Hohner has established themselves as the go-to brand for harmonicas – rightly so… high quality harps, for a fair price, that play well. What more d’ya want? Only one problem: why in the world are there soooo many different Hohner harps to choose from? Confused? Don’t worry, I’m here to help…
Based on my decades of teaching ‘n’ playing harmonica, these are the very best Hohner has to offer, in my humble opinion:
My Top 5 Hohner Harmonicas
#1 Hohner Crossover Why? Cos it’s the best of the best!
If you’re the sort of person who likes to have the very best of everything, and money is no object, then the Hohner Crossover is for you. Over time, I have absolutely fallen in love with this harmonica. It’s got a loud bright tone, it’s easy on the lips, very responsive, very easy to bend… and it’s very EXPENSIVE! Money no object? Check out my in-depth Hohner Crossover review.
#2 Hohner Golden Melody Why? Awesome for single notes.
The Golden Melody is the most comfortable of all the Hohner line, has the darkest tone, and is the only harmonica tuned to Equal Temperament instead of Just Intonation, which means it’s especially good for playing single notes in tune. If you’re into jazz, gospel, or bluegrass, I highly recommend that you consider this harp. I absolutely LOVE the Golden Melody. After the Crossover, this is my 2nd favorite Hohner harmonica. Want to up your single note game? Check out my full Hohner Golden Melody review.
#3 Hohner Special 20 Why? Super responsive, easy to play.
The Hohner Special 20 is so responsive and so easy to bend, it’s comfy on the lips, and it’s got a nice, dark bluesy tone. What’s not to love? Every time I play one of these, I’m always like, “wow, I forgot how awesome Special 20’s are!” I’ve never heard of anyone purchasing a Special 20 and being unhappy with it. One of the easiest harmonicas in the world for bending. These sound great in a more chordal folk style as well. Looking for an amazing bang-for buck harp? Get the full low down on the Hohner Special 20.
#4 Hohner Marine Band 1896 Why? For the authentic blues sound.
I’ll never tire of saying it: if you wanna sound like the old blues masters, play the instrument that they played: the Hohner Marine Band! Honestly, though, I rarely play this instrument because the others are SO much more comfy, and still sound really good. But if you’re totally obsessed with TONE at any cost, then this may be the harmonica you’re looking for. Ready to suffer a little for your blues? Here’s my Hohner Marine Band 1896 full review.
#5 Hohner Pentaharp Why? If you don’t know how to bend and need to play blues now!
The Hohner Pentaharp isn’t actually one of my favorite Hohner harmonicas, but it is one of their newest offerings, so I thought it would be cool to check it out and tell you about it. I always enjoy playing different tunings.
The Pentaharp was specifically designed for guitar players, and its tuning is laid out totally differently from a regular harmonica. If you are really wanting to learn the harmonica, I DO NOT recommend that you purchase the Pentaharp because it is SO DIFFERENT from a regular harmonica. It will not be helpful for beginners who really want to learn how to play harmonica.
However, the Pentaharp could be great for a guitarist who wants to be able to play bluesy riffs without having to spend months learning how to bend notes on a harmonica. It could also be interesting for someone like me who has been playing harmonica for decades, and enjoys the challenge of a new tuning to explore.
Full Disclosure: Not All Hohner Harmonicas Are Created Equal!
There are some models of Hohner harmonicas that I do NOT recommend getting. The Hohner Blues Bender is not a great one. I’d think twice before purchasing a Blues Bender. But even worse, the Hohner Hot Metal and Hohner Old Standby are what I consider to be terrible harmonicas, and I recommend running in the other direction from them! Similarly, I recommend avoiding the Hohner Trumpet Call and the Hohner Weekender.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hohner
Here are answers to questions that I get about Hohner harmonicas time and time again:
Is Hohner a Good Harmonica Brand?
Everybody agrees that Hohner is an excellent brand of harmonica. I’ve literally never met one person who doesn’t agree. Even my friend Lee Oksar (who makes the equally awesome Lee Oskar harmonica) acknowledges that Hohner makes great harmonicas. I’ve also spoken with representatives from Hohner’s main competitors, like Suzuki and Seydel, and they too all agree that Hohner is a great brand of harmonica. It’s undisputed.
