Re: Beginner looking for a harmonica.

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Posted by DrHarmonica on October 28, 2000 at 07:58:36:

In Reply to: Beginner looking for a harmonica. posted by Doug on October 25, 2000 at 20:54:29:

: I'm finally getting a harmonica after longing for one since I was a kid. I don't know how much I'll take to it yet so I don't want to go big. I'm looking to spend no more than $75, and I want the best thing I can get. Any suggestions?! Thanks a lot!

There is a risk in buying cheapo harmonicas as I read in follow-ups to this message. Some are quite OK, but others are about as airtight as a wicker basket.

A good alternative for cheapo junkers are Huang harmonicas (sell at some 7 bucks each, available in all 12 keys) or the Hohner Big River Harp; their entry model at about 15 buckazoids. The Huangs are gapped a little irregularly, but the Hohner Big River Harp is quite neat for the money.

I heard someone say that with a 3 dollar harp you don't have to worry about sitting on it, but do you understand that in spite of its relatively small size and low prices a harmonica is a serious musical instrument and deserves to be treated as such. Suppose you would buy yourself a violin. Would you buy a cheap one in order not to be afraid to step on it?
The sound is another thing. To the untrained ear (and even to some very well trained ears as well) there is no audible difference between a 3 dollar cheapo and a 60 dollar Meisterklasse. Yet wider production tolerances for cheap harmonicas allow for reeds being possibly tuned off-pitch. Not a nice idea if you try to jam along with a guitar or a piano...

Of course cheap harmonicas have wide tolerances in production and quality control. Usually the reed gapping and alignment are irregular or downright bad. The fitting of the reedplates to the comb may be poor, causing leaks. Learning certain techniques can be complicated by the possible defects. In any case there is always room for doubt if something doesn't work well: "Is it the harmonica or is it me?" Those of you who don't want to be confronted with their own fallability (sp?) will always have a wonderful excuse for stuff not working. How can it work on this cheap thing, right?

There are several reasons to buy a good harmonica from the start.

1. If something goes wrong or doesn't work you are sure it's not the harmonica.

2. Why restrict yourself with bad equipment when learning?

3. Is $25.00 really the end of the world?

4. A good harmonica stimulates you more to learn than a cheap thing. Nothing is lost if you don't do anything with a $3.00 thing, but a lot is lost if $25.00 is lying unused in a drawer.

5. The first harmonica you buy and learn on will stay with you for the rest of your life. I still have my first Lee Oskar, although I must admit I changed reedplates on it several times.

In my opinion the best bet on a starter harmonica is a Lee Oskar Major Diatonic. These are excellent harmonicas, play well straight from the box, last a long time and can take the serious abuse you as a beginner are very likely to expose it to.
Enclosed is an URL of a page where a price comparison is made between most popular models of harmonicas with almost all on-line music stores. Remember that local stores charge an average of $5.00 more for the same models.

Good luck and happy harpin'
- featuring Thirsty, the groggy froggy

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