Learn to Play Blues Harp Harmonica
History of the Hohner Blues Harp
Filed under: Blues Harp Harmonica

As I learn more and more about the blues harp harmonica and blues music and some of the biggest and best players, the name Hohner, keeps popping up in ads and around the web. So, I thought I’d do a little research and learn some more about this company and its history and its mark on the harmonica industry. An old radio ad about the Hohner blues harp is what caught my eye and made me curious. It’s very entertaining – you can watch it above. It says 1857 on the lead ad and I thought that was amazing. Hohner has been around for over 150 years now. I respect and appreciate all things vintage and antique. As the family genealogist I always have a need to delve deeper and find out more. Looking back into history gives us glimpse into the past and what life was like back then.

My quest for information takes us back to Germany (Thuringer) where the very first harmonica was created in 1821. We all know how much teenagers love music so it is no surprise to me to learn that a 16 year old is the inventor of this marvelous mouthpiece. Christian Friedrich (Ludwig) Buschmann was a clockmaker. In those days clockmakers were highly skilled craftsmen in what was considered the most leading edge, technically advanced trade of the period. Historically, the best clockmakers often also built scientific instruments, as for a long time they were the only craftsmen around trained in designing precision mechanical apparatus. Thus, Christian, who was a tinkerer by trade (or nature) simply had an idea and created the first ever harmonica.

Back in Christian’s day in the 18th & 19th centuries, churches that had no organ would use a simple pitch pipe to give the congregation the opening note of a hymn. Those original pitch pipes are quite rare nowadays. Today we have various pitch tools, often called acoustic pipes (available for all instruments), that offer many tones and some are even electronic and are often used as an alternative to the tuning fork. You can even carry one on your keychain. Christian decided to link together a bunch of these old pitch pipes in various tones of course. What he had was a 4 in (10 cm) mouth organ that featured 21 blow notes arranged chromatically. He was very excited about his creation and named it the “mundaeoline”, which is German for mouth harp. He had the first patent but as word spread around Europe and its popularity began to grow, there were many imitators and the instrument came to be known by many different names, such as mundharmonika, mundaeoline, psallmelodikon and symphonium.

Several decades later in 1857, another young clockmaker named Matthias Hohner (24), happened to buy one of these mouth organs and decided to start a new business. From clockmaker to harmonica maker, he made 650 harmonicas during his first run, with the help of his family and one paid employee, while working from his own kitchen. The popularity of the tiny instrument began to rise after Hohner shipped some of his harmonicas over to the United States to some relatives who had immigrated. The demand from North America increased as the harmonica became a favorite of the Western cowboy because of its affordability and portability. It was also favored by many African-American musicians as an alternative to a more expensive horn or piano. The instrument became known as a blues harp harmonica because of the way it was used to bend notes when playing the blues music style. We already know what a legacy was left by these early blues harmonica players (but that’s another blog post!)

Back in 1893, after his death, Mathias Hohner’s sons decided to open up the company’s creative talents to developing and marketing the accordion, another reed instrument. It proved to be another successful turn for the company. They became the top accordion makers. The Hohner Company has a rich, colorful history and a reputation for excellence. From the humble beginnings of Matthias Hohner’s harmonica company in 1857, Hohner has created more than 1500 different models to date. Used in jazz, blues, rock, country and folk music, Harmonica is one of the most diverse (and deceptively difficult) instruments around. The Hohner Company is still going strong today and now supplies the world with its top quality instruments.

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Technorati Tags: blues harp, Blues Harp Harmonica, Hohner, Hohner Blues Harp, Hohner harmonica

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