What Is A Mouth Organ?

The History Of The Mouth Harmonica 

The mouth organ or mouth harmonica that is so popular today can trace its history back to Europe. Free reed instruments had been in use in East Asian countries for centuries and many of these instruments were known of in Europe as well. Small free reed instruments refers to wind instruments that produce notes by forcing air into a channel by blowing it in or sucking it out.

Some attribute Freidrich Buschmann of Berlin with inventing the harmonica in 1821; his version featured 21 blow notes and was named the Mundäoline. Other music historians, however, note that similar instruments appeared around the same time at other locations in the world including the United States.

In just a few years time, Joseph Richter, an instrument maker, created a variation featuring 10 holes and 20 reeds designed on two separate plates, his variation would become the standard enjoyed around the world today.

Today a wide number of harmonica types can actually be found. Although the diatomic harmonica, which only plays one key is the most popular type, many other kinds are also available including bass harmonicas, glass harmonicas, tremolo harmonicas echo effects harmonicas and chromatic harmonicas that can play more than one key.

The term mouth harmonica is also sometimes used as a generic term to refer to any free reed instrument. Other instruments that are commonly called mouth organs are bamboo-based instruments that are played throughout Asia such as lusheng or the sheng. In fact, the sheng is considered to be the instrument on which early European harmonicas were based and is nicknamed the Chinese mouth organ.

These instruments are composed of bamboo pipes in different lengths and use free reeds but provide a sound very different from the western instruments. Similar to the Western harmonica, however, the Asian mouth harmonica is considered relatively easy to master for those willing to invest some time.

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