Best UK Harmonica
Latest Update: January 2020
These are our top selections in the category of best harmonica to buy right now in the UK.
#1 Pick: Rating = 96%
#2: Best Quality Runner-Up
#3: Good For User Satisfaction
How To Buy The Perfect Harmonica For You In 2020
The harmonica is one of the most distinct-sounding instruments around. While it’s easy to get confused between stringed instruments if you have an untrained ear, there is no mistaking that coarse, bluesy wail of a harmonica. Of course, the harmonica is a really diverse instrument.
That means it’s likely to carry different tones from model to model. What’s more, it’s an instrument that has a place in all kinds of music.
From jazz to blues and even pop music (Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’ really helped to put it into the UK charts many years ago), it’s likely you’ve heard a harmonica or two in your time.
Learning how to play the harmonica is a lot of fun. It’s a great little instrument that you can just pick up and start playing around with. However, mastering the instrument is a different matter.
Thankfully, there are more than a few guides out there, whether you choose to watch YouTube tutorials or buy yourself a traditional guidebook.
Either way, tuition should be fairly straightforward. Beyond this, how on earth do you buy the right harmonica? It can get very confusing.
Luckily for you, we’re here to help. You’ve probably seen harmonicas of all shapes and sizes. You may well wonder what the differences between each harmonica actually are! Don’t worry, as this buying guide will give you a reliable introduction to the world of this fantastic little instrument.
Read on for the full lowdown, and also to learn more about what you should be looking for when shopping around. At the end of our guide, we will also take a close look at what buyers are asking when looking around for the best harmonicas.
Why Play the Harmonica?
Why not, would be our response! It’s one of the easiest instruments to just pick up and get started with. It carries a very distinct sound, and though this varies from model to model, mouth organs are always unmistakable.
They are lightweight and easy to carry around. They are one of the few instruments that you can carry in your pocket – short of a kazoo, in any case!
However, the harmonica is fascinating in its diversity. The average mouth organ might seem like a simple piece of kit, but there is some incredible engineering going on under the hood.
You could play harmonica to back up country ballads, to tear up some freeform jazz, or to give a pop song a real boost in the bridge. In any case, with a harmonica, you have a diverse field of opportunity waiting for you.
As there are so many fantastic guides and tutorials out there, we won’t be looking at how to play the harmonica in this guide. Instead, we will be looking closely at what you need to compare and contrast when shopping around.
Types of Harmonica
The main thing you should compare and contrast when buying a harmonica is, of course, the type. Different types and styles of harmonica will produce different sounds and tones. This means you should look carefully for a style of harmonica that fits your genre and style of music the best.
There is nothing to say you can’t mix things up and get creative, but if you are looking to create pleasant sounds and are just starting out, you may want to play things a little safe.
A diatonic harmonica is thought to be the best option for beginners. These harmonicas will generally start on a ‘C’ scale, and they are ideal for playing mainstream rock, blues, country and even folk music. They are good all-round choices, and they are well-known for their built-in tuning.
That means you can pretty much pick one up and start playing as soon as you like. There is no fiddling around.
However, more confident players will probably want to look for a different type, as you will only have access to a single scale through a diatonic harmonica. However, we still think they are great for beginners, meaning it’s well worth comparing between these models as a priority.
With a diatonic harmonica, you are more likely to play chords, whereas a chromatic harmonica will help you to play basic melodies.
Tremolo harmonicas are, on the whole, less common. However, they are generally a good choice if you want to play traditional music. Folk musicians will invest in tremolo harmonicas for their old-timey warbles.
They are similar to diatonic harmonicas in their tuning, though can work to higher and lower octaves if you invest in a large model. The choice, of course, is always yours.
Chromatic harmonicas are the next step up for professional harmonica players. With these instruments, you have access to much more in the way of playable notes and holes. Chromatic harmonicas are perfect for melody play, which means that they are more flexible and often more diverse.
However, they are often more difficult to play than diatonic instruments. Therefore, once you’ve gotten the hang of a diatonic, you should definitely think about upgrading to a chromatic if you want to diversify your playing experience.
Other Things to Consider
Believe it or not, there are a few other things to consider when you buy your first harmonica! Not only should you think about the type of instrument you need, you should also be careful to choose a harmonica that offers you a good number of holes.
Standard harmonicas have around ten holes for you to play through. However, become proficient at playing, and you may want to move onto something a little more advanced, such as a harmonica with two rows of holes.
You’ll also find harmonicas tune to various keys. The most basic key you’ll find a harmonica in will be ‘C’, which is of course the standard for most instruments. However, depending on the type of music you want to play, you might want to look for a ‘B’ or a ‘D’.
You should also consider a chromatic harmonica, for example, if you want to play the blues, particularly if you are looking to differentiate between minor and major key. This isn’t always so simple with standard ten-hole harmonicas!
Harmonicas are also built in different materials, and by different brands. The brands worth looking for will differ from opinion to opinion. However, in our collective opinion, you should look carefully at what seasoned musicians, and verified buyers, have to say.
Check out review scores and comparisons, and make sure to ask the opinion of a music store proprietor or specialist if you get the chance.
One other thing – while we do generally advise that you attempt to ‘try before you buy’ with most products we analyse, we’re going to make an exception with harmonicas.
Why? Well – it should be obvious – how can you guarantee the harmonica you’re about to blow into hasn’t been cleaned before use? Try and buy online and keep your own harmonica clean for the sake of your health!
Frequently Asked Questions
Plenty of people have questions to ask about harmonicas, and here are just a few of those queries – along with our answers.
Is it Hard to Learn to Play the Harmonica?
The harmonica is diverse, but it’s actually one of the easiest instruments that you can just pick up and start playing off the bat.
You can start finding your way around specific notes and sounds without much instruction, making it a great choice for anyone who wants to feel their way around the music. To master a harmonica, you’re going to need tuition and plenty of practice.
How Much Do Harmonicas Cost?
This can really vary. You can buy a good harmonica for beginners for as little as £10, maybe even cheaper. However, more expensive instruments are likely to last longer, and will likely give you a lot more flexibility. Expect to pay £20 to £30, even more for some of the best models on the market.
What is the Best Harmonica to Buy?
There really is no ‘best’ harmonica on the market. The best harmonica for you will depend on your skill level, your budget, and the music you want to play. Therefore, it’s worthwhile taking in a range of different instruments and styles when comparing.
Don’t always choose one harmonica because it’s got good reviews! Take the time to look carefully at what’s out there.
How Long Do Harmonicas Last For?
A good harmonica with a solid reed should play for months and months without any maintenance. However, after heavy playing for a while, you may need to replace the reeds. This shouldn’t be too complex or expensive to do!
How long a harmonica lasts will depend on individual build and design, as well as how hard you push it!
The harmonica is a fascinating instrument. It’s surprisingly complex! Therefore, make sure to take a careful look at the instruments that appeal to your interests as well as your level of experience. Check out what’s available online and see how you go!