Published 7 months ago on November 25, 2023

By Guitar Interactive Magazine

Hohner PentaHarps

MSRP: (UK) From £40

The Pentatonic scale is one of the most useful in popular music. Play any of these notes in the right key, and you can’t play a wrong note. By adding the “Blue Note” the player can add extra expression and versatility, this is known as the “Blues Scale”. Guitarists refer to this scale as “Playing in the Box”, and it is one of the first scales to learn when playing a solo; however, to play this scale on a standard harmonica you would have to perfect advanced techniques that could take years to master! That’s where the PentaHarp comes in. Nick Jennison Tells us more.

There’s an old trick that Nashville session guitarists used to do when it came to playing other stringed instruments - banjo, mandolin, uke, even oddball instruments like bouzouki: just tune it like a guitar! Once you realise that any fretted instrument can be tuned in a way that’s familiar, you can go from zero to making music in no time.

Hohner has taken a similar concept with their Pentaharp line of harmonicas. Designed specifically for guitar players, these harps (that’s what the cool kids call harmonicas, or so I’m told) are physically indistinguishable from a traditional diatonic model, with one notable exception: the tuning.

Where a regular harp is tuned to the notes of a major scale, Hohner’s Pentaharps are tuned to the most useful scale in rock and blues: the minor blues scale! What this means is that no matter which hole you blow or draw (what the cool kids call sucking), you’ll get a note that corresponds with the blues box on your guitar. It’s literally impossible to play a wrong note - something I wish I could say about the guitar!

If you’re wondering how easy it is to get going, let me put it this way - I don’t play the harp, but I was able to get a convincing enough blues solo out of one of these harps within about 5 minutes of taking it out of the box. In fact, the performance you can see on the video review is literally my first time playing one of these harps along with a backing track. Sure, I’m not about to win any awards, but I was able to make music with precisely zero practice.

As you’d expect from Hohner, these harps are superb quality instruments, with a beautiful, even tone right across their entire range. No voodoo “break in” methods were necessary, meaning you can drink your whisky instead of soaking your harp in it. They come in a variety of keys, and each one comes with a hard case and instructions on how to get started - not that you’ll need them! If you’re a guitar player who’s “harp curious”, these instruments are a great way to get started!

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