Info worth knowing

FAQ - frequently asked questions - please click a topic:

Which harmonica should I buy - what is the best instrument for a beginner?

In general there are four different types of harmonicas, namely Blues, Chromatic, Tremolo and Oktave-models. Each of these are suited for different musical styles.

Especially beginners should be especially aware of the fact that their first instrument should be a good one. Buying cheap like with other products can lead to frustration or, even worse to giving up learning a new musical instrument.

All SEYDEL Harmonicas are high-grade instruments - made in Germany - those with stainless steel reeds have the best price-performance ratio.

>Here you will be forwarded to the HARPFINDER that offers a lot of sound examples and detailed descriptions of all four harmonica categories

Why are Stainless Steel reeds superior to those made of brass?

Seen from a technical point of view harmonica reeds are springs and stainless steel is a better spring material than brass. The upper load limit and the spring momentum is higher than with brass and this has thoroughly positve effects on the dynamic range of the sound, the tuning stability and the durability of our models with stainless steel reeds.

The reed response of stainless steel reeds is nearly identical to those of brass reeds, however the sound has a higher proportion of overtones.

>Here you will find a sound comparison measurement between brass and stainless steel reeds

Is there a model on which it is more easy than on an other to play single notes?

All of the harmonica combs from the Blues series have the same hole spacing and all of them are suited for beginners. On the low and high models from the 1847 series the thickness of the comb is a little bit different (1mm) compared to the standard keys. So there is no Blues model that is especially suited for playing individual notes easier than on another model!

Playing individual notes should not be fatiguing. The lipps should be pursed effortlessly. The shape/embouchure is similar to whistling a low note: the lower jaw is a little bit opened and the resulting "lip setting" can be watched in a mirror: the "aperture" is suited wel for playing a single note. This technique is called "pucker embouchure".

The harmonica is then placed on the lower lip and the note "is breathed" (the mouth cavity forms an "ouh" or an "uh" shape, do not puff the air, just breath!). If you still hear two notes the instrument can be relocated to the left or the right rather than contracting the lip muscles even more. They should stay relaxed and so do not rehearse too long. Instead of playing for half an hour at one push, you'd better play five times for five minutes with a one minute pause in between.

After a while you will not think about you embouchure any more! You can rely on this fact, so give yourself the patience needed to master this technique.

How to play bending notes?
  • a workshop about bending can be found >here
  • find out what happens to the reeds while you bend a note >here

What does an "L" or an "H" added to the key label indicate?
  • an L added to the key indicates, that the instrument is tuned a full octave lower than the standard instrument, e.g. LC = Low C 
  • a double LL indicates that the instrument is tuned two full octaves lower than usual, e.g. LLE = double Low E. In the key of E there exist three different instruments, namely the standard E, the Low E (LE) and the LowLow E (LLE)
  • an H added to the key label indicates that the the instrument is tuned one full octave higher than the standard key, e.g. HA, or High A
An overview of the complete key range of all SEYDEL harmonicas can be found >here.

What is a fine tuning or temperament?
  • The fine tuning or temperament describes the way an instrument is (very slightly) tuned differently from the "mathematical correct" pitch. Most of our instruments are delivered in the so called "Compromised"-tuning. This tuning provides a nicely sounding chord plus the oportunity to play melodies in the right pitch. We offer other tuning systems on demand.

How we tune exactly can be found >here.

Why bending notes have different pitch ranges and which effect has pitch and valving effect on bending?

Bending notes: the bending pitch range of a note (draw or blow) depends on the interval the reeds within one hole are tuned in. E.g. if they are tuned to a third with 4 semi-tones, like in 3 draw on a Richter harmonica, you can bend down and reach the semi-otes in between this interval - take hole 3 on a C-harmonica:

If the draw note is a B and the blow note is a G, you will be able to play the Bb the A, the Ab as bending notes. In hole 2 however the pitch of the draw and blow note is only 3 semi-tones apart: blow 2 = E and draw 2 = G. Therefore you have only two draw bending notes in hole 2, namely the F# and the F. In 1 blow you find a C in 1 draw there is a D. The resulting bending note is a Db/C#.

In the lower registers (1-6) all draw notes are higher in tune than the corresponding blow notes (in one hole!). That is why you get draw bendings. In holes 7-10 it is vice versa, so you will get blow bends only, following the same principle of the "dual reed bending".

Valving: If you cover a draw reed with a valve, eg in 1 to 4, you can still get the usual draw bendings like described above. However if you blow a note the valve closes the draw reed and you can get out a so called "single reed bending" (the valve prevents the interaction of the two reeds). The pitch range is a semi-tone maximum.

Low harmonicas with valves: On nearly all of our low harmonicas that have valves on the lower draw reeds, it is theoretically possible to get both, the usual draw dual-note bending notes and the addional single-note blow bendings in each hole. In practice one problem remains: You have to build a really large mouth cavity for producing the bent notes. Very low bending notes physically need a long air-coumn to alter their frequency. This is physically rescricted to the player's ability to form a huge mouth cavity.

If you are starting with bending you better use a Bb a C or a D harmonica to get the best results - after a while you will also learn lower tuned harmonicas - step-by-step!

>Here you will find even more info about half and full valving

Why there are chromatic harmonicas available in different keys? Is it possible to play in all keys on a C/C# chromatic?

