Influencing Reed Pitch

Music conductor - Man directing with his baton in concert

If you tune your harmonica reeds to concert pitch you’ll probably end up sounding flat.

The premise seems logical — blow on a reed, check the tuner and adjust the pitch to A440.  Doing this, however, may not produce A440 results when actually playing.  Several factors influence reed pitch.

Breath Pressure and Volume

Blowing hard to achieve high volume on a harmonica tends to flatten the tone, especially on the lower reeds.  Any change in breath pressure (however slightly or unconsciously) while holding a note can cause the pitch to fluctuate up or down.  The middle and higher end reeds are less affected by high volume playing.

Assess your playing style and decide if you generally blow at soft, moderate, or hard pressure.  The pressure you use when actually playing is the same pressure to use when tuning.  The closer you are to your natural playing style, the more accurate the tuning.

Cold v. Warm Harmonica

Reeds expand when warm and contract when cold.  A cold reed is slightly higher pitched than the same reed when warm.  As the harmonica warms up, the tone will drop.

As you tune your harmonica, maintain a temperature close to the inside of your mouth.  Blow on a reed only long enough to get a reading on the tuner.  Repeated blowing when testing the tuning will generate heat and lower the pitch.  If you find yourself blowing on the same reed repeatedly, skip over it, move to the next reed and return to the initial one later when the temperature has normalized.

Reed Surface Deposits

Adding weight to a reed causes the pitch to lower. Blowing on a cold harmonica raises the temperature and condensation develops, increasing reed weight.

To prevent condensation, a harmonica should be warmed up prior to the start of the tuning process.  Do not spend too much time on one reed. The more you play the same reed, the more moisture will accrue and affect pitch.  Move on to another reed and return later.



Changes in air movement around the harmonica caused by wind savers or cover plates tend to drop the tone. The shape of your mouth and tongue also influences airflow and ultimately alters the reed pitch through bending or overblowing.

When tuning, play as straight as possible, avoiding bends or other mouth manipulation.  If you remove wind savers and cover plates, keep in mind the pitch will lower slightly when the harmonica is reassembled. Hold the cover plates in their normal position when testing the tuning.

Avoid removing wind savers if possible.


Hohner recommends tuning your harmonica to approximately A442, in order to counteract any drop in pitch resulting from volume, warming, surface weight and airflow.  This modification eliminates the risk of sounding flat and still remains in relative harmonic accordance with other instruments at A440.

Six Things You Should Know About the Hohner FlexRack Harmonica Holder


Hohner makes it easy to play diatonic harmonicas, and some of the tremolo harmonicas, hands-free with the FlexRack.

Keep it lean so you can focus on the music with features like-

  1. Adjustable at 3 separate points (position, angle and height) without no tools needed
  2. Sturdy construction that offers stability and reliability during performances
  3. Swap out harps without altering rack settings
  4. An adjustable spring-loaded clamp with rubberized contact surfaces
  5. Compatible with harmonica models up to a width of 16,5 cm (6,5 inch)
  6. Ergonomically formed non-slip rubberized neckbow for player comfort


See how the excitement and innovations  of the Hohner FlexRack can be the perfect fit for your playing style at



Piedmont Blues Tradition and the Harmonica

piedmontLike the age-old question “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” so goes the question about whether the harmonica, or the guitar, was the founding instrument for the music genre known as the Piedmont Blues.

The one certainty is that the relationship between the Piedmont Blues tradition and the harmonica is a strong one.

Names like Blind Boy Fuller, Sonny TerryBrownie Mcghee, and a host of other musicians, aligned the harmonica with the folk and ragtime-based rhythms of the Piedmont Blues.

“I never had the blues, the blues always had me.” as Brownie McGhee once described the pattern of his life and music.

The Piedmont Blues pioneers are Blues royalty at the forefront of an unassuming and humble musical tradition, with regional roots tied to the toils of working the land. Later influences like more traditional music, minstrel shows, and vaudeville troupes combined to form a lilting personal and community experience.

A down-home style, imaginative lyrics and phrasing paired with the swing and flair of a driving upbeat makes the Piedmont Blues music both welcoming and inspirational.The impetus of syncopating rhythms and the slow-drag-blues encourage buckdancing and flatfooting, a kind of tight foot-shuffle woven together with a simple tap dance.

From the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, along the Tidewater coast, through the Carolinas to Georgia is the East Piedmont region , that’s where you’ll find the home of the Piedmont Blues.

Experience the feel and cadence of the Piedmont Blues with the HOHNER introductory harmonica set in the keys of A, Bb, C, D, E, F, and G that comes with a custom neoprene carrying case. But it doesn’t stop thereHOHNER carries an array of Blues harmonicas for the beginner, intermediate, and virtuoso player.








Circa 1903 Hohner Echophone and Hohnerphone

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Early twentieth century combination of harmonica and horn by HOHNER

The Hohnerphone design patent was granted to Hans Hohner in 1903. It was very similar to the Hohner Echophone that was introduced around the same time. In 2004 HOHNER re-issued a limited edition of the Echophone with a wood collector’s box.

Here is a page from a Hohner catalog from 1912 showing both the Echophone and Hohnerphone.


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