Harp Hohner

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Which type of harmonica should I buy?

I’m a beginner at playing harmonica, and I’m currently using a $5 plastic piece o’ crap from Pier 1. It’s already leaking air and terribly out of tune. I looked into buying a new one; there are SO many different kinds, and I don’t even know where to begin. I’m thinking a diatonic harp in the key of C (most likely a Hohner). This still leaves me with buttloads of options, like Special 20, Old Standby, Marine Band, Bluesband, Blues Harp, Golden Melody, and so much more. Which would be best for someone who’s not too serious about harmonica? I’d like to be able to bend notes and have a nice tone, but I’m not ready to pay an arm and leg for the instrument. Ideally, I’d like it to cost no more than $25.

If you're wanting to play blues style then you really don't have all the options it appears you do. Many of these are the same but with various minor differences.

We can put the diatonics into five different groups or quality classes just like Hohner does in their catalog:

Marine Band: This is the Marine Band (1896) along with a couple variations such as the 364, 365, and 364s; Special 20; Thunderbird (extra low); and Crossover. They're the classic and traditional. They are what most Hohner players who play professionally use.

MS System: This is user tweaking friendly intended to compete with the Lee Oskar. They have user serviceable parts and are easy to work on and customize. Blues Harp and Big River are in this group. Big River is probably the least costly of these two upper levels of harp.

Hohner brand: This is for the instruments that are not exactly the same as the others. The Golden Melody goes in here - it's not tuned the same as a standard harmonica and is intended for playing melodies and not wailing the blues. The Duece-and-a-Half is in this group too.

Standard Line: Bottom of the line cost-savers. Most are under or around $10. Blues Band, American Ace, GLH, Pocket Pal, Hot Metal, Old Standby, Official Scout, Fuego Azul, Piedmont Blues. They're for youngsters to learn on or for folks who just want a harmonica to piddle with occasionally. They work ok but you'll not be getting too great on one. They don't last as ell as a Marine Band or MS either. Might as well buy the next group - it works as well and costs much less. Most of these only come in C unless you're buying a set.

Childrens: Happy Colors is about $2 and they work. You won't be getting a lot of tone, good seals, and solid bends but it works as well as the Standard Line and it's CHEAP. They work WAY better than anything from a department or dollar store.

Now, assuming you're not after a children's instrument then that leaves the Hohner, MS, and Marine Band lines. The Hohner line are specialty instruments so then we're left with the Marine Band or MS line.

The MS is really for folks who plan to service and tweak their own harp. If that's not you then no need to spend extra for one. But, the Blues Harp is a pretty decent harp and is comparable to the MB harps for blues playing purposes.

Which leaves the Marine Band line and the two most common sellers there are the Marine Band (1896) and the Marine Band Special 20. The difference between the two is the comb material. 1896 is wood, S-20 is plastic. Some people like the sound of wood, some prefer the easy maintance of plastic. Wood swells when wet, plastic doesn't. Either way, good harps to learn on and they cost about $30 depending on where you find them.

http://hohnerusa.com/upload/links/l_00000798_HOHNER_Harmonicas_2011.pdf is the whole Hohner catalog if you're interested.

Musicians Friend has the Special 20 for about $35 and the Marine Band 1896 for the same. The Blues Harp is $2 more and a Golden Melody is $40.

The Big River, a good compromise between the "cheap" and "better" harps, is $25. Which happens to be your preferred price point. Personally I'd go the extra $10 like Miles suggests and get the Marine Band or Special 20.

