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    

Antique Patent 1928 Rolmonica Harmonica With 14 Rolls All Original And Beauty!Lone Star Rider Cowboy Harmonica Hohner Blues Vintage Music Mouth Organ BoxedAuthentic Tiffany & Co Hohner Germany Sterling Silver 925 Harmonica In Box Hering Opus 2000 Chromatic Harmonica Chord C 12 Hole Made In BrazilVintage Hohner Harmonica Display Case Box Top Sign 1920's ? CardboardHohner 7584 Super 64x Chromatic Harmonica Key Of C In Good Used ConditionHohner Chromonica " Hard Bopper " Jean " Toots " ThielemansVintage M. Hohner Auto-valve-harp Harmonica - Key DMemphis Mini Blues Harmonica Harp Amp And Delay PedalVintage 1920's 30's Bakelite Rolmonica With Hohnor Harmonica Includes 47 Rolls!Harmonica By Tombo-lee Oskar DmHarmonica M. Hohner's Marine Band In Key Of C.. W/instructions/boxHohner Non Ms Meisterklasse Harmonica Key Of GHohner Deuce And A Quarter Hybrid Harmonica Key Of AHohner Harmonica 20 Marine Band Country Special Original Ela Bandoneon Bandonion Most Likely Build In 1948 In Mint Condition!Vintage M. Hohner Super Chromatic Harmonica - Key C - Gesetzl GeschHohner Marine Band Deluxe Harmonica M2005 "issue" GHarmonica M. Hohner's Marine Band In Key 1986 With Instructions/boxHohner Marine Band Pre War 364 Key Of C HarmonicaCollection Of 12 Harmonicas With Case. 6 Different Brands. Nice.Professional 64 Chromatic Harmonica From Hering -- Made In Brazil --with CaseHorner Bluesband Harmonica Set1920s Rolmonica Player Harmonica - Bakelite - 4 Music Rolls - Rare Original BoxHohner Meisterklasse Harmonica 580/20c Ms Diatonic Series Made In GermanyHarmonica Hohner Chromonica 64 C Special 20 BbM.hohner Vineta Harmonica No 4 Chord - Made In Germany Key F With CaseM Hohner Marine Band Classic Harmonica In The Key Of C -- Germany With CaseAntique Echo Harp M Hohner 6 3/4" Harmonica A & D / Beautiful Original Box NrVintage Hohner Double Sided Harmonica The Ehco Harp - Key Of C/g Model 55/80 M2Hohner Marine Band Harmonica Key Of AHohner Big River Harp Harmonica Key Of GHohner Old Style Blues Harp Harmonica Key Of DVintage Johann Schunk Made In Germany Rhythm Band Harmonica 20 Reeds & BoxHohner Chrometta 12 HarmonicaHohner John Lennon Imagine Signature HarmonicaThe Echo Grand Prix Harmonica By M. Hohner In Germany W/real BrassplatesLee Oskar 1910-c Major Diatonic Harmonica By Tombo No ReserveVintage Hohner Marine Band Harmonica Key Of "c". NobHohner 'blues Harp' Harmonica W/ Case In Key G Made In Germany Vg Cond. Hohner Special 20 Harmonica Key Of CVintage Hohner Echo Harmonica C & G Old Germany HarmonicaVintage Claravox Yospre Harmonica Key Of G Orchestral 48 Hohner Chord Harmonica 23''Hohner Cbh Professional 2016 Mouth Organ | Harmonica Seydel Blues Silver 1847 Harmonica AWwii 1936 Berlin Olympic Games Soldier's Mouth Harmonica 'olympia'Lee Oskar Major Diatonic Harmonica CHarmonica Lee Oskar A Hohner Blues Band CAntique M. Hohner German Harmonica Unsere LieblingeHarmonica Hohner Special 20 Ab Blues Harp GHarmonica Hohner Special 20 B Big River Db CustomM. Hohner Echo Harp Harmonica 56/96 M2 C/g In BoxAntique Echo Harp M Hohner 5 1/4" Harmonica / 1927 / A & DSet Of 5 Hohner "blues Harp HarmonicasVintage Vending Machine Display Header Card Toy I See You Back Lighter HarmonicaFree Reed Belt Buckle....harmonica, Accordion, Button Box, ConcertinaVintage Key Chain Harmonica Lot Fr Hotz CutieHohner Marine Band Harmonica In C Minor. Blues HarpNew Wooden Harmonica Musical Instrument Educational Toy For Kids Child Xmas Gift