One of the most overlooked instruments in the band or orchestra is the chromatic harmonica. Many people do not realize how the chromatic harmonica is crucial to contribute to the charismatic sound of blues, rock, jazz and even classical music. Some of the best harmonica players have already made great use of chromatic harmonica and prefer it over their diatonic counterpart.
Dedicated musicians prefer harmonicas in the C key because the chromatic harmonica can play in any key, with the 12 notes on the western scale in each octave. While harmonics come in 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 holes, the same 12 holes are the most versatile and best for beginners. However, more advanced players generally prefer to use a 16-hole harmonica.
Depending on the degree of professionalism required and your budget, a wide range of chromatic harmonics is available. In the following, we will give an overview of the best chromatic harmonics on the market today.
Our Top Pick
Last update on 2022-07-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Top 10 Best Chromatic Harmonicas To Buy In 2021
Last update on 2022-07-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
10 Best Chromatic Harmonicas Review
- “Pocket Piano” -This is a chromatic harmonica with 10 hole 40 tones is a great Christmas Gift for your family & friends. There’s a button on the right which when NOT pressed allows you to play a standard major scale in the key of "C", and while with the button depressed, gives you all the half-steps or notes in between, like the piano black keys. This chromatic harmonica allows you to perform full range of songs.
- Crisp & Clear Sound- Top grade Phosphor Bronze Reeds for rich & full notes. Thicker Copper Plate helps to produce smoother and more melodic tones. Round Holes with smooth edges for stable and pure sound. It's suitable for blues, folk, pop classical music, jazz, country, and rock & roll and all range of music styles.
- Precise Design- Each harmonica is well crafted and carefully tuned and tested during manufacturing to ensure best sound and quality.You can rest assured to purchase.
- Easy to Play- It produces standard C key with the button unpressed. Gets half notes with the button depressed. Perfect for ambitious player and advanced players, kids and adults. It’s for anyone who loves great sounding harmonica.
- Exquisite & Heavy Duty-5.1”x1.5”x1” (LXWXH), small enough to slip into your pocket wherever you go. Net weight 5.25oz heavy duty and durable. This chromatic harmonica is a suitable instrument for either solo playing or in combination with other instruments. Package includes 1x chromatic harmonica with plastic case; 1x cleaning cloth.
- 【Rich sound,responsive,airtightness】 - The precision-made plastic comb with phosphor bronze reed&1.2mm thickness reed plate is easier to get the higher pitch, rich sound and timbre. The reed plate with electroplating antirust, the hole, reed gap is better after electroplating. It is without valve and suitable for professional band players, adults and students.
- 【Round mouth piece design】- Cover Material: Stainless Steel Gray cover, Easy to Clean. Laser logo East top on cover. Reed Material: Special Made Phosphor Bronze with ABS comb. You will feel comfortable when playing, easy to use the skill, giving the performer a new experience. Pocket size and easy bring, you can put it into your pocket,it can be played everywhere, such as party, school, office, trip etc.
- 【Beautiful packaging】 -The package is exquisitely plastic box and can be used as a birthday present, a gift to your friend, parents, a holiday souvenir or a business meeting gift., wedding anniversary etc. Dimensions: (5.51x 1.18x 1.57)"/ (140 x 30 x 40)mm(L x W x H). Portable size, easy to carry with your travel.
- 【Package includes】- Harmonica*1, Gray ABS carrying case*1 , microfiber polishing cloth*1 and User Instructions*1. We are the harmonica manufacturer of the East top brand.Backed Up with East top 30 Days Unconditional Money Back . You can rest assured to buy our products. Any problem about the valve,pls contact us with no hesitate,we will try to solve it for you.
- 【Maintain and clean tip】- Use 70% ethyl alcohol, and spray on the cover and comb, after about 15 seconds, use the cloth to wipe the surface. No heat, no hair dryer, no sunlight, just air-dry. If there’s some small things in the comb, you can brush lightly with a very soft brush. Do not use sharp tool,it will damage the reeds. If you want to open the cover, please be carefully to save the screw.
