The harmonica first appeared in Vienna, Austria in the early 19th century. Fifteen years after the creation of the first known harmonica, production took off; thousands of harmonicas were produced in a very short time. While many companies created harmonicas, three producers were leading the pack by the middle of the 19th century: Christian Messner & Co., Württ Harmonikafabrik and C.A. Seydel; of these, only C.A. Seydel is still in business. By the 1950's, harmonica music was popular among blues artists, and the blues harmonica remains extremely popular.
To play the harmonica, place your lips over the individual holes; you will blow air in and draw air out to produce music. It is said that playing the harmonica has some health benefits; the act of blowing air out and drawing air in is similar to the system used by machines designed to help rehabilitate COPD patients. Because they're so intuitive, harmonicas are easier to learn than more complicated instruments like the clarinet and violin.
There are reeds in the harmonica's interior that vibrate when air is introduced or removed; this is how the sound is produced. The holes along the harmonica are arranged in a pre-tuned order, ranging from low pitches to high pitches. Since harmonicas are relatively inexpensive, it is recommended that you spend the extra money for a nicer harmonica, as the cheaper ones tend to leak air and make learning to play the instrument needlessly difficult.
Most local music stores have instructors willing to give harmonica lessons for a fairly affordable price. While the harmonica is harder to learn that it may seem at first, it is possible to teach yourself how to play it well. There are many websites that offer free lessons and tutorial videos. Many of these sites also have discussion boards where experienced harmonica players share their tips.
You can easily find free harmonica sheet music, also known as harmonica tabs, on the Internet. Tabs are simply numbers that correspond with the holes on the harmonica and are written above the lyrics to a song. Positive numbers indicate that you should blow air into the specified hole, and negative numbers tell you to draw air out.
Harmonica music can be found in all genres; it is not limited to blues music, even though many of the most popular harmonica songs ever written tend to be blues-based.