Here are my favorite harmonica players. Who would get on your list? Drop us a comment below 🙂
A pioneer of Chicago blues who has created an iconic style. His phrasing and effects were innovative and led to influence a lot of blues players in the future. Smart playing based on major and minor blues pentatonics (not trivial and consistent), filling the space between vocal lines and bringing chromatic harmonica into blues music. He had a bright and edgy harmonica sound + he’s credited to be the first ever to use an amplified sound.
Carlos del Junco
I’d say that his main distinguishing feature is his really smooth sound. Flowing bends, full tone very well amplified using Electrovoice RE-10 and Fender Bassman ’59 reissue. He has covers that he made “his own”, that have unique arrangements, such as “Got my mojo working” where he also plays a fast non-stopping 16th notes solo or an upbeat Mess Around with a funny feel created by a halftone movements.
Kim Wilson is also a classic Chicago style player who uses 100% tongue blocking that gives him a full and rich sound. Once again consistent and smart playing that’s spiced up by his own phrases. Muddy Waters once called Kim Wilson “the greatest harmonica player to come along since Little Walter”.
There are so many things that make Howard Levy great because he juices everything out of a harmonica. Technically and harmonically complicated and expressive playing, developing an overflow which is a huge step in a harmonica music, that allows to play chromatically, vibrato that’s something in between the throat and tongue vibrato (probably), great musicality, precise chromatic playing that includes complicated moves, virtuoso piano playing and being able to solo it unison with a harmonica, all possible articulations done
John Popper is one more inventor who is known for his fast licks in the upper register of the harmonica, playing 32nd and even 64th notes in melodic (but diatonic) ways. Usually those are many variations of patterns combined + he fluently moves from the lower to the upper register as well.
Jason is a one of a kind harmonica player. Extravagant, pompous, expressive. Brought a unique rock sound into harmonica playing. Perfectly handles fast playing. One of his distinguishing features is that he plays impressive pattern-like phrases using 16th notes in pentatonic scales, does overbends bending in his own standing out way, combines smooth and hard attack of playing notes, while both can turn into different kinds of vibrato.
Stevie Wonder is mostly a chromatic harmonica player, and usually plays pretty minimalistic but very soulful and partially it’s reached through valved bends. You can also hear him use a diatonic harmonica on some records, like “Boogie on reggae woman” or “Have a talk with god” where he plays in the upper register in his manner of “crying” bends.