The Most Underrated Harmonica? The Golden Melody - Equal Temperament vs Just Intonation

The Most Underrated Harmonica?

Howard Levy & His Golden Melody

You hear people rave about…

… the new Hohner Rockets with cutting-edge engineering to sound loud

…the classic Marine Band 1896 played by all the old Blues Masters

…or the pricey Hohner Crossovers with their triple lacquered bamboo combs.

All the while the Golden Melody just sits humbly in the corner with it’s retro look, unique shape, and rounded corners. Unassuming and ready to kick ass. I’m not sure why it’s not talked about as much as the Special 20 or the Lee Oskar? Hmmn.

But my thinking is that if it’s good enough for Howard Levy and Rachelle Plas , then it’s dang sure good enough for me.

Because of the Golden Melody’s unique shape, it would be a great choice for anybody who has small hands and is having trouble getting a tight hand wah tone.

Also worth noting is that like the Lee Oskar, the Golden Melody is uniquely tuned using the equal tempered method instead of just intonation . This means it’s especially good for playing single notes - and having them be in tune :grin:

So while Folk players who are playing a lot of chords are probably better off with one of the other Hohner Harmonicas, the Golden Melody is the #1 choice of many Jazz, Bluegrass, and Gospel harmonica players.

If you have never seen or heard her in action, check out my full review of the Golden Melody.


I watched your review and it seemed like there were a lot of positives for me. But I worry I won’t be able to pull off a true bluesy chord with it.


Nah, don’t worry about that! Check out Rachelle Plas, she pulls off TONS of bluesy chords on it. The tuning is a VERY subtle thing that most of us hardly notice. GO FOR IT BRO!!!

Rock on,


@Luke I actually ran on to a 20 for a ripping deal the very day you posted this but I see more harps in the future!

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I’m kind of OCD about gear (ukulele, guitar, etc) and I’ve recently bought 4 harps. So why not a 5th? I’ll probably get one soon.


@DukeSilver Pretty sure that’s my next one also but can’t decide if it should be another C to try it or buy an A because that’s the next key I need.
Let us know how it plays when you do, I still have a lot o learnin on the C before I dare. What key were you thinking?

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I’m kind of in the same boat. Another C? I currently open C, A, D, and Bb. Should I go for G next? I’m on vacation currently, so I could order one and it would be home when I get back. :grin:


Hello @RollyJoe and @DukeSilver,
as I have already written several times, I have been building up my harp playing since September with a longer break.
I don’t know if this will help you in your decision, but I initially bought two C’s (Blues Harp and Golden Melody-Hohner) as standard. Then the same in G.
After a good six weeks and good progress, a Special 20 in C, four weeks later 1847s from Seidel and in between a set offered by Fender and a chromatic with valves from Hohner.
This covers a good range and I play songs with the harp where I feel like it and where I like it best.
I often record myself to recognize and correct my mistakes. You can of course do this with your cell phone. To complete it, I bought a Shure II microphone in a bundle to be of good quality. With such purchases, I always wait for a good price!

It’s like other hobbies, the basic equipment initially costs money. Therefore, one should be clear whether it is only temporary or permanent.
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


@AstridHandbikebee63 Awesome, thanks for the advice. I think I posted somewhere that now buying harps is almost like getting a tat. Once I have one I want another one!


@RollyJoe, a simple answer: “YES”. :rofl:


@RollyJoe I’d go for the A!
@DukeSilver yes, indeed, my recommendation is to go for the G!

There’s not much point in owning multiple harps in the same key (unless, like me you’re wanting to scientifically be comparing “apples with apples” so you can make an accurate shootout video for the public! :rofl:.)

The way I see it, as long as you’re expanding your variety of brands, in my opinion, you might as well expand your variety of keys (and tunings) at the same time. That way you can practice playing on different harps to get used to higher or lower keys, and you have a greater likelihood of having the harp you need to play along with some song on a recording or at a jam session.

