Skip to main content

Harmonica Therapy: Healing for Mind, Body, and Spirit


Neil Young: Heart of Gold

Heart of Gold

One of my fondest memories of my grandfather was also a point of contention with other family members. I loved sitting on the porch with him and listened in awe to stories of his wild and youthful years. When he concluded a story he would follow it with a boisterous tune that mesmerized me as he played one of his many harmonicas. He would usually start off with a comical or fanciful rendition of a folk song and then go into a gospel melody like Amazing Grace. I could never understand why the rest of the family seemed annoyed. I thought, perhaps, it was because his stories may influence me in the wrong way or, perhaps, it was the sound of the harmonica itself. Later, I concluded it was probably both. After all, as far as the harmonica was concerned, it was not a “real” or “proper” instrument. I was always disappointed when the inevitable shout would come out through the kitchen door, “Jim—put that thing away!” My grandfather was a respectful man and would oblige her “request” and carefully polish it on his shirt and then put it back into the pouch that my grandmother had made for him. One day however, after dutifully honoring his “time’s up” message, he again polished and pouched his harmonica, looked straight into my eyes and then placed it on my lap. His next two words changed my life, “It’s yours”.

Looking back, I realize now, my grandfather didn’t just give me a gift, he could see the future in my eyes, he gave me healing. His stories served as a warning of bad times ahead, his comical songs provided respite, and his gospel songs, taught me forgiveness and grace. I will be eternally grateful for the gift that no doctor, preacher, or teacher could give…My grandfather gave me a healing heart of gold.

The Health Benefits of a Harmonica

My grandfather knew way back then what has only been recognized now--that the health benefits of playing a harmonica are pretty amazing in a wide range of applications. For me, personally, it is a relief from depression and times where anger and resentments grind away at my peace. Many doctors are now using harmonica therapy as a supplement to traditional treatments which aids many ailing and health challenges. Musician on Call takes this to a whole new level providing music in all forms to patients young and old. One of the instruments they use is the harmonica.

Respiratory or Pulmonary Therapy

For patients with limited lung capacities or illnesses that require training on breathing practice, the harmonica is becoming a medical tool used to help patients focus on breathing both in and out. The harmonica is the only instrument where both in and out air flow is used and because of this, breathing practice becomes a measurable way for a doctor, therapist, or even the patient themselves to “hear” the results. There are now companies who produce medical harmonicas but a less expensive harmonica serves the same purpose. Many hospitals now offer group and individual harmonica classes on a monthly basis.

Harmonica Therapy

Harmonica Therapy for Mind Body & Spirit

Harmonica Therapy for Mind Body & Spirit

Heart and Blood Pressure Therapy

Just as respiratory therapy using a harmonica is becoming quickly accepted, doctors and researchers are also viewing the same approach for teaching patients to reduce and better control heart rate. They are finding that the stress factors that affect both the pulmonary system and blood systems can be reduced through this simple to learn instrument.

Cognitive Therapy

Where a person has a difficult focusing or suffers cognitive patterns that are described as “mind-racing”, harmonica therapy is a great way for redirecting the brain to gather the randomness of thoughts to one point. A manic episode can be quickly slowed to a manageable response. With practice, the training of the mind is accomplished and can allow patients to use a short “harmonica break” to relax and focus, thus training their brain.

Addiction Therapy

One example of using a harmonica to treat addictive behaviors would be in the fight against nicotine cravings. Aside from the cravings caused by nicotine itself, there is the oral fixation that accompanies it. Picking up a harmonica instead of a cigarette helps reduce the pain of smoking cessation. You can’t smoke when you are playing a harmonica and just like cognitive therapy, the focus now becomes on the music and breathing.

Yoga and Spiritual Therapy

Not only does therapy utilizing a harmonica to help bring focus to the therapies mentioned above, it also has become a qualified method of introspection for Yoga exercise. The term used by yoga instructors is referred to as harmonica-dhyana. Use of a harmonica in yoga is a method to release anger and fear allowing for a deeper meditative result. This, I believe was how my grandfather, unknowingly, was able to move from the pain of past experiences to a spiritual resolve. Doctor, David Harp, MA, has written over two dozen books on how a harmonica can change your brains response to anger, fear, pain, and desire.

Artist "Physicians" who already know ...


