The cost of a harmonica completely depends on the type and brands that manufacture it; usually chromatic harmonicas come in highest range. The cost of a harmonica also depends on the quality; you can purchase a lower range harmonica in as little as $10. So if you are still confused and wondering actually how much does a harmonica cost, then here is a guide for you.
In this article, we have discussed about the different types of harmonicas and their cost for your better knowledge. Before knowing the price you must what a harmonica actually is and how and where you can play them.
What is a harmonica?
The harmonica is also known as a French harp or a mouth organ. This is a very popular free reed wind instrument used worldwide in many musical genres, especially in blues, American folk music, classical music, jazz, country, and rock. There are many types of harmonicas available in the market, which include diatonic, chromatic, tremolo, octave, orchestral, and bass versions.
Basically a harmonica features a mouthpiece and is played by using the mouth to pass air into or out of one or more holes along the mouthpiece. There is a chamber behind each hole that contains at least one reed, a flat, elongated spring typically made of brass, stainless steel, or bronze, secured at one end over a slot that serves as an airway. When the player vibrates the free end by air, it alternately blocks and unblocks the airway to produce sound.
The harmonica uses a technology known as ‘vibrato’ to give the note a shaking sound. You can achieve the vibrato effect in a harmonica by opening and closing the hands around the harmonica very rapidly.
You can use a harmonica in various ways such as play simple songs, make up melodies, play with friends, or play along (jam) to your favourite bands and music with a harmonica.
How much is a harmonica?
Like other products, the price of harmonica also varies depending on its type, quality, and the manufacturing brand. So you can expect to get more if you pay more bucks. Basically, a cheap harmonica can be bought in less than $10. However, you may not get the desired sound quality that you can get in a harmonica manufactured by a well-known brand. Cheap harmonica may tend to leak air and are very difficult for beginners to learn on especially if you want to learn the notes for blues, country, rock, etc.
You can expect to spend somewhere between $35-$90 for a good beginner, yet a good quality 10-hole diatonic harmonica. However, you can purchase a good quality, chromatic harmonica at as low as $120 and above. You can purchase harmonicas at highest price but to avail the features you need to practice it more.
Now, let us discuss the various types of harmonicas and their cost so that you can make up your mind to choose a particular product for you.
Types of harmonicas and their cost
The chromatic harmonica features a button-activated sliding bar that redirects air from the hole in the mouthpiece to the selected reed-plate, though the “Machino-Tone”. A lever-operated flap on the rear of the instrument controls the airflow.
Basically, a chromatic harmonica is significantly more expensive than their diatonic ones. A typical chromatic harmonica can cost ten times higher than a simple diatonic harmonica. Chromatic harmonicas manufactured by reputable companies, such as Hohner, Seydel, and Suzuki) can cost hundreds of US dollars. You can expect chromatic harmonicas at somewhere around $150-$1000 and above.
As the name suggests, you can play diatonic harmonicas in a single key. The standard Richter-tuned harmonica diatonic is capable of playing other keys by forcing its reeds to play tones that are not part of its basic scale. Depending on the country, Diatonic harmonicas is known differently in different countries; sometimes it means either the tremolo harmonica in East Asia or blues harp in Europe and North America. Octave harmonicas are also a type of diatonic harmonicas.
The diatonic harmonicas may cost you around $15-$300.
The tremolo-tuned harmonica features two reeds per note, with one slightly sharp and the other slightly flat. This provides a unique wavering or warbling sound created by the two reeds being slightly out of tune with each other. The most popular one is the East Asian version, which can produce all 12 semitones. This type of harmonica is used in East Asian rock and pop music.
You can purchase a Tremolo tuned harmonica at as low as $10. But a Tremolo harmonica from the brand Suzuki can cost you around $300.
Orchestral melody harmonica
You can find eight types of orchestral melody harmonica; the most common are the horn harmonicas often used in East Asia. These feature a single large comb with blow-only reed-plates on the top and bottom, where each reed sits inside a single cell in the comb. It has two versions; one version can mimic the layout of a piano or mallet instrument, with the natural notes of a C diatonic scale in the lower reed plate, while another version has one “sharp” reed directly above its “natural” on the lower plate.
You can purchase horn harmonicas at as low as $15 that may exceed to $100.
The chord harmonica consists of 48 chords: major, seventh, minor, augmented and diminished chords are there for ensemble playing. The chord harmonicas have four-note clusters, each produce a different sound on inhaling or exhaling. Typically in an expensive chord harmonica, each hole features two reeds for each note, tuned to one octave of each other, while in less expensive models there is only one reed per note.
These harmonicas may cost you somewhere around $50-$100.
The ChengGong harmonica consists of a main body and a sliding mouthpiece. The body has 24-holes that range from B2 to D6 (covering 3 octaves). It has got a 11-hole mouthpiece that can slide along the front of the harmonica to produce numerous chord choices and voicing including seven triads, three 6th chords, seven 7th chords, and seven 9th chords, for a total of 24 chords. It resembles to the note layout of a typical East Asian tremolo harmonica or the Polyphonias.
These types of harmonicas look luxurious and can cost you around $80-$250.
The pitch pipe is simple in design and provides a reference pitch to singers and other instruments. They are the older versions of harmonicas. Chromatic pitch pipes give a full chromatic (12-note) octave and are used by singers and choirs. String players, such as violinists and guitarists use pitch pipes that provide the notes corresponding to the open strings.
Pitch pipes give vintage look and can be purchased at $150-$350
Which is the best harmonica key?
Usually the key of “C” is the best first key for diatonic harmonicas. After the key of “C” we include “A”, “D”, “F”, “G”, and “Bb”. You need the correct diatonic key for a particular song.
For chromatic harmonica, the key of “C” is always the best choice. In a chromatic harmonica, learning and working with scales will allow you to play in any key you choose. We do not recommend buying any key other than ‘C’ for chromatic harmonicas unless you have a special purpose or reason.
Which harmonica comb should you buy?
Plastic combs play better and last longer than unsealed wooden combed harmonicas. However, the diatonic harmonicas featuring wood combs come sealed these days, which will not expand and contract with moisture.
There is very little difference between plastic and wood combs as far as the tone quality is concerned. The tone quality of the harmonica depends on the player’s technical ability. Metal combs last forever and are a bit brighter than plastic or wood combs due to their density. So, it completely depends on the player, which one to go for.
From where you can buy a Harmonica?
A wide range of varieties of Harmonica are available at Amazon.com.
The cost of a harmonica depends on the quality, material used, type, and the brand itself. So, you should fix a budget before choosing one for you. The type of harmonica you choose depends on how much you want to spend. However, the lower range harmonicas may produce low quality sound. But some low-range branded ones really produce great sound without making a big hole in your pockets. The player’s technical ability also plays a vital role. A pro player can play any harmonica better than the amateurs. So, as a beginner you should first choose the low-range beginners’ harmonicas so that you can learn how to play this mouth organ conveniently.