One of the least-acknowledged jazz instruments is the harmonica. Although the harmonica has a beloved place in American popular culture as the preferred instrument of hobos and folk musicians, it is also one of the earliest instruments used in both jazz and blues music. The first jazz harmonica recordings date from the 1920s.
Celebrated guitarist Toots Thielemans was also well-known for his whistling and harmonica playing. Thielemans was primarily known as a guitar player, but gradually he expanded the use of the harmonica in his music. He was well-known for the harmonica music and whistling that were featured in a long-running Old Spice commercial, and he was the harmonica player in numerous movie soundtracks. He recorded with such luminaries as Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Jaco Pastorius and Quincy Jones.
Larry Adler is considered one of the best harmonica players of all time. The self-taught musician began playing professionally when he was only 14 years old. After winning a harmonica contest sponsored by a local newspaper, he joined the vaudeville circuit. His appearance in the movie “Many Happy Returns” led to a gig in London. His popularity in Europe led to a successful career as a jazz and classical musician. His virtuosity was inspiration for the creation of many works written expressly for the harmonica.
There are several different types of harmonicas being manufactured today. Choosing a harmonica style depends mainly on what type of music will be played. For blues or jazz, the chromatic and diatonic harmonicas are popular choices. Blues man Big Walter Horton favored the chromatic harmonica. Tremolo harmonicas are the historical favorites in Asia, but the chromatic harmonica is also growing in popularity.
Musicians Friend is one website where harmonica enthusiasts can find more information about harmonica types. Although there are some expensive harmonicas manufactured, it’s possible to purchase a high-quality instrument for a reasonable price. The affordability of harmonicas is one reason they have been traditionally associated with the working class and folk music.
Comparing types and brands of harmonicas is a good way to narrow down options. Reviews by customers are another resource when deciding on an instrument. By utilizing the information available at music dealers’ websites, it’s possible to find the best harmonica for the style of music being played. Even musicians on a limited budget can find a top-quality harmonica that will meet their musical needs. Some websites even offer free shipping.