The diatonic harmonica is the most popular type among harmonicists. It is suitable for both learning and professional performances on the big stage. Traditional blues also involves the use of this particular type of harp. Note bending is not possible on chromatic or tremolo, which is one of the techniques needed to play the blues. If you are looking for the best diatonic harmonica, read my article. In it, I propose getting acquainted with the highest quality and most popular musical instruments that appeal to beginners, intermediate and professional performers.
10 Best Diatonic Harmonicas Reviewed
- Hohner Accordions: Top Pick
- Lee Oskar: Runner-Up
- East Top: East Top Budget Choice
- Fender Blues Deville: Premium Choice
- Focusound: Best Diatonic Harmonica for Kids
- Suzuki: Pro Master Best Diatonic Harmonica for Professionals
- EastRock: Best Modern Diatonic Design
- Suzuki: Japanese Quality Standard
- Jieshiling: Best Diatonic Harmonica for Beginners
- Fender Midnight Blues Best Set of Diatonic Harmonicas
These diatonic harmonica reviews contain quality options at various price points. When selecting the right harps for this list, I took into account the opinions of professional musicians, my own experience, reviews on the Internet, and feedback from my friends.
1. Hohner Accordions: Top Pick
This diatonic harmonica model is the industry standard. It has the most copied design. You’ve probably heard of the Hohner Special 20: it’s the favorite harp of many famous harmonicists. I have Hohner harps in all keys. This is a really reliable instrument made in Germany.
Hohner first introduced the reed plate recessed into the comb. This allows the mouthpiece to protrude, providing more comfort while playing. The comb is made of ABS, and the reed plates are brass. The stainless steel cover plates also ensure durability.
You can purchase this professional harmonica in the following keys: A, Ab, HG, G, B (H), F, F#, E, Eb, Bb, C, D, and Db. I like the responsiveness and bendability of this model. It has a characteristic warm tone and produces a beautiful sound. This is not only a great choice for professional performers but also a relatively inexpensive harp from a well-known brand for beginners. Learning to draw and bend notes is very easy.
- A reliable instrument for performers of all levels
- Rugged construction
- Unique soft sound
- Doesn’t need much air to play
- Suitable for playing songs of different genres (pop, country, folk, rock, blues, and so on)
- The sharp edges of the body cause discomfort during prolonged use
2. Lee Oskar: Runner-Up
Lee Oskar is one of the best harmonica brands. Many musicians recommend this model as the best option for learning how to bend notes. Each reed is really sensitive, and the large holes are comfortable for beginners.
The comb is made of high-quality non-toxic plastic, and the reeds are made of brass. Chrome cover plates look solid and guarantee durability. In addition, the edges of the harmonica are slightly rounded, which provides comfort during long sessions.
My friend greatly respects this brand, and this diatonic harmonica is one of his favorite harps. He likes a twangy and raspy sound and a warm, resonant tone. He commented that the harp was comfortable to use, but he had to trim his mustache a bit as it kept getting stuck in it. My friend said that this is a versatile instrument for performing compositions in different genres and positions.
A distinctive feature of the harp from Lee Oskar is the simple replacement of reeds. You can easily take apart your harmonica, clean it, replace the reeds and get a new musical instrument for half the price.
- Good harmonica for performers of all levels
- Unique twangy sound
- Replaceable reeds
- Comfortable to hold
- Easy to bend notes
- You need to get used to the bigger holes in the comb
3. East Top: Budget Choice
This nice harmonica in the key of C has a low cost but decent quality. The reed is made of phosphor bronze, and the combs are made of non-toxic plastic. Due to the electroplating, the reed plate is not prone to rust. Covers are made of stainless steel, which is a feature of more expensive models. The glossy harp can be ordered in gray, red, or blue.
I ordered this harmonica for testing. I was surprised by the build quality. It has a clear tone and makes it easy for me to play my favorite country melodies. However, compared to premium harmonicas, notes in the upper register are more difficult to bend.
East top quality control is not as good as the manufacturer claims. Many customers note that their musical instruments come with non-working holes, so replacement cases are quite frequent. On the other hand, receiving a working blues harp will allow you to perform compositions in different genres: blues, rock, country, jazz, folk, and so on. The key of C is also great for beginners. This can be an inexpensive reserve or practice harp for professional and intermediate players.
- Low price
- Beautiful design
- Decent build quality
- Pure tone
- Suitable for performing compositions of various musical genres
- Notes in the upper register are more difficult to bend (compared to more expensive options) Insufficient quality control
4. Lee Oskar: Runner-Up
|Material||Bronze, Plastic, Polyvinyl Chloride|
This blues harp/harmonica differs in many ways from other musical instruments in this price segment. First, its design. It has an unusual body: a black matte surface with golden letters looks solid, and it does not slip in your hands. The second distinguishing feature is the resonant sound. Some people may not like it, but I love this model because it gives a unique live sound that is great for playing blues and country songs.
