The harmonica has always held a prominent place in diverse music scenes, notably rock, jazz, country, blues, American folk and classical music.
Countless musicians have used this instrument to add some pizzazz to their music, a role that the harmonica executes quite splendidly.
As you will hear from the following songs, there is something about that haunting wail that is undeniably beautiful and captivating.
- “Bluesette” by Toots Thielemans
If you’ve ever wondered what true harmonica mastery looks like, then look no further.
Jean ‘Toots’ Thielemans was one of the most talented harmonica players in the world, and so it is only fitting that we start this list with one of his most well-known songs – Bluesette.
The chromatic harmonica sound in this song is beautifully moody and utterly soulful, so much that you can tell he was playing it directly from the heart. Then again, we wouldn’t expect anything less from one of the greatest jazz musicians that have ever lived.
Over the years, Bluesette has become immensely popular among jazz improvisers, and you are bound to love it too.
- “School” by Supertramp
Very few other things scream “Once upon a time in the West” like this song does. And not the entire song, though, just the beautifully haunting wail of the harmonica in the beginning.
This song is unmistakably iconic, so much so that many people recognize it as “that song with a long harmonica part at the beginning”.
The harmonica solo, in the beginning, goes on for an entire 45 seconds before the actual singing starts. Its bright, clear tone is a sheer pleasure to listen to, and this song actually helped Supertramp break through to the American audience.
- “Piano Man” by Billy Joel
For a song called “Piano Man”, the harmonica features pretty prominently in this song.
Released in 1973, Piano Man went on to make Billy Joel a legend. This was the musician’s first hit song, and it is currently recognized as one of the most legendary songs of all time.
Here’s a fun fact for you: the Library of Congress, in 2016, selected Piano Man for preservation in the National Recording Registry. This decision was based on the song’s “cultural, historic and artistic significance.”
- “Fingertips Pt.2” by Little Stevie Wonder
In 1963, when Stevie Wonder was just 13 years old, part 2 of Fingertips hit #1 in the U.S. Charts, spending 3 weeks at the top.
This was the first-ever live recording to hit #1 in the U.S. charts, making Stevie Wonder the youngest artist ever to top the charts, instantly launching him to stardom.
Additionally, this song is one of the first pop/rock hits to feature a prominent role for the harmonica.
In this exciting performance, the young Stevie Wonder plays the harmonica masterfully, and he remains the youngest solo artist ever to top the Hot 100 Chart.
- “ Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan
Did you think we were about to end this list before giving due respect and recognition to Bob Dylan? After all, he very well may be the godfather of all harmonica solos!
Bob Dylan has countless songs that feature the harmonica prominently. However, Mr Tambourine Man is arguably the most well-known of all his songs.
The song has a bright, expansive melody with a tonal ambiguity that enhances the melody’s dreamy quality. The harmonica bit especially is hauntingly captivating.
Here’s something you might not know about Bob Dylan: he didn’t own a harmonica holder and instead resorted to making one out of a clothing hanger.
Harmonicas are typically identified by that haunting wail which can add some serious flavour to your sound and tone.
This timeless sound is reminiscent of a campfire under the stars with a soothing calm that fades all your problems and worries.
Besides, the instrument is pretty intuitive and easy to play, so you really cannot go wrong with the harmonica.