The tremolo harmonica is the most popular instrument of the harmonica family, played throughout Asia and Europe
It is a great instrument for tunes, like this.
The beginners lessons soon have you playing
The intermediate lessons teach some great tunes.
The advanced lessons show the techniques used by the good players.
Know the tremolo harmonica already? Then try one of the advanced lessons
As the above photo shows, the tremolo has more holes than the standard 10 hole harmonica familiar to most Westerners. In Asia there are two main tremolo types, the 24 hole, used in China, the 21 hole, used in Japan and elsewhere. The instruments are similar and easily interchanged. The lessons on this site work for both the 21 and 24 hole tremolo.
Each hole has two reeds, tuned slightly apart. Both reeds sound when the instrument is played, producing a wavering tremolo sound (hence the name), somewhat like an accordian.
Similar to the 10 hole harmonica, the tremolo harmonica is a "diatonic" instrument, meaning that it is tuned to one key. So, to play in the key of C you use a tremolo in C, to play in G you use a tremolo in G and so on. Tremolo harmonica players carry several instruments, each tuned to different keys, like the photo below.
The tremolo harmonica notes are arranged as a major scale, like the white notes on a piano. For a 21 hole tremolo in C, the notes are arranged like this.
The top row is the blow notes, the bottom row the draw (breathe in) notes. Apart from one note missing at the top (a B), the instrument has three full Major scales. That is, three sets of the notes C D E F G A B C
Those familiar with the 10 hole harmonica will know that some scale notes are missing in the bottom holes. Playing these notes requires bending, as skill not easily mastered. As most 10 hole harmonica students would know.
The tremolo harmonica is different. No bending is required. In fact, bending is difficult with the double reeds, and rarely done.
The tremolo is therefore easier for tunes than the 10 hole, because note bending is not needed. All the notes are there. The tremolo is not so good for blues, as note bending is a big part of the blues harmonica sound.
So. If you like playing tunes, the Tremolo is a great instrument.
Any music shop in Asia will sell tremolo harmonicas. Westerners can buy them online. Get a tremolo harmonica in C, you will then be able to follow the lessons here. It is best to get an Asian brand, as the lessons use the Asian tremolo note layout.
If possible, spend a little extra for a good one. The Suzuki Humming Tremolo and Tombo Premium 21 are fine instruments.