Whether you got the blues or want an instrument that is easy to play, the harmonica is just for you. It needs little music theory, small and portable. What more could you want from a starter instrument? Did I mention that you can pick up a professional harmonica for around $50? There are no excuses for not getting started!
With that in mind, I saved you the pain of not knowing which one to pick. Here is what to consider when looking for the best beginner harmonica.
- 1 What To Consider When Buying Beginner Harmonicas
- 2 Top 7 Best Beginner Harmonica Reviews
- 2.1 Fender Blues Deluxe Harmonica, Key of C
- 2.2 Hohner Special 20 Diatonic Harmonica C key
- 2.3 Lee Oskar Harmonica, Key of C, Major Diatonic
- 2.4 East top Harmonica, Diatonic Blues Harmonica Key of C
- 2.5 NEUMA Harmonica Blues Deluxe Harmonica, Key of C Major
- 2.6 Seydel Harmonica (Blues Classic C) – Best Beginner Harmonica Overall
- 2.7 EastRock Blues Harmonica Mouth Organ 10 Hole C Key
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
- 4 In Summary
What To Consider When Buying Beginner Harmonicas
Type of Harmonica
The two main types of harmonicas (also known as a harp) are:
- Diatonic harmonica Widely used in Blues, Country, Rock, and Pop. Contains only the notes of a specific scale like the C major scale. Beginner-friendly.
- Chromatic harmonica Can play all the notes. Used often in classical music and jazz music. Suited for professional players.
Choose a diatonic harmonica in the key of C major if you’re a beginner. You’ll be able to play it by ear, assuming you don’t know any music theory at this point. Most lessons and instruction books use this type to teach beginners. C diatonic harmonicas are the best choice because there are no sharp and flat notes to worry about.
NOTE: Because a diatonic harmonica can only play notes from a given key, you need 12 different harmonicas to play in other keys.
Harmonicas come in either a
- 10 hole (20 reed) size or a
- 14 hole (28 reed) size.
10 hole harmonicas are the most popular, so you can forget about 14 hole-sized harmonicas for now.
Diatonic harmonicas are available in these tunings:
- Richter tuning which is just regular major scale
- Harmonic Minor
- Natural Minor
You only need a Richter-tuned harmonica at this point. Other tunings will become helpful as you improve.
The harmonica is one of the cheapest instruments around. You won’t have to mortgage your house to afford this instrument. High-end harmonicas will only set you back $100. Meaning you can still find well-made, professional harmonicas for half that price.
Harmonicas are built with various materials such as wood, stainless steel, and plastic. The cover plate, reed, and comb are the main parts of a harmonica.
The cover plates’ material makes the most significant difference because it determines the tonal quality. Plastics tend to sound cheap, having a toy quality to them. Woods are durable, while steel gives a louder sound.
Materials used for the comb (the part you blow into) usually affect durability and make little difference to how it sounds. Woods absorb moisture, causing it to expand, which is not good. Most combs are made with ABS plastic or various metals to avoid this.
Top 7 Best Beginner Harmonica Reviews
First impressions: It’s built well and sounds decent out of the box. It plays well enough to get better at the harmonica, but you may need to upgrade to something better in the future. At just $13, you are getting one of the best harps under $20.
- Key of C ( it also comes in A, Bb, D, E, and G)
- Traditional shaped, 10 holed diatonic harmonica
- Brass reeds
- Hard vented plastic case that allows harmonica to dry after playing
- Moisture resistant ABS combs
Material quality: It comes in a chrome metal finish that is smooth and nice to look at. Furthermore, it has a solid construction and provides a comfortable playing experience. The ABS plastic combs make this harmonica swell and moisture resistant, making it surprisingly durable. Something unusual is that this harmonica features replaceable reeds, which is rare for entry-level harps.
Tone and Performance: The Fender Blues Deluxe Harmonica gives a bright and versatile sound that will allow you to play in many genres. All the notes are playable and bend well. The ABS combs do manage to provide stable tuning. A well-rounded harmonica for beginners to start with and experts looking for one to practice with.
- Durable chrome metal covers provide good grip
- Replaceable reed plates
- Moisture and swell resistant combs
- Vented plastic case and cleaning cloth included
- Will need to upgrade to a better harmonica in the future
- The bright tone can be a bit harsh
First impressions: This is hands down one of the best harmonicas for beginners on the market. It’s one of the most popular harps for good reason. It sounds full and rich and feels premium when holding it. Spoiler, pros use this harmonica too! Many brands base their harmonicas on the Hohner Special 20, making it the best for every player, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.
- Provided in all other diatonic keys
- Richter tuning
- Long-lasting brass reeds
- Plastic ABS combs that reduce swelling and are airtight
- Rounded covers with closed sides
- Carry case
Material quality: This is a professional level harmonica, meaning you’re getting your money’s worth in terms of quality. Its unique and solid design allows the harmonica to project a warm, full tone loud enough for any genre. The plastic combs provide unmatched durability, hence why other brands have copied the Hohner Special 20.
Tone and Performance: The Special 20 is the first harp for many players simply because of its great tone amongst many things. It’s one of the most copied harmonicas for a reason. You’re getting an astounding beginner (professional really) harp, and it truly is one of the best.
- Professional level harmonica
- Amazing sound
- Strong and durable build
- High-quality craftsmanship
- The carry case is quite flimsy
- Some users complained the 30 days of free lessons don’t work
First impressions: A match made in heaven for beginners. This harp features slightly larger holes to help beginners play single notes easily, which is something they struggle with at first. The manufacturers made sure to make it airtight to assist beginners with bending notes. Its construction is built out of plastic, so it doesn’t feel premium given its price tag. However, it makes up for this in its clear and articulate sound.
