I live in UP India and want to learn harmonica and I own a tower chromatic harmonica. Is it good for learning? Or do I need a key C diatonic harmonica?

  • It depends on what kind of music you want to play.
    – hpaulj
    Jun 17, 2016 at 17:54
  • music.stackexchange.com/a/40364/23218 is a good related answer. Read other harmonica questions - but be keep in mind that most posters are in the USA
    – hpaulj
    Jun 17, 2016 at 21:42

1 Answer 1


You can learn to play harmonica with a chromatic instrument (you are not obliged to use the slide button to begin with), and develop some of the basic techniques (breathing, embochure, tongue blocking, and even some limited bending).

But there are some significant playability diferences with a standard diatonic harmonica:

  • the tuning has some differences with the standard (Richter) tuning of a diatonic
  • advanced bending and all overblowing techniques are not possible with a chromatic harmonica
  • with a cromatic you can't do diatonic chords, i.e. two or more consecutive holes blown simultaneously producing a diatonic chord

So although some basic techniques are common, learning one variant instrument will not give immediate access to the other.

Generally speaking the chromatic harmonica is more a (forgive the oxymoron) melodic instrument, whereas the diatonic is suited for the more characteristc and sought for harmonica techniques (bending and overblow, chew chew train, alternating solos with accompaniment, etc.)

So, if you're more oriented to use the harmonic as melodic instrument, the chromatic is a good choice.

But if your purpose is to play blues, bluegrass or country, the 10 hole Richter tuning diatonic is the obligatory way to go. Anyway you can give a try with a cheap instrument (the equivalent of 10 to 14 USD) and see how you get along. Such a cheap instrument will allow you start and experiment with most techniques except bending and overblowing (I've been able to do some limited bending even with a 10$ instrument of chinese making). A good diatonic harmonic suitable for example for blues (Hohner Blues Harp, Hohner Marine Band, Suzuki Promaster, Oskar Lee) will cost you around 40$.

  • 1
    Because of the blues tradition the diatonic is most popular in the USA. But else where that isn't the case. In Asia a version of the tremelo is popular.
    – hpaulj
    Jun 17, 2016 at 17:52
  • That's a good point hpaulj, the tremolo is yet another variant, I didn't know it was particularly popular in Asia. Jun 17, 2016 at 19:03

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