The comb of this harp is made of PVC, and the cover plates are made of chromed metal. The bright sound is largely achieved since the reeds are made of phosphor bronze. My sister is learning to play the harmonica, so I gave her a Fender Blues Deville in the key of C. She commented that she had no problem playing notes. She also likes the rich tone and traditional shape. However, if you have a magnetic holder, you will not be able to attach this harp.
- The matte body looks solid and does not slip in the hands
- Decent build quality
- Suitable for performers of all levels
- It has a unique twangy sound
- If you have a magnetic holder, you will not be able to attach this harp to it
5. Focusound: Best Diatonic Harmonica for Kids
This diatonic C harmonica has been specially designed for children (3+ years). If you want to develop your child’s talent and instill a love of music, then this is a great option.
The main feature is safety. The harmonica has rounded, smooth edges and does not contain small parts or toxic materials that could harm health. The harp is lightweight at 2.08 oz. Although it has a cute look, it is not a toy but a real musical instrument for beginner and intermediate players. Rich sound comes at the expense of decent build quality. The reeds are made of brass, and the comb is made of ABS plastic. The stainless steel covers are durable and won’t warp if dropped frequently.
My neighbors gave these instruments to their daughters, 7 and 9 years old. They noted that while the children had not learned simple melodies, their “improvisations” also sounded good. I often give them little lessons, and the harmonicas play as they should. I have noticed that they let air through, but not as much as most of the cheapest adult harmonicas.
- Rich sound
- Safe and ergonomic design
- Easy to play
- The harmonica lets air through a little
6. Suzuki Pro Master: Best Diatonic Harmonica for Professionals
Harmonicas from Suzuki will satisfy even the demanding taste of professional musicians. My colleague often performs at concerts and has a Pro master in 6 keys to play with the band. A total of 14 tones are available. This harp produces loud and bright sounds, which are ideal for his folk performances. High build quality guarantees durability and pure tone.
This harmonica has a little more weight than other popular models, as it is completely made of metal. The reed plates are replaceable and made of phosphor bronze. The aluminum alloy comb gives the richness of the melody. The ergonomic body is comfortable and durable because the covers are made of stainless steel.
If you are a beginner, this option is also suitable for you. The Suzuki Pro master is perfect for easy playing and even bending notes. The airflow, according to my colleague, is flawless
- Ergonomic shape
- Replaceable reed plate
- Full metal construction
- Clear and loud sound/li>
- Suitable for all performance levels/li>
- The weight is slightly more than most models with a plastic comb
7. EastRock: Best Modern Diatonic Design
|Material||Bronze, Stainless Steel, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene|
This blues harp has a low cost, but it has a decent build quality. The diatonic harmonica in the key of C was created for beginners and intermediates. Still, I know many professional players who use this musical instrument as a reserve and training mouth organ. It’s a great-sounding instrument, but easy and cheap to replace if you lose or break it.
I like how this model combines traditional form and modern decor. You can choose a glossy harp in different colors: black, silver, gold, blue, and red. All 10 holes are numbered. Rich timbre and sound are achieved thanks to the phosphor bronze reed. The comb is resistant to moisture as it is made of non-toxic ABS resin. The stainless steel cover plates guarantee durability.
Learning new tonal skills (including bending notes) on this harmonica is also easy because the airflow splitters keep the airflow stable. Overall, this product is definitely worth more than what is asked for. It is suitable for easy performance of many popular genres, such as jazz, country, blues, etc.
- Stylish design
- Beautiful sound
- Low price
- For performers of all levels
- Some people noted a slight peeling of the paint from the body
8. Suzuki: Japanese Quality Standard
|Material||Wood, Stainless Steel|
Suzuki is one of the top-rated harmonicas brands among professional players. I purchased this model 5 years ago to replenish my collection and test the Suzuki harp. There are 14 keys to choose from: C, G, A, E, B, Bb, D, F, F#, Ab, Hi G, Low F, Eb, and Db. I was surprised by the thoughtful design of this harp.
The cover plates are made of stainless steel, which has a beautiful olive-green color. The use of special technologies during manufacturing eliminates paint peeling. The combs are made of wood-polymer composite, which provides moisture resistance while still giving the traditional warm sound. The reeds material is phosphor bronze.
This model also has a high level of air tightness. Although all design features aim to produce a loud and bright sound, compared to other harmonicas, this one seemed to me not loud enough. But using this option in the key of C to play blues compositions written in the key of G gives a traditional and beautiful sound.
- High build quality
- Replaceable reed plate
- Beautiful color
- Traditional sound
- High level of air tightness
- The sound is not loud enough (depends on purpose)
9. Jieshiling: Best Diatonic Harmonica for Beginners
Decent build quality, a traditional shape, and a clear sound. And all these qualities at an affordable price make this harmonica one of the best for beginners. The covers are made of stainless steel, copper plate, and phosphor bronze reeds provide a bright sound. The comb is made of non-toxic ABS plastic.
Workers manually adjust the gap between the reeds, guaranteeing a pure tone. The standard diatonic harmonica in the key of C allows you to play the most popular melodies and has high bendability, which will be useful for intermediate players.
I know two beginners, ages 9 and 16, who are learning to play this harmonica. Both are successful and are practiced daily. Playing notes on this blues harp is easy, even for children. You can also choose from blue or black glossy covers.