- Softcover with Online Audio
- 64 pages
- Size: 12" x 9"
- Composer: Bobby Joe Holman
- ISBN: 793588537
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Gelling, Peter (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 114 Pages - 05/02/2014 (Publication Date) - LearnToPlayMusic.com (Publisher)
- Lightweight, Classic fit, Double-needle sleeve and bottom hem
- Balinger, Thomas (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 120 Pages - 11/05/2016 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)
- Used Book in Good Condition
- Morgan, Tommy (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 48 Pages - 04/01/1987 (Publication Date) - Alfred Music (Publisher)
- Audio CD – Audiobook
- Miles High Records (Publisher)
- Massive volume boost through double thickness reed plates
- VarioSpring system permits easy slide spring tension adjustment
- SilentSlide - Revolutionary construction ensure silent airtight slide action
- Coverplates indepedently screwed on for easy maintanence
- 64X Bundle with Juliet Music Polish Cloth and Hohner 38N mini harmonica
Last update on 2022-07-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
So Which One is Right for You?
The only way to make this task an easier one is to find out as much as you can about the purchase you are about to make.
It is worth understanding the tips and advice in this buyers’ guide to help you choose the correct harmonica for you and your needs.
From the best blues harmonica to the best cheap chromatic harmonica, this article will give you all the information you need to move forward with your purchase.
Also, check out the harmonica reviews 2021 to select your best option below.
Beginner Buyer’s Guide
This guide will give you an overview of how to make the best choices for your next harmonica purchase.
The intention is to help you understand everything you need to know before reading the reviews below and purchasing the best harmonica for the money you wish to spend. Read on to find out all you need to know and more.
Where to start?
When starting to play the harmonica, you really need to know what type of music you are wishing to play and for what purpose.
The harmonica is an easy instrument to pick up and learn as a small hobby for ten minutes a day, which is why the market is flooded with good beginner harmonica options. This, however, makes it quite difficult to choose the best harmonica for you.
It is important that if you want to be able to play all notes that you consider a chromatic harmonica as without this you will be limited in your note making capacity.
If you are looking to play blues or jazz whilst many will offer you a basic blues scale if you want the freedom of keys and notes then a chromatic harmonica would be the best harmonica for blues playing.
If you are looking for just a melody line and some quick outcomes, the best beginner harmonica is usually a 10-hole diatonic harmonica offering ease of play across a simple range of notes.
This will help you to master the skills needed and have easy outcomes for learning. This option is the best sounding harmonica for producing melodies.
Different types of harmonica?
- Diatonic harmonicas sound very much like blues music and can be tuned to each key including minor keys. These are the most common harmonicas and they bend notes very easily adding to the blues sounding feel.
- Chromatic harmonicas play every semitone in the chromatic scale and offer the player to option to play a variety of keys and chords. The musical proficiency of the player has to be such that if reading music, they understand how to read each note to then play the melody lines correctly on a chromatic harmonica. If playing by ear this problem should be easily resolved.
- Bass harmonicas play bass notes so have a pitch register in the lower octaves. Otherwise they function much the same as diatonic and chromatic harmonicas.
- Chord harmonicas offer the player the capability of playing a set of notes by blowing through one hole to create a chord. This can be useful in ensemble pieces to add more weight to the sound of the harmonica and allow greater emphasis to its part within the ensemble.
- Echo harmonica is a type of harmonica that allows for a more organ-like sound to be produced. The instrument is designed in such a way that an underlying rhythm is played at the same times as the melody over the top.
- Tremolo harmonica plays almost straight melodies with the addition of bass notes in rhythm being available to add to harmonize the melody. This is not as complex to play as the echo harmonica but gives the player an option to achieve some of the similar effects.
How to play the harmonica?
A harmonica is played by resting your lips around the line of holes at the note you wish to play. Then the player must blow out or suck in to achieve the correct note.
Most harmonicas increment in tones or semitones as you move up the holes and sucking will offer a chord a fifth higher than blowing the same hole. This means you get a perfect cadence by staying in the same place and sucking in then blowing out.
Harmonicas can be easy to pick up and if you can read music then most melodies can be played with ease on the harmonica.
This is the point where playing the harmonica can become more difficult. However, usually, if you have it right, you will find that the notes and chords you are producing will sound right to the ear.
This video shows you how to play a 10-hole diatonic harmonica one of the simplest harmonicas to understand. This is probably the best harmonica to start with.
How is blues harmonica different?
When playing a blues harmonica pattern, you must come up with a pattern and repeat it in different ways as seen in this video.
Best Harmonica Brands 2021
Searching for the best harmonica brand is a long and difficult task to undertake.
There are so many options out there. We have selected a short list of available brands that offer quality and good craftsmanship in their harmonicas.
This list though not extensive should help you to get a feel for what each brand has to offer.
One of the most popular brands of harmonica, Hohner creates many different diatonic harmonicas all with different names.
