The Interest of the HarmonicaI picked up my first Harmonica when I was 6.
It was this cheap 5 dollar harmonica that came with a blue case that had the word “Bluesband” labeled on the top of it. The harmonica was bright silver with a plastic rim around it and gold bolts on each side. I bought this instrument for fun and to play with, but then I ended up putting it away for 7 years.
The summer of freshman year I saw a youtube video of some beatboxer playing the harmonica and I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever, so I decided to take my old 5 dollar harmonica out and learn how to play it. I taught myself to beatbox with this harmonica, and, as I got better, I decided it was time for an upgrade, because the silver that was once shiny had turned into a darker metal. While shopping for a new harmonica I noticed that many of the harmonicas I saw on the shelves of stores were made by the company: Hohner. The company Hohner is German and was started by Matthias Hohner in 1857. He was a german manufacturer who saw the cheap, small hand held instrument as a business opportunity to mass produce Harmonicas. Matthias didn’t even play the harmonica himself but he was an outstanding businessman and went on to produce many harmonicas including the chromatic harmonica.
This chromatic harmonica had a much higher note range than the standard diatonic harmonica. The harmonica began being produced in America when many Germans migrated over to America. Music and Jazz were very popular to African Americans in the 1900’s and the harmonica caught on because of its low cost. The harmonica began to be played in blues tunes and notes were bent and shaped to make different sounds unlike the original way of play in Europe. The harmonica was originally made for a march musical style for small marine bands and small tunes, but when the small instrument reached America, there was a change in style with much improvisation and innovation applied to the instrument. The harmonica began to be played expertly by both African American and white musicians, and eventually gained popularity especially after World War 2 when there was a rise in famous harmonica players like: John Lee, Little Walter, and Rice Miller.
Later, the instrument was also used in folk music with musicians like: Bob Dylan, Kim Wilson and Rod Pizzara.