that blended folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, and world music...

, Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal (musician)
Henry Saint Clair Fredericks , who uses the stage name Taj Mahal, is an American Grammy Award winning blues musician. He incorporates elements of world music into his music...

, Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger
Sir Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger is an English musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist and a founding member of The Rolling Stones....

 and Brian Jones
Brian Jones
Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones , known as Brian Jones, was an English musician and a founding member of the Rolling Stones....

 of The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are an English rock band, formed in London in April 1962 by Brian Jones , Ian Stewart , Mick Jagger , and Keith Richards . Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts completed the early line-up...

, Huey Lewis
Huey Lewis
Huey Lewis is an American musician, songwriter and occasional actor.Lewis sings lead and plays harmonica for his band Huey Lewis and the News, in addition to writing or co-writing many of the band's songs...

 of Huey Lewis and the News
Huey Lewis and the News
Huey Lewis and the News is an American rock band based in San Francisco, California. They had a run of hit singles during the 1980s and early 1990s, eventually scoring a total of 19 top-ten singles across the Billboard Hot 100, Adult Contemporary and Mainstream Rock charts...

, John Mayall
John Mayall
John Mayall, OBE is an English blues singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, whose musical career spans over fifty years...

, Peter Green (musician)
Peter Green (musician)
Peter Green is a British blues-rock guitarist and the founder of the band Fleetwood Mac...

 of Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac are a British–American rock band formed in 1967 in London.The only original member present in the band is its eponymous drummer, Mick Fleetwood...

, Roger Daltrey
Roger Daltrey
Roger Harry Daltrey, CBE , is an English singer and actor, best known as the founder and lead singer of English rock band The Who. He has maintained a musical career as a solo artist and has also worked in the film industry, acting in a large number of films, theatre and television roles and also...

 of The Who
The Who
The Who are an English rock band formed in 1964 by Roger Daltrey , Pete Townshend , John Entwistle and Keith Moon . They became known for energetic live performances which often included instrument destruction...

, Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler is an American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the frontman and lead singer of the Boston-based rock band Aerosmith, in which he also plays the harmonica, and occasional piano and percussion. He is known as the "Demon of Screamin'", due to his high screams...

 of Aerosmith
Aerosmith
Aerosmith is an American rock band, sometimes referred to as "The Bad Boys from Boston" and "America's Greatest Rock and Roll Band". Their style, which is rooted in blues-based hard rock, has come to also incorporate elements of pop, heavy metal, and rhythm and blues, and has inspired many...

, Robert Plant
Robert Plant
Robert Anthony Plant, CBE is an English singer and songwriter best known as the vocalist and lyricist of the iconic rock band Led Zeppelin. He has also had a successful solo career...

 of Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

, Bono
Bono
Paul David Hewson , most commonly known by his stage name Bono , is an Irish singer, musician, and humanitarian best known for being the main vocalist of the Dublin-based rock band U2. Bono was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School where he met his...

 of U2
U2
U2 are an Irish rock band from Dublin. Formed in 1976, the group consists of Bono , The Edge , Adam Clayton , and Larry Mullen, Jr. . U2's early sound was rooted in post-punk but eventually grew to incorporate influences from many genres of popular music...

, Rick Davies
Rick Davies
Rick Davies is an English musician, best known as the founder and keyboardist of progressive rock band Supertramp...

 of Supertramp
Supertramp
Supertramp are a British rock band formed in 1969 under the name Daddy before renaming to Supertramp in early 1970. Though their music was initially categorised as progressive rock, they have since incorporated a combination of traditional rock and art rock into their music...

, and Richard "Magic Dick
Magic Dick
Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz was the harmonica player for The J. Geils Band. In addition to the harmonica, Salwitz plays the trumpet and saxophone. He attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he met John "J" Geils and Danny Klein and became a founding member of...

" Salwitz of The J. Geils Band. Billy Joel
Billy Joel
William Martin "Billy" Joel is an American musician and pianist, singer-songwriter, and classical composer. Since releasing his first hit song, "Piano Man", in 1973, Joel has become the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States, according to...

 famously plays the harmonica, in addition to his piano, on his signature song, "Piano Man
Piano Man (song)
"Piano Man" was Billy Joel's first major hit and his signature song. "Piano Man" was released as a single in November 1st, 1973 and has been on several albums...

". includes the harmonica throughout the piece. John Lennon
John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

 played harmonica on early hits as "Love Me Do
Love Me Do
"Love Me Do" is The Beatles' first single, backed by "P.S. I Love You" and released on 5 October 1962. When the single was originally released in the United Kingdom, it peaked at number seventeen; in 1982 it was re-issued and reached number four...

