Different Types of Harmonicas

The harmonica is used in nearly every type of music, from blues and jazz to country and rock. In this video, music teacher Marcus Milius teaches you about the different types of harmonicas.


Up next in How to Play the Harmonica (21 videos)

The great thing about a harmonica is that it's one instrument you can keep in your pocket to play anytime you have a moment to spare. In these videos, musician Marcus Milius walks you through the basics of how to play the harmonica. By the end of these online lessons, you'll be able to play "Amazing Grace," "Oh! Susanna," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and more.



"Hi, my name is Marcus Milius. I play harmonica. I got a degree at the University of Southern California, a Bachelor's of Music, in Jazz Studies - Chromatic Harmonica. I play and teach harmonica here in New York City, and I'm happy to show you what I do. One thing that is very confusing about harmonica is that there are so many different kinds. Often times this is just the difference in names, in models, or brands. For instance, the blues harp the marine pan, the special twenty, the golden melody which are all diatonic harmonicas by the Horner company and they are really all very similar. But the main differences in harmonica will be primarily the diatonic and chromatic harmonica. There are many others as well as base harmonica, chord harmonica, echo harmonica, or tremolo harmonica. And they all have different sounds, but primarily it divides into diatonic and chromatic harmonica. Chromatic harmonica looks like this. It plays in all keys, and sounds a bit like the artists Stevie Wonder or twist talemen. Diatonic harmonicas will be set up in one key and you'll need twelve of them to play in every key and they tend to have a bluesier folkier sound, or a bluesy sound. And you'll notice that they bend very nicely, and they have really nice double stops or chords. The other harmonicas that are out there would be the base harmonica, chord harmonicas which are really big, there are also diatonic harmonicas that are tuned to minor, or other scales. There are diatonic harmonicas that have a very organ like sound and they're called echo harps or tremolo harps. So, that takes a lot of investigating to know the difference. But usually most people are going to be playing the majority of recordings that you hear will be chromatic harmonica and diatonic harmonica and they're pretty easy to hear the difference between. "


  • Marcus Milius

    Marcus Milius teaches private chromatic and diatonic harmonica lessons in New York City (Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn). He has 15 years experience as a teacher and currently teaches both children and adults of all ages and experience levels. Marcus has a Bachelor's of Music in Jazz Studies (Chromatic Harmonica) from the University of Southern California. He plays the diatonic harmonica, the chromatic harmonica and the bass harmonica and has been playing for more than 18 years.