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The harmonica has featured in a wide variety of popular music over the years. From the folk harmonica of Bob Dylan, through to Stevie Wonder's soul and jazz inspired playing, and even metal recordings by artists such as Black Sabbath, the harmonica has proven itself to be extremely versatile.
Harmonica Pop Songs
Perhaps the most famous of all uses of harmonica in a pop song, is John Lennon's playing on The Beatles' early hit 'Love Me Do'. Although this lends itself well to being played on a diatonic, it was actually recorded on a chromatic, as Lennon, at the time, had not mastered the bending technique necessary for the tune.
Other famous pop songs where the harmonica is a standout feature often involve Stevie Wonder, both on his own recordings and as a guest. Examples of the former include 'For Once in My Life' and 'I Was Made to Love Her', whilst the latter includes The Eurythmics hit 'There Must be an Angel'.
Best Harmonica for Pop Music
Pop is an extremely broad church, and covers a whole host of genres, but most players should probably gravitate towards a standard Richter tuned diatonic, or a chromatic. The only exceptions to this rule are for minor key songs, where a natural minor harmonica might suit the piece of music better, and when players prefer the note layout of the Melody Maker tuning, which is well suited to the single note lines that are often found on the harmonica parts of pop songs
Chromatics are particularly useful for pop songs, as they can offer an alternative to the guitar or keyboard solo, whilst providing interesting texture to a song. Think, for example, of any of Stevie Wonder's harmonica - led hits; they just wouldn't sound anywhere near as good with an alternative instrument playing the harmonica line.
Our recommendations for diatonics for playing popular music are the Hohner Rocket Amp - which is great for amplified playing in a band situation - and the Lee Oskar Melody Maker, whose note layout is perfect for single note melodies. For chromatics, it's hard to beat the Hohner Super 64 and Super 64X, which are essentially the same harmonicas that the great Stevie Wonder uses.
80s Pop Harmonica
The harmonica's heyday in popular music was probably the 1980s, where, for example, it featured prominently on one of the biggest global hits of the decade - Karma Chameleon, and was often found in the mix of a New Romantic band's new tune.
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