Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: harmonica from Philip's Encyclopedia

(mouth organ) Musical instrument consisting of a metal cassette containing metal reeds. The reeds are vibrated as the player blows or inhales through slots along one edge of the cassette.


Summary Article: harmonica from Musical Terms, Symbols and Theory: An Illustrated Dictionary

a small, hand-held wind instrument of rectangular shape. A series of air holes are connected to reeds in the center of the instrument, which vibrate when air is exhaled or inhaled by the player. The tonal quality can be muted by cupping the escape of air with the hand. Single notes can be sounded, although the harmonica is more often used to produce chords. This is not considered an orchestral instrument, but has been used widely in both jazz and popular music. It is an inflexible instrument, tuned in a single key. Some harmonicas are equipped with a button that can be used to play accidentals. However, a complete modulation to a secondary key would be difficult, impossible if the performer desired to play chords. See also jazz; pop; wind family.

© 2012 McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Harmonica
The Harvard Dictionary of Music

1. Mouth organ . 2. Glass harmonica . ...

Full text Article harmonica
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

1. The mouth organ: the smallest member of the reed-organ family; its invention is attributed to Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1829. Notes...

Full text Article harmonica
The Penguin English Dictionary

/hahmonikə/ noun a small rectangular wind instrument with free reeds recessed in air slots from which notes are sounded by breathing out...

See more from Credo