Hand harmonicas: design, history of origin, varieties

Hand harmonicas: design, history of origin, varieties

More than 200 years have passed since the appearance of the hand accordion. The emergence of this instrument became a prerequisite for the emergence of such popular musical structures as button accordion and accordion, which today are included in the academic group. But hand harmonicas of various types continue to march around the world, captivating listeners with their diverse sound.


Whatever the variety of the harmonica, according to the type of sound production, all types are reed musical instruments, that is, the sound is extracted under the action of an air stream that affects the reed. Externally, the harmonica device looks like this:

  • left semi-body with its own keyboard;
  • right semi-body with a keyboard located on the fingerboard;
  • fur chamber with a different number of barins (folds).

Hand harmonicas: design, history of origin, varieties

The internal device has the main element – the voice bar, to which the tongues are attached. There are two of them. One vibrates when the bellows are opened, the other when compressed. This feature of hand harmonics is based on the fact that when the bellows are stretched and returned to their original position, the direction of the air changes.

The harmonica has a diatonic scale. This is one of the main differences from harmonica relatives bayan and accordion with chromatic or mixed.

The work of the harmonica is based on the principle of a lever keyboard mechanism, like a piano. When a key is pressed, an opening occurs in the deck, through which air enters the resonator chamber, where the reeds are located.

The device is called “manual” because the accordion player holds it in his hands. For convenience, straps cling to the body, which allow you to put them on your shoulders or small straps for the convenience of fixing your hand if the model is small.

Hand harmonicas: design, history of origin, varieties
Yelets piano harmonica


Germany is considered the birthplace of the accordion. In the 20s of the 19th century, the first instrument was designed by the Berlin master Friedrich Buschmann. The instrument he invented became known as “harmonica”. But there are versions that it could have been invented in England and even in St. Petersburg.

The forerunner of the harmonica was the harmonica. It has a similar way of sound production.

In the 30-40s of the XNUMXth century, the first harmonicas began to appear in Russia. They were brought by wealthy citizens from abroad. At the same time, handicraft production by Russian craftsmen began in the Tula province.

Hand harmonicas: design, history of origin, varieties

Tula handicraftsmen are considered the first and main harmonica manufacturers. They made a light tool with one row of buttons on the right and left hand.

These were single-row models, but after a few years, “two-row” appeared. But they had a significant drawback in limited accompaniment, so the harmonization of Russian songs was distorted. The Saratov, Livny models and the “wreath” have become more advanced.


In the history of the development of the accordion, different types arose with a different number of keys and masters, size, and structure of the cases. They should not be confused with button accordion and accordion, as these designs have different characteristics. The obvious difference between accordion, accordion and button accordion is in size and number of octaves, the latter have more of them. The extended scale of larger “relatives” is another difference.

Hand harmonicas: design, history of origin, varieties
Liven accordion

According to the type of sound extraction, the structures are divided into two types:

  • When the button is pressed, the sound of the same height is extracted – khromka, “livenka”, “Russian wreath”.
  • The sound depends on the direction of movement of the furs – “turtle”, “Tula”, Vyatka accordion.

The name was given according to the place of origin of the instrument.

An exception can be called devices called “turtles”. These are very small harmonicas sold in Cherepovets, which were originally made for the delight of children, and later became popular with modern harmonica players and artists.

The most famous types:

  • Yelets piano harmonica – designed in the city of Yelets. The development of the master Ilyin was distinguished by the fact that it had an arrangement of keys, like a piano and a range of two and a half octaves.
  • Livenskaya – the main difference in a large number of gentlemen who create a long fur chamber.
  • Saratovskaya – there are bells in the design.
  • Cherepovets – has a very small size, and the bass keyboard buttons are located on the body.
  • Kirillovskaya accordion – created in the Vologda region, compact, lightweight, but with a wide range of sound.
Hand harmonicas: design, history of origin, varieties
Saratov accordion

Among other types, the most widespread is the khromka – “two-row” or single-row Russian harmonica. And different peoples had their own harmonicas: marla-carmon among the Mari, talyan harmun among the Tatars, pshine among the Adygs, komuz among the Dagestanis.

The accordion is the most beloved and widespread Russian folk instrument. The harmonist is always the most important guest at any holiday, and his music accompanies folk festivals, sounds at neighbor gatherings, holidays.

История русской гармоники

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