Their quality is excellent and there is a clear reason that they are probably the most popular brand for harmonica purchases.
Hohner has an exceptional range that suits the needs of the best beginner harmonica player and the professional harmonica player. This is the brand of choice for most players.
Known for their popular guitar range, Fender offers a selection of harmonicas that were produced to be played along guitars.
Usually, a format for blues players the idea being that they can play the harmonica on a holder that links to the guitar whilst also playing the guitar.
Fender has produced a reasonable range to suit these needs. Often a blues tone is produced with this brand of harmonica.
Swan is a quality-assured harmonica brand that has a good reputation for offering quality cheaper harmonicas in their range. They specialize in creating good beginner harmonica options across their range.
This American brand offers their customers value for money and are very popular choices for the players starting a hobby of playing the harmonica.
How Do You Know which Harmonica to Buy for Your Needs?
Buying the right harmonica for your needs requires knowing your music style for the use of the harmonica.
It is important to consider whether you are after the ringing tones of the echo harmonica or the simple tones of the diatonic harmonica for creating a melody.
Once you have made that decision there are few more options to consider below.
What is the Best Harmonica for Beginners?
It is easiest to play a diatonic harmonica and the key of C makes reading the music easier.
Usually, a beginner can pick up the playing patterns quite quickly and with ease on a diatonic harmonica.
The best beginner harmonica will allow the player to become proficient in the skill of blowing and sucking the notes and placing the lips in the correct places.
It will also mean that when moving onto some of the more complicated models for instance the chromatic and the echo harmonicas the additional playing elements can be easily added onto the skill already learnt.
What is the best harmonica for blues?
There are many options for blues harmonicas and it depends on the sounds you wish to achieve. As seen in the list of different harmonicas above there are many options for this.
The best blues harmonica usually offers the ability to bend notes and swoop into others. A diatonic harmonica does this with ease and sounds very effective. But bending notes on any harmonica is a possibility.
What about professional and chromatic harmonicas?
The best chromatic harmonica will offer you a range of notes like no other harmonica. They are more difficult to play because of this and require a lot of skill to do so.
Learning to play a chromatic harmonica throws up more challenges than a diatonic harmonica but the outcome is a player that needs only one harmonica to play in all pieces and with great proficiency.
Variations on a simple chromatic harmonica can also add different timbres and effects like echoes and tremelos.
The best professional harmonica will allow for specialist needs and can range into the $500+ mark.
For this you will be getting significantly tailored and customized options for your harmonica playing needs. A professional harmonica player with the right harmonica in their hands can wow any audience member repeatedly.
Types of Harmonicas
It pays to choose a high quality model when buying a harmonica. It is advisable to go with one that has good raw materials for its replaceable parts. Before shelling out your money for one, let’s talk about the different types of harmonica and what you should be looking for when deciding on which one to buy.
The diatonic harmonica is the most widely used type of harmonica that is typically used in rock, blues, country, folk, and nearly all styles of music. They are sometimes referred to as a “blues harp”, “harp”, “short harp”, or “standard 10-hole”. They allow you to play a complete 7-note major scale of the key of the harmonica and come in all twelve keys of music. By “bending” certain draw and blow notes, a lot of additional notes from outside the major scale can be acquired.
When not used, the chromatic harmonica’s button on the side allows the player to play a normal major scale in the key of the harmonica. When the button is depressed, you get all the missing half-step notes in between the major scale notes, allowing you to play in any type of scale and any key. Chromatic harmonicas are usually used in classical and jazz music, but can also be found in all styles of music, just like the diatonic harmonica. Bending, though, doesn’t work as well as it does on the diatonic harmonica. Bending on the chromatic harmonica is used more for a “bending effect”.
Tremolo harmonicas are basically diatonic harmonicas with double holes, each containing 2 reeds tuned to the same note, 1 tuned a bit higher than the other. Since both reeds are either draw or blow, both will sound together and the small difference in tuning creates a tremolo or vibrating effect when played. This is why a tremolo harmonica is mostly used for special effects and are not made to bend notes, play blues, or do anything other than playing the simplest melodies. Depending on the brand and model, the harmonica’s major scale would begin on the 3rd or 4th set of holes, and then the major scale pattern in relation to draws and blows would be the same as that of the diatonic harmonica.
