A harmonica is a free reed wind instrument that is also known as a mouth organ or a French harp. 

It is played using the lips and tongue to direct air into holes situated along a mouthpiece into a chamber containing a minimum of one reed, which is usually made from a form of metal.  

The harmonica is popular in a range of music genres including jazz, country, Blues, folk and classical.

Types of harmonica

There are a variety of types of harmonica but the most well-known are:

  • Chromatic – typically used in jazz and classical music; a chromatic harmonica allows you to play any type of scale and any key.
  • Diatonic – typically used in Blues, rock, country and folk music, diatonic harmonicas allow you to play a complete seven-note major scale.
  • Tremolo-tuned – diatonic harmonicas built with double holes, tremolo models each contain two reeds tuned to the same note, with one slightly higher than the other.
  • Octave – similar to the Tremolo but both reeds are tuned one octave apart
  • Special-tuned diatonic – for musicians that need more notes and scales than the chromatic or diatonic can offer.

There are also harmonica trios, orchestrals and groups which include chord harmonicas, bass harmonicas and Polyphonias.

Benefits of playing a harmonica

There are a number health benefits attributed to playing a harmonica, including:

  • Improved breathing control
  • Increased lung capacity and power
  • Reduced anxiety, stress and depression
  • Regulated blood pressure and heart rate
  • Improved levels of concentration and communication

Caring for a harmonica

  • Always keep in a hard case to avoid damage
  • Keep at room temperature in a dry environment, away from extreme conditions
  • Avoid dust and excess moisture
  • Always clean after use with a dry microfibre cloth to clear any moisture after playing.  Rubbing alcohol can be used to shift any grime and fingerprints
  • Avoid salty air, such as a beach, as this can cause the reeds to rust