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Vintage M Hohner Blues Harp
Vintage M Hohner Blues Harp
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1930s M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp Key C Made in Germany in Original Box
1930s M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp Key C Made in Germany in Original Box
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1930s M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp Key C Made in Germany in Original Box
1930s M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp Key C Made in Germany in Original Box
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Vintage M Hohner Blues Harp Made In Germany D
Vintage M Hohner Blues Harp Made In Germany D
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The Echo Harp Harmonica by HohnerModel 57 120 C G in Zipper Case Great Shape
The Echo Harp Harmonica by HohnerModel 57 120 C G in Zipper Case Great Shape
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Vintage Hohner The Up To Date Very Best Tremolo Concert Harp 46 1 2 BOX ONLY
Vintage Hohner The Up To Date Very Best Tremolo Concert Harp 46 1 2 BOX ONLY
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Vintage Hohner Vest Pocket Harp Harmonica G In Original Box Made In Germany
Vintage Hohner Vest Pocket Harp Harmonica G In Original Box Made In Germany
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Vintage M Hohner Blues Harp Harmonica Key Of F
Vintage M Hohner Blues Harp Harmonica Key Of F
$14.99
Hohner Big River Harp Harmonica Key of D 590 20 Made in Germany
Hohner Big River Harp Harmonica Key of D 590 20 Made in Germany
$15.10
VINTAGE M HOHNER BLUES HARP Key Of C Harmonica excellent condition
VINTAGE M HOHNER BLUES HARP Key Of C Harmonica excellent condition
$18.95
M HOHNER VEST POCKET HARP HARMONICA KEY OF G
M HOHNER VEST POCKET HARP HARMONICA KEY OF G
$11.99
VINTAGE MHOHNER AUTO VALVE HARP HARMONICA KEY C
VINTAGE MHOHNER AUTO VALVE HARP HARMONICA KEY C
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HOHNER Vintage F B Echo Harp Tremelo Harmonica w Box Germany 2 Sided
HOHNER Vintage F B Echo Harp Tremelo Harmonica w Box Germany 2 Sided
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Vintage M Hohner Blues Harp Key of G
Vintage M Hohner Blues Harp Key of G
$14.00
VTG M HOHNER 2 SIDED ECHO HARP DOUBLE SIDED HARMONICA C G BOXED NICE GERMANY
VTG M HOHNER 2 SIDED ECHO HARP DOUBLE SIDED HARMONICA C G BOXED NICE GERMANY
$50.00
M Hohner blues harp harmonica c in case made in Germany instrument UNUSED WOW
M Hohner blues harp harmonica c in case made in Germany instrument UNUSED WOW
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1926 M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp Key C Made in Germany in Original Box
1926 M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp Key C Made in Germany in Original Box
$20.00
Vintage MHohner Echo Harp Harmonica Made in Germany  Songbook
Vintage MHohner Echo Harp Harmonica Made in Germany Songbook
$49.99
Rare Antique Beautiful German M Hohner ECHO HARP Harmonica 64 Holes + Box
Rare Antique Beautiful German M Hohner ECHO HARP Harmonica 64 Holes + Box
$74.90
Vintage Hohner Blues Harp Harmonica with Original Old Blue Vinyl Case FREE S H
Vintage Hohner Blues Harp Harmonica with Original Old Blue Vinyl Case FREE S H
$10.00
The Echo Harp  M Hohner  Bell Metal Reeds Harmonica Germany
The Echo Harp M Hohner Bell Metal Reeds Harmonica Germany
$24.00
Vintage MHohner GLH Great Little Harp Harmonica German Harmonica
Vintage MHohner GLH Great Little Harp Harmonica German Harmonica
$12.50
M Hohners Vest Pocket Harp Harmonica in Original Box Germany
M Hohners Vest Pocket Harp Harmonica in Original Box Germany
$19.99
ECHO HARP Harmonica by HOHNER Model 57 120 C G 60 Hole 120 reeds FREE SHIP
ECHO HARP Harmonica by HOHNER Model 57 120 C G 60 Hole 120 reeds FREE SHIP
$80.00
Used Hohner Blues Harp Haarmonica made in Germany
Used Hohner Blues Harp Haarmonica made in Germany
$12.00
Vtg Hohner Grand Prix Harmonica Vest Pocket Harp Musical Instrument Germany
Vtg Hohner Grand Prix Harmonica Vest Pocket Harp Musical Instrument Germany
$18.88
Vintage HarmonicaHohnerChromonica 260Chromatic HarpKey C
Vintage HarmonicaHohnerChromonica 260Chromatic HarpKey C
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Set of 3 Vintage M Hohner and Blue Harp Harmonicas Marine Hohner Key A And G
Set of 3 Vintage M Hohner and Blue Harp Harmonicas Marine Hohner Key A And G
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Hohner Vintage Echo Harp 2 sided Harmonica Germany 1940s w orig Box
Hohner Vintage Echo Harp 2 sided Harmonica Germany 1940s w orig Box
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The Echo Harp Key C  G by Hohner Made in Germany in Orig Box
The Echo Harp Key C G by Hohner Made in Germany in Orig Box
$9.99
Nice M Hohner Blues Harp Made In germany with case  original instructions Used
Nice M Hohner Blues Harp Made In germany with case original instructions Used
$20.00
VINTAGE HARMONICA HOHNER GREAT LITTLE HARP KEY of C BOX MADE in CHINA
VINTAGE HARMONICA HOHNER GREAT LITTLE HARP KEY of C BOX MADE in CHINA
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