Blind Mississippi Morris

Bobby Darin

Christofer Drew

Ryan Adams

Larry Adler

Bonny B.


John Brewster

DeFord Bailey

Robert Bonfiglio

Billy Boy Arnold

Chuck Ragan

Graham McPherson

Humphrey Bate

Willi Burger

Dan Aykroyd

Bob Dylan

Bryan Adams

Johnny Cash

Angelo Dos Santos

Captain Beefheart

Ramblin' Jack Elliott

Ryan Adams

Buddy Greene

Sigmund Groven

Carey Bell

Jesse Fuller

Teddy Andreadis

Kris Kristofferson

Stan Harper

Igor Flach

Dallas Green

Ian Anderson(Jethro Tull)

Martina McBride

Tommy Reilly

Jim Belushi

Arlo Guthrie

Gem Archer

Charlie McCoy


Sugar Blue

Woody Guthrie

Billie Joe Armstrong(Green Day)

Terry McMillan


Billy Branch

Mel Lyman

Tim Armstrong(Rancid)

Mickey Raphael


Norton Buffalo

Tom Morello


Bobbejaan Schoepen


George "Mojo" Buford

Rory McLeod


Neil Young


Eddie "Guitar" Burns

Sonny Terry

Brian Molko(Placebo)

Irish music[edit]


Lester Butler

Kim Kwang Suk

David Bowie

Patrick Clancy


Paul Butterfield

Vikki Thorn

Gary Brooker(Procol Harum)

James Conway


Good Rockin' Charles

Leon Gieco

Jack Bruce

Ciarn Bourke


William Clarke

Hugo Diaz

Bertrand Cantat(Noir Dsir)

Bobby Clancy


James Cotton

Jenny Lewis

Gene Clark(The Byrds)

Andy Irvine


Jim Conway(Australian)

Ketch Secor

Alice Cooper



Cyril Davies

Tom Gabel

Claudio Sanchez

Philip Achille


Little Sammy Davis

Beck Hansen

Gene Cornish

Larry Adler


Paul deLay

Jay Diggins

Sheryl Crow

Sbastien Charlier


Joe Dolce

Neil Young

Burton Cummings

Max Geldray


Johnny Dyer


Rick Davies(Supertramp)

Carlos del Junco


Jazz Gillum


Bob Dylan

Chris Michalek


Marla Glen


Melissa Etheridge

Toots Thielemans


Adam Gussow


John Fogerty

Fredric Yonnet


James Harman


Tom Fogerty

Classical music[edit]


Shakey Jake Harris


Peter Gabriel

Robert Bonfiglio


Taylor Hicks


Dave Gage

Willi Burger


Paul Jones


Ian Gillan(Deep Purple)

Tommy Reilly


Huey Lewis


George Harrison



Dutch Mason


Mick Jagger



John Mayer


Billy Joel



Delbert McClinton


John Kay(Steppenwolf)



James Montgomery


Arthur Lee(Love)



Charlie Musselwhite


John Lennon



Hammie Nixon


Huey Lewis



Snooky Pryor


John Mellencamp



Walkin' Cane Mark


Van Morrison



Jimmy Reed


Anton Newcombe



Curtis Salgado


Ozzy Osbourne(Black Sabbath)



Will Shade


Tom Petty



Harmonica Shah


Robert Plant(Led Zeppelin)



J.D. Short


Jimmy Page(Led Zeppelin)



Powell St. John


John Sebastian



Rob Stone





Matt Taylor


Bruce Springsteen



Sonny Terry


Jon Bon Jovi



Fabio Treves


Ringo Starr



Steven Tyler(Aerosmith)


James Taylor



All of the above

The list of musical artist who already knew long before the medical sciences realized that the harmonica is “all of the above” contains some surprising results. The chart to the right will give you a sampling of just how well this magical instrument has affected our cultures in every music genre.

This list is sortable. Enjoy looking up these physcians of harmonica. If you see a particular artist and you want to find out how their harmonica has influnced history, higlight the artist and then right click...your browser will bring up a list of choices. For example, if using Google, it will give you the option of searching out this artist on "look up".

