Re: [Harp-L] electric harmonica

Hi, Lauren.

Fully electric harmonicas, in the sense of an electric guitar or an electronic keyboard, are not at all common.

However, harmonica players commonly play amplified harmonica, which is analogous to playing an electric guitar. They do this by enclosing their hands around both an everyday harmonica and a microphone, which they hold near the back openings on the harmonica. To concentrate the sound into the microphone, they try to seal the harmonica and microphone together so that no sound escapes. They then feed the microphone signal into an amplifier, possible with some special effects added first, similar to what electric guitar players use.

Amplified playing, even without added effects, sounds different from acoustic playing.  Cupping the harmonica close to the microphone emphasizes the lower and middle part of the sound spectrum, and eliminates the "air" sound of hearing the harmonica resounding in an acoustic space, along with reducing the ability of the player to shape the harmonica's sound with their hands. 

In the early days of amplified playing (1950-ish) amplifiers were small and players would turn them up high to be heard over crowd noise. This, together with the concentrated sound of cupping, pushed the amplifiers beyond their ability to cleanly reproduce sound, and drove them into distortion. Both harmonica players and guitarists immediately began cultivating the unique sounds created by distortion, which helped create the signature sound of amplified harmonica playing.

In reent decades, some inventors have come up with synthesizers that are played like a harmonica - in essence the harmonica becomes a user interface (or metaphor) that allows the player to operate the synth. The Millioniser was perhaps the most famous of these, even though the "interface" resembled a toaster more than a harmonica. Richard Smith in the UK came up with harmonicas that had sound pickups embedded in the body of the insturment, and a jack to connect a cable to an amplifier. Jim Antaki

Winslow Yerxa
Author, Harmonica For
 Dummies, ISBN 978-0-470-33729-5
            Harmonica Basics For Dummies, ASIN B005KIYPFS
            Blues Harmonica For Dummies, ISBN 978-1-1182-5269-7
Resident Harmonica Expert,
Instructor, Jazzschool for Music Study and Performance

 From: Lauren Merryfield <lauren1@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: Harp-L@xxxxxxxxxx 
Sent: Thursday, January 2, 2014 6:32 PM
Subject: [Harp-L] electric harmonica


I, first of all, want to wish everyone a happy new year.  I have been
enjoying the music you have sent to this list. I also have been playing
around with YouTube, listening to some different types of harmonica playing.
And the question came up, is there such a thing as an electric harp? I
discovered that there is. So now I'd like to learn from listers the pros and
cons of acoustic
 harmonica versus electric harmonica? I imagine there is
quite an expense for an electric one. 


Lauren the listener who wants to become a player

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tension, anxiety, and fear. Do I know what's right for me? That is my only
business. Let me work with that before I try to solve problems for you.

~ Byron Katie  <> from
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