Harmonica For Dummies, 2nd Edition
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

Both harmonica and harp are borrowed names, and neither one is the only correct name. The harmonica was invented during the Romantic era of Beethoven and Schubert, a time when garden décor included the Aeolian harp, a stringed harp that you set outdoors, where the wind makes the strings vibrate. Even though the harmonica has reeds sounded by a player's breath instead of strings sounded by the wind, some early harmonica makers referred to their instruments as Aeolian harps by way of poetic association.

Early harmonica makers in German-speaking countries used the term mundharfe (mouth harp). Still others called it mundharmonika (mouth harmonica), borrowing the name of the glass harmonica, which is played with a moistened fingertip rubbed on the rim of a glass. Meanwhile, American books were comparing the harmonica to a harp as early as 1830, and the introduction of a model called the French Harp in the 1880s may have helped to popularize calling it a harp in the American South.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Winslow Yerxa is a widely known and admired harmonica player, teacher, lecturer, and author. He has written, produced, and starred in many harmonica books and video projects. He provides private harmonica instruction both online and in person in the San Francisco Bay area and at the Jazzschool Community Music School in Berkeley, California. He also offers classes, interviews, and lectures via the Harmonica Collective.

This article can be found in the category: