The perfect starter harp for the would-be musician
Jul 17, 2013
Review by Steve Black
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:An absolutely perfect starter harmonica for beginners at a very low price.
Cons:May be too cheaply produced for the intermediate to advanced harmonica players.
The Bottom Line: If you are a complete beginner and are serious about learning to play the harmonica then this is the perfect starter harp for you.
Lately I have found myself wanting to be more creative. I have perused Pinterest, eased through Etsy, and dabbled with the DIY Network looking for an artistic hobby to quench my need to create. Most of the hobbies that I am interested in require having a garage that doesn’t look like a thrift store threw-up into it, or at least a nice sized woodshed converted as a work space. Since I don’t own a wood shed, I set a goal for myself to get my garage cleared out and hobby ready before Fall gets here …and then did nothing.
Recommend this product?
I was in my office a few weeks ago working on a spreadsheet and listening to a podcast, I forget which show I was listening to, but the guest was John Popper from the band Blues Traveler. John Popper is a world renowned harmonica player and is one of the best diatonic harpists on the planet. He was talking about his life-long obsession with the harmonica, and for some reason my mind clicked…
Some of my favorite musicians, such as John Popper (obviously) and Huey Lewis, are harmonica players and I have always had a bit of a fascination with harmonicas. I love the fact that it’s a musical instrument that has such a soulful sound, yet can be carried in your back pocket.
I promptly got online and started researching harmonicas. My first realization was that these suckers can get expensive, and I knew that I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that I may only toy around with for a couple of days and then toss into a junk drawer to be thrown away at a later date. That’s when I found the Chicago Blues Harmonica Key of C. I chose this harmonica strictly on price alone. As I said before, I didn’t want to spend much money on something that I was not sure that I would stick with. I found the harmonica on Amazon.com for less than $10, so I ordered one right then and there. On a side note: I chose a harmonica in the Key of C because that is what most of the free learning material you can find on the internet is keyed to, and a Key of C instrument is highly recommended for beginners.
The first thing I noticed when I got my Chicago Blues Harmonica Key of C in the mail is that these things are smaller than I remember. I didn’t think about the fact that I haven’t really held a harmonica since I was a little kid, so of course it’s going to look small now.
The Chicago Blues Harmonica Key of C is a 10-hole diatonic harmonica, which means that it has only 10 blow holes and a single reed plate, unlike the chromatic harmonica which has 10 blow holes and two reed plates with a button on the side of the harmonica to activate the second reed plate. Diatonic harmonicas are easier to learn over the chromatic harmonicas, which are a whole different animal entirely.
The Chicago Blues Harmonica Key of C is your basic no frills harmonica. It is rugged, fairly attractive, and produces a clean sound. The center (comb) is made of a durable clear plastic so that it won’t swell from moisture like some of the older wood comb or bamboo comb harmonicas. The reed plate is made of brass and the cover plate is a thin polished chromed metal. The instrument has the “Chicago Blues” name engraved along the top with the numbers 1 – 10 for your blow hole markings, and on the bottom side you will find manufacturers name, “Kay Harmonicas”, engraved along with made in China. The instrument does not come with a carry case unlike some of the more expensive harmonicas, but I have found the harmonica to be very sturdy without a case and I have been carrying it in my pocket with me everywhere I go since the day I got it. You never know when you may have a little free time to practice.
I have owned my Chicago Blues Harmonica Key of C for almost two months now. I have been practicing nearly every day and have discovered that I really enjoy it. I’m not great yet, I may not even be considered good yet, but I’m learning more each day, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice in a starter instrument.
Now for the drawbacks… The old saying that you get what you pay for applies here. The Chicago Blues Harmonica Key of C is an ideal instrument for a beginner, especially if you don’t know yet if you will stick with the harmonica. The instrument did for me what I paid for it to do – it showed me that I am willing to dedicate my free time to learning how to play. With that being said, I have to inform you, the reader, that after roughly 6-weeks I am ready to move on to a more expensive instrument. My Chicago Blues Harmonica Key of C has already begun to go out of tune from my early inexperience of overblowing and from heavy note bending practice. I have read that this is to be expected and that overblowing (a.k.a. blowing too dang hard) will knock even the most expensive harmonica out of tune. I just believe that I got what I needed out of this great little harp and I am ready for something made from a little higher quality material.
This is a great little harmonica for beginners, and I highly recommend it if you are interesting in learning to play the harmonica. You should be able to get a good couple of months of heavy practice out of it if you decide to stick with learning, and if not, then you spent around the same price as a fast food meal for something that perhaps one of your kids may end up finding in a drawer someday and become something great.
I want to give a great piece of advice for those beginners out there that are serious about learning to play the harmonica. There is an instructor online named JP Allen. He has his own website and sells instructional DVDs. His DVD instruction course is amazing and he is by far the best instructor I have found in my 5-6 weeks of learning. Check him out on YouTube and see for yourself. He has several free instructional videos posted on YouTube for the complete beginner. He will get you through some of those really early rough patches that frustrate most beginners. For me his videos were a game changer.
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