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    

Astatic Green Bullet Style Mic For HarmonicaVintage Astatic Mic Microphone Jt-30 Harp Harmonica Bullet On Stand No ResHohner Special 20 Marine Band Harmonica Bundle - A,b,c,d,e,f,g And Flex RackVintage Hohner Special 20 Marine Band Harmonica & Case Germany No. 560 Key C Nr Antique Thorens HarmonicaShure Tdc Microphone Mic Model Cr80f Harp Harmonica Tested & WorkingHohner Vintage Art Deco German Enamel Mouth Organ Echo Elite Harmonica Box C GVintage Astatic Mic Microphone Model 30 Harp Harmonica Bullet No ResHohner 560 Special 20 Harmonica In Key Of A Country With CaseM. Hohner 64 Chromonica 280 Professional Model Four Chromatic Octave HarmonicaNew Set Of 4 Johnson Blues King 10 Hole Diatonic Harmonicas Harps A C D G KeysHohner Comet Chrome Finish Harmonica Key Of C With CaseVintage Suzuki Bluesmaster 10 Hole Harmonica Set Of 6 A,bb,c,d,f,g Used GoodHohner Chromonica Ii Deluxe HarmonicaHohner Harmonica Set Of 13 W/ Case - Big River HarpHohner Blues Blaster Harmonica MicrophoneHohner Examina 1 Harmonica Tester Harmonica BellowsVintage Honner Chromonika Iii Harmonica In Its Fitted Wooden BoxVintage Harmonica LotHohner Cbh 2016 Case - Chromatic Harmonica W/ BrochuresVintage Boxed Hohner Echo Luxe Harmonica GermanyHohner Harmonica - Chromonica 64 - Chromatic Key Of C - 280 Made In GermanyVintage ~ Marine Band M. Hohner ~ No. 1896 Harmonica Made In GermanyHohner 560 Special 20 Harmonica; Country Key Of D; With CaseHohner Miniature Harmonica 25th Anniversary J.m & Hohner Johnny Puleo Rare NrHarmonica Thorens Professional Chromatic #12 Sharps & FlatsLee Oskar HarmonicaVintage M Hohner "marine Band Harmonica" Stuttgart 1881 A440 - NiceHohner Harmonica Display CaseNew Hohner Marine Band 560bx-b Special 20 The Key Of B HarmonicaTons Of Disney Frozen Fun W/elsa And Anna! Stickers, Harmonica, Glow Stick, MoreVintage-hohner-64 Chromonica-harmonica-german Made-plays Well-in Working OrderHohner 125th Anniversary Harmonica Key Of 'c' 10 Hole Diatonic Bargain Price !!!Antique Christian Weiss Double Side Harmonica In F & B W/ CaseNyx Round Lipstick And Nyx Slim Lip Liner Set-harmonica (baby Pink Pearl)How To Play Harmonica Dvd & 32 Pgs. Book Harmonica Key Of C M Hohner 'house Of Marbles England Very Good ConditionHohner Chord Harmonica Model 8703 Rhythm & Blues VintageAntique 1891 F.a. Rauner Celestial Harp/harmonica C Made In Saxony - WorkingOld M. Hohner Echo Harp Harmonica In Original Box Nice Condition! GermanyVintage Hohner Echo Harp Harmonica W/box Model 54/64 Germany In Orig BoxHohner Big River Harp Harmonica - #215Vintage M. Hohner ''the Echo Harp'' HarmonicaSuzuki Tremolo Harmonica - W-24 Winner, Key Of C, 24-hole,new Winner W24 Tremolo3 Harmonicas All In Box 2 German HohnerHohner Marine Band Harmonica (c) With Harmonica HolderVintage Shure Controlled Magnetic Element 99g86 Blues HarpVintage M Hohner Marine Band Harmonica Set Made In GermanyLegacy Lm200 Harmonica Microphone/cableM.hohner Harmonicas,2 Vintage Harmonicas Echo & GoliathHohner Harmonicas, 3 Total, Keys Of C,g And E. Hardly Used With Holder.Lee Oskar Harmonica - Key Of GSuzuki Harpmaster, Key Of Db, 10 Hole Diatonic Harmonica, Mr-200 ClearanceVintage 99?86 Shure Mic Element Harp Harmonica Very Low-z ~1 OhmM. Hohner Marine Band No. 1896 Classic Harmonica-key Of D-made In Germany W/boxHohner Chrometta 12, Key C Harmonica, With Case, Very Good ConditionHohner Harmonica Collectors Series; Cross Harp Key Of Eb/d#Harmonica And Blues Harp SetHohner Piedmont Blues Harmonica - Key Of D - NewHarmonica Fats Tore Up Vg 45 Rpm