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How does a harmonica work?

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October 20, 2009 12:33PM

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There are many types of harmonicas. I will describe to you how a diatonic harmonica works.

A harmonica has a chambered body with each chamber containing 2 small metal reeds. The reeds are flipped in alignment from each other.

As you blow into one of the chambers air passes over the first reed and causes it to vibrate and this vibration causes the sound you hear. As you draw air in through a chamber ("suck on a harmonica") the air passes through the chamber in reverse and causes the second reed to vibrate. because the reeds are aligned oppisately - the air direction will determine which reed vibrates.

Harmonicas use a series of reeds lined up from longer to shorter. The shorter the reed - the higher the pitch of the note sounded.

Some harmonicas use a wood body and some use plastic. There are also synthetic and metal reeds, which affects the pitch.