For sure it is possible to play in all 12 keys on a C/C# chromatic harmonica. All the 12 notes of the chromatic scale are available through three (or four) octaves (these correspondent to all the white and black keys on a piano).

If you take a deeper look to the tonal layout of a chromatic harmonica (this is called ‚Solo tuning', pls. refer to the tone tables on the product pages), you will see that you will get the C-Major chord if you blow (C, E, G, C) and the D-Minor6 chord (D F A B) if you draw three or four notes at once.

If you like to play the Major Scale as single notes you will not need those notes that become available by pressing the slider. The C-Major scale consists of the notes: C, D, E, F , G, A, B, C. If you like to play a Major scale (or melodies) in another key you will need additional notes than those of the C-Major scale. As well the breathing patterns and slider usage will change depending on the root-note of the new key you like to play in.

It is more or less easy to play melodies in C or in Am, or F or Dm on a C/C#-chromatic. Playing in G Major and Em is okay, too. Being able to play fluently in other keys than these, requires even more rehearsing...or you use chromatic instruments that are tuned directly in the required keys. If you do so you can play just like you'd play in C on a standard C/C# Chromatic: your breathing patterns and the slider usage will stay the same.

So it depends on what your goal is: rehearsing a lot in order to get familiar to play in all 12 keys on a standard C/C#-Chromatic (e.g. if you'd like to play free Jazz improvisation). Or you choose the „easy way“ instead and get you chromatic instruments in keys different from C/C# to be able to play in different keys more easily.

However if you intend not to play by ear but play fixed pieces with the aid of harmonica tabs or by using sheet music you will be able to play everything on a standard C/C# in any key.

>here you will find your desired chromatic harmonica

Why Solo-tuning is preferred on all chromatic harmonicas?

The chromatic harmonica was only invented when the diatonic was already existing for a long time. Thus, many players were used to playing on C harmonicas in Richter tuning (Joseph Richter in Haida/Bohemia in 1825). The so-called "central octave" of the Richter diatonic (holes four through seven) was the basis for playing major-based melodies, which were usually accompanied with "vamping" on the chords (e.g. tonic C and dominant G) in holes 1-3 using the reed block technique.

As the term "diatonic" implies, these harmonicas could not be played fully chromatically or in other keys than the one indicated on the instrument (this was/is common in instruments for playing folk melodies, think for example of concertinas or other small accordion-like instruments). The fact is that solo tuned chromatic, like diatonic, always "sounds" good, whether you are an absolute beginner or an advanced player. The beautiful sounding chords that are readily available also remain a good selling point.

The players' goal, however, was to have a harmonica that made all 12 notes of the chromatic scale available, and what they did was to take the tonal layout of the already very familiar "central octave", multiply it, and simply insert a slide and another reedplate tuned a semitone higher to automatically have all the notes of the chromatic scale available. The chromatic harmonica with a slide as we know it today was "born" around 1910, although there were many prototypes going in a similar direction long before that (SEYDEL patent of 1884 on moveable and muteable reeds in harmonicas and accordions).

If you leave out the slide when playing, these (solo-tuned) instruments can still be played like the well-known "diatonics" - a big advantage, because players are always conservative and don't like to learn a completely new instrument. Of course, there are more logical (symmetrical) tunings (diminished/augmented) that eliminate the triple presence of the root note - but what they don't have is the ability to play chords and lack the intuitive access when coming from other diatonic harmonica (either blues, tremolo or octave).

Thus, the tradition of solo tuning continues to this day and many players have mastered playing complicated jazz in all keys on the C solo tuned chromatic. There is not a single book on chromaticism that is based on any tuning other than the Solo tuning. Moreover, there are music schools and serious conservatories that teach classical music on the solo tuned chromatic. It is also a fact that harmonica greats like Larry Adler did not play all the pieces in the keys in which they were originally written. Some of the keys are just too difficult to be played fluently.

Today, many players use chromatics in keys other than C to be able to play in "difficult" keys without having to learn new breathing/slider patterns. Perhaps there are more "intelligent" tonal layouts that are more "logical" than the solo tuning to play in all keys - but all of them then lack the connection to the Richter tuning and you then are virtually learning a new instrument.

Hands-on workshops

Hands-on workshops

Repair, adjustment and playing technique
Tremolo tunings

Tremolo tunings

Tuning-tables of all SEYDEL Tremolo variants
Pitch range of harmonicas

Pitch range of harmonicas

Sound examples of our (Blues-) harmonicas ranging from double LowE (LLE) to High Bb (HBb)

Tonal range of our (Blues-) harmonicas ranging from double LowE (LLE) to High Bb (HBb)

About special tunings

About special tunings

Configured harmonicas and detailed descriptions of some useful special tunings
SEYDEL TabTool Online

SEYDEL TabTool Online

Tab notation for harmonica - convert and transpose with a view clicks
12-hole special tunings

12-hole special tunings

Description of the initial standard tunings for 12-hole instruments
Finetuning / temperament

Finetuning / temperament

What is a tuning system?


Valving / Half-valving (Richter models or Chroms)
Blues series - compatibilities

Blues series - compatibilities

What part fits which model?
Elaborate list of alternate tunings & more

Elaborate list of alternate tunings & more

Expand the possibilities of making music on the harmonica!
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