Why Should You Get a Low Tuned Harmonica?


What’s good about Low-Tuned Harmonicas?

:one: Listen to Sonny Boy Williamson playing Bye Bye Birdie on a Low D harmonica.
Low tuned harmonicas sound super sexy.:dancer: End of post. :wink:

(By the way, does this riff from Bye Bye Birdie sound familiar? Could it’ve been the inspiration for Magic Dick’s Whammer Jammer riff?)

:two: But besides being sexy as hell, low tuned harmonicas are also good for your lungs because they require more air to vibrate reeds. Improving your lung function is good for your health. :lungs: And it’s good for your harmonica technique.:muscle:t3:

:three: Your dog might not howl as much! :dog:

Why? They’re much less shrill than normal tuned harmonicas. Every night I play my Low C harmonica to rock my baby to sleep! :baby:t3: I keep my Low C harmonica right next to the rocking chair. They’re more peaceful & don’t cut the way a standard tuned harmonica does.

Well if you’re thinking about purchasing one for the first time, which brand/model is the best? :thinking:

I bought 4 of the most popular low tuned harmonicas in the Key of Low D, and put them to the test.

:one: Lee Oskar Low Tuned :mag: - $50


:smile: What I Loved :smile:
:+1: The price! This is definitely the best first harp if you’re on a tight budget. There is nothing wrong with this harmonica. It’s a great harmonica for a great price.

:disappointed: What I Didn’t Love :disappointed:
:-1: I personally love playing a lot of chords on the low tuned harmonicas, and the Lee Oskar is specifically tuned to sound great playing single notes. But please note the difference is subtle.

:two: Hohner Rocket Low :mag: - $85


:smile: What I Loved
:+1: The tone & responsiveness of this harmonica. I find it a little bit more responsive than the Lee Oskar, and also has a slightly louder projection.
:+1: The tone is mellower than the Thunderbird. Which is great for putting my baby to sleep. :wink:

:disappointed: What I Didn’t Love
:-1: The mellow tone might be great for putting the baby to bed, but it’s a negative if you wanna play blues and have it cut thru the mix, in which case look to the Thunderbird.

:three: Seydel 1847 Classic Low Tone :mag: - $96


:smile: What I Loved
:+1: This harmonica was the big surprise of the group. It’s VERY DIFFERENT. It’s much taller from top to bottom. It also has valves, so it’s got a tone more similar to a chromatic harmonica. It’s a very classy, old-fashioned kind of tone, which I think would be awesome in a 1st position folk kind of context.

:disappointed: What I Didn’t Love
:-1: There was a little bit of a flavor on the draws. I’m not sure if it’s lacquer? It tasted kind of like campfires. I asked Rockin’ Ron about it and he hadn’t heard of this before.
:-1: The higher height of it requires an adjustment to your regular technique. I don’t think this is necessarily bad, but it’s good to be aware of going into it.
:-1: The valves also may require a technique adjustment, and may contribute to my experience of it being less responsive than the Hohner low tuned harmonicas.
:-1: I think the tone would not be great for blues.

:four: Hohner Thunderbird :mag: - $160


:smile: What I Loved
:+1: The brightest, most resonant tone, and the most responsive.
:+1: This is the best harmonica for playing 2nd position blues style, in my opinion.
:+1: The coverplate design has more clearance at the bottom reeds. (By contrast, with the Hohner Rocket Low C, if I draw too hard on -1, I can hear it buzzing against the coverplate - not a good sound.)

:disappointed: What I Didn’t Love
:-1: The price. Ouch!
:-1: If you’re wanting a mellower, duller, darker sound, this is not the harmonica. I won’t reach for this to put my baby to bed!

:medal_sports:The Thunderbird is my favorite for blues.
:medal_sports:The Lee Oskar is the best bang for the buck.
:medal_sports:The 1847 Classic Low Tone is a great classic 1st position tone.
:medal_sports:The Rocket is great for a mellower tone, still with great responsiveness and projection.

