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Country music has been around since the 1920s and comes from all sorts of interesting backgrounds. Its roots are blues and folk, among other things, and have originated in the southern United States. Tennessee, however, is more famously known as the birthplace of country music. Since then, country music has spread all over the world.
However, when you think about harmonicas, it’s a wonder this instrument ever made its way into country music. (We’re not mad about it, though!) Although harmonicas originated long before country music did, the instrument did not make its way over to the United States right away. Harmonicas were mostly used in Europe and East Asia at the beginning. Eventually, they did manage to come to our side of the pond.
Unfortunately for them, musicians back then did not know what they were missing! So naturally, given the history of harmonicas, guitars, banjos and fiddles are usually the instruments associated with country music. In contrast, the harmonica is typically reserved for folk bands and Irish jigs.
These days, however, you can incorporate all types of instruments in country music, including harmonicas. While usually reserved for blues and jazz, a harmonica can add a unique sound to any genre of music, especially country. They can add an entirely different mood to the song, and what’s a country song without emotion?
While using a harmonica in country music hasn’t become as mainstream yet, artists are already ahead of the game. Charlie McCoy Ryan Bingham, Chris Janson, Parker McCollum, and Ruston Kelly are some country artists who have started incorporating the harmonica in their music. While it’s a good start, there aren’t enough artists out there doing this!
How do you play country on a harmonica?
Now that we’ve convinced you that a harmonica would give your country song that added touch it needs, it’s time to teach yourself how to play it. Unfortunately, if you’ve never used a harmonica before, you may have difficulty figuring it out. Don’t worry, though. There are some experts out there that would be more than happy to serve as inspiration.
Charlie McCoy, for example, is a legend in the country music world and particularly known for his impressive harmonica skills. Despite being in his late 70s, he’s still able to show off his talent at a moment’s notice. Charlie has several useful videos on the web that can inspire you to use your harmonica to play country music.
There is a certain scale that needs to be followed when playing country music on a harmonica. The scale goes like this: 1D 2B 2D 3D” 3D 4D 5B 6B 6B 5B 4D 3D 3D” 2D 2B 1D. This is important to note when playing any country song. You must have your harmonica Country tuned, which is another version of the Richter tuning.
In this case, the fifth reed has raised a semitone and creates the major seventh scale when playing the cross harp. Although you can purchase a harmonica with a country tuning, you can also do it yourself. You must make sure that your harmonica is Country tuned, or else the sound won’t be any different.
What is the best harmonica key for country music?
The best harmonica key for country music is C. You will need to play harp in 2nd position, otherwise known as a cross harp.
What is the best harmonica for country music?
When it comes to choosing a harmonica that’s right for you, you have several options. It’s safe to say that a Diatomic Harmonica would be your best bet as it’s the easiest to play and maneuver to create the sound you want. Listed below are all of our recommendations.
Hohner Blues Band
The Hohner Blues Band is an overall great harmonica for beginners. It’s pretty cheap and a great way to start learning the harmonica without having to break the bank.
Mugig Diatonic Harmonica
The Mugig Diatonic is aesthetically pleasing and easy to play. It provides a great sound that is sure to impress anyone in the audience. Not only that, but it’s not clunky, which means you can carry it around wherever you go. Tuck it in your pocket or its carrying case for easy access.
The bronze reeds make the sounds come off more stable and have a stainless steel coat to last you a lifetime. It’s also another good one for beginners and is trying to master the art of the harmonica.
Swan 10 Hole 20 Tones Harmonica
The Swan 10 hole 20 tone harmonica can be used by anyone from experts, beginners, kids, and adults alike. It has a deeper sound than most which make for a perfect country ballad. It is a 10 hole harmonica in the key of C, but you can discover up to 20 tones by combining different chords.
While this harmonica is made out of plastic, it’s surprisingly durable. It also comes with a protective case to keep it safe from damage.
I-MART 10 Hole Diatonic Harmonica
Another good one for beginners. The I-MART 10 Hole harmonica comes with pre-printed number keys to learn chords as you play and is set in the Key of C. You can get it in several colors and for a relatively low price.
Diatonic Harmonica 10 Hole
The East Top Advanced Diatonic harmonicas have a near-perfect review and for a good reason. They have a rich sound, are lightweight, and while it can be a great accompanying instrument for a band, it sounds just as well on its own.
The Diatonic Harmonica 10 Hole has steel cover plates, a plastic comb, and a copper harp reed. The copper helps the player reach higher pitches much more smoothly. Although this harmonica is suited for country music, it works great in any other genre of music as well.
Lee Oskar Harmonica
While on the pricier side, the Lee Oscar harmonica is worth every penny. More advanced harmonica players mainly use it, so this may not be the harmonica for you if you’re still a beginner.
Part of the reason these harmonicas are so expensive is not only because of the quality of the material they’re made with but also because they are versatile. These harmonicas are also great for improvising either in a solo session or while jamming out with a band.
While the sound this harmonica makes is deep, the tones can easily blend and adapt to whatever you want to play next.
The design of this harmonica is almost impeccable. It’s got large holes and a plastic comb while also being designed so that no air leaks out of the instrument.
To say that there are dozens of harmonicas to choose from would be an understatement. Of course, there are many things to consider when purchasing one for the first time. But keep in mind that a good harmonica is determined by the sound it makes and how quickly the reeds react to your movements. For beginners looking to play country music with a harmonica, a 10-hole harmonica in the key of C is ideal.
Another thing to make a note of when shopping for a harmonica is price. If you’re a beginner, try not to splurge on anything too fancy. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on an instrument you are unsure of just yet. However, if you’re already a seasoned pro and you can afford to spend a little more, go for it!
You will also want to make sure you have purchased a harmonica with the right key. As mentioned earlier, a C key is typically recommended for country music. Remember that a C harmonica makes it diatonic, which means it can only be played in one key. Thus, you will need a C harmonica.
Once you’ve got the details down, you’ll also want to consider purchasing accessories for your harmonica. Many of the ones we’ve recommended come with cases, but not all of them do. Sometimes it may be more expensive to buy a harmonica case separately, so consider purchasing a set that comes with both the instrument and a case.
Once you have picked out the right harmonica for you, be sure to get the country tuning right. You’ll be surprised at the huge difference it makes. All that’s left is to start jamming out!