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    

Vintage Shure Brothers 707a Bullet Harp Mic Harmonica MicrophoneVintage Astatic Jt-30 Bullet Blues Harp Microphone Mic With 26 Feet Of CordRare Vintage Masco 17p Amplifier Harp Harmonica Amp No Reserve Price Drop $1!!!!Chloe Skull & Harmonica Charm NecklaceVintage Temolo Harmonica Marine Band WorksAstatic 200-s Vintage Microphone & Stand 50's Gold Bullet Blues Harmonica Mic Vintage Astatic Jt-30 Microphone Toronto Canada Cable Bullet Harmonica Hohner Larry Adler Professional 12 Chromatic A Harmonica (sterilized/tuned 155s)Hohner Marine Band Harmonica In Bubble Pack Card-new-priced At $2.50!! Rare!!!!!Wm Kratt Super 1248 Chromatic C Harmonica (refurbished/sterilized/tuned #239)Suzuki Promaster Harmonica Key Of C. Nib. L@@k...no Reserve...!!!!Hohner Blues Blaster Harmonica Bullet Mic - Astatic Mc-151 Element, Box, Manual Marine Band HarmonicaBorrah Minevitch "baguette" Mini-harmonica+orig.box!! Nr. Mint! Not Hohner Rare!Hohner Cbh Professional 2016 Chromatic HarmonicaOld Rare Vintage Antique Civil War Relic Buckle Bullet Key Harmonica ReedMarine Band M. Hohner Harmonica In Original Box Excellent ConditionAstatic Jt-30vc Bullet Microphone Harmonica Harp Mic Mixed Lot Of 16 Hohner Harmonicas No Reserve Free Shipping Ehco C Tombo 21 3 Pieces Of Old Harmonica3 Vintage Harmonicas Hohner Eagle Brand Pohlphone Estate FindUnique Vintage M Hohner Marine Band Harmonica Made In Germany Key Of A2 Vintage Harmonica's Hohner & Organ Reed Harp GermanyVintage 1930's M. Hohner Echo Harmonica Grand Prix Key Of ALee Oskar Harmonica By Tombo Key Of CVintage Hohner Chromatic 260 Harmonica With Case-made In Germany-very Nice!!!Antique Vintage Hohner Harmonica Two Sided Keys Of C & G Estate FindVintage German Hohner Chromonica 270 Brass Chrome C Harmonica W/case, Excellent "harmonica" And Case Limoges, France Trinket BoxHohner Professional 2016 Cbh Harmonica With CaseHohner "echo Elite" Art Deco Harmonica-orig. Box!! Nr. Mint!!Vintage Bakelite Harmonica Olympia Made In GermanyM. Hohner The 64 Chromonica 4 Octaves Professional Model "c" Harmonica&case NiceCoca Cola Soda Pop Coke Music Harmonica Mint In Box Free Usa ShipVintage 1950's Astatic 335h-7 Ceramic Microphone Blues Harp **lqqk**Hohner Diatonic Meisterklasse Ms 580 Harmonica Hohner 64 Chromonica Professional Harmonica, 4 Chromatic Octaves, CaseVintage Harmonica Bird Of Paradise ... Never Used .. Marine Band Harmonica Key DVintage Koch Bugle Call Y 152 4" Harmonica With Box Made In Germany !excellent! Hohner Piedmont Blues 7 Harmonica Set & CasePre War Hohner Marine Band Harmonica Key Of G Six Point Star LogoLittle Walter - Boss Blues Harmonica 2xlp - Chess ShrinkVintage M. Hohner The Echo Harmonica Original Box Key "c" Made In Germany 30's ?New Johnson Harmonica Harp Set All 12 Keys With CaseSuzuki Blues Master 10 Hole Diatonic Harmonica SetVintage M Hohner Auto Valve Harp Harmonica Germany Grand PrixVintage M. Hohner Echo Harp Harmonica Double C&g Bell Metal Reeds W/box GermanyEpic, Old M. Hohner Comet #3427 Dual-sided Harmonica, Original Case Circa Joan & David Black Patent Harmonica Kitten Heel Size 10mHohner Chromonica Chromatic Harmonica 260 Mouth Organ Key Of G In Soft CaseHohner Marine Band Harmonica Key Of EHohner Steven Tyler Signature Series HarmonicaHohner 270/48 F Super Chromonica Harmonica - Key Of F Mint Has Papers GermanyVintage Old Vaudeville King Harmonica Made In Germany J. Schunk In C Wood BrassThe Professional Richter C.a. Seydel Sohne Vintage Harmonica Germany 16 Hole "c"Vintage Glass Plastic Candy Container"sweetone Harmonica" BankHohner Marine Band Harmonica Counter Poster - Very Rare!!!The Echo Harp M. Hohner Harmonica A & D Key GermanyRare Vintage Robin Band Harmonica. In The Key Of C..no Reserve!