Known also as a French harp or mouth organ, the harmonica is a popular free-reed wind instrument. Its range of musical styles includes classical, jazz, blues, pop, and more. Different types of harmonicas are categorized into five main categories: diatonic, chromatic, tremolo, octave, orchestral, and bass. Below, we will explore these instruments.
The physical properties of the harmonica contribute to its widespread use in blues music. The instrument’s reeds, which are flat and elongated, produce the sound by alternating blocking and opening the airway. Depending on the material, the reeds vary in length. A shorter reed will produce higher-pitched tones than a longer reed will. A shorter reed will respond more easily to airflow when held over the airway.
The most common type of harmonica is diatonic with a key of C. Most harmonica instruction materials are designed for this key. However, there are other types of harmonicas, such as chromatic harmonicas, which can play all notes of the chromatic scale. They have a sliding bar that is activated by a button on the instrument. While Stevie Wonder is one of the most famous ambassadors of the harmonica in pop music, he has been playing harmonicas for nearly 50 years.
The comb is the main part of the instrument and may even have a similar function to a hair comb. While historically made of wood, these days, they are often made of metal or plastic. Some of the high-end harmonicas even have titanium combs. Many of these harmonica comb designs are complex in the way they direct air. You can learn the basic principles of vibrato by practicing these techniques. And once you have mastered these basics, you can take the next step and learn to play the instrument like the pros.