Diatonic Harmonica

dahy-uh-ton-ik har-mon-i-kuh
The diatonic harmonica is a woodwind instrument that uses a reed encased in a metal chassis to create sound. It features 10 sound holes on one side. The diatonic harmonica is the most common and most used type of harmonica in the world and despite its simplicity and size, it can reach a range of 3 octaves.
History of the Diatonic Harmonica
The harmonica’s early history is often attributed to China and the invention of the similar free reed instrument the sheng. This ancient aerophone dates back to over a 1000BC. In the 18th century, Dutch physicist Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein would create a reed organ that uses similar principles for creating sound, and instruments like the harmonium also followed. None of these were portable however. A pocket size mouth organ would eventually arrive in Europe and a bohemian instrument maker, Joseph Richter, established the ten hole diatonic tuning of the diatonic harmonica. German manufacturer Hohner began to mass produce these instruments in the 1850s and they are still perhaps the most dominant brand on the diatonic harmonica market. In the 1950s folk music would come to adopt the harmonica and in the 60s and 70, pop music pioneers like Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and Bob Dylan would come to cement the instrument as one of the most famous portable woodwind instruments in pop music history.
Inventor: Matthias Hohner

Where to Buy

£10 - £35

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How to Play

A type of harmonica with a limited range of notes, typically used in folk and blues music. It's played by blowing into the instrument and drawing air out while using the tongue and lips to manipulate the sound.

In Popular Music

The diatonic harmonica is an extremely popular instrument and the most famous example of a harmonica. The diatonic harmonica was played on 'Love Me Do' by The Beatles, 'Piano Man' by Billy Joel and many songs by Bob Dylan including 'Blowing In The Wind'

Famous Players

Sonny Terry, Little Walter

Close Relations

Chromatic Harmonica, Tremolo Harmonica
Video Credit: Howcast
Understanding the Diatonic Harmonica
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Small

Size

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Europe

Country

1820s

Year

Woodwind

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