It’s true you might decide at some point “X Brand is DEFINITELY my favorite,” and then get all the keys you most commonly play in that brand, but I’ve seen lots of harmonica players who’s case is full of various brands.

That’d be my approach if I were in your shoes. Maximize your value. :ok_hand:t3:


I just read your post, again for about the 10th time, and watched the video with your review on the Golden Melody.

For the benefit of those here on this forum, I posted these comments :point_down: on @Luke 's YouTube video:

*After reading and listening to your comments on the Golden Melody :notes:, I replaced my blown 008k Easttop with one of these little gems. So far I really like it, but am a bit disappointed that the equal tuning doesn’t seem to be quite so.

When I use your bend it better tool, not many of the notes hit the sweet spot on the app… :thinking: Most are on the sharp side. I wonder if anyone else has a similar experience with the Golden Melody? Maybe I was just unlucky? *

*That being said, since my ear isn’t quite adept enough to differentiate from what is in tune and what is out of tune, I just keep on blowing and drawing to my heart’s content :sunglasses:. *

This reminds me of an old REO Speedwagon album: You can Tune a Piano, but you can’t Tuna a fish :tropical_fish: :joy:

Maybe in my case: I can play a Tune on a Golden Melody but can’t tell if I’m outta Tune :notes:

Maybe ignorance is bliss? :thinking: :thought_balloon:

Here is what I found with more specifics on the tuning with the Bend it Better Tool with my C Golden Melody:

C - Blue
D - Blue

E - Red (sharp)
G - Gray (sharp)

G - Red (sharp)
B - Red (sharp)

C - Red (sharp +)
D - Gray (sharp)

E - Red (sharp ++)
F - Gray (sharp)

G - Red (sharp +)
A - Red (sharp)

C - Red (sharp +)
B - Gray (sharp)

E - Red (sharp)
D - Blue

G - Red (sharp)
F - Gray (sharp)

C - Blue
A - Gray (sharp)

  • The colors relate to what shows on the tool. Blue is in tune, Gray slightly out of tune, Red is outta tune. I’ve given + and ++ when it’s even farther out of the range.

  • For comparison I’ve done the same test on a different bending app :see_no_evil: which allows a change in the temperament and the hertz. When I set it to Equal Temperament and 445 hz, it seems to be almost in tune across the board!

With only 4 out of the total 20 possibilities hitting Blue, I can’t help thinking I’m outta tune. I know @Slim has given some excellent tips on tuning but I’m not ready to tackle that task just yet on my awesome retro looking Golden Melody, cuz I don’t want to mess it up.

Nevertheless, it sounds fine to my amateur :ear: ears :ear:when I play and I love the way it sounds and looks.

As for the cover plates, it doesn’t seem quite as comfortable in my hands or mouth as the traditional style plates used by Special 20 and Lee Oskar. I like the way my thumb and index finger fit in the grooves and how my mouth feels on the comb on my other harps. Maybe it’s just what I’m used to and it’s definitely not a deal breaker.

Getting back to the tuning, since notes tend to “flatten” with time, maybe they will come into the sweet spot as I play it more?

I suppose better a bit sharp is preferable to a bit flat in that case.

I’m interested to know, for those here on the forum, how many “Blues” do you get on your Golden Melodies on the Bend it Better App? :thinking:


Hi @HarpinBobbyMcB

Interesting results when checking the tuning with those two different apps. I never use the “Bend It Better” (bib) app but have several others that permit setting the reference frequency and the temperament. When set to “equal temperament” and 445 Hz then my Golden Melodies are all in tune.

This leads me to think that the bib app might be set to something other than equal temperament and perhaps also to a reference frequency that is maybe lower than 445 Hz.

Maybe Luke @Luke can give us the details on the bib app?

– Slim


Hello @HarpinBobbyMcB and @Slim,
my two Golden Harmony in C and G are just right in all tones. I didn’t need to adjust anything here.
I use the apps (Android) “Instrument Tuner Pro” (per one-time smaller € amount) and “Harmonica Tuner” .


