Harmonicas are often described as the most popular instruments on the planet, mainly because of their portability and low cost compared to, say, a grand piano or tuba. But don’t mistake their ubiquity or simplicity for a lack of sophistication. Harmonicas pack a lot of engineering into a small space, producing different notes depending on whether the player is blowing out or breathing in. Players can further enhance these sounds by shaking their heads to create appealing vibratos, or bending notes to give the instrument a mournful moan that often recalls the wail of a distant train whistle.

Like accordions, harmonicas are thought to have been invented by a German named Christian Friedrich Buschmann, although as with the squeezebox, it was an Austrian who first patented the instrument (in this case, Georg Anton Reinlein in 1824). But the Austrian makers were soon overshadowed by the Germans, in particular, a company called Hohner, which handmade 650 harmonicas in its inaugural year, 1857. Thirty years later, Hohner hit the million-unit mark, and by 1920 its annual production exceeded 20 million harmonicas, which were exported all over the world, in chromatic and tremelo models, as well as standard diatonic harps.

During the 20th century, harmonicas were musical chameleons, favored by singing cowboys, jazz artists like Toots Thielemans, and Chicago bluesmen such as Muddy Waters’s sideman Little Walter, who used a wide-mouthed taxi-dispatcher’s microphone to give his harp its distinctive, and loud, sound. In the 1960s, everyone from Bob Dylan to Stevie Wonder to Brian Jones played the harmonica as an accompanying instrument, while artists like Neil Young, Magic Dick of J. Geils Band, and, later, John Popper of Blues Traveler put the harmonica front and center.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Music Museum

National Music Museum

The National Music Museum, which is located at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, features 15,000 instru… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Beautiful! Refurbished Masco Me-27 Tube Blues, Harp Amp; Nudes!Astatic Jt30 Bullet Microphone Harmonica Harp Mic W Mc-101 Element Mint Gem Nib!Antique Fa Bohm Trombona Vintage Horn Harmonica German Germany Bell "c" TromboneHoehner Professional Harmonica -2016 Cbh Vintage Koch Silver Orchestra 3 Horn Harmonica World Fair Medals 1800's JshNyx Makeup, Lipstick. Lip Smacking Fun Colors, HarmonicaWow-vintage Odd 6 Sided Harmonica12 Used Harmonicas {hohner, Seydel}Vintage Astatic Model 200s Gold Bullet Blues Harp MicrophoneChrome Harmonica Guitar Bridge With Brass Saddles For Gibson L6-s 1970'sM. Hohner ~ Super Chromonica Chromatic Harmonica In EVintage Very Nice M.hohner ' The Goliath' Harmonica W/case Key Of "c"Hohner Chromonica 260 Chromatic 10 Hole Key Of "c"Suzuki Promaster Valved Harmonica C No ReserveLafayette Vintage Pa-42 Dynamic Microphone Mic Harmonica Crystal MikeHohner 64 Chromonica 4 Chromatic Octaves Professional Model 280 Key Of C W/caseSuzuki Mr-350 Promaster Deluxe 10-hole Diatonic Harmonica, 6-piece SetHohner Cx12 Harmonica M754500 Back With Case And Instructions Made In Germany Rare Vintage Mardi Gras Harmonica Johann Schunk~part Of Original Box Included.Hohner Marine Band Harmonica Vintage Yamaha Virtuoso Harmonica No-24 Nippon Gakki - Japan Hohner 64 Chromonica 280 Chromatic C Harmonica Vintage M. Hohner "chimes" HarmonicaHohner Marine Band Harmonica Vintage Retro Vermona Bandmaster Chromatic Harmonica In GM Hohner Blues Harp Harmonica Made In Germany Key Of CHohner Hoodoo Blues Harmonica - Key D - Harp - Mouth OrganVintage Shure Microphone Element 99c86 Fb Mic/harmonica/harp Low Impedence-new Hohner Super 64 Chromonica #7582 Key Of C W/ CaseLittle Stevie Wonder - French Ep 45t 7" Original Riviera " Hey Harmonica Man "Vintage Hohner 55/80 Ad Echo Harp 80 Stimmen Double Sided 2 Key A & D HarmonicaVintage Violin King Harmonica, Made In Germany By F. A. Bohm In Metal CaseVintage Harmonica The Up To Date Goliath Made By M. Hohner With 48 ReedsVintage Hohner "the Chromonica" Key Of C Made In Germany Very Good Condition Hohner Marine Band Harmonica Vintage Hohner 64 Chromonica Professional Model In Wood Box Rare Magnus Student Accordion Magnus Harmonica Company Concertina Bakelite? 50'sVintage M Hohner Marine Band Harmonica No 1896 Key Of C Germany Vtg Box A440Vintage Magnus Harmonicas & Accordions Dealers Catalog 1950Vintage Hohner Chromatic Harmonica 260- C "the Chromonica" 10 Hole - Germany Hohner Blues Band Harmonica - Key Of C - Great Gift Idea - New!!Pp Very Rare Vintage Unused Hohner Harmonica/ Erica Made In Switzerland1929 Pennsylvania Railroad Menu (philadelphia Harmonica Band)Hohner Special 560/20 B M560126 Key Of B Harmonica Low Price Good ConditionHohner 2416 Golden Melody Tremolo Harmonica, Key Of CVintage Harmonica Sterling Silver 925 Charm Pendant (1.4g)Suzuki Tremolo Harmonica - W-24 Winner, Key Of C, 24-hole,new Winner W24 Tremolo Vintage Tango M Hohner Harmonica Made In Germany (make An Offer)Vintage Hohner's-best Hammered Reeds HarmonicaHohner Chromonica Ex Condition Hardly Used! Made In GermanyHuang Star Performer Harmonica Set Of 4Vintage Kratt Hit Parade Harmonica - Made In Usa - Mint ConditionHohner Echo Super Vamper HarmonicaOriginal Hohner Marine Band Harmonica, Key Of AAntique Rolmonica Bakelite Harmonica Music Crank Handle MachineEv Electro Vintage 1960s Dynamic 615 Century Microphone Chrome Harp HarmonicaM. Hohner Marine Band No.a440 Key Of D Harmonica Made In GermanyNice 1905 Hohner Harmonica Ad Notice That New 46 Page Catalogs Are Out Stunning 1902 Hohner Harmonica Display Boxes Trade Ad For Drug Stores Wholesale1903 Hohner Harmonica Trade Ad For Drug Stores Made In Germany New Best Quality