• Wish list
  • be
    Choose your store
    All countries
  • 0

Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Harmonicas

4. How Harmonicas Work

There are actually several different types of harmonica, and they each need a slightly different playing method. However, they share the same basic structure. Two plates holding the reeds - the reed plates - are attached to the upper and lower surfaces of a comb, made of wood, metal or plastic. This assembly is then enclosed by cover plates, which allow the player to hold the instrument without touching the reeds. They also help to amplify the sound. Chromatic harmonicas also have a slide, which the player uses to select the additional notes.

The Comb

Combs can have single channels, double channels, or even two-way channels which allow you to play on either side of the harmonica. The different materials used to make the comb affect the sound and playability of the instrument. Plastic combs give a consistent tone and have the advantage that they are less affected by moisture and temperature. Wood gives a richer, organic sound, while metal, or metal plated combs make for brighter, clearer tones.

The Reed Plates

These are usually made of brass, though nickel and chromium plated plates are also sometimes used. Again, the material used helps to define the quality of the tones produced. The reeds themselves are usually made of the same material as the plates, and are secured by rivets. They fit snugly into the slots cut into the reed plates, so that no air can escape when they’re not being played. In chromatic harmonicas, valves are also used to close the non-playing channels, because there are extra slots in the reed plates.

Richter diatonic reed plates

The Cover Plates

Most cover plates are made of sheet metal. They protect the reed plates and reeds and give the player something to hold. Since the sound of the harmonica is shaped substantially by the chamber made by the hands, the cover plates make a significant difference to each player’s tone. They also define the look of the harmonica. Most manufacturers engrave their cover plates in their own unique style, and the designs vary from model to model.

Tuning

Most harmonicas employ the same basic tuning pattern, following the diatonic scale - doh, re, mi, fah, so, la, te, doh. This is why the standard blues harp, such as the Marine Band, is known as a diatonic harmonica. Even a chromatic harp is essentially two diatonic harps in one, with one tuned a semitone higher than the other.

Of all the different types of harmonica, the Richter model has become something of a standard, mainly because its tuning configuration makes it so versatile. The Marine Band, reckoned to be the world’s best-selling harmonica, is a Richter harmonica.

A simple scale on a Richter diatonic harmonica, tuned to the key of C, can be played by blowing and drawing from the fourth hole:

Blow notes: C E G C
Draw notes: D F A B

But if you play a scale from the first hole, the pattern is as follows:

Blow notes: C E G C
Draw notes: D G B

There is no F or A note. This is known as the Richter tuning, and it is used to make it easier to play harmonies, or chords. A full C chord and G chord can be played when blowing and drawing in the lower holes. It means that you must learn to bend notes when playing in the lower register of the harmonica - and it means that you can reach some soulfully wailing blues notes as well.

Your Contact People
Phone: +49-9546-9223-26
FAX: +49-9546-9223-24
Question!
Question! Give the right answer and win 1x Harley Benton Electric Guitar Kit Single Cut worth 98 €.
Violin strings are tuned in what intervals?
Conditions of participation
Terms and Conditions for participation
in online competitions

Note: Participation in an online competition runs independently from any purchase at Thomann GmbH. The following Competition Rules apply when participating in any online competition run by Musikhaus Thomann:

  1. Competition

    1. The competitions are organised by Thomann GmbH, CEO: Hans Thomann, Hans-Thomann-Straße 1, 96138 Burgebrach, Germany.
  2. Participation

    1. Competitions are only open to persons of full age.
    2. To take part in the competition you must answer all questions correctly, fill in the registration form and submit your entry to Thomann GmbH by pressing the "send" button.
      By pressing the "send" button the participant accepts the aforementioned terms and conditions.
    3. The participant is responsible for entering their email and/or postal address correctly. Entries to the competition will be logged electronically.
  3. Qualifying Entrants

    1. Staff of Thomann GmbH and any cooperation partners and their dependants are excluded from participation.
    2. Should these conditions of participation be violated, especially by using illegitimate means, Thomann GmbH reserves the right to exclude persons from the competition. In case of such violations prizes can be withdrawn and claimed back subsequently.
  4. Announcing the winner

    1. The winners will be notified by Thomann GmbH by email or in writing and their names may be published on the homepage www.thomann.de. The winner accepts this form of publication explicitly.
      Should for whatever reason the winner not claim their prize, then a new winner will be drawn.
    2. The prize presented to the winner may not be identical to the item description. There can be deviances regarding the model, colour etc.
    3. The merchandise prizes will be sent by Thomann GmbH or by one of its contracting delivery companies, per freight forwarder, courier or postal service to the postal address indicated by the winner.

      The delivery is free of charge. Only extra transport costs and customs/duties must be covered by the winner. In the case that the delivery has to be made through a freight forwarding company the freight forwarding company will contact the winner to arrange delivery timings.
    4. An exchange, cash alternative or replacement prize is not possible.
    5. The claim to the prize or replacement of the prize cannot be assigned to a third party.
  5. Data protection

    1. The participant accepts explicitly that Thomann GmbH saves all necessary data for the duration of the competition and forwards them exclusively for purposes related to the winning process to the respective cooperation partner, who is also permitted to save the personal data only for the duration of the competition. The participant is free to withdraw his entry at any time. Please direct the withdrawal to:

      Thomann GmbH
      to the data protection officer
      Hans-Thomann-Straße 1
      96138 Burgebrach, Germany
    2. Thomann GmbH is obliged to consider the regulations for data protection according to the Federal Data Protection Law (BDSG) valid at the conclusion of the competition. In this context the general data protection regulations under notes regarding data protection should be noted.
  6. Liability

