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Profile of the Harmonica

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Profile of the Harmonica

Harmonica Photo by Marcus 'biesior' Biesioroff

Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons

Name of Instrument:

Harmonica, also known as mouth organ or mouth harp

Family:

Wind, free-reed instrument meaning wind instruments that have a freely vibrating reed and the pitch depends on the size of the reed.

How to Play:

The harmonica has metal reeds placed in air channels. The reed vibrates when the musician blows air into or sucks air out of the channels. As the musician blows into each channel, different notes are produced. The lips and tongue covers the channels that are not needed to be played. The chromatic harmonica have added levers that enables the musician to play more notes. A diatonic harmonica has no levers and can only play diatonic notes.

First Known Harmonicas:

The oldest known type of harmonica is the sheng which originated from China. The sheng was made of bamboo pipes wherein a reed is placed. The musician blows into the pipe and create different notes by covering holes on the pipe. Traditional shengs were made of 13 to 17 pipes of varying sizes but there are also those which used more pipes. The sheng was brought to Russia in the 1770s and is believed to have influenced the invention of the harmonica.

The Invention of the Harmonica:

The harmonica is believed to have been invented in 1821 in Berlin by Christian Friedrich Buschmann. It was called Mundäoline. During the 19th century, a German named Matthias Hohner manufactured harmonicas and shipped it to different locations including the United States.

Musicians Who Used harmonicas:

Harmonicas are used in blues and folk music. Some of the musicians who used them are Larry Adler, DeFord Bailey, Jean Thielemans, Little Walter, Junior Wells and Sonny Boy Williamson.

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