There is an ongoing debate regarding whether harmonicas produce different sounds depending on the materials used to make them. While some players are adamant there is a distinct contrast in the tonal qualities between wood, plastic and metal, others say the only sound differences are due to factors including: a player’s lipping (how they apply their mouth to the instrument), the shape of the holes, the amount of air pressure applied, use of tongue, length of the reed, type of harmonica being played (which we’ll cover in another blog post) etc. So, who’s right?
Qualities of Wood, Plastic and Metal
Plastic harmonicas have a louder, sharper and more even sound than wood and metal. While injected-molded plastic is the most popular material used to make harmonicas these days, the substance does lack the quality and character of a wooden instrument. In directing a player who is freshly starting out, a plastic comb would be the best due to its cleanability (combs not made of wood can be washed out under the sink, which is helpful), lack of swelling and longer life.
Metal harmonicas are easier to hold and play, and they tend to have a much longer life than those made with other materials. These instruments create a more powerful, edgier and brighter sound than harmonicas made from wood and plastic.
The Debate Continues
Pick Up Your Harmonica Today!Whichever side of the great harmonica sound debate you fall on, a harmonica player should simply search for the one they like the best. We have a selection of instruments for each player’s style and needs. Call or visit the Denver Folklore Center and let us help you pick the perfect pickup for your playing needs.