", "Please Please Me
Please Please Me
Please Please Me is the debut album by the English rock band The Beatles. Parlophone rush-released the album on 22 March 1963 in the United Kingdom to capitalise on the success of singles "Please Please Me" and "Love Me Do" .Of the album's fourteen songs, eight were written by Lennon–McCartney...

", "I'll Get You
I'll Get You
"I'll Get You" is a song by The Beatles, written by Lennon/McCartney, and released by The Beatles as the B-side of their 1963 single "She Loves You"...

" and "I Should Have Known Better
I Should Have Known Better
"I Should Have Known Better" is a song composed by John Lennon , and originally released by The Beatles on the United Kingdom version of A Hard Day's Night, their soundtrack for the film of the same name....

" and in his solo career on songs such as "Oh Yoko!
Oh Yoko!
"Oh Yoko!" is a 1971 song, written and performed by John Lennon, that can be found on his album Imagine and the greatest hits compilation Working Class Hero: The Definitive Lennon....

".

2000s blues players


Contemporary harmonicists Howard Levy
Howard Levy
Howard Levy is a Grammy Award–winning, American harmonicist, pianist, composer, and producer....

, Chris Michalek
Chris Michalek
Chris Michalek was an American harmonica player.Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he was an accomplished modern diatonic harmonica player in many styles including Jazz, Funk, Blues and World Music. Michalek was also the organizer of the Global Harmonica Summit in 2000...

, Jason Ricci
Jason Ricci
Jason Ricci is an American harmonica player and singer.-Biography:Raised in Portland, Maine, Jason Ricci is the son of the controversial businessman/politician/activist Joe Ricci, founder of Elan School. Ricci started playing music in punk bands at the age of 14. After discovering a love of the...

, and Carlos del Junco
Carlos del Junco
Carlos del Junco is a renowned Cuban-Canadian harmonica musician.Mr. del Junco immigrated with his family when he was one year old. He started to play the harmonica at 14 years old. He graduated from college with honors at the Ontario College of Art majoring in sculpture.He specializes in...

 have pushed the envelope of the instrument. Levy explored and pioneered the over blow technique in the early seventies, which enables the diatonic harmonica to play full chromatic scales across three octaves, while retaining the particular sound of the harp. Overblowing is used by Howard Levy
Howard Levy
Howard Levy is a Grammy Award–winning, American harmonicist, pianist, composer, and producer....

, Frédéric Yonnet
Frédéric Yonnet
Frédéric Yonnet is a French musician, producer and recording artist who is best known for his use of the harmonica as a lead in jazz, R&B, funk, gospel and hip-hop influenced music...

, Adam Gussow
Adam Gussow
Adam Gussow is a scholar, memoirist, and blues harmonica player.Gussow is currently an associate professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi in Oxford...

, Chris Michalek
Chris Michalek
Chris Michalek was an American harmonica player.Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he was an accomplished modern diatonic harmonica player in many styles including Jazz, Funk, Blues and World Music. Michalek was also the organizer of the Global Harmonica Summit in 2000...

, Paul Nebenzahl, and Jason Ricci
Jason Ricci
Jason Ricci is an American harmonica player and singer.-Biography:Raised in Portland, Maine, Jason Ricci is the son of the controversial businessman/politician/activist Joe Ricci, founder of Elan School. Ricci started playing music in punk bands at the age of 14. After discovering a love of the...

 and Carlos del Junco
Carlos del Junco
Carlos del Junco is a renowned Cuban-Canadian harmonica musician.Mr. del Junco immigrated with his family when he was one year old. He started to play the harmonica at 14 years old. He graduated from college with honors at the Ontario College of Art majoring in sculpture.He specializes in...

 are starting to integrate it in a more blues or rock oriented music. Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz
Magic Dick
Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz was the harmonica player for The J. Geils Band. In addition to the harmonica, Salwitz plays the trumpet and saxophone. He attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he met John "J" Geils and Danny Klein and became a founding member of...

, Billy Branch
Billy Branch
Billy Branch is an American blues harmonica player and singer of Chicago blues and harmonica blues.-Career:...

, John Popper
John Popper
John Popper is an American musician and songwriter.He is most famous for his role as frontman of rock band Blues Traveler performing harmonica, guitar and vocals...

