if you’re here, I assume that you like the harmonica. Well, we can all derive a lot of pleasure from finding out some fun information bits about our hobbies that we never knew – and today I am here to provide you with some fun harmonica entertainment.
1 – Many people have no idea, but the harmonica is the #1 world’s best-selling music instrument. (followed by guitars) For example, in the United States alone, more than 40 million harmonicas have been sold! This means that for a country with a population of about 320 million, there is probably a harmonica in almost every single household!
2 – The harmonica was first invented and patented in Germany in 1821 by Christian Buschmann – a 16 year old boy at the time! He called the harmonica “Mundaeoline”. The harmonica then began to spread across Europe in different variations, and at the second half of the 19th century it was also brought to the United States – where it soon played a major part in the rise of blues music.
3 – The first harmonicas were mostly made from wood – including the cover plates. Today the only full wooden-bodied harmonicas you’ll find are very expensive and specialized instruments.
4 – In 1857, a clockmaker from Trossingen, Germany, started making harmonicas at his house. He saw that business is going well, as he sold over 600 pieces in the first year. 600 harmonicas that he made by himself with just one worker.
He fully converted the clock business to a harmonica factory and it grew at a staggering rate. His name was Matthias Hohner. Currently – Hohner is manufacturing more than a few million harmonicas every year and is considered the leader in the harmonica field. Quite a success story!
5 – The smallest playable harmonica today is the Hohner Little Lady. It has 4 holes which let you play 8 different notes, and it’s also the first instrument that was ever played in space. This happened in 1965, when Walter Schirra, an American astronaut, surprised his friends on board the Gemini 5 spaceship as he played “Jingle Bells” for them on Christmas eve.
6 – The largest harmonica ensemble ever has been brought together in November 2009 in Hong Kong to break the world record. It consisted of 6,131 participants who played the Guinness World Record Melody for seven minutes along with a string-instruments orchestra. (video)
7 – The 60’s were a golden age for the harmonicas – sales have soared as the harmonica made the leap from the hands of the blues and straight into the most popular music genres that were gaining extreme popularity – the rock and folk.
Two prominent examples are Bob Dylan and his famous harmonica holder – which let him play the guitar & harmonica at the same time, (and inspire millions of others to do so as well) and also John Lennon who’s in charge of Love Me Do‘s harmonica (1963) which was The Beatles first hit that included a major part for the harmonica – the opening riff!
8 – Amongst the most famous musicians that you might have knew who played the harmonica on stage before, you’re bound to surely find some names that will surprise you as well: John Mayer, Johnny Cash, Sheryl Crow, Shakira, Mick Jagger, Van Morisson, Alanis Morissette, Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, Jimmi Page and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Bono (U2), Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Neil Young, Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Bruce Springsteen and many other greats.
9– When played regularly – Harmonicas can actually provide a good aerobic and breathing exercise which will let you gain better control of your respiratory system. Side effects can be increased energies all day long and a big smile on your faces.
10 – In the 50’s, Little Walter – a very famous blues harmonica player – pioneered the method of playing the harmonica directly into a special microphone – a “bullet” type of microphone that was used up until then mainly by… taxi drivers!
The bullet microphone gave the harmonica a very FAT sound that emphasized the midrange frequencies and let it “stand up there” and be heard along the electric guitar. Since then, harmonica players from all over the musical world have adopted this method and enjoyed the great sound and increased possibilities that it offers.
11 – Harmonica is also the instrument of choice for several of the presidents of the United States. In the A-list of presidents-harmonicists you will find Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan.
12 – About 90 years after the invention of the first harmonicas – Hohner came up with the first chromatic harmonica – the Chromonica with the 12 holes. Another very popular variation that gained popularity later is the 16 holes chromatic harmonica.
13 – Although harmonicas are most often associated with blues, rock and folk music, if you open your eyes you will see the occasional harmonica guest appearance in hits from many musical genres. Two examples that pop to my head are Pitbull’s hit Timber from 2013 which used a harmonica for the main riff, and the hip hop artist Bad News Brown (R.I.P) which used to create his hip hop beats with a lot of harmonica in them.