A reed organ played with the mouth, a mouth-organ - commonly known as a harmonica due to the successful promotion of the mouth-organ makers M Hohner, who branded their product the harmonica. shortened to Harp from "the French Harp" an instrument played in the French quarter of new Orleans at the turn of the 19th century. Though diatonic in its tuning layout, the blues players 'bent' the notes (using changes in air pressure) to get their 'blue' notes and in so doing laid the foundation for the modern techniques that have led to it being played chromatically. It also can make possibley the widest sound pallet of all instruments and although it is often described as a toy, it is in fact one of the easyest instruments to voice but one that is almost as hard to play to vertuosi standard as it is to teach. As almost all happens inside the mouth, this fact has earnt it the nick name the 'blind harp'. The worldest most renound teachers are David Michelsen, who taught moret Jounior World Blues Harmonica Champions than any other teacher to this day, despite his retiring from competition teaching in 1996. and Borrha Minivitch who taught his flow of Harmonica Rascles. Incedently they inspired Larry Adler who was told when he auditioned for Borrha at the age of 12 "kid you stink". Weather he did smell we can not say but it did spur him on to become one of the better known exponants of the slide harp or slide chromatic harmonicas of the 20th century.
"Little Walter sure blow a mean harp", When is a Harp not a Harp / when it's a Mouth-organ. It is also referred to by a broad number of slang names, some too earthy to publish but: lickin' stick, Gob-iron, tin sandwich, Rhythm stick, sidewalk Stradivarius are but a few.
Its origin's: The harp as it is today is 150 years old but the free-swinging reed goes back over 2000 to the Sheng, who's invention was attributed to the then emperor of Japan. Currently it is the peoples instrument of China. It is annually the most sold instrument in the world. Whether you look at that statistic, country by country or apply it globally it remains true of those nations that enjoy an economy that allows the sale of manufactured goods. It has retained this prominent position since 1922, when the popularity of the 'Borrha Minovitch Harmonica Gangs' brought it to prominence, till 2003, when the last stats were compiled.