, Tom Ball, "Dirty" Patrick Walsh, Big Dave Perea, Joe Filisko, Miles Ryan and others are keeping the harmonica tradition alive.
Peter Doherty
Pete Doherty
Peter Doherty is an English musician, writer, actor, poet and artist. He is best known musically for being co-frontman of The Libertines, which he reformed with Carl Barât in 2010. His other musical project is indie band Babyshambles...

 of The Libertines
The Libertines
The Libertines were an English rock band, formed in London in 1997 by frontmen Carl Barât and Pete Doherty . The band, centred on the song-writing partnership of Barat and Doherty, also included John Hassall and Gary Powell for most of its recording career...

 and Babyshambles
Babyshambles
Babyshambles are an English indie rock band established in London. The band was formed by Pete Doherty during a hiatus from his former band The Libertines, but Babyshambles has since become his main project . Babyshambles has released two albums, three EPs and a number of singles...

 has also been known to use a harmonica especially during songs such as Albion
Albion
Albion is the oldest known name of the island of Great Britain. Today, it is still sometimes used poetically to refer to the island or England in particular. It is also the basis of the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland, Alba...

 and Killamangiro
Killamangiro
"Killamangiro" is a song by English band, Babyshambles, released in November 2004 through Rough Trade Records. It achieved respectable chart success, peaking at #8 on the UK singles chart....

.
Australian player Brian Cain otherwise known as Indiana Phoenix mixes a range of playing techniques with modern equipment developed by playing with traditional acoustic guitar players to heavy rock and metal bands.

Other styles and regions


European harmonica player Philip Achille
Philip Achille
Philip Achille is a British harmonica player who attended Solihull School, a British independent school in the West Midlands. He is currently studying Chromatic Harmonica at the Royal College of Music....

, who performs Irish, Classical, Jazz, Qawali and sufi music, has won jazz competitions and his classical performances have led to appearances on the BBC as well as ITV and Channel 4. Performers include French harmonicist Nikki Gadout, and Germans Steve Baker and the late Johnny Müller (who played the title melody of the Winnetou
Winnetou
Winnetou is a fictional Native American hero of several novels written by Karl May in German, including the sequels Winnetou I through Winnetou IV....

-movies). The Brazilian Flávio Guimarães performs a variety of styles. From France Yvonnick Prene plays jazz on chromatic harmonica.

In Nashville, P. T. Gazell has an influential style, as does Charlie McCoy, an American music harmonicist. Irish stylists include John and Pip Murphy, Noel Battle, Austin Berry, James Conway, Andy Irvine, Mick Kinsella, Brendan Power, Joel Bernstein, Don Meade, Paul Moran and Rick Epping
Rick Epping
Rick Epping is a California-born musician who has immersed himself in American old-time and Irish traditional music since the 1960s. He is an accomplished player of the harmonica, concertina, banjo and jaw harp....

. Peter "Madcat" Ruth maintains a website that links to the sites of contemporary players around the world. Wade Schuman, founder of the group Hazmat Modine, has fused overblowing with older traditional styles and middle European harmonies.

East Asia


In 1898, the harmonica was brought to Japan, where the Tremolo harmonica was the most popular instrument. After about 30 years, the Japanese developed scale tuning and semitone harmonicas to be able to perform Japanese folk songs.

Harmonica music started to develop in Hong Kong in the 1930s. Individual tremolo harmonica players from China moved to Hong Kong to set up different harmonica organizations such as The Chinese Y.M.C.A. Harmonica Orchestra, the China Harmonica Society, and the Heart String Harmonica Society. In the 1950s, chromatic harmonica became popular in Hong Kong, and players such as Larry Adler and John Sebastian were invited to perform.

Local players such as Lau Mok (劉牧) and Fung On (馮安) promoted the chromatic harmonica. In the Chinese Y.M.C.A. Harmonica Orchestra, the chromatic harmonica gradually became the main instrument. The Chinese YMCA
YMCA
The Young Men's Christian Association is a worldwide organization of more than 45 million members from 125 national federations affiliated through the World Alliance of YMCAs...

 Harmonica Orchestra started in the 1960s, with 100 members, most of whom played harmonicas. Non-harmonica instruments were also used, such as double bass, accordion, piano, and percussion such as timpani and xylophone.

In the 1970s, the Haletone Harmonica Orchestra (曉彤口琴隊) was set up at Wong Tai Sin Community Centre. Fung On and others continued to teach harmonica and also set up harmonica orchestras. In the 1980s, the number of harmonica learners decreased steadily. In the 1990s, harmonica players in Hong Kong began to participate in international harmonica competitions, including the World Harmonica Festival in Germany and the Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival
Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival
Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival is one of the world's largest harmonica events. It is held every two years. The first APHF was held in Taipei in 1996.-List of APHF:-External links:* * * * *...

