You and Your Harps

Choosing the Right Harmonica

I use the standard 10-hole diatonic harmonica, also known as harp, blues harp, etc., for my teaching and playing. This small, convenient, and traditional instrument is one of the most important voices in blues, country, folk, and rock. The best harmonica keys — are C, A, G, D, F, and B-Flat. Unless you are working on a special project, these are the only keys you’ll need for jamming, and you don’t need them all in one day.

Today, there are many harmonica manufacturers who produce fine instruments. These include Hohner, Lee Oskar, Seydel, East Stop, Suzuki, Fender and more. I personally play customized Special 20’s Hohner harmonicas. It comes down to being a matter of personal choice.

The online harmonica stores such as Harmonicaland and Rockin’ Ron’s Music are terrific. They are owned and operated by harp players, and these family businesses have been in business for years and provide the best harp prices, superior service, product reviews, a complete catalog of harps and accessories, and much more.

Out-of-the-Box Harps

As a beginner, you will most likely buy an out-of-the-box instrument. Truthfully, all the mid-priced $60 harps will work fine. DO NOT play a cheap harp. It will be airy and unworthy of your time. DO remember that the real harmonica is your body, breath, and soul. If you do it right, you can make any decent harp sing.

Custom Harps

If you want to make your out-of-the-box harmonica a little bit more responsive, consider having it customized. Reeds are filed, and tolerances are adjusted to give the intermediate player optimum performance. Recommended guys in the harmonica community are Joe Spiers, Joe Filisko, and Richard Sleigh.

Harp Racks

If, like me, you love playing harp and guitar at the same time, I highly recommend the magnetized* Gecko Neck Rack and the Rack-It Harp Holder. Ask the Rack-It harp holder to have a metal strip that you can use to connect to the magnet in the Gecko. You can get the Racket Harp holder from

* Some harmonicas made in China, such as the East Top, do not have stainless steel construction and will not work with a magnetic harmonica holder.

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