Physician Heal Thyself

Do you know someone who would medically benefit from harmonica therapy? You could of course, discuss this article with them…or…if you want to be sneaky, just buy them one. The great thing about a harmonica is that once you pick it up, its hard to put down. Even the stodgiest of people will (in their own private moments) pick it up and get “instant” healing. This medical treatment requires no prescription and can be self administered. What I like best about harmonica therapy is that the harmonica itself will teach you. It’s impossible to play wrong.

The Pulmonica Medical Harmonica

The Pulmonica is the number one rated medical harmonica and is specifically designed to aid in the treatment of pulmonary illnesses.


Polished, stainless steel cover plates. Recessed German Silver reed plates. Machined brass reeds for deep resonance. ABS comb. Rounded corners to feel great. Submersible for rinsing clean. The Pulmonica is a specially tuned pulmonary harmonica for non-musicians that produces unusually deep, resonant, meditative sounds that are felt gently pulsing the lungs simply by breathing. Plus, it always sounds great, unlike any similar looking harmonicas, and provides variable resistance for use. No harmonica built in the world today can deliver the benefits of a Pulmonica. After considerable development, the Pulmonica is now handcrafted in Germany by Seydel, the world's oldest harmonica manufacturer. It allows everyone to include conscientious belly breathing and soothing, meditative sound in their daily routine. Instructions for use and a carrying case, cleaning cloth, care recommendations, and a chart for recording progress for a year are included. Sustained belly breathing has been promoted for thousands of years across many cultures as an achievable method of bringing more air into the lungs and more oxygen to the body and mind than with chest breathing. Yet, almost all of us are chest breathers by mid-life. To learn to be belly breathers, we need sustained practice. The Pulmonica makes that practice easy by providing positive feedback three ways: (1) deeply resonant notes and chords, (2) always in tune and sounding harmonious and (3) gentle pulses that are often felt in the lungs and sinuses. For interested musicians, the Pulmonica is tuned to LLG, uses spiral tuning, and produces the complete diatonic chord scale (G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#dim) for over two octaves. The four-hole chords add the major 7th. The Pulmonica can serve as a wonderful rhythm instrument in the Key of G. For soloists, it's more challenging because the reeds, gaps, and profiles are set to optimize pulmonary usefulness, rather than musical playability.

Scroll to Continue

The "Pulmonica" Medical Harmonica

Great Quality Starter Harmonica

Standard Harmonicas

There is a wide range of choices for standard harmonicas that can be used for health reasons and just for fun. I often buy harmonicas in quantity lots and use them as individual gifts or for "group" sessions. A good starter harmonica cost about five dollars.


GreenMind Guides from USA on January 18, 2017:

This is a great hub -- you really make the harmincia sound like a great instrument. Thanks and write more!

TruthisReal from New York on October 12, 2015:

Great Hub! I love the Harmonica it is such a relaxing instrument. I am following you and will pass this page along to friends. :)

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on February 06, 2015:

What an interesting concept! It makes perfect sense - just never thought about this before. Music is therapeutic, so it's good to know there are many ways to put this benefit to use.

Jamie Lee Hamann from Reno NV on February 06, 2015:

I am convinced! I believe in it's power, thank you for this great hub. Jamie

Audrey Howitt from California on February 06, 2015:

I found this fascinating! Singing confers many of the same types of benefits I believe

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on February 06, 2015:

My dad use to play a chromatic harmonic, he could play anything by ear. You know, after reading this I think it was therapeutic for him to play. I know it was for me.

Joel Diffendarfer (author) from Jonesville on February 05, 2015:

Yes, Ron and Aesta1, I have also used harmonicas as "rewards" for a children’s' group to recognize achievements. Within a matter of weeks, every child owned one and mastered them quickly. And as stupid as it may sound, I actually used the harmonica to help me quick smoking--every time I had "the urge", I played a tune worked for me. I have a friend who is very talented with a wide range of instruments including violins, piano, etc. One day he demonstrated his multiple uses of instruments and I stated to him that "I could only play the harmonica". With that, he pulled out "his" harmonica...and proudly stated that the harmonica was always an important part of his life. He played a version of Amazing Grace that spoke clearly and obviously, came from his heart.

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on February 04, 2015:

Who knew that the harmonica could be therapeutic? I play several instruments, but never the harmonica. You almost persuade me to give it a try.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 09, 2015:

What a revelation about the little harmonica. Maybe I should start learning to play this instrument.

Related Articles