- Large holes to isolate single notes
- Replaceable reed plates
- Airtight design
Material quality: Lee Oskar makes some of the best beginner harmonicas worldwide, so it’s slightly disappointing given its all-plastic build. However, because they are a respected brand, they made sure to make its construction robust and durable. It’s not flimsy as one would expect, but a metal design would be great.
Tone and Performance: The reeds on this harmonica are responsive, and stay in tune for a long time. Because of its airtight design, beginners will enjoy the bright tone it produces. Bending notes on this harp will become natural in no time.
- Larger holes for single note isolation
- Bright and articulate tone
- Bending notes has never been easier for beginners
- The plastic construction is a shame given the price
- The harmonica wobbles inside the case.
First impressions: The blue stainless steel build gives this harmonica some heft. Out of the box, it sounds bright and upfront. It has decent playability, nothing to knock your socks off, but beginners will find it comfortable and enjoyable.
- Eye-catching design
- Electroplated reed plated to prevent rust
- Airtight plastic combs
Material quality: Its weight from the stainless steel cover gives it a premium feel. The phosphor-bronze reeds will ensure its durability and that its tuning holds for a long time. Modern harps make use of moisture-resistant ABS plastic combs to avoid swelling, and this one does too.
Tone and Performance: Its airtight design makes it easy to play and responsive. Because it doesn’t leak, beginners will produce a full, bright sound with ease. This harmonica is quite loud, so bear that in mind.
- Beautiful blue design
- Feels premium
- Zip case
- High notes vibrate and poke out sometimes
- May want to upgrade it at a later stage
First impressions: Firstly, this harmonica is not made for professionals as advertised. However, kids and beginners who need a low-budget entry will enjoy this one. It plays well, and has a delicate build, although it’s a bit rough on the edges. Apart from that, you are getting a decent harmonica that will allow you to learn and develop as a player.
- Clean, black stainless steel build.
- Key of C
- 10 holes
- Versatile enough to play Blues, Country, Folk, and Pop
Material quality: The stainless steel is quite sturdy. It’s certainly not the strongest harmonica, but it isn’t flimsy. It’s also constructed with ABS combs and phosphor bronze reeds like in more expensive harps. Overall, the build quality is satisfactory. It definitely could be better, but for just $11, you’re getting a decent harmonica.
Tone and Performance: There’s not much to rave about with this harmonica. You get what you pay for, a playable harp that sounds okay and won’t give you trouble. For just around $11, you’ll be able to play along with your favorite songs and have fun too.
- Gorgeous, simple design
- Made with non-toxic materials
- Construction could be better
- The stainless steel cover scratches easily
Seydel Harmonica (Blues Classic C) – Best Beginner Harmonica Overall
First impressions: If you want a harmonica that will last you until the end of time, then look no further. The Seydel is a high-end beginner harp also used by professionals because of its tight, loud tone and durability. Although the price tag might put you off, it’s well worth it. It’s beautifully designed, feels comfortable, and is built like a tank. What more could you want?
- Fine-cut reed plates mean less air leakage
- 0.4mm stainless steel covers provide stability
- Waterproof maple-wood combs resistant to wear and tear
- Ergonomic build for beginners
Material quality: High-quality all around. This one stands out because it’s the only one with a wood comb (Maple-wood). However, it is moisture resistant and will not swell. Rounded cover plates mean that it’s also lip-friendly. The stainless steel construction gives it a smooth finish that is built to last. There is not much to complain about with this build. High marks.
Tone and Performance: The Seydel Blues Classic sounds full, warm, and whoa, it’s loud. Its stainless steel reeds give a clear, rich sound that will have you playing for hours. Since the wood combs are waterproof, the sound will remain fresh for a long time.
- Elegant build and design
- Built to last
- Waterproof combs
- Leather case included
- Expensive for beginners
First impressions: Talk about value for money. Ideal for beginners and players with a knack for color. It comes in standard Black, Blue, Gold, Red, and Silver. It sounds nice, nothing extraordinary, but for the price, you’re getting a good starter harp.
- Assorted colors
- Smooth stainless steel covers
- Durable bronze reeds
- Airflow splitter to maintain stable airflow for beginner players
Material quality: For the price, it doesn’t feel light. It’s surprisingly rigid. However, try not to drop it because it’s vulnerable to bumps and scratches. The covers don’t feel cheap, which is a bonus. You’ll have to upgrade it eventually because you’ll outgrow it as you develop as a player.
Tone and Performance: The EastRock plays okay. It will work well for new harmonica players. It has a pleasant tone. It’s not as harsh as you would typically find in inexpensive harps. All in all, it’s a harmonica every beginner will appreciate.
- Comes in different colors
- Appealing design
- Great starter harmonica
- Air leakage
- Notes won’t bend easily, but possible
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to care for the harmonica?
Make sure to tap your harmonica to remove excess or leftover saliva out of the holes. Wipe it with a cloth and place it in its case when not in use. Do not run it through water that will damage it. You might want to use a light disinfectant once in a while to kill germs.
See our guide: How to clean a harmonica
For health and safety reasons, I recommend you not share harmonicas because they carry so many germs.
How often should I practice as a beginner?
Aim for 10-20 mins every day. It is better to practice in short bursts daily than for a long session for just one or two days a week. Consistency is key.
Now you have no excuse for not being the next Bob Dylan. Seriously, music is a gift that we all share as humans, and learning an instrument adds your uniqueness to this unusual language we have in common. You can take the harmonica anywhere. It sounds incredible in all kinds of genres, and knowing music theory is unnecessary to play it.
From this list, you’ll find the best beginner harmonica that fits your budget and needs. All you have to do is choose one and begin your musical journey. And with your harmonica in your hand, a whole world awaits!