OK, I’m just starting out here. I read around a few places on the internet, including comments from users in forums, various recommendations for what to start out with. The most recommended models under about $35, what I consider to be reasonably priced, seem to be:
Hohner Special 20
Lee Oscar Major
Hohner Big River
Sydel Blues Session Standard
Hering Master Blues
Bushman Delta Frost
I should probably include the Golden Melody in this group, as it’s only slightly more expensive than the others, maybe a dollar or two over my limit, and seems to be popular, but that’s pretty much the cutoff. The next price level above this I consider just a bit of a step up, with models like the Manji, Promaster, and Overdrive from Suzucki, or the Pro Harp, Marine Band Deluxe, Marine Band Crossover, or Cross Harp from Hohner, or the Blues Favorite from Sydel. Probably nothing wrong with learning on one of those either, but I had to cut it off somewhere, and this seemed to be a practical price point to do so, with plenty of good options to consider.
Now, much as I’m tempted to want to try everything, and decide for myself, that wouldn’t be very practical either. I decided to limit myself for now to a few harmonicas, and settled on the Hohner Special 20, the Lee Oscar, and the Suzuki Bluesmaster; pretty much what seemed to be the most recommended models, and one each from three different manufacturers, to hopefully give a bit of variety. And a pretty good head to head comparison as far as value since all are about the same price.
In addition, I was tempted to try a cheaper model, just to see if I see much difference, and was especially tempted by the Big River, which a lot of people say is the best lower priced model out there. But then, I also became intrigued by a newer Hohner model, the Blues Bender.
When I googled it, I found the Blues Bender has had some pretty good reviews. It’s a China made model, but manufactured to a higher standard than the cheaper models, with better materials, and according to reviews, the fit and finish is more competitive with more intermediate priced models. Also, Hohner doesn’t include it in their “standard” line with the cheaper harps, but in their “classic” line with other quality models. It’s also the cheapest model for which I’ve seen them claim “airtight construction”. So I decided to give one a shot at $17.99 and see how it compares.
So I now have on the way:
Susuki Bluesmaster in E
Lee Oskar Major Diatonic in Bb
Hohner Blues Bender in F
Hohner Special 20 in C
I almost didn’t order a C, but decided it was a good idea to have one to play along with any instructional materials in that key. Doesn’t really matter for me for written instructional materials though, but mainly for playing along with a recording. In general, since I’m thinking I might eventually buy a set, once I decide what I like, I didn’t want to duplicate too much what is already in those sets. The other key choices were with that in mind; the Hohner 5 packs leave out F, the Bluesmaster has a 6 pack, with no E, and the Lee Oscar 5 pack could use the Bb added.
I should mention I’m not a total beginner here, I have a pretty good music background, have played a lot of piano, and actually have a Hohner Chromatica that I’ve had for over 20 years now, I just for some reason never did buy that blues harmonica I’ve thought about buying many times.
Only regret is, I just paid $32.99 (free shipping) for that Special 20 in C. And then came here a day later and saw it at $19.97! Whoops. Especially since getting it in that key was a last minute change. I would still only save about $7 after shipping; and I did buy from a retailer with a lowest price guarantee, so we’ll see. Order is already on the way though.
I’ll update later when I get my stuff, and have a chance to try it out some. Meanwhile, any thoughts on my choices here?