The 10 Best Diatonic Harmonicas
This wiki has been updated 17 times since it was first published in June of 2018. The harmonica often calls to mind soulful blues or driving rock and roll, but it also has an important place in folk music around the globe. Also called the French harp or mouth organ, it's the best-selling instrument on the planet, since it can fit in your pocket, doesn't cost a ton, and is pretty easy to play. These diatonic models include some that are perfect for novices and pros. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 09, 2020:
In addition to being the most-sold instrument in history worldwide, the harmonica was also the first instrument in space. Given that they're so small and affordable, they're highly accessible even to completely novice musicians. Such beginners would have an okay time learning on something like the Fender Blues Deluxe or East Top 008K, which are among the least expensive in an already-affordable category. Alternatively, for not a whole lot more, you can pick up the Hohner Golden Melody and Hohner Special 20, the latter of which is arguably the most popular harp of all time. The Lee Oskar by Tombo is another iconic option, and it's capable of the rough growls and fat sounds that blues fans will recognize immediately.
If you already know your way around a harp, though, you should consider a more high-end option. All told, just about no harmonica player has ever been upset with the Hohner Crossover. It's a highly refined option that delivers premium craftsmanship and thoughtful details that make it great for amateurs and pros alike.
Speaking of high-end models, the Seydel 1847 is hard to top in terms of construction quality and versatility. It's about as costly as these small instruments come, but if you've played a lot of hours, you'll notice very quickly how well it's made. The Seydel Session is similarly high-quality and has a slightly more focused tone.
Finally, the Suzuki Promaster is a relatively slotted model that, while not delivering the classic blues growl, has a pure tone and impressive playability at all levels. The Suzuki Manji is every bit as good, and somewhat better for bending. It's also built with ultra-premium materials and will stand up to years of use and heavy customization. Speaking of which, it's a good idea to pick up a set of small screwdrivers so you're able to maintain and modify your harp as you please.
October 17, 2019:
There are many, many modern harmonicas to choose from, and sometimes it's awfully tough to differentiate between them all. The most common main variety is the diatonic, partially because chromatic harmonicas are somewhat harder to play and a bit more specialized. Hohner has long been a favorite, especially of blues players, thanks to their ubiquitous Special 20, made famous by its frequent use in blues music. We've highlighted the Progressive version, and while it's a bit more costly than the older Classic model, it's highly recommended that you go for the newer, upgraded one, for ease of playing as well as ease of maintenance. Hohner's Golden Melody is quite different; while it's in a similar price range, it's a more focused instrument, and isn't really recommended for blues at all. Then there's the Marine Band Crossover, which is one of their newest models, and gets rave reviews from players of all skill levels. They've gone to great lengths to ensure that it's one of the finest around, and it shows in the comfort, sound, and versatility.
There are, of course, some other high-end brands. Seydel is a German outfit that delivers the extremely high-quality craftsmanship you might expect from such finely handmade instruments, and they offer harmonicas at nearly all levels and price ranges. Their 1847 and Promaster are often lauded, and they even give you the option of custom-designing your very own harp on their website. Suzuki is another worth checking out; they offer a similarly wide range of models that looks considerably different from classic Western harps but in most cases play every bit as well.
On the budget side of things, Lee Oskar and East Top are both worthwhile choices. Lee Oskars are generally quite durable and good for beginners who might otherwise damage a more finely built instrument, and while East Tops aren't hugely popular, there's certainly nothing wrong with them, and they cost very little. We've also included the Fender Blues, manufactured by the same company who makes Lee Oskars, because they're incredibly cheap and at least they are playable, so they're great as backups, low-risk beaters, or as an inexpensive introduction to the instrument.
Hohner Meisterklasse While the company's normally associated with more old-school designs, Hohner's MS series is an innovative modular line with interchangeable hardware that lets you personalize your harp with a wider range of parts than many others. The Meisterklasse package includes high-end metal covers and comb and nickel-plated bronze reeds that are both responsive and easy to modify to achieve that perfect custom sound. hohner.de
TurboHarp ELX Some players might balk at the idea of an electric harmonica, but that's exactly what TurboHarp has turned a classic Hohner Special 20 into, using an intricate method of installing pickups and drastically altering the instrument's body. Don't expect it to sound like a normal harp, of course, but if you're looking for something different (and amplified), you may find this one very interesting. Also, for what it's worth, each one is made by hand and to order. turboharp.com
Seydel Custom-Made This company makes, hands-down, some of the finest on the market, but if you can't find one from them that's perfect for you right out of the box, that's okay. On their website you'll find an in-depth factory customization walkthrough that allows you to dictate exactly what shape of components and type of materials to use in creating your very own masterpiece. As you might expect, however, this is one of the most expensive ways to purchase a harp. seydel1847.de