Fascinating question here @HarpinBobbyMcB and I appreciate your response @Slim. So I just tried it myself with my Golden Melody and found similar result.

Funny - It made me realize that pretty much the ONLY thing I ever have checked on BIB tool is my -3 bends and -2 bends, LOL!

Tool was developed before I cam onboard here. I have an email in to see what the tuning reference is, and will keep y’all posted what I discover.

Interestingly, the Crossover had more grey lines and less red, the East Top had half blues half grey, and my Lee Oskar had almost all blues and a few greys.

So I have an email in to Lee as well to ask him what reference he uses.

My hunch is that it’s reference is somewhere like 440Hz-442Hz? And I’m guessing it was developed by an American, so it’s probably 440 Hz. (Although that’s actually an international standard, many people consider it to be an American standard.)

This opens up a whole rabbit hole that I’d be happy to dive down about what reference various harmonica manufacturers are using, or an even deeper rabbit hole: what even IS the BEST tuning frequency…lol. Just google “A = 432Hz” and you’ll find all kinds of interesting theories and postulations.

But I think Rick Beato does a great factual synopsis here:

I’ll be back with more info when I have it!


Love this synopsis talking about hertz and its development. I suppose for people who have “perfect pitch” recognition it’s probably a big deal.

For me as long as the intervals are close, it seems good enough for me. Few cents here or there doesn’t seem to bother. Even the nickels and dimes I don’t mind, and if they are all off a quarter or more, that works too as long as they are all off in the right direction :joy:

I probably would have never even noticed if it hadn’t been for the Golden Melody’s Equal Temperament, I wanted to see what difference it makes.

Bottom line is I love the looks of the Golden Melody and for my ears she does just fine, even if she’s a bit off on her tuning.


I heard back from Lee Oskar:

Our LOH are tuned 441 - 442 +. and basically equal tuning on the MM, Nm & Hm. The Major Diatonics are slightly tuned to +10 cents on the 3rds.

Edit: I meant to say: the 3rds are tuned -10 cents ( - 2.5 Htz down ). The root & 5th are tuned to + 10 ( 441 - 442 ) and the 3rds are at 0.

You bring up an interesting point on how reference frequencies affect those with perfect pitch. I have a friend who has perfect pitch, so I sent her an email asking her to weigh in. Will report back what I hear (pun intended. :wink:)


Hey @Slim - From the Bend-it-Better developer:

Yes, it is using 440hz by default. In theory this could be configurable (though it isn’t at the moment).
I used this library to convert between frequencies ands notes:

So that makes sense. :ok_hand:t3:


Just a comment from a complete novice. I had read all the good things you guys have to say about the golden melody. On holiday in Tasmania decided I would buy myself one. I thought good souvenir! I went into the only music shop I could find. Asked for a GOLDEN MELODY HARMONICA. The guy presented me with something that looked very pretty but completely weird. I didn’t buy it and left the shop feeling like a real dummy. The guy had shown me exactly what I asked for and I didn’t want it. Turns out after lots of searching he had shown me a TREMELO?
I bought a second Lee Osker in another town. So I got my souvenir and a lesson on harmonics. All good fun.


Hi Luke @Luke

Thanks you for looking into this and posting the page from github where some of the details behind the programming of the Bend-It-Better (BIB) app are revealed.

Yes, it would explain some of the tuning results reported. However, I did not find anything in the referenced page that would tell us what sort of tuning system is used, such as 12-TET (which is the most widely used of the equal temperament systems) or one of the just intonations (where major and minor 3rds as well as major and minor 6ths and the major 7th all deviate the most from their 12-TET versions).

Depending on which tuning system is used in the BIB app, a Hohner 1896 Marine Band or a Special 20 could appear to be perfectly in tune for all ten holes while the Golden Melody or a Lee Oskar would then appear to be “out of tune”.

– Slim