Which Hohner to get? And why are sets sold in 5s, 7s and 12s?


I have been playing harmonica for about a month now and currently have 4 stagg harps which i picked up very cheap for testing the waters. I have decided I want to get a decent set; I don’t necessarily want the best, but a nice set which will last me a couple of years, at least.

I’ve been looking and seen that the sets are usually in 5s, 7s and 12s; I am wondering why the 7 set is the most commonly available when there are more keys than that? Is it that B, Db, Eb, F-sharp and Ab are the less used in songs? Or is it just an arbitrary thing?

Also, I’ve kind of decided that if I want to buy a nice(ish) set that a probably want to get a 7 set as all the songs I have tried to play so far are all covered by that range. So I’ve seen a 7 set of Hohner Bluesband for £25 and am strongly considering getting them as they seem to be about right for me. I suppose my question is, should I set my sights a bit higher like the blues harp, special 20 or marine band?

Also, am I limiting myself unduly by sticking with Hohner? To me it seems like safe terratory because I don’t really know the rest of the market that well, but does anyone have any alternative suggestions of comparable quality? If it makes a difference I am mainly looking at learning Bob Dylan and blues.

Thanks in advance for your help

I started out with a Hohner Marine Band and it was fine for playing non bent notes, but I had a tough time getting notes to bend. They just didn’t and I still can’t get them to bend on that one.

JP Allen’s webite listed several harmonicas that were good and then rated them as to bend ability. The Hohner Special 20 was rated highest at 10 so I bought it. Now I can do SOME bending. Enough success to make me continue and that’s all I can hope for now.

JP now recommends the Suzuki Manji. It’s a $60 harp and the Special 20 is a $33 harp, at least on Amazon. I don’t have a Manji, but I do have a Suzuki Promaster. It too is a $60 harp. It has a professional feel and look to it, but it is harder to bend (rated 7.5 IIRC) It’s prettier than the Special 20, but I do like the 20 better. I’d trust JP opinion and get a Suzuki Manji. Bendability 9.5 and I’m hoping Suzuki quality. I’m looking at a set of 7 for $280 shipped.

I’d find one harmonica that I loved and buy a set of them.

I started out with a cheap guitar and had a terrible time playing it. I finally bought a decent guitar that was a quality instrument and set up properly. Much easier to play.

Since you need a harmonica for each key and there are 12 different keys, you need 12 harmonicas to be able to play in every key, but there are some very common keys and some really rare keys.

Cost is the limiting factor. 12 cost a lot more than 7, or 5, or 1. Since money is limited, people buy the most commonly used keys first and add to them later. You’ll also see sets of 3.

According to one source I read, the most common keys in descending order of use are: C A G D E F B flat & E flat.

Look at the kits and you’ll see the 3 sets usually have the first three, the 5 sets have the first 5, and so on.

Remember most people play the harmonica in cross harp mode so a C harmonica is used for playing in the key of G. Easy to figure out if you know the alphabet. If the band plays in G, start on G and count forward 4 letters of the musical alphabet. (A B C D E F G A etc) Thats G A B C. Get your C harp to play in the Key of G. Playing Blues in Key of E? E F G A Get the A harp out.

At lest that’s my humble opinion.