What key should you get? Consider Low D if you wanna learn Bye Bye Birdie. (You can check out Alex’s lesson on it here.)

Or you might wanna go all the way down to a Low C because then you can try playing along with anything that you’re using your standard C to play along with right now.

You can hear my 4 Low D’s next to each other in this vid.

For more info about Low Tuned Harmonicas, check out this thread:


I got an F and an E low tune, Rocket hohner, they are great and smooth, takes more breaking in time on the longer reeds. Plan on getting more when the funds are replenished. Probably D or C first.

I found no problem cutting thru a mix or blues on the rocket.


My first low harp was (still is) a Low C Hohner Marine Band 364 which I bought over 55 years ago to play along on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Bye Bye Bird” (with the Yardbirds). At the time I bought it, there were no other low harps and C was the only key. A little larger than regular Marine Bands. Mellow tone. I used this on one of the songs from my 2021 CD of original blues. $75

I currently have six Brendan Power Lucky 13 Bass Blues Harmonicas, These are 13 hole, 4-octave, diatonic, Richter-tuned harmonicas. A little larger than standard diatonic. Dark tone. I initially bought two - low F# and Db and added a few more. I used the F# on my CD - a song I intentionally wrote in Db (C#) to feature this harp. $69


I have Suzuki M20Lo “Manji Low Tuning “ Diatonic Harmonicas in C, D, E, Eb, F, and F#. I carry them in my case when I play. Dark & mellow tone. Especially good for backing guitarists with horn parts, although I often use the C, Eb, and F# for solos. $54


I can recommend all of these and, they don’t break the bank.


@BnT, interesting post and a nice collection!

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I haven’t tried the Mango Low. I supposed I should to be fair to Suzuki!

BUT I just wanted to report since my original post that I’ve been playing my Seydel 1847 Low Tone key of Low D a TON and it is AMAZING. The woody taste has gone now that I’ve been playing it for awhile. And the thickness of it forces me to have an embouchure conducive to good warm, round tone.

My favorite Seydel harmonica that I’ve played.


Thanks for the information @Luke. I’m keen to get a rocket low one day. Maybe low D, not sure what key would be best for me. My understanding is that rocket combs are a bit different, bigger holes and further apart. Is that correct and does it take some getting used to for those of us used to playing special 20s or similar?


Hi @PapaCurly

I had no difficulty at all moving from a Special 20 harp to a Rocket or a Rocket Low harp. I really like the Low D, but also enjoy my Low Eb. One day I will perhaps get a Low C as well.

– Slim :sunglasses:


Thank You @Slim, Now I’m more encouraged to get a rocket low D. I would like to try a rocket or rocket amp also. I’ve been playing my new golden melody a lot and while its comfortable to hold, it’s starting to cut the inside middle of my bottom lip. The special 20s don’t seem to do that, presumably the difference being the recessed reed plates which I think is the same on the rockets.


Yeah for a Low D the Rocket is a good choice. Lee Oskar is a better value, but the Rocket’s tuning will sound a bit sweeter on the chords.

The Thunderbirds of course are more expensive, a bit brighter, and also the quality control on the Thunderbirds is puzzling. I’ve gotten 3 and had pretty significant issues with all of them. Strange since they’re so expensive.


I bought a Kongsheng Solist in Low F with my birthday money a while back. I really love how rich it sounded when playing in first position and cross harp. I’m more of a high key fan, but I really love the tone of a low F. My only problem with playing a low tuned key is that I have trouble bending and not choking the note from putting my tongue all the way to the back of my tiny mouth. However, it is amazing for chugging. Other than that one issue, it is a great harmonica key. Does it sound good? Yes. Will I replace my higher pitched keys with low tuned ones? No. Is it good for what it is? Hell yeah.


Update, now that I broke in the E and amped it, great, you just need to tease the 1,2,3, holes on the draw or blow, just to feel the reed wiggle then exploit it.


Right on @GreenStamps glad you’re digging the Rocket Lows man!

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