Hohner Special 20 Harmonica, Key Of G Major
- Played by the Pros
- Smooth Plastic Body for fast Playing
- Responsive Reeds
- German Quality and Craftsmanship
- Model may vary (560BX-G or 560PBX-G)
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|Instrument Key||G||g||g||c||use with most 10-hole harmonicas||C|
Special 20 Classic The New Standard. Response, superior bending, and a rich tone are all unique qualities of the Special 20. Featuring a durable, airtight, plastic comb, it has become the harmonica of choice for recording artist John Popper (Blues Traveler), as well as musicians that enjoy a wide variety of genres from country and folk, to rhythm and blues. Available in 12 major keys as well as a special Country Tuning, which features a major 7th when played in the cross harp position.
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----------Hohner Special 20 (C):
-(****_) overall: My preferred beginner harmonica, recommended to anyone as a first harmonica, and to experienced players who want the best harmonica at this price point (To beginners: get your first harmonica in key of C, more on keys at the end of this review). The Special 20 achieves an overall good quality and playability while remaining affordable. Anything less expensive will lack in quality and be difficult to play, which could turn off an aspiring player. At this price point it is my favorite, and it's good enough that many experienced players will never find a need to spend more on a harmonica. Amazing value for money. Not rated five stars because you get what you pay for, and my preferred harmonicas are in the higher price range.
-(****_) Sound: Excellent. Loved it, and one of its strongest point. It's good enough to make a song truly enjoyable. Even as a beginner you can get a nice sound. That's key to enjoying the harmonica. It's not as good as top-end harmonicas. When compared to those, the sound is less even and less pleasant. But I never realized that or cared until I owned a top-end harmonica.
-(*____) Durability: The real achille's heel of the Special 20. This harmonica will not last. The reeds are brass, which is not durable and which other models/makers have moved away from specifically to improve durability. Within a few months my harmonica was difficult enough to play that I no longer enjoyed playing it, and replaced it.
-(***__) Playability: The comb is made of plastic (the middle layer of the harmonica), and is very easily playable and slides nicely. Plastic combs tend to slide better than wood or metal. The holes are easy to single out for a beginner. The notes are easy to bend. The biggest disadvantage is some notes tend to get stuck and over time make the harmonica unplayable, which is why I rate playability 3 rather than 5 stars. IMPORTANT: many reviews say the 2-draw is difficult to play and 1,2-star reviews often complain their 2-draw was broken from day one. The 2-draw is not broken, it is simply a very difficult note for beginners to play. Admittedly, on the Special 20 it is difficult to play (arguably more than usual, I can see why people complain it's broken), but it is not broken as many reviewers suggest.
-(***__ Aesthetics): A pretty decent looking harmonica. The case looks fine. Feel perfectly happy with it, but it doesn't have the look and feel of top of the line harmonica like a Suzuki Firebreath or Promaster.
Comparison with other Harmonicas:
--(****_ overall) Hohner Marine Band: Great beginner harmonica at an affordable price. I slightly prefer the sound of the Special 20 and would therefore recommend the Special 20. That being said, I've had less issues with notes sticking on the Hohner Marine Band particularly with the 2, 7 and 8 draw and also prefer the overall look of the Marine Band over the Special 20. In terms of ease of play, the plastic comb of the Special 20 slides easily and the holes are easy for a beginner to single out, so my preference goes to the Special 20.
--(***__ overall) Hohner Big River: Nothing memorable. It's perfectly fine but there's no reason to buy it over the previous two reviewed here. I bought it out of curiosity but found no reason to play this over the previous two, and mine gathered dust in a drawer until my special 20 went bananas and stopped playing (and then I upgraded to Suzuki)
--(***** Overall) Suzuki Firebreath: Amazing. Not cheap, so I recommend the Special 20 as a first harmonica until you decide you're going to stick with the instrument. Even if you're "sure" you'll stick, I still recommend starting with the Special 20 because beginners are more likely to overblow and break their harmonicas, and so you get the pleasure of looking forward to and appreciating your future upgrade.
--(***** Overall) Suzuki Promaster: Amazing. Same comments are the firebreath.
Note on which key to buy first: (Combining my opinion and consensus in reviews)
--I recommend starting with a key of C.
This is the accepted standard since most beginner songs and lessons will all be in C. One harmonica is fine as a beginner.
--Then in this order: D, A.
A is common in blues and country. D is also versatile and often considered easier to play than the C (the 2-draw should be easier)
--Then F, G, Bb, E,...
I would argue for the last 4 in this order, but here is gets more debatable. And of course there are still more keys beyond these.
Note: This is my first harmonica so i don't have a good reference point, but i was impressed by the quality/sound for the price.
The Special 20 sound is great, and the craftsmanship is excellent!