Octave Tuned Harmonica
In musical range and reed layout, octave tuned harmonicas are similar to tremolo harmonicas. They have doubles holes but each one has 1 reed tuned an octave apart from the other – resulting to a full-bodied and stronger sound, and without the tremolo effect. The octave tuned harmonica is sort of like the twelve-string guitar’s harmonica counterpart.
Special Tuned Diatonics Harmonica
For those who need additional scales and notes in their playing but do not play the chromatic harmonica, the special tuned diatonic harmonica is for them. The tunings include: harmonic minor scale, natural minor scale, major scale 2nd position tuned, low octave and high octave tuned.
Used only on specific occasions are specialized harmonicas like the orchestral harmonica – the most notable specialized harmonica. They are only used in orchestral performances and their purpose is to guide player in directing the pitch and the range of the song as well as changing keys.
Also known as the blues harp or the blues harmonica, the ten-hole harmonica is a small harmonica with ten holes to blow into. This specific harmonica is used in genres such as blues, folk, and rock.
ChengGong harmonica, known as the Asian type of harmonica, has a main body and has a sliding mouthpiece unlike usual harmonicas with a permanent or steady mouthpiece. It comes with 24 holes which cover 3 different octaves with the 11th hole able to provide a variety of chords by sliding along the harmonica, while also having the capability of playing just a single note like the regular harmonica. It can only produce the same note at a time so one can’t play different notes at a time.
Pitch Pipe Harmonica
The pitch pipe harmonica is another specialized harmonica which is usually used to guide singers and other players on which pitch to follow. They are divided into several versions such as pitch pipes meant to help string players tune the open strings of their instruments and pitch pipes that can perform 12-note octaves for choirs.
Glass Diatonic Harmonica
Invented in 2009 by Geoff Stengel, the glass diatonic harmonica is a diatonic harmonica that is made of glass, as the name suggests. The glass used for the glass components of the glass diatonic harmonica is borosilicate glass, so that it is less prone to breaking. Everything is held together with brass screws and each one of the reeds can be changed. The borosilicate glass are mixed with oxides by hand to achieve the color and the right effect of each part of the glass diatonic harmonica.
While it doesn’t look different to other harmonicas in the market today, the electric harmonica is different as it has a microphone inside. This is to make sure that the sound it produces is louder without using and needing an amplifier.
Buying a Harmonica – What to Consider?
Comb is the main part of the harmonica, containing the reeds covered by the air chambers. It is called the comb as it is laid out like a comb. Though traditionally made from wood, combs are now also made from metal (including titanium) or from plastic (ABS). Some experimental and modern comb designs are intricate in the way that they direct the air.
Reed-plate is the term used for a grouping of several reeds in one single housing. Reeds are commonly made of brass, but aluminum, plastic, and steel are also occasionally used. Individual reeds may also be screwed or welded in place, but they are more commonly riveted to the reed-plate. Reeds secure d on the outer side of the reed-plate respond to suction, while those secured on the inner side of the reed-plate respond to blowing.
Cover plates can be made of metal, plastic, or wood. They are used to cover the reed-plates. Choosing what it is made of is personal because they control the tonal quality of the harmonica and they project sound.
Made from very thin strips of knit paper, plastic, teflon, or leather glued onto the reed-plate, windsavers are one-way valves that are typically found in chord harmonicas, chromatic harmonicas, and many octave-tuned harmonicas. They are used when 2 reeds share a leakage and cell through the non-playing reed.
The mouthpiece is the part placed between the player’s mouth and the air chambers of the harmonica. This could be integral with the part of the cover, the comb, or may be a separate unit entirely. The mouthpiece is secured by screws, which is characteristic of chromatic harmonicas. In majority of harmonicas, the mouthpiece is a purely ergonomic aid intended to make playing more comfortable.
Harmonics have been around for centuries and are unlikely to get anywhere for very long. The best chromatic harmonica is the one that best adapts to your needs, whether you are a beginner or a professional, without forgetting your budget. Of our four choices above, we are confident to say that the Suzuki SCX-64C 64R 16H obtained most brands in large sections.
With 16 holes, ABS comb and light construction, this model is the real deal for most professionals. We also recommend the Suzuki SCX-48 C 12H for anyone looking for a standard harmonica. We like its ergonomic mouthpiece and long-lasting chrome cover plates. The best budget choice and especially for beginners is the Swan SW 1664 C 16H 64R.
You will be surprised at the variety of songs that this instrument can play – ballads, gospel, folk and reggae. With all the information above, we hope that you can now shop with confidence. Do you know of any other good chromatic harmonics that we forgot to mention? We will participate in our comments section.