. In the 2000s, the Hong Kong Harmonica Association (H.K.H.A.) (香港口琴協會) was established.

The history of the harmonica in Taiwan began around 1945. By the 1980s, though, as living standards increased, many instruments that were once too expensive to buy could be bought by the Taiwanese in preference to the harmonica.

Medical use


Playing the harmonica requires inhaling and exhaling strongly against resistance. This action helps develop a strong diaphragm
Thoracic diaphragm
In the anatomy of mammals, the thoracic diaphragm, or simply the diaphragm , is a sheet of internal skeletal muscle that extends across the bottom of the rib cage. The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity and performs an important function in respiration...

 and deep breathing using the entire lung volume. Pulmonary
Human lung
The human lungs are the organs of respiration in humans. Humans have two lungs, with the left being divided into two lobes and the right into three lobes. Together, the lungs contain approximately of airways and 300 to 500 million alveoli, having a total surface area of about in...

 specialists have noted that playing the harmonica resembles the kind of exercise used to rehabilitate COPD
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , also known as chronic obstructive lung disease , chronic obstructive airway disease , chronic airflow limitation and chronic obstructive respiratory disease , is the co-occurrence of chronic bronchitis and emphysema, a pair of commonly co-existing diseases...

 patients such as using a PFLEX inspiratory muscle trainer or the inspiratory spirometer
Spirometer
A spirometer is an apparatus for measuring the volume of air inspired and expired by the lungs. It is a precision differential pressure transducer for the measurements of respiration flow rates. The spirometer records the amount of air and the rate of air that is breathed in and out over a...

. Learning to play a musical instrument also offers motivation in addition to the exercise component. Many pulmonary rehabilitation programs therefore have begun to incorporate the harmonica. Harmonicist Frédéric Yonnet
Frédéric Yonnet
Frédéric Yonnet is a French musician, producer and recording artist who is best known for his use of the harmonica as a lead in jazz, R&B, funk, gospel and hip-hop influenced music...

 suffered from childhood asthma and credits the harmonica for helping him manage his asthma through adulthood.

Competitions


The World Harmonica Festival is held in the autumn every four years in Trossingen
Trossingen
Trossingen is a town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated in a region called Baar, between the Swabian Alb and the Black Forest. Stuttgart is about an hour away, Lake Constance about half an hour, and the source of the river Danube can be reached in about twenty minutes by car.Trossingen...

, Germany, home of the Hohner harmonica company. The last World Harmonica Festival was in 2009, and a harmonica workshop is held every year. The Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival
Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival
Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival is one of the world's largest harmonica events. It is held every two years. The first APHF was held in Taipei in 1996.-List of APHF:-External links:* * * * *...

 is held regularly; in 2008 it was hosted by China.

In Hong Kong, Schools Music Festival is held every year for school students to compete in different music classes. Harmonica classes include band for primary and secondary schools, ensemble for secondary school, duet for secondary school, solo (junior, intermediate, and senior), and concert work (open).

Every August there is a harmonica contest in Idaho. The contest has been running since 1989. The contest is held in Yellow Pine about 150 miles outside of Boise, Idaho and is called the Yellow Pine Harmonica Contest.

Related instruments


The concertina
Concertina
A concertina is a free-reed musical instrument, like the various accordions and the harmonica. It has a bellows and buttons typically on both ends of it. When pressed, the buttons travel in the same direction as the bellows, unlike accordion buttons which travel perpendicularly to it...

, diatonic and chromatic accordions and the melodica
Melodica
The melodica, also known as the "blow-organ" or "key-flute", is a free-reed instrument similar to the melodeon and harmonica. It has a musical keyboard on top, and is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece that fits into a hole in the side of the instrument. Pressing a key opens a hole,...

 are all free-reed instruments that developed alongside the harmonica. Indeed, the similarities between harmonicas and so-called "diatonic" accordions or melodeons is such that in German the name for the former is "Mundharmonika" and the later "Handharmonika," which translate as "mouth harmonica" and "hand harmonica." In Scandinavian languages, an accordion is simply called "harmonika," whereas a harmonica is a "mundharmonika" (mouth harmonica). The names for the two instruments in the Slavic languages are also either similar or identical. The harmonica shares similarities to all other free-reed instruments by virtue of the method of sound production.