Hohner has been making harmonicas for about 160 years. In fact, in 1980 they produced their one billionth harmonica. That’s right: billion with a B. I think it’s safe to say that they know a thing or two about making harmonicas!
Are Hohner’s Still Made in Germany?
Yes, all of my top 5 Hohner harmonicas listed above – as well as all of the MS Series, Progressive Series, and Marine Band Series – in their final phase of assembly, they are still made by hand at factories in Germany. And just like automobiles and watches, when it comes to harmonicas, Germany is synonymous with quality as well.
Are Hohner Special 20’s Good Harmonicas for Beginners?
I have never had someone buy a Hohner Special 20 and be disappointed with it. I’ve literally taught thousands of people how to play the harmonica, and not one beginner who has purchased the Special 20 hasn’t loved it. And Pro’s love it too! It’s responsive, it’s got a great bluesy tone, and it’s one of the easiest harmonicas on which to learn how to bend notes. That’s why it’s one of my top recommended harps, along with Lee Oskar, as you can see in my article Which Harmonica to Buy for Beginners.
Are Hohner Blues Band’s Good Harmonicas for Beginners?
Well, they’re good in so far as they’re cheap! (So you can dip your toes in the water without breaking the bank.) But they are not professional quality instruments like Special 20’s. I’ve had several beginners who were struggling while playing these, and then they invested a bit more into a Special 20, a Lee Oskar, or a Golden Melody and they came back ecstatic at how much easier it was to play. For more, you can check out my full review of the Hohner Blues Band.
In my opinion, the Fender Blues Deluxe is a better purchase in the budget harmonica category, even though it’s a few bucks more. If you can afford it, I’d recommend springing for it. It’s got a louder, brighter projection than the Hohner Blues Band, it’s more responsive, especially on draw holes -2 and -3, and it’s MUCH easier to bend notes on. You can hear the sound of the Fender Blues Deluxe versus the Hohner Blues Band in this excerpt from my Fender Blues Deluxe Review.
Are Hohner Marine Bands Good Harmonicas?
Yes, they are the original harmonica that all the old blues masters played. I’ve never had anyone fight me when I say that the Marine Band wins in the category of TONE. As I always say: if you want to sound like the old blues masters, why not play the harmonica they played? The answer, of course, is for comfort!
The wooden comb, and the edge of the reedplate that is exposed between the coverplates and the comb, both help to make this harmonica very rough on the lips when played for long periods of time. Not to mention, the corners of the Marine Band are a bit sharp and hurt the hands when held for long periods of time.
Nevertheless, it is THE CLASSIC harmonica. It was made in 1896, and it still has the same design. For more info check out my full review of the Marine Band 1896.
What About Hohner Blues Harp and Hohner Big River Harmonicas?
I’m putting these 2 Hohner harmonicas under the same heading because my response to these questions is similar. If you already own a Hohner Blues Harp or a Hohner Big River harmonica, and you’re wondering if it’s a good harmonica to learn on: fear not, you’re in great shape. You’ve got a harmonica very suitable to learn on.
If you’re currently considering buying a Hohner Blues Harp or a Hohner Big River, here’s my advice:
The Hohner Blues Harp, has a wooden comb. That means it’s less comfy than a plastic combed harmonica like a Special 20. If you’re wanting to get a wooden-combed harmonica, I recommend that you just get the tried-and-true original, the Marine Band (or, if you can afford it, the Crossover which is much comfier on the lips with its triple-lacquered bamboo comb)
I guess if you’re saving $20 getting a Blues Harp instead of a Marine Band, and you’re on a tight budget, go for it. But if you’re only saving $5 or $10, I’d say, just save up and get the Marine Band. I think it’s well worth the extra money. If money isn’t tight and you’re the kind of person who likes the best of the best, then go for the Crossover!
The Hohner Big River has a plastic comb, so it’s more comfy on the lips than wooden-combed harps like the Marine Band and the Blues Harp.
If you’re wanting to get a great plastic comb harmonica, I’d recommend that you just get one of the tried-and-true originals – the Special 20 or the Golden Melody. If you’re on a tight budget and you can save $20 bucks or more, I guess you could get a Big River instead of a Special 20, but if possible I’d try and save up for a Special 20 or a Golden Melody. I think it’s worth the extra money.