Whether you “got the blues” or you want to play the blues, the right harmonica is crucial to this soulful genre of music.
In order to play like legends such as John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, Jason Ricci, DeFord Baily or Lee Oskar, you’ll have to start somewhere, and that’s where we come in.
Below, we give you some useful tips and suggestions that will help you find the best blues harmonica.
Learn how to find the right one before you learn how to play it, and you’ll be off to a great start!
Things to Take into Consideration
Before you select a harmonica, here are a few things you should consider.
- Your Level. Are you new to harmonica completely or new to playing blues?
Our suggestions below are great for all skill levels, with a focus on 10-hole blues harmonicas in the key of C. This is the most common key for blues and it’s easy to understand since most beginner books are written in this key.
- How Much to Spend. If you’re ready to get serious about playing the harmonica, then you’ll spend around $30 for something decent.
If you’re not quite sure that this is the instrument that you’d like to play and want to spend less, you can spend as little as $10 for a starter harmonica (see numbers four, five and six below). Once you get a feel for playing and understand the dynamics, then you can always upgrade to something better.
Top 6 Blues Harmonicas Chart
Useful Terms Explained
Here are a few terms you might run into as you search for a harmonica.
- Comb. The comb, or the middle portion of the harmonica where the holes are, can either be made of wood or plastic.
For a warmer sound, a wooden comb is the best choice. The drawback to wood is that it can swell over time if it is not sealed properly or if cheap wood was used.
Plastic is another choice. It’s stiffer and easy to maintain, but may not give you the soft, warm sound you want for playing blues.
Try them both to see which feel more comfortable and natural for you.
- Reeds and Reed Plate. Surrounding the comb is a draw reed plate and a blow reed plate, usually made of brass, that have slots in them.
Individual reeds that are fixed on the inside of the harmonica respond to the air when you blow and reeds on the outside will respond to the suction.
Reeds will need to be replaced occasionally so you can retune the harmonica.
- Diatonic. This is the type of harmonica that blues players use. It is a single voice instrument that has 10 channels, or holes, each with one blow and one draw note.
Top 3 Best Blues Harmonica Reviews
Probably the best blues harmonica for a serious beginner is this Hohner Marine Band Harmonica in the key of C.
The comb is made from pear wood, 20 reeds on 0.9 mm brass reed plates and stainless steel covers that won’t tarnish and are easy to clean.
It has a fast response and little air loss thanks to the precise construction.
Should your blues adventures lead you into a bit of folk music, as well, you’ll find that this harmonica sounds great for both genres.
As a beginner or even an experienced harmonica player, this Hohner won’t disappoint.
Famous blues harmonica player Lee Oskar also has his own line of harmonicas. When the market doesn’t have what you need, you make it yourself!
This harmonica features a plastic comb with larger holes, airtight design, responsive reeds and a louder sound as you play.
The Lee Oskar quality is known throughout the blues world and appreciated by players at the professional level.
If the Hohner above wasn’t really your style, then have a go on this traditional blues harmonica.
Our last suggestion is another Hohner, the difference being the comb material.
Hohner also makes a top-quality harmonica, and if the wooden comb from our first choice didn’t convince you, then try this model with a plastic comb.
This is a versatile harmonica, perfect for blues and equally as suited to other genres such as country, folk and rhythm and blues.
Same quality construction as the Marine Band Harmonica above (brass reed plate with 20 reeds) but slightly less in cost.