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Recommended
Diatonic Harmonicas

Hohner 1896/20 Marine Band Harmonica Key of C
Hohner Marine Band
Harmonica;
Keys G-F#

$29.99

Hohner 1896/20 Marine Band Harmonica, Low and High Pitches Key of G High pitch
Hohner 1896/20 Marine Band Harmonica, Low and High Pitches;
Low D-F# & High G

$29.99

Hohner 365 Steve Baker Special Harmonica Key of C
Hohner 365 Steve Baker Special Harmonica; Keys A-C
$54.99 - $59.99

Hohner Blues Harp MS Harmonica Key of C
Hohner 532/20 Blues Harp Harmonica; Keys G-F#
$31.95

Hohner 542/20 Golden Melody Harmonica Pack with Case and Belt
Hohner 542/20 Blues Harp Harmonica Pack
with Case and Belt;
Keys G, A, B, C. D, E, F

$149.99

Hohner 532/20 Blues Harp Harmonica Pack with Case and Belt
Hohner 532/20 Blues Harp Harmonica Pack
with Case and Belt;
Keys G, A, B, C. D, E, F

$149.99

Hohner 54/64 Echo Harmonica
Hohner 54/64 Echo Harmonica; Keys C & G
$74.99


Harmonica History

Western Harmonica History   Asian Harmonica History

    The harmonica developed from the intense interest in free-reeds which arose in Europe in the early 19th century. Free-reeds were fairly common throughout East Asia for centuries and relatively well-known in Europe for some time. Around 1820 there was an explosion of new free-reed designs in Europe and North America.

    While Christian Friederich Ludwig Buschmann is often cited as the inventor of the harmonica in 1821, it was almost certainly a case of simultaneous development by several acquainted inventors working independently. Mouth-blown free-reed instruments appeared in the United States, the United Kingdom and on the continent at roughly the same time. Early Aeolines had no jet chambers added.

Early harmonicas

    The harmonica first appeared in Vienna, where harmonicas with chambers were sold before 1824 (see also Anton Reinlein and Anton Haeckl). In Germany, Mr. Meisel from Klingenthal bought a harmonica with chambers (Kanzellen) at the Exhibition in Braunschweig in the year of 1824 Meisel und Langhammer. He and Langhammer in Graslitz copied the instruments and by 1827 they had produced hundreds of harmonicas.

    Many others followed in the same region of Germany and nearby in what would later become Czechoslovakia. In 1829 Johann Wilhelm Rudolph Glier also began making harmonicas. Richter tuning was in use nearly from the beginning.

    In 1830 Christan Messner , a cloth maker and weaver from Trossingen, copied a harmonica brought from Vienna by his next door neighbor. He had such success that eventually his brother and some relatives also started to make harmonicas. From 1840 on, his nephew Christian Weiss was also involved in the business. By 1855 two registered harmonica making businesses were in existence, Christian Messner & Co. and Württ. Harmonikafabrik Ch. WEISS.

    Due to competition of harmonica factories in Trossingen and Klingenthal, machines were invented to punch covers for the reeds. In 1857 Mattais Hohner, a clockmaker from Trossingen, started producing harmonicas. He was the first to order the wooden middle part (comb) from other firms that had machines to cut the parts.  By 1868 he could deliver his first order to USA. Matthias Hohner became the first person to mass-produce harmonicas.

    Sometime by the 1820s the diatonic harmonica had more or less reached its modern form. Other diatonic and chromatic types followed soon thereafter (the various tremolo and octave harmonicas).

    By the late 19th century, harmonica production was big business having evolved from a handcraft into mass-production with figures well into the millions, a market which continues to this day. New designs continued to be developed in the 20th century including the chromatic harmonica (first made by Hohner in 1924), the bass harmonica, the chord harmonica and others. In the 21st century radical new designs such as the Suzuki Overdrive and Hohner XB-40 continue to be brought to market.

    The harmonica's massive success is attributable to many factors. It is a fairly easy instrument to learn. Many new musicians, of all ages, learn to play their first few songs on a harmonica and often are willing to pass the tradition on. Harmonicas are very portable; usually small enough to fit unobtrusively in a pocket. Harmonicas are inexpensive, among the least costly of musical instruments available.

    In the hands of a skilled player, the cheapest harmonicas (such as those marketed as toys) can produce respectable music. Harmonicas are fairly easy to manufacture, their simple construction allows for mass production without sacrificing significant quality as compared to a hand-crafted instrument, unlike most string instruments or other wind instruments.

    Diatonic harmonicas were designed primarily for the playing of German and other European folk music and have succeeded well in those styles. Possibly unforeseen by it's makers, the basic design and tuning proved adaptable to other types of music such as the blues, country, old-time and more.

    The harmonica was a success almost from the very start of production, and while the center of the harmonica business has shifted from Germany, the output of the various harmonica manufacturers is still very high indeed. Major companies are now found in Germany (Seydel, Hohner - once the dominant manufacturer in the world, producing some 20 million harmonicas alone in 1920 when German manufacturing totaled over 50 million harmonicas), Japan (Suzuki, Tombo, Yamaha), China (Huang, Leo Shi, Suzuki, Hohner) and Brasil (Hering).

    Recently, responding to increasingly demanding performance techniques, the market for high quality instruments has grown, resulting in a resurgence of hand-crafted harmonicas catering to those wanting the best, without the compromises inherent in mass manufacturing.


Recommended
Chromatic Harmonicas and Gear

Hohner 980/40 Koch Chromatic Harmonica Key of C
Hohner 980/40 Koch Chromatic Harmonica;
Keys C & G

$79.99

Hohner 260/40 Chromonica Key of C
Hohner 260/40 Chromonica;
Key C

$109.98

Hohner 268/78 Double Bass-Extended Harmonica
Hohner 268/78 Double Bass-Extended Harmonica
$849.99

Shure SM58 Mic
Shure SM58 Mic
$99.99

Shure SM57 and SM58 Microphone Package
Shure SM57 and SM58 Microphone Package
$669.99

Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40W 1x12
Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40W 1x12" Combo Amp
$699.99

Boss GT-8 Guitar Multi Effects Processor
Boss GT-8 Guitar Multi Effects Processor
$445.00

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