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    

1920s Koch G Harmonica Trumpet Organ With 5 Brass Horns Made In GermanyVintage Premier 71 Guitar Microphone Harmonica Multivox Amp Late 1950's As-isVintage 1950’s? Astatic Jt-30 Harmonica Harp Microphone Stand And CableC Harmonica With Horn Strauss Doraphone Loudspeaker Made In Germany DrgmPair Of 1930s Unusual Harmonica The Coach Horn Made In Germany Vintage Shure 707a Bullet Microphone, 99131 Crystal, Harp Harmonica Ca.1945Set Of 7 Hohner Super Chromonica Harmonica (complete Key Scale) In Original CaseG Harmonica With Horn The Music Master Masterphone Cass Ca Seydel Germany M. Hohner Chromatica No. #265 Double Bass Harmonica Vintage Germany Rare!Astatic Jt30 -mc126 Ceramic Element-harp Mic Harmonica Microphone -see Video!Shure 520d Green Bullet Harmonica Microphone W/box VintageShure 520dx "green Bullet" Harmonica MicrophoneVintage Hohner El Centenario Harmonica Made In Germany Honoring The Mexican Rev.Antique Vintage C.1920s Post Wwi M. Hohner Germany Piano Shaped Harmonica & BoxLarge Antique C1907 M. Hohner Rheingold 8-1/2” German Harmonica~original Box Yqz64 Chromonica- Hohner 4 Chromatic Octaves Profesional Model W/wood Orignal CaseVintage M. Hohner "chromonica Ii " Harmonica A440 Key C W/ Beatles GermanyHohner Special 20 Harmonica (a)Lee Oskar Harmonica C Major DiatonicWeegee/arthur Fellig Vintage Harmonica Player "bowery Blues" Rare Dbl Wt PhotoSuzuki Scx-64 250g Chromatic Harmonica 16 Hole Sliding Chromatic 195*45*31mm1930s Antique/vintage Made In Germany Symphony Harmonica 3" LongLot Of 3 ..m Horner Harmonicas Two Marine Band One Blues Harp Keys C, G & A2 Antique/vintage Hohner Harmonicas G Auto Valve Harp & G Hohner Band 1930s Antique/vintage Richter Made In Germany A Key Harmonica Lone Wolf Harp Octave( Effect Pedal For Harmonica)Vtg Tube Tweed Tube Radio- Could Make Into Guitar Or Harmonica AmpVintage Harmonica "echo" Antique 26th Regiment In Company B? Indiana Civil War ? Music Harmonica Il NrVintage Genuine Gretsch Chromatic HarmonicaLee Oskar HarmonicaHarmonicas: Hohner Golden Melody And Special 20Echo Vamper Hohner Harmonica In Box, NosOld Hohner Goliath Tremolo Harmonica In C 24 Double Hole Wood Comb Vintage 48 Hohner Marine Band Key G Germany Diatonic HarmonicaSovereign Bohm (boehm) Harmonica Vintage Saxon Make Steel Bronze ReedsCeramic Microphone Element Fits Jt30 Shell Capsule Cartridge Harmonica Harp MicHohner The 64 Chromonica Lee Oskar Melody Maker Harmonica (dm / C Non-standard Tuning)Ca Seydel G Harmonica The Music-master & Box Made In SaxonyHohner Marine Band Harmonica,*** G *** Bad 6 Blow HoleSuzuki Bluesmaster 6 Harmonica Set Mr-250-sHohner Chromonica Harmonica 6411 Harmonicas/blues Harp Collection+marine Band-Suzuki Mr-350 Promaster Harmonica 10 Hole Valved Key Of D 3-tube Music Pipe, Master Key Pitch Instrument, Two M. Hohner Harmonicas, Antique 1920s Hohner Harmonica Red Enamel Novelty Advertising Pin CechoslovakiaVintage Hohner Marine Band Echo Harmonica No.683 Tremolo Concert Harp W/case2 1930s Antique/vintage Hohner Harmonicas D Ironclad & B New Best QualityHohner Cbh 2012 Brand Authentic Limited Edition Chromatic Harmonica 12 HoleHohner 270 Super Chromonica Harmonica - Key Of GThe 64 Chromonica 4 Chromatic Octaves Professional Model M. Hohner Germany #2431Broken Hohner Super 64 Chomonica Harmonica 7582 C Made In Germany Loose Screw Hohner Chromatic Harmonicas, With The Art Of Playing Hohner Chromatic HarmonicasHohner Special 20 Harmonica #560 MarineEstate Found - Vintage - Bravi Alpini - M Hohner - Germany - Harmonica HarmonicaHarmonicasAntique/vintage Made In Germany The Rag Time Band Harmonica 6" LongFigure Of Sitting Man Playing Harmonica