Harp Hohner

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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VERY NICE Vtg M Hohner THE ECHO HARP Harmonica C G Double Sided Germany W Box
VERY NICE Vtg M Hohner THE ECHO HARP Harmonica C G Double Sided Germany W Box
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VTG M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp Bell Metal Reeds Made Germany 1930s
VTG M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp Bell Metal Reeds Made Germany 1930s
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M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp 56 96 C G EXCELLENT CONDITION Made in Germany
M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp 56 96 C G EXCELLENT CONDITION Made in Germany
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VTG Hohner NIB Bluesband Beginner C Harp Harmonica Set Songbook Cassette 1987
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The Echo Harp Harmonica M Hohner Germany
The Echo Harp Harmonica M Hohner Germany
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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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55 80 Hohner CG ECHO harp 80 harmonica
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Vintage M Hohner Blues Harp Harmonica Germany
Vintage M Hohner Blues Harp Harmonica Germany
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Rare Antique Beautiful German M Hohner ECHO HARP Harmonica 96 Holes
Rare Antique Beautiful German M Hohner ECHO HARP Harmonica 96 Holes
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Vintage MHohner The Echo Harp Harmonica Key C G w Box Pre WWII TOP
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Hohner Harmonica The Sportsman Harp Germany Vintage Antique 5 Double Tremolo
Hohner Harmonica The Sportsman Harp Germany Vintage Antique 5 Double Tremolo
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VINTAGE HOHNER BLUES HARP HARMONICA C CASE FLYER
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Vintage The Echo Harp M Hohner Harmonica C G with Box Made in Germany
Vintage The Echo Harp M Hohner Harmonica C G with Box Made in Germany
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Vintage HOHNER Vest Pocket Harp German Harmonica Grand Prix
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Lot of 4 Vintage Hohner Harmonica Harmonika PICCOLO BLUES HARP SPECIAL 20
Lot of 4 Vintage Hohner Harmonica Harmonika PICCOLO BLUES HARP SPECIAL 20
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Hohner The Echo Harp Harmonica C  G double sided 64 Hole Orig Box 21955
Hohner The Echo Harp Harmonica C G double sided 64 Hole Orig Box 21955
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VINTAGE HOHNER BLUES HARP MS HARMONICA KEY Bb MADE IN GERMANY W CASE 105
VINTAGE HOHNER BLUES HARP MS HARMONICA KEY Bb MADE IN GERMANY W CASE 105
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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
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The Echo Harp Key C  G by Hohner Made in Germany With Instructions
The Echo Harp Key C G by Hohner Made in Germany With Instructions
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 Hohner Blues Harp harmonica made in Germany
Hohner Blues Harp harmonica made in Germany
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Vintage Echo Harp Made by M Hohner Echo Harp Tremolo Harmonica
Vintage Echo Harp Made by M Hohner Echo Harp Tremolo Harmonica
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HOHNER ECHO HARP DOUBLE SIDED HARMONICA GLOCKENREINE STIMMUNG BOX PAPERWORK
HOHNER ECHO HARP DOUBLE SIDED HARMONICA GLOCKENREINE STIMMUNG BOX PAPERWORK
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Vintage MHohner Blues Harp Germany A962
Vintage MHohner Blues Harp Germany A962
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M Hohner Blues Harp Harmonica in D
M Hohner Blues Harp Harmonica in D
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M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp Bell Metal Reeds Made Germany 1930s
M Hohner Harmonica The Echo Harp Bell Metal Reeds Made Germany 1930s
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VINTAGE HOHNER BLUES HARP HARMONICA C KEY HOHNER POCKET PAL  KOCH HARMONICA
VINTAGE HOHNER BLUES HARP HARMONICA C KEY HOHNER POCKET PAL KOCH HARMONICA
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Vintage Echo Harp M Hohner Harmonica 1930s Key of C  G Double Side Germany Box
Vintage Echo Harp M Hohner Harmonica 1930s Key of C G Double Side Germany Box
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Vintage Melody Master Harmonica Harp Made in poland in wrong Hohner box
Vintage Melody Master Harmonica Harp Made in poland in wrong Hohner box
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Antique The Up to Date Very Best Concert Harp MHohner In Original Box 1915
Antique The Up to Date Very Best Concert Harp MHohner In Original Box 1915
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Vintage MHohner Blues Harp Harmonica Germany With Original Case
Vintage MHohner Blues Harp Harmonica Germany With Original Case
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Hohner The Echo Harp 56 96 Keys C+G Double Side Harmonica Tremolo Great Shape
Hohner The Echo Harp 56 96 Keys C+G Double Side Harmonica Tremolo Great Shape
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Hohner The Echo Harp Harmonica 54 64 M 2 C G made in Germany
Hohner The Echo Harp Harmonica 54 64 M 2 C G made in Germany
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