Music Monday: A Little Bit of Harmonica

The harmonica offers a unique sound, and its playing is often one of the more memorable parts of a song.

The one song that always comes to mind when I think of the harmonica is Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen. It’s one of the best openings I know.


The following background information comes courtesy of Wikipedia.

The harmonica, also known as a French harp or mouth organ, is a free reed wind instrument used worldwide in many musical genres, notably in blues, American folk music, classical music, jazz, country, and rock.

The harmonica was developed in Europe in the early part of the 19th century. Sometime before Hohner began manufacturing harmonicas in 1857, he shipped some to relatives who had emigrated to the United States. Its music rapidly became popular, and the country became an enormous market for Hohner’s goods. President Abraham Lincoln carried a harmonica in his pocket, and harmonicas provided solace to soldiers on both the Union and Confederate sides of the American Civil War. Frontiersmen Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid played the instrument, and it became a fixture of the American musical landscape.

Playing the harmonica requires inhaling and exhaling strongly against resistance. This action helps develop a strong diaphragm and deep breathing using the entire lung volume. Pulmonary specialists have noted that playing the harmonica resembles the kind of exercise used to rehabilitate COPD patients such as using a PFLEX inspiratory muscle trainer or the inspiratory spirometer. Learning to play a musical instrument also offers motivation in addition to the exercise component. Many pulmonary rehabilitation programs[specify] therefore have begun to incorporate the harmonica.

I remember trying to teach myself how to play the harmonica when I was in high school, without too much luck. Maybe someday I’ll give it another shot.

Here are some other songs that prominently feature the harmonica.

Piano Man (I’d never seen this official video of this classic song – it’s a great one):

Heart of Gold by Neil Young

What I Like About You by the Romantics

Run Around by Blues Travelers

Love Me Do by the Beatles

Midnight Rambler by the Rolling Stones

Bring It on Home by Led Zeppelin

Isn’t She Lovely by Stevie Wonder


Once Upon a Time in the West by Orchestra Ennio Morricone

Long Train Runnin’ by the Doobie Brothers

Bluesette by Toots Thielemans

Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan

School by Supertramp


15 thoughts on “Music Monday: A Little Bit of Harmonica

  1. it’s something I’ve never really thought about, but the harmonica does play an important role in many songs, and they wouldn’t be the same without it


    1. thanks! I had said the same thing to my wife – I had never seen that video before either; it was great. It is fun finding videos to put with my Monday posts – I discover lots of great music that way.


  2. As the sound on my soon to be replaced computer does not work I listen to music clips on my phone – like this one there are several bloggers who provide excellent music quizzes at Chez Tidalscribe. Cyberspouse guessed Once Upon a Time in the West in one note!


  3. It’s funny to think that not many think of this instrument as especial… when I think of harmonica, my mother-in-law comes to mind. She’s quite good at it.


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