The un-loved

Thinking about the Easttop 008k thread and the Special 20/marine band following, I was wondering about the unloved harps.
Should they get more love than they do?
Or do some them deserve to cast out into the cold dark void?
Like the Hohner Bluse Harp doesn’t look to be “a bad product” but seems to get no love at all, Seydel’s seem pretty devisive, Lee Oskar’s get adoration but no one seems to mention Tombo harps much.

Seems a shame you cant go to a music shop and try a bunch, but, there’s some pretty obvious drawbacks (I’d be have reservations about putting my chops round the “tester” that been god knows how many other peple’s mouths first) because if you’ve got to put your money down, most people, especially newbies are going to look up reviews and forums and just go with what the consensus seems to be.

So, to all those long time players reading this, what’s a model of harmonica that doesn’t get the online love it deserves?


Hi Piglet,
I’m far from a long-time player so I can’t answer your question.
However, the first harmonica I bought was a blues harp and for a beginner, that was a mistake.
The guy at the shop told me so, but he didn’t have anything else in the key I wanted, and I didn’t want to wait.
The wooden comb swelled up quickly every time I played it and before long it was stuffed, and I threw it away. Have since bought two Special 20s and of course have not had that problem. Maybe that’s one reason why there’s not much love for them.


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@PapaCurly Ah cool.
It’s more of an open ended trying to start a discussion question than trying to get a specific answer on any specific harp. That’s good to know about the Hohner blues harp though. Probably i’ll stay clear of wood combs anyway as i tend to run warm water though mine after playing just to get all the slobber out of it.

I have a story about Tombo harmonicas that will explain why you don’t seem much mention of them in the US — except for Lee Oscars.

I live in Tokyo, and as the pandemic got under way, I took the spare time I know had to get into harmonicas via the “Beginner to Boss” course. Reviewing Luke’s advice, and considering that I am in Japan, I figured a Japanese made Lee Oscar would be a good choice for me. I was surprised to find they are not sold by most music stores here, but with the internet of course you can find anything, and I got my Lee Oscar in C and it is still my main go-to harp.

During that period I also got in the habit of talking a lot of walks in the neighborhood, since a lot of other things that kept me active were closed off. I then noticed a small office on a side street about five minutes walk from my house with a sign that said “Tombo Instruments Home Office and Showroom.” It also said that due to the pandemic, entrance was by appointment only. Well, Okay. When I felt ready to treat myself to a different harp, I called to make an appointment and went by to find out what’s up.

This is what I was told: Tombo is very proud of their Lee Oscars, but their licensing agreement stipulates that they don’t distribute their other harmonicas in the Western Hemisphere (North and South America). Conversely, they don’t directly sell Lee Oscars in Japan, although there are other shops that re-import them. However, they DO sell what they assured me was the exact same harp with their own brand on it — “Major Boy” (except the minor keyed harps which are — you guessed it — called “Minor Boy”s) The guy in the showroom mused that these names probably would not work well in the US, I had to agree.

On that day I got their top of the line diatonic: the Ultimo, in the key if A. I also now have two Major Boys (Low D and B♭) An Aero Reed in Low F, and the Folk Blues in G. You can see these on their English language web site:Tombo Musical Inst.Co.,Ltd. Harmonica although there are a few more products on the Japanese only site: ハーモニカ製品 | 株式会社トンボ楽器製作所-

How do they compare to other harmonicas? I am not the person to ask. I like mine a lot (perhaps the cheapest one in the line up, the Folk Blues, is a bit too small and a bit hard on the mouth, but it bends well and I like the tone). Just today I got my first non Tombo harp, a Hohner Special 20 in D, since it seems to be often compared to the Lee Oscar. I am not about to put them to a head to head comparison, though. There are plenty of those on YouTube anyway.

Here is a picture of the product lineup in their showroom. You’ll see the Lee Oscars are very much featured.


Great info, good to know. Thanks for sharing.


Hi @lang

Thank you for the “inside” (inside Japan, at least) information. I live in Germany and found a Tombo Ultimo for a good price (don’t remember what it was, but not very expensive …).

A long time ago I had a “standard” F harp (I’m no longer sure but I think it was a Lee Oskar made by Tombo) and I really enjoyed playing it until I somehow lost it. Since then I only have F harps in Low F, so I finally decided to get a “standard” F model once again.

To get to the point, I am not impressed! Reed gapping was so bad that only -4 and -6 could be bent. After spending much time working on all of the reeds I finally have fairly decent bends for -1, -2, -3 and quite good bends for -4 and -6. But why should this “top model” need so much work?

Even worse: Holes 8, 9 and 10 are useless! Not even good tone or volume playing these without trying to blow bend! I have given up trying to get hole 10 to play at all … I truly regret spending money to get what is essentially a poor version of the Kongshen Baby Fat (an excellent 7-hole harp).

Maybe just bad luck … but I will not risk throwing away my Euros to give Tombo another chance!

Top models from Kongshen, Conjurer, Suzuki, Easttop are all worth their price. Of course, this is just my take on this. So if anyone likes to experiment, then go ahead and let us know your results with the “ultimo”.

– Slim :sunglasses:


Hey @lang and @slim thank you so much for sharing these fascinating stories!

I shared this somewhere else in the forum recently: I asked a Hohner Rep why anyone chooses the Blues Harp over a Marine Band, and he told me he thinks it’s honestly probably just cos it has the word “Blues” in the title. I was cracking up.

And by the way when it comes to Marine Band, once you go Deluxe, you’ll never go back to 1897! I like Crossovers too. But Deluxe’s are like $20 cheaper and GREAT harps.

There is a reason why the most popular harmonicas are the most popular (and that reason is NOT marketing ploys.) Lee Oskars, Special 20’s, Marine Band Deluxe’s, Rockets, Crossovers, Seydel 1847 Classics. Thes harps are just pure fun to play!

We all have our favorites. And we all are sometimes impressed by GREAT imitations, most notably in my opinion East Top.

But the CLASSICS are CLASSIC because they are…well…CLASSIC. :wink:


Honestly, I’d say the original Hohner Golden Melody. During my time playing them, which is about 3 years, I absolutely love them. They are absolutely comfy in the hands and have a very sweet, but powerful tone due to my style.
However, some people have told me that I should only be playing melodies and not the blues on them. Or that they hate the fine tuning on them. I personally don’t mind the fine tuning that a Golden Melody has, in fact, it has the exact sound that I was aiming for with the jangling chords being a prominent factor in the sound that I was looking for.


You get similar nonsense in guitar -land, you need a telecaster to play country music (you don’t, of course) you need giant humbuckers to play metal (you don’t, of course)…

There’s tons of harmonicas I’d like to try, I’ve certainly not settled yet (having tried a grand total of 2) but golden melody and Lee oskar are on my list to try at some point.


Hey @Piglet,
the good (old) Golden Melody, which @KeroroRinChou writes about here, will hardly be available to buy in normal shops anymore. There is now the New Golden Melody.
I was lucky enough to be able to buy the (old) Golden Melody in the keys of C and G when I started playing the harp and I like it just as described by @KeroroRinChou.

Regards Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Yeah,I saw some mixed stuff about the new Golden melody.


That’s a bummer. The way they look I can’t believe Hohner hasn’t slapped the Thunderbird name on them yet.