Eagle Music explains here the types of music that can be played on the harmonica and the most suitable type of harmonica including chromatic and diatonic harmonicas, solo tuned and tremolo harmonicas. How to choose them for your kind of harmonica music.
Harmonicas can be supplied in multitudes of makes, types, sizes and musical keys. Some of the popular types include Diatonic, Chromatic, Tremolo and Octave tuned. To make it easy and simple for your first choice of harmonica, Eagle Music explains here the types of music that can be played on them and the most suitable type of harmonica to choose.
If you are an absolute beginner we recommend that you buy a ten hole single reed diatonic harmonica in the key of C (these are also our lowest priced harmonicas. But don’t go for the cheapest in the range! the better the quality of the instrument that you buy, the more reliable and easier it will be to play). Diatonic harmonicas are also called ‘Harp’ or ‘Blues Harp’, they are used by many professionals playing Rock, Blues, Jazz, Folk and Country Music.
Diatonic harmonicas are ‘Richter’ tuned which means they do not have all the notes of the scales throughout their range of octaves, they only have one full major scale.
Nearly all tutor books for beginners are written for a C harmonica and on any accompanying CDs or DVDs the player on the CD/DVD will be playing a harmonica in the key of C.
Spare reed plates are readily available for many of the many of the diatonic harmonicas that are sold by Eagle Music Shop. If you are ‘handy’ it is more cost effective to fit a replacement set of reed plates than it is to replace the whole harmonica.
If you are a proficient musician you may want to consider buying a Chromatic Harmonica that has a wide range of noted including sharps and flats that are accessible by pressing in a slider that opens another set of reeds in the harmonica.
Solo-Tuned harmonicas are excellent for playing tunes and solos because they have all the notes of the scale (relative to the key that the particular harmonica is tuned in) throughout their range of octaves.
Types of Music and a Simple Guide to choosing the correct harmonica
Irish and Scottish dance and folk music
A diatonic in the key of ‘G’ is a good start …Popular models for Irish music are the Seydel range, Suzuki Pro-master, the Hohner Golden Melody, Lee Oskar and Hering models.
For Scottish music, harmonicas in the key of A are much used.
The best tremolo models are either the Tombo Band Deluxe or a Suzuki Humming Tremolo. The best chromatics brands are Seydel, Hering, Hohner and Suzuki.
General guide in choosing for Irish and Scottish music.
To play reels, jigs etc. it helps if you have an airtight, responsive, well-tuned harp. The best available ‘off-the-shelf’ models have either a plastic or metal comb (the bit in the middle!). Models we recommend are: Seydel, Cross Harp, Meisterclass, Golden Melody, Suzuki Pro Master, Lee Oskar by Tombo and Hering Blues & Black Blues.
Tremolo harmonicas are also a good choice for Irish music because they have a pleasant, accordion-like sound, well suited to folk music. They are generally tuned like diatonics e.g. on a 3-octave harp – the 1st octave is DO RE MI SO SO TI DO. 2nd octave is full. 3rd octave is DO RE MI FA SO LA DO. This can be restrictive, for instance, many tunes played on a ‘D’ whistle would fall outside the scope of a ‘D’ tremolo. Also it is very difficult to bend notes on a tremolo harmonica. One answer is to buy a great big one (4 to 6 octaves!), another is to purchase a model which is solo-tuned, ie all its octaves are full. The Tombo ‘Band Deluxe’ is an excellent choice.
Physically the easiest type of harmonica to play folk music with as it is not essential to perform difficult bends and a full chromatic scale is available. They are however, a very different instrument to the 10 hole diatonic. At |Eagle Music shop we recommend the Seydel, Hohner and Hering range. If you are ever around the Manchester area, look up Mat Walklate: an excellent traditional player of these instruments.
A diatonic. Choose a quality harmonica made by Seydel, Hering, Hohner, Suzuki and Lee Oskar by Tombo.
R&B, Rock and pop music
A diatonic. or in some cases a chromatic. Choose a quality harmonica made by Seydel, Hering, Hohner, Suzuki and Lee Oskar by Tombo.
A Chromatic. Choose a quality harmonica made by Seydel, Hering, Hohner and Suzuki.
A Chromatic and in some cases a diatonic ..Choose a quality harmonica made by Seydel, Hering, Hohner, Suzuki and Le Oskar by Tombo.
Please read our section ‘Types of Harmonica’ with detailed notes for all the popular specific types of harmonica.