    1. Thomann GmbH will be released from any obligations by handing out the prize.
    2. Thomann GmbH is not liable for the insolvency of a cooperation partner and the resulting consequences for the implementation and processing of the competition.
  7. Other

    1. Legal proceedings are barred.
    2. The law of the Federal Republic of Germany applies exclusively.
One of our Fans
Thank you for an incredible service. Very good. Thank you
pxxxemonium@fxxx.uk, 24.07.2017

Harmonicas overview

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 Upgrade Roland SH-01A gray Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 Varytec LED Theater Spot 100 3000K Digitech SDRUM Strummable Drums Boss Katana Mini Fender Standard Telecaster MN BB Kala Spruce Mahagony Sopran Ukulele Arturia KeyLab Essentials 61 Stairville Octagon 20x6W Tourpack 4 Darkglass Alpha Omicron Bass Distortion Arturia KeyLab Essentials 49
(4)
Recommended
Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 Upgrade

Virtual Drum Production Studio (Download)Upgrade from Toontrack Superior Drummer 2 to Superior Drummer 3 Based on meticulously recorded samples of high quality drums, Recorded in 11.1 Surround by George Massenburg in the Galaxy Studios, Over 230GB...

to the product
169 €
Recommended
Roland SH-01A gray

Roland SH-01A gray, sounds of the classic roland sh-101 synthesizer via acb technology; new unison, chord, and four-voice polyphonic modes expand on the original's sound palette; built-in sequencer with 64 patterns; arpeggiator with 3 playback modes, note hold, 3-way transpose...

to the product
399 €
Recommended
Toontrack Superior Drummer 3

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 (ESD); virtual drum production studio; extensively produced drum software, based on meticulously recorded samples of high end drums; recorded in 11.1 surround sound at the Galaxy Studios by George Massenburg; over 230 GB of raw, unprocessed...

to the product
329 €
Recommended
Varytec LED Theater Spot 100 3000K

LED Theatre Spotlights With Fresnel lens and 3000K colour temperature, Replaces conventional stepped lens spotlights of the 500 - 650 W class, Adjustable beam angle via manual zoom, Very quiet temperature-controlled fan for quiet operation, Light source: 100 W...

to the product
327 €
Recommended
Digitech SDRUM Strummable Drums

Digitech SDRUM Strummable Drums, drum machine in stomp box format, creates drum patterns based on scatches and strums across muted strings, 5 studio quality drumkit sounds, 12 different hats/rides styles, stores up to 36 differents songs, 3 song parts programmable...

to the product
219 €
(1)
Recommended
Boss Katana Mini

Modelling Combo Amplifier for Electric Guitar 3 Basic amplifier types selectable (Brown/Crunch/Clean), Analogue multi-stage gain circuit with 3-Band analogue EQ, Channels: 1, Power: 7 W, Equipped with: 1x 4" speaker, Cabinet construction: Closed, Controls: (Mono): Gain, Volume, Bass, Middle,...

to the product
98 €
Recommended
Fender Standard Telecaster MN BB

Electric Guitar Mexico, Alder body, Maple neck, Modern "C" neck profile, Fretboard: Maple, 21 Medium jumbo frets, Nut width: 42 mm, Scale: 648 mm (25.5"), Pickup: 2 Standard Tele Single Coil, 3-Way toggle switch, Volume knob and tone knob,...

to the product
599 €
Recommended
Kala Spruce Mahagony Sopran Ukulele

Kala Spruce Mahagony Soprano Ukulele, Soprano body size, 348 mm scale, overall length 533 mm, Spruce top, Mahogany back and sides, Mahogany neck, 12 nickel silver frets, Black Walnut fingerboard, Black Walnut bridge, chrome, geared machineheads, Aquila Super Nylgut strings,...

to the product
77 €
Recommended
Arturia KeyLab Essentials 61

USB MIDI Keyboard 61 Velocity-sensitive keys, 8 Velocity dynamic pads with aftertouch, A Clickable encoder, 9 Rotary control, 9 Faders, 13 Keys, Transport section with 4 function buttons, LCD display, Pitchbend and modulation wheel, Chord Play mode, Mackie /...

to the product
249 €
Recommended
Stairville Octagon 20x6W Tourpack 4

Stairville Octagon Theater 20x6W 4x Tourpack incl. Flightcase, 20x6W CW / WW / A, Complete Tourpack with 4 pieces Stairville Octagon Theater 20x6W in a stable roadcase. Professional LED Theatre Spot with infinitely adjustable colour temperature. The, Octagon Theatre is...

to the product
949 €
Recommended
Darkglass Alpha Omicron Bass Distortion

Effect Pedal for Electric Guitar Provides the distortion and flexibility of the alpha-omega in a smaller format, With the two distortions, it offers the same harmonically rich, various sounds as its big brother, Knobs: Blend - mod - level...

to the product
269 €
Recommended
Arturia KeyLab Essentials 49

USB MIDI Keyboard 49 Velocity-sensitive keys, 8 Velocity-sensitive pads with aftertouch, 1 clickable encoder, 9 Rotary control, 9 Faders, 13 Buttons, Transport section with 4 function buttons, LCD display, Pitchbend and modulation wheel, Chord Play mode, Mackie / HUI...

to the product
199 €
Feedback Found an error or want to give us feedback about this page?

We're looking forward to hearing from you and aim to solve any problems as soon as we can.

Please leave a comment. Please enter your e-mail address.