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    

7 Pack Hohner Blues Harmonicas A Bb C D E F G Key Set Case Free Harp Book ReturnKim Wilson's Meteor Killer Harp Harmonica Amp AmplifierRare Vintage Hohner Marine Band Harmonica Advertising Store Display Sign AntiqueVintage Masco Model C-6 Ballyhoo Tube Amplifier Harmonica Harp Guitar Amp 4partsHohner 7582 Super 64 Chromonica Chromatic HarmonicaM Hohner Super Chromonica Harmonica In C With CaseRare Vintage 1920's Hohner Echophone Harmonica Horn Germany Antique InstrumentAntique Rollmonica Harmonica Player Mouth Organ Germany Vtg Hohner InstrumentVintage Hohner 267/384 48 Chord Harmonica ~rare~Turner Challenger Bx Brown Bullet Microphone Vintage Mic Deco 4 Harp Harmonica Rare Vintage Meteor Mouth Organ Harmonica Germany Antique Hohner Instrument1920s Rolmonica Bakelite Harmonica Music Crank Role Machine & 10 Rolls K29 PbHohner Professional 2016 Cbh Chromatic HarmonicaRare Koch Harmonica C The Sirena Horn "finest Artist Concert Elegant"Hohner 64 Chromonica 4 Octaves Pro Model 280 C Very Nice HarmonicaHuang 1248 Chromatic Harmonica Rare Early 1900's Pre-prohibition German Mini Tin Beer Stein HarmonicaOld Antique Vintage C.1919 Post Wwi German Toy Tin Harmonica W/ Equestrian RiderLot Of 6 Major Diatonic Lee Oskar Harmonica Key Of A B C D F G + Bumper StickersVintage C H Meinel Germany Kentucky Home Harmonica Rare Antique Hohner Concert Harmonica Mouth Organ Germany Vtg InstrumentHohner Harmonica (g) "super Chromonica" With Original Case Seydel Blues Session Steel Harmonica E No ReserveAstatic Dk-1 Harmonica, Harp , Hand MicrophoneMarine Band 1896 M. Hohner Harmonica Key Of(e) Made In GermanyHohner Harmonica Repair Tool Kit (model 330ss)Rare Vintage German M. Hohner Tuckaway Harmonica (g) With Original BoxHohner 7582 Super 64 Chromonica Chromatic HarmonicaVintage 1940's Hohner Marine Band Echo Tremolo HarmonicaVintage M Hohner Marine Band Harmonica Tremolo No. 152 In Original BoxHohner Set Of 7 Harmonicas With Music Instruction DvdHolmes Harp Commander Precision Harp Preamp Harmonica - Rare2 Strnad Harmonica Microphone Smaller One For 10 Hole And Larger OneVintage Hohnner Chordomonica Ii Harmonica W/ Leather Pouch Made In GermanyVintage Hohner 64 Cromonica 4 Harmonica-no Reserve & Free ShippingVintage Hohner Harmonica - 64 Chromonica - 1950's Professional Series #280 Nice!Vintage Model! M. Hohner Germany "the Goliath" Harmonica In G 48 Wood ReedsCabinet Photo Men Musical Instruments Guitar Sitar HarmonicaHohner Slide Harp Chromonica 260, Key Of C, 10 Hole Harmonica No CaseThe "echo" Harmonica 8362/32 G "c" M.hohner Made In Germany In Original BoxVintage M. Hohner "the 64 Chromonica" And Wood BoxVintage Miniature My Musical Friend Harmonica - GermanyExcellent Hohner Marine Band 10-hole Harmonica - Key Of A Hohner 560 Special 20 Marine Band Harmonica 5 Piece Set W/case - G, A, C, D, E Vintage Soviet Russian Belarus Garmon Accordion Harmonica Concertina BayanVintage American D4t Hi-z Microphone & Deco Cast Iron Stand Works Harp HarmonicaShaker Dynamic With 1/4" Connector Harmonica Microphone W/ 20 Foot Cable Rare Vintage Bakelite Cosmocord Acos 33-1 Microphone (harmonica Mic?)Vintage Hohner Marine Band Harmonica No. 1886 In Original Box Key Of C Mint NibVintage Men’s Junk Drawer Lot Straight Razor, Pocket Knifes, HarmonicaLocking Aluminum Harmonica Case Harp Jt-30 Green Bullet Tube ToneHohner Bob Dylan Signature Series HarmonicaVintage 1920s Bakelite Rolmonica Hand Crank Player Harmonica W/ Original BoxHohner Chromonica 260 C Harmonica Made In Germany W/caseVintage Miniature Harmonica Airplane JapanVintage Estate Rare Huge 13" Bandmaster Double-sided Harmonica Gc Acdg MusicHohner Progressive Series 560 Special 20 Harmonica C#/dbAntique Chromonica Chromatic Harmonica Made By M. Hohner Germany Original BoxExcellent Hohner Marine Band 10-hole Harmonica - Key Of DExcellent Hohner Marine Band 10-hole Harmonica - Key Of E