Types of Harmonica
1. Diatonic Harmonicas This was the first type of harmonica to be created. Although they are most commonly used to play blues and country, one will be able to play all kinds of popular music with a diatonic harmonica.
A diatonic harmonica has 10 holes and permits the player to use the tones and semi-tones equivalent to the white notes on a piano (using the scale of C major as an example) However, it is possible to play other notes by using bending and over blow techniques.
2. Tremolo Harmonicas: This type of harmonica is ideal for playing very traditional music because one may easily create a wonderful 'tremolo' effect. It is very popular with Gospel and old world; Folk, Country, Scottish and Irish music.
Tremolo harmonicas are constructed with double holes placed vertically. Each contains two reeds, one slightly de-tuned to the other. When vibrating together, these reeds produce a unique tremolo effect.
3. Chromatic Harmonicas: The chromatic harmonica has been created to compensate for the missing notes on the diatonic harmonica. You will be able to play both the tones and semi-tones of a chromatic scale (a chromatic scale is when both white notes and black notes are played in succession; C, Db, D, Eb, E etc) helped by a slide button.
A few other types of harmonicas are-
Octave harmonicas are similar to Tremolo models in reed layout and musical range. Instead of having reeds tuned to the same note, however, each double hole has one reed tuned an octave apart from the other.
SPECIAL TUNED DIATONICS- This is used for enjoying the advantage of additional notes and scales which are not present in chromatic harmonica.
CHORD AND BRASS HARMONICA- These are two more types of harmonica which are basically used for ensemble performances.
There are thousands of different models present in the market,be it a diatonic or a chromatic harmonica,and different models of different other types of harmonica.harmonicas can be made up of metal or plastic.
The reason behind the popularity of harmonica is that it is small, portable, cheap and can provide music instantly. There are mainly three kinds of harmonica - diatonic harmonica, chromatic harmonica and tremolo harmonica. Of all the three kinds, the most popular is the diatonic harmonica. The 10-hole diatonic harmonica is the simplest of all the harmonicas. This small and robust harmonica is also considered by many to be the best harmonica for beginners. In fact, it is deemed suitable for all music styles such as blues, country, rock, hymns, gospel, folk, spirituals and even classical music. It provides a soulful and bluesy tone that has the power of captivating million ears.
Why diatonic is considered the best harmonica for beginners
The diatonic harmonica is ideal for beginners as it is easier to learn than the other two kinds. Most music teachers prefer teaching harmonica to students on the basic 10-hole diatonic, to ensure their success.
As the diatonic harmonica centers on playing in one key, though it has the ability of playing in multiple keys makes it easy to play and ideal for beginners. In music, there are around 12 basic keys. Beginners are advised to begin playing with a harmonica in the key of C; as it plays all the white notes on the piano.
Learning how to play 'cross harp' is important for those who are trying to play harmonica in a blues style. In other words, it means that a Bb or F harmonica is used when the band is playing in C. In order to attain the bluesy sound, the scale's blue notes needs to be obtained by means of playing 'cross harp'. Therefore, A and D are the most useful harps for beginners as they enable beginners to 'cross harp' in the preferred keys of the guitarists.
Understanding the different types and choosing the best harmonica
In the market, various kinds of harmonicas such as Special 20, Marine Brand, Blues Harp and Golden Melody are offered by renowned companies like Hohner, Lee Oskar and Susuki. The basic difference between the various kinds of harmonicas is that Golden Melody and Special 20 have plastic combs and Blues Harp and Marine Brand come with wooden combs. The comb is an essential part of harmonica as it separates the holes. The plastic combs make cleaning easier and prevent the warping and wearing out due to moisture.
The tremolo harmonica is ideal for beginners who want to learn folk music. In comparison to the diatonic harmonica, tremolo harmonica is larger, longer and thicker and has two reed banks tuned a bit differently to provide a pulsating and fuller tone. Its sound is similar to that of accordion and offers a better range for melodic materials such as reels and jigs.
Special 20 by Hohner is also perfect for beginner as it enables you to learn note bending easily, especially when you want to play country, rock and blues harmonica.
Tips on choosing the best harmonica for beginners
While choosing a harmonica, beginners should take care that they do not opt for 'slide harp'. It is basically a hybrid of diatonic harmonica. In order to raise the notes by means of a semitone, it features a slide and its tuning of the four holes at the bottom can be quite confusing for the beginners.
Beginners can also opt for some cheap harmonica to verify their interest in the instrument. Those who develop the interest can then opt for the expensive version. In case, you do not like your harmonica type, switch to other options after gaining some amount of proficiency in it. But the right harmonica can be your lifelong friend and no matter which kind you choose, make sure you enjoy playing it.