The glass harmonica
Glass harmonica
The glass harmonica, also known as the glass armonica, bowl organ, hydrocrystalophone, or simply the armonica , is a type of musical instrument that uses a series of glass bowls or goblets graduated in size to produce musical tones by means of friction The glass harmonica, also known as the glass...

 has the word "harmonica" in its name, but it is not related to free-reed instruments. The glass harmonica is a musical instrument formed from a nested set of graduated glass cups mounted sideways on an axle. Each of the glass cups is tuned to a different note, and they are arranged in a scalar order. It is played by touching the rotating cups with wetted fingers, causing them to vibrate and produce a sustained "singing" tone.

Tabulature


Tabulature notation (often abbreviated as "tab") is a method of writing melodies by indicating where the notes are played on the instrument, rather than by indicating the pitches with circles and note heads printed on a staff, as with standard notation. One of the advantages of tab is that it can be easier for performers without formal training to learn, because the notation directly indicates where to play the note.

While tab is most often associated with fretted stringed instruments such as the guitar, tab is also used with other instruments such as the organ and harmonica.

There are many harmonica tab systems in use. A simple tab system appears as follows:

Diatonic Harmonica tab:

2 = blow the 2 hole < Also: +2 >
-2 = draw the 2 hole
-2' = draw the 2 hole with a half bend < Also -2b >
-2" = draw the 2 hole with a full bend < Also -2bb>

Chords are shown by grouping notes with parentheses

(2 3) = blow the 2 hole and the 3 hole at the same time

Chromatic Harmonica tab:

2 = blow the 2 hole
-2 = draw the 2 hole
<2 = blow the 2 hole with the button in
<-2 = draw the 2 hole with the button in

Text Tab is another common type of harmonica tablature. It indicates when a player should "blow" or "draw" on a note by appending a letter suffix (B for blow or D for draw) to the appropriate harmonica hole number. Text Tab is used by harmonica instructors such as Dave Gage
Dave Gage
Dave Gage is an American harmonica player and instructor, recording artist, author, and webmaster, known for harmonica web sites and more than twenty-five years of session work in recording studios throughout Southern California....

 and Jon Gindick
Jon Gindick
Jon Gindick is an American best-selling musical instruction author. His books, CDs, and videos on playing the blues harmonica have sold over 2,000,000 copies. He puts on 'Blues Harmonica Jam Camp,' a traveling seminar for harmonica players of all levels...

. It can be found on their websites and books and web forums.

Harmonica tab is usually aligned with lyrics to show the tune and the timing, and usually states the key of the harmonica required for the song.

Complete example of harmonica tab:

Cockles And Mussels (Molly Malone):
6 7 7 7 7 8 7 -8 -8 -8 -8 -9
In Dublin's fair city, where girls are so pretty,
-8 9 9 9 9 9 7 -8 8 7 -8
I first set my sight on sweet Molly Malone.
6 7 7 7 7 8 7 -8 -8 -8 -9
She was a fishmonger, and she'd stroll along,
8 8 9 8 7 9 8 7 -8 8 -8 7
Singing "Cockles And Mussels, Alive, Alive, Oh."
6 7 7 7 -8 8 7 -8 -8 -8 -8 8
Alive alive oh-oh Alive alive oh-oh
7 7 9 8 7 9 8 7 -8 8 -8 7
Singing Cockles and Mussels alive alive oh

Regular notation


Below the sheet music manuscript, there will be the number (sometimes inside a circle) with an arrow beneath that number. An upwards arrow means to blow, and a downwards arrow means to draw. Bend notes will have a curved arrow, slightly to the left for a flat half tone, and a long one for a full bend. (For a sharp bend, the arrows will point to the right).

Notable performers


See also

  • List of Famous Harmonica Solos
  • Harmonica concerto
    Harmonica concerto
    Since the 1940s, a number of concertos have been written for the harmonica, both as a solo instrument as well as in conjunction with other solo instrument, and accompanied by string orchestra, chamber orchestra, full orchestra, band, or similar large ensemble...

  • Richter tuned harmonica
  • The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica
    The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica
    The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica is an organization dedicated to players of the harmonica. It was founded in October 1962 and officially incorporated on October 23, 1963...

  • Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival
    Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival
    Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival is one of the world's largest harmonica events. It is held every two years. The first APHF was held in Taipei in 1996.-List of APHF:-External links:* * * * *...


Sources

  • http://www.prweb.com/releases/World/Record/prweb574418.htm
  • http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records/arts_and_media/music_feats_and_facts/fastest_harmonica_player.aspx

External links