Picture of How To Play The Harmonica
After searching around on instructables, I didn't find any complete harmonica tutorials. There are quite a few good ones around the internet, but I thought there should be an instructable.

So. The harmonIca is one of the easiest instruments to play, it sounds really cool, and can be used for a variety of musical styles. All right, maybe not too many musical styles, but it's fun to play anyway. So. Here we go.

Step 1: Types of Harmonicas

Picture of Types of Harmonicas
Diatonic: This is the most common, simplest type of harmonica. You'll probably want to start here. A diatonic harmonica has 10 holes. It is built to play a major, diatonic scale. Additional notes can be played by "bending" (explained later) and different scales can be obtained by playing in different positions (explained later).

Chromatic: These are fancy harmonicas. They have a little button on the side. When you press this button, whatever note you are playing moves up a half step. This allows you to play every note in the musical scale, a chromatic scale. Although they offer more versatility, they are often harder to play, especially if you are trying to bend. Not recommended for blues.

Tremolo and Octave Harmonicas: These harmonicas have a double row of holes. On a tremolo, the notes are tuned slightly apart, but almost the same, creating a cool "tremolo" vibrating effect. On an octave harmonica, the notes are tuned an octave (8 notes) apart, creating a fuller sound. Compare to a 12-string guitar. Both are sort of rarely used.

Special tunings: Some harmonicas come with different scales like minor scales and scales made for playing in more than one key.

Bottom Line: Start with a diatonic harmonica, preferably in the key of C (as this is the easiest key to understand).

Here are some pictures of each type.

lbrewer424 months ago

Great info... thanks for this 'ible. The harmonica is a very underrated instrument.

...but how can something this extensive on harmonicas be made without the the name Charlie McCoy coming up? Whether or not someone likes his style - he is an incredible master of this instrument - very possibly unparalleled. I have loved harmonicas for over 40 years and still have yet to hear someone who could manipulate a mouth organ like McCoy. Be ready to be awed if you go to you tube and type in his name. Try to find one of his fast ones like his second version of the Orange Blossom Special (the first is amazing enough).

harpninja6 months ago

If you're looking for a great harmonica app to help you learn harmonica faster try HarpNinja -> http://www.harpninja.com/

jessejwk, please contact me on Facebook? I have major dyslexia, and cannot understand most of the instructions. I have an awesome harmonica, that is very old, and I want to learn how to play it before Valentines Day, because I want to impress my girlfriend. Can you help me?
jessejwk (author)  fallen.kingdom.146 months ago

Hey, sorry I didn't see this before Valentine's day, I don't check this account very often. If you're still interested in learning, send me a message on instructables and let me know how to get in touch with you.

Colonel Hogan7 months ago
Do you know what number you called to get the free harmonicas?
jessejwk (author)  Colonel Hogan6 months ago

I didn't get any free harmonicas, just a case.


Valky 6 months ago
Quality stuff, thanks

Hello guys!!What is the meaning of the letter H at the right end of a Hohner harmonica? does anybody know? Thanks

Maybe it's the mark of a hohner harmonica
BrianF68 months ago

You've mixed up Dorian and harmonic minor. In Dorian, (which is what you have here), the SIXTH of the scale is raised. If the seventh note was sharp, we would see a C# but instead we just get a C. In a normal minor (aolian), we would get a Bb but in this case we just end up with a B, which makes it dorian.

CorrinaH9 months ago

Koolio. I always thought that harmonicas were cool. Haha

hi all! i bought a chromatic ten hole swan harmonica and i dont know any thing about it!my question is that i can learn with ten hole harmonica or no?do you have any book or vidio for ten hole harmonica?my harmonica that i bought it is good or not?thank you for your attention.i am waiting for your answers.

Adatube891 year ago
Is there any website where they teach harmonica and drums??
Please check out this blog with harp reviews, tabs for famous songs and list/reviews of must listen albums
metalhaid3 years ago
This is great! I just wanted to comment that I think the reason the harmonica goes to a C on 7 is because there is no sharp between B & C (at least there isn't on a piano...) thanks for the lessons!
freeza363 years ago
I just bought a Hohner Diactonic harmonica, and i am already hooked on it. It is so easy and fun to play. Within a day, i could already play a couple tunes.
nof-z3 years ago
when to mijer and saw they had harmonicas for two bucks, an i thought "well, i haven't had one of these in a while" so i got one, and found your instructable, and now i am hooked. you were vary clear and easy. thanks for teaching me!!!
11richie214 years ago
Hi, I have been planning on buying a harmonica just to begin thanks to your instructable. it has helped me learn how they actually work! I thought people would just play random sounds and master how to play haha seems I was wrong.
jessejwk (author)  11richie214 years ago
Thank you for the feedback, it means a lot. Good luck!
rimar20005 years ago
Good instructable! I have a little 10 holes harmonica, but I could never learn to play by music, only played a few pieces by ear. Maybe your instructable makes me encourage...
jessejwk (author)  rimar20005 years ago
Thank you! Glad to hear that it's encouraging someone.