What harmonica does Stevie Wonder play?
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What Harmonica Does Stevie Wonder Play?

What Harmonica Does Stevie Wonder Play?

Stevie Wonder has played a few different harmonicas throughout his career – most of them chromatic – but the specific instrument with which he is most commonly associated is the Hohner Super 64. This is a 16 hole chromatic from the German manufacturer with a wide tonal range. Let’s take a look at this harmonica and others used by Stevie over the years, and see how he has become the undisputed master of the chromatic harmonica.

Hohner Super 64

Hohner Chromonica Super 64 Harmonica
Hohner Chromonica Super 64 Harmonica

Having produced the world’s first chromatic harmonica at the beginning of the twentieth century, Hohner had already been manufacturing 12 hole chromatics for many years before it created the 16 hole Chromonica 64, which was one of Stevie’s early chromatics. 16 hole chromatics are a key part of Stevie’s sound, as they provide a greater tonal range than the more common 12 hole chromatics – something that Wonder exploits on many of his solos.

The Super 64, which is effectively an upgraded version of the standard Chromonica 64, became Stevie’s main instrument from some point in the mid 1960s (probably around the time that Hohner recognised his talent and snapped him up as an endorser of their harmonicas). The Super 64 featured a number of upgrades over the standard Chromonica, including a silver plated mouthpiece, which is smoother than the chrome one on the Chromonica 64, and a generally more robust feel, with a brighter, more expressive tone.

The Super 64 can be heard in action on many of Stevie’s most famous singles, including For Once In My Life and I Was Made To Love Her.

Huang Harmonicas

Many sources on the internet point to Stevie using Huang harmonicas at one point in his career. The Huang brothers were originally Hohner technicians, but in the 1980s branched out into producing their own range of harmonicas, which are still available today. Most sources point to Frank Huang customising Stevie’s existing Super 64s throughout much of his earlier career; he certainly used a range of tunings, such as Db, Bb and G, that aren’t stock for Hohner’s 16 hole harps, and some harmonica experts suspect that Stevie’s base tuning is slightly raised from the standard modern orchestral pitch of A=440Hz. However, Wonder can be seen playing a range of unidentifiable chromatics on some performances from the 1980s onwards, suggesting that he may have been playing custom built Huang harmonicas at this point.

Hohner Super 64X

Hohner Chromonica Super 64x Harmonica
Hohner Chromonica Super 64x Harmonica

Hohner’s Super 64X shares fewer parts with the cheaper Chromonica 64 than the standard Super 64 does, and has double thickness reed plates, which provide a deeper, more resonant sound.  Stevie uses this harmonica extensively on later recordings, although, like his Super 64, it is likely that it was highly customised to suit his technique and playing style.

Suzuki Sirius 64

Suzuki Sirius S-64C Chromatic Harmonica
Suzuki Sirius S-64C Chromatic Harmonica

Despite being a Hohner endorser, in recent years Stevie has often been seen playing a Suzuki chromatic – namely the Sirius 64. This chromatic built on Suzuki’s experience with the Fabulous diatonic harp, and features brass weights in the body to add extra resonance, and the Japanese company’s signature phosphor bronze reeds.

Other musicians and reviewers have been overwhelmingly positive about the Sirius, describing it as one of the best chromatics available, especially for professional recording work, so it is, perhaps, unsurprising that Wonder has used this harmonica regularly.

What Harmonica Should I Buy to Sound Like Steve Wonder?

Although Stevie has used a range of custom harmonicas over the years, he could take any 16 hole chromatic and sound like Stevie Wonder, because 99.9% of his sound is intrinsic to him and his playing style. This doesn’t mean that you can’t sound like him, at least to some extent, but it would require tens of thousand hours of focused practice, plus detailed study of Stevie’s specific techniques. Unfortunately, just buying a Super 64X or Sirius 64 and having it customised to Wonder’s specifications will not get you any nearer to approximating his sound.


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