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Harmonica Buyers Guide

by Hohner-Harmonica.com

In the 1920s, millions of Hohner harmonicas were exported to the United States every year.  The Marine Band Harmonica was inexpensive and readily available in any general store, so it became the most widely distributed musical instrument in the USA at this time.  They were featured on hundreds of legendary blues and folk music recordings.  Today, the Hohner legacy continues, offering a wide variety of models, hand made in Germany, at a price that any musician can afford. Hohner-Harmonica.com is proud to offer each of the high quality Hohner Harmonica models listed below.

Hohner Special 20 Harmonica

Diatonic Harmonicas

Diatonic harmonicas, or harps as they are often called by players, are used in blues, rock, folk, country, and other popular music styles. They are inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to learn. The blow and draw holes of the instrument only produce the primary notes of a particular key. For example, a diatonic harmonica in the “Key of C” can play the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, and B, the notes of the C major scale. If we played the same notes on a piano, we would only be playing the white keys. There are three main considerations as a result. First, it makes it easier to play the correct notes because the notes outside the key are not available. Second, in order to play in a variety of different keys, players need several harmonicas. Finally, many melodies contain notes not in the primary scale. However, over the years inventive players have found creative ways to work around this limitation of the diatonic harmonica. Using techniques such as over blowing and bending, players can approximate pitches outside the primary scale. Some of the most popular keys are G, A, Bb, C, D, E and F. Most, but not all, of the Hohner Harmonica models are available in every major key.

Hohner Chromonica 270 Harmonica

Chromatic Harmonicas

If you’ve heard Stevie Wonder, Toots Thielemans, or Larry Alder you’ve heard the Hohner Chromatic Harmonica in action.  Blues players quite often add a Hohner Cromatic Harmonica to their arsenal. Blues greats like Little Walter, George"Harmonica" Smith, and William Clarke were known for their amazing blues work on the 12 and 16 hole Hohner chromatics. Chromatic harmonicas are larger than diatonic harmonicas and usually have 12 or 16 holes.  They have a slide button on the slide, allowing them to generate all the half step tones between the primary scale tones.  It would be like a piano with both white and black keys.  Chromatic harmonicas can be played in all twelve keys, resulting in a very versatile melodic instrument.  They are essential for styles that change key frequently, such as jazz and classical.

Hohner Marine Band Harmonica

Hohner Marine Band 1896 Harmonicas

The Hohner Marine Band 1896 is the standard by which all other harmonicas are measured and the number one choice of the old blues harmonica players.  It has been played by music greats such as:  Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, Little Walter, and Paul Butterfield.   It has ten holes, twenty reeds and a pearwood comb that is sealed with lacquer to help prevent swelling.  True to the original, today’s Marine Band is mounted with the nails instead of screws.  That classic Marine Band sound is available in all 12 major keys, plus a few special tunings.

Hohner Special 20 Harmonica

Hohner Special 20 Harmonicas

The Hohner 560 Special 20 is the modern standard of the Hohner harmonica line.  The Special 20 is a 10 hole, 20 reed harmonica, mounted with screws.  It features a plastic comb that does not absorb moisture, so it will not swell or crack.  The plastic comb also results in a smoother feel on the lips and helps to prevent chafing.   It is especially airtight making it extremely fast and responsive.  It is the harmonica of choice for John Popper of the Blues Travelers, and was used by Bob Dylan on the 2007-2008 tour. The Special 20 is available in 12 major keys plus a special country tuning that allows for a major 7th interval when played in the cross harp position.

Hohner Crossover Harmonica

Hohner Crossover Harmonicas

Hohner has expanded their line of Marine Band harmonicas with the best out of the box harmonica yet, the Hohner Marine Band Crossover Harmonica.  Many players say it is comparable to customized harmonicas costing hundreds more.  At the heart of the Crossover, is a patent pending bamboo comb that is completely sealed making it extremely water repellent and stable.  It has a fast, even response, and a raspy powerful tone making it a great choice for modern blues, rock, jazz, soul, and funk.  Players will find special techniques like bends and over blows are much easier.  The Crossover features modern compromise tuning for better intonation throughout the entire range.  Crossovers are fastened with screws making them easy to customize and adjust. Crossovers use a modern compromise tuning and are available in 12 major keys.

Hohner Golden Melody Harmonica

Hohner Golden Melody Harmonicas

The Hohner 542 Golden Melody is a longtime Hohner harmonica staple.  The Golden Melody is great for country tunes and hymns but can also steal the show on blues and rock gigs. It was a favorite of Pierre Lacocque of Mississippi Heat fame and multi-genre virtuosos Carlos Del Junco and Howard Levy.  It has a 1950’s look and feel, featuring a red plastic comb. Curved cover plates extend the entire length of the Golden Melody providing increased resonance.  It is tuned to equal temperament tuning meaning that the notes are evenly spaced. Due to its resonance, tuning, and rich tone, it is especially suited to melody playing. The Golden Melody is available in all major keys.

Hohner Blues Harp Harmonica

Hohner Blues Harp Harmonicas

The Hohner 532 Blues Harp can stand up to the strongest players on the toughest gigs.  Its dark and dirty hard rocking sound is perfect for intense blues playing.  Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Lil’ Ronnie Owens of the Grand Dukes have both favored the the Hohner Blues Harp.  It is a 10 hole, 20 reed harmonica with a wooden comb.  It has super fast response with a strong even tone at all volume levels.  The Blues Harp is part of the Hohner Harmonica Modular Series, so its parts are interchangeable with the other harmonicas in the MS line. The Blues Harp is available in all 12 major keys.

Hohner Blue Midnight Harmonica

Hohner Blue Midnight MS Harmonicas

The Hohner 595 Blue Midnight Harmonica is named after the famous instrumental written by harmonica legend Little Walter. The Blue Midnight has a sweet and ornery tone, designed to replicate the strong chords, melodic runs, and bends of the classic blues legends. Its blue plastic comb will never swell and provides a comfortable mouth feel. The Blue Midnight harmonica features a custom “Chicago Style” tuning from Hohner’s vaults. The Blue Midnight is available in seven keys: A, Bb, C, D, E, F, and G. The Blue Midnight harmonica is part of Hohner's "MS" or Modular System of harmonicas. MS series harmonicas have interchangeable parts and are fastened with screws, making modifications quick and easy. The Blues Harp, Big River, Pro Harp, and Meisterklasse harmonicas round out the rest of the MS line.