Interesting Harmonica Facts: 5 Things You Didn’t Know

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Want to learn more about the harmonica? Do you know about all of the most unique things about the instrument?

Whether you’re a player of the harmonica yourself or you’re simply a listener, you may be surprised to learn that this instrument has a lot more to it than meets the eye. The harmonica is an interesting instrument with a unique history and there are a few things about it that may surprise you.

Keep reading to discover 5 interesting harmonica facts you didn’t know about.

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1. The Harmonica is the World’s Best-Selling Instrument

One of the most interesting things about the harmonica is that it’s actually the best-selling instrument in the world.

Over 2 million harmonicas sell in the United States every year, and over 10 million sell worldwide. The 2nd most amount of harmonicas sold each year is in China.

Coming in 2nd for the most instrument sales is the guitar. Needless to say, it’s a pretty popular instrument as well.

2. It’s Newer Than You Probably Think

Something that many people don’t realize about the harmonica is that it’s not as old as it seems. The harmonica is a fairly new musical instrument and wasn’t invented in Germany until 1821.

In the latter half of the 1800s, Hohner began mass-producing the harmonica and many of its buyers were in the United States. Its popularity has only grown since then.

3. The Harmonica Has More Than One Name

While many people have heard of the harmonica, not everybody has heard its other names. Other names include the French harp, a mouth organ, a blues harp, or simply a harp.

It can be confusing to some people to think of the harmonica as being a harp since many people think of the stringed harp when they hear that name.

To make things even more confusing, there is also something known as a glass harmonica, which was an instrument made by Benjamin Franklin.

4. Several Presidents Have Played the Harmonica

Speaking of historical figures, it’s also interesting to note that several presidents in the past have been harmonica players. While they may not be on our list of the world’s greatest harmonica players, a few of them did have some impressive skills.

Ronald Reagan and Calvin Coolidge are at least two among the U.S. presidents who have been avid players of the harmonica. While the performance may have just been some entertaining trickery, Jimmy Carter has even “performed” the harmonica on stage with country music legend, Willie Nelson.

5. There’s More Than One Type of Harmonica

Continuing our list of harmonica facts, another thing that you should know is that there are more harmonica sizes and types than you might expect.

When many people are thinking about the harmonica, they’re thinking of the diatonic harmonica, which is what you often see in the movies. The diatonic harmonica has 10 holes and is typically only played in a single key.

However, there is also the chromatic harmonica which is larger and has either 12, 14, or 16 holes. Even larger is the tremolo harmonica which has 24 holes. On the smaller side, it’s possible to find 4-note harmonicas as well, some in the form of keychains.

Final Thoughts

While there are plenty of more interesting harmonica facts to uncover, we think that these are some of the most interesting of all. Hopefully, by now you have a deeper appreciation of this simple, yet fun-to-play musical instrument.

Are you ready to start playing the harmonica? Click here to check out our list of the top harmonica books for new players.