- Low price
- A good learning instrument
- Decent build quality
- The small size of the harp can be uncomfortable for players with large hands.
10. Fender Midnight Blues: Best Set of Diatonic Harmonicas
|Material||Bronze, Stainless Steel, Brass, Plastic, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene|
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to choose, then this kit gives you everything you need to play any song, solo or with a band. My sister has some experience playing the harmonica and decided that buying a set of inexpensive base-key harps would be the best choice. She was right because Fender offers decent quality for a reasonable price.
Her simple blues and jazz melodies sound clean and beautiful. The harps in the set are presented in the most common keys: A, Bb, C, D, E, F, and G. The build quality is excellent: ABS plastic combs are durable and moisture-resistant. The harp has brass reed plates, and the reeds are made of phosphor bronze.
The cover plates are also durable because they are made from stainless steel. A nice addition to the 7 diatonic harmonica is a carrying case, manual and polishing cloth. In my opinion, even professionals will like these cute blue harps.
- A set of basic instruments for performing compositions in different genres
- Good build quality
- For performers of all levels
- The font in the harmonica beginner manual s inconvenient to read
Diatonic Harmonica Buyer’s Guide
To choose the right diatonic harmonica, you need to understand how it differs from other types and what characteristics you should pay attention to.
What does diatonic harmonica mean, and how is it different from others?
There are many types of harmonics. The most common three are diatonic, chromatic, and tremolo. The diatonic harmonica (also known as the blues harp) is the most popular. Typically, it has less weight and cost. It’s the easiest to master for beginners. Also, bending notes and playing in the second position (cross-harp), which is easiest to reproduce on a diatonic harmonica, is essential for performing the traditional blues. Each diatonic harmonica has its own key. The most common is C.
Only diatonic scale notes are available for this musical instrument, with no semitone intervals between them. Additional notes can be obtained by mastering the technique of bending.
A standard diatonic has 10 holes, while a chromatic can have 8, 10, 12, 14, or 16 holes. A tremolo has two rows of holes tuned to the same note, usually with a total number of 20, 24, 32, or 48.
The diatonic harmonica is widely used in various genres, such as blues, rock, folk, and country. The use of the chromatic instrument is more typical of jazz and pop music. Tremolo does not allow you to play complex melodies but is great for folk songs and creating special effects.
How to pick a good diatonic harmonica
- First rule: never buy a used harmonica. In addition to malfunctioning, it is a personal musical instrument that tends to accumulate the saliva of its owner. There is no need to buy an old harp: if you cannot afford the model from a famous brand, there are many decent options on the market at a reasonable price.
- Choose a key. If you don’t know which one you need, choose C. This key is the easiest to learn and the most common. If you plan to play solo, you can play music in any key. To understand the difference between them, you can buy a set or several harps in different keys. The most common after C are A, Bb, D, F, and G.
- It is believed that the comb material affects the sound. However, this influence is not too noticeable, and the sound is more dependent on the performer’s skill. Wood is considered the traditional choice for a softer sound. But such a comb is susceptible to moisture. Many manufacturers offer a compromise: a comb made of sealed wood or a wood-polymer composite. Aluminum or steel combs are used in high-end instruments. The most common material is plastic: it is inexpensive, gives a beautiful sound, and is resistant to moisture.
- Pay attention to the material of the covers and reeds. The stainless steel cover plates are the best choice and guarantee durability.
Bronze reeds produce a brighter sound. The most common is brass, which gives a soft and clear sound. Stainless steel reeds are the most expensive and durable option.
FAQ on Blues Harp
At the beginning of their path, harmonicists have many questions. Below we answer the most common ones because choosing the perfect instrument is the first step to a magical sound.
Is diatonic harmonica good for beginners?
Yes, among all types of harmonicas, it is the diatonic that experts recommend for beginners. The 10-hole blues harp in the key of C is easy to learn. Most of the popular songs and tutorials are written for this type. It is also less expensive than a tremolo or chromatic harp.
What is the difference between diatonic and chromatic harmonica?
The blues harp has a diatonic fret without semitones. You can also learn to bend notes on it, which is important for playing the blues. Chromatic allows playing play all 12 notes in an octave, including semitones. Basically, it has two harps in one instrument, which can be switched with a button.
What harmonica type is best for blues?
The most common type is the 10-hole diatonic harmonica. Many follow tradition by choosing options with a wooden comb. However, the plastic combs sound just as good for the blues but are more durable. To play blues songs with a band, you will need diatonic harmonicas in different keys.
Blues Harp Is the Harmonicist’s Best Friend
It’s amazing that such a small musical instrument can produce unique and beautiful sounds. Despite its simplicity, the diatonic harmonica allows you to perform complex compositions in various genres and is also the best option for learning. I recommend the Hohner Special 20 diatonic harmonica. This is a reliable and proven musical instrument highly appreciated by professionals. It is also ideal for beginners and intermediate players.
When choosing a harmonica, do you plan to stick with the traditional design or prefer a modern one?