Different Types of Harmonicas

Learn about different types of harmonicas from music teacher Marcus Milius in this Howcast video.

"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.