Harmonium Buying Buide
So you want to buy a harmonium? Amazing! A harmonium has the potential to bring you many years of resonant joy.
If you’ve found this buying guide from us at the Sacred Sound Lab, chances are, you wish to purchase a harmonium for kīrtan, bhajans and/or mantra chanting.
If so, you’re in the right place!
But it’s important to consider a few points before purchasing:
- Not all harmoniums are created equal - and poorly constructed harmoniums can become ultra finicky leading to big headaches. You want your harmonium to be properly manufactured and serviced with skill so that it can bring you years of joy. Old Delhi Music, David Estes’ Ragamala, and a few other similar specialty shops do this work well and support their customers even better. We recommend staying away from eBay or Amazon and working directly with a speciality shop to get the best service and overall experience.
- If you really want to buy a used harmonium, make sure you check out the harmonium yourself and play it in-person. If you enjoy the tone and sustain, and all the keys work, then it might be great for you!
- Beyond choosing a good source, your decision on what kind of instrument you purchase will depend largely upon what is most valuable to you right now. Do you want to travel with your harmonium? Record an album in the studio? Sing, dance and play in the streets with it?
I will categorize and highlight some of our favorite options below:
Category 1: Travel Friendly & Great Sound
1. Bhava Lite (smallest of the Bhava harmoniums)
This is Old Delhi Music’s newest (and smallest) Bhava models which we absolutely LOVE for it’s portability and it’s great sound for its size. We have the version in teak wood, which gives it an uber-luxe, warm, mellow sound, but any of the woods I am certain will sound beautiful (If I were purchasing I would pick the kind of wood based on my budget). We have found this harmonium fits easily into the overhead bin of most airlines (except small commuter flights). This harmonium is great for yoga classes and small kīrtans, but if you plan on leading kīrtan for larger groups, and you want portability, I'd opt for the Bhava Mini over this one (linked below).
2. Bhava Mini (mid-sized, collapsing)
Previous to the release of the Bhava “Lite”, this harmonium was my go-to harmonium not just for travel, but for all-around playing anytime, anywhere.
I still love this harmonium, but if you really want something portable and easy to move around, I now recommend the Bhava “Lite” above this model. The reason is this - the Bhava Mini is collapsible, which means it folds into a box. That sounds cool, but it can actually be hard (needs quite a bit of strength) to open it up and fold it back into it’s box. Also, because it has a lot of moving parts, and a few knobs, it might need more maintenance than the "Lite". But it is a solid and wonderful mid-sized, collapsing instrument. If you want a travel harmonium that also works well for larger kīrtans/gigs, this is the one I'd recommend.
An ultra-portable harmonium that is smaller and lighter than the Bhava Lite. I bought this Raga Mala Peti for my Mom, as she has shoulder injuries, from David Estes’ shop. My Mom loves how light and small it is, and the sound, for the size, is wonderful. I find the range and sustain limited for my uses, but I know folks who love these mini harmoniums (including my Mom!). I play it whenever I’m over at her house and for the purposes of small gatherings, and intimate family kīrtan, it works great for us! I would imagine it would be wonderful for yoga teachers wanting something super portable to take from class to class.
4. Bhava Classic (full-size, collapsing)
Category 2: Great All-Round Instrument (Delhi Sound)
For the recording studio, live stage, home or yoga studio, not much can beat the sound of a quality constructed, well-adjusted standard Delhi style harmonium.
Here are some examples:
- Bhava Studio (any version)
- Bhava Classic (any version)
- Panipat Studio Deluxe (lower cost, but still very good)
Category 3: I want it SMALL!
Gotcha. If you're on the go and looking for small and simple, here’s some good options:
- Raga Mala Peti from David Estes (described in more detail in the travel-friendly section)
- Bhava Lite (any version)
- Aarohi S32 (budget model)
- MKS SB1 Shruti Box (not a harmonium, but a good alternative)
Category 4: Large Scale-Changer Harmoniums for Classical Indian Music (Kolkata Sound)
Kolkata harmoniums are complexly engineered, always heavy, and without fail, a significant investment. I have had one of these babies since I was 12 years old, and have always loved it - but I’m done with wrecking my back lugging it around to gigs and rehearsals. So I opt for the Delhi-Style, travel-friendly kīrtan harmoniums. But if that sweet, fast action, whispering Palitana reed tone is what you're needing to accompany your nuanced vocals, these classic Kolkata builds from Old Delhi Music are some of the best:
If you've come to end of this page, and you are yearning for yet more information, please visit this comprehensive buying guide from our friends at Old Delhi Music.
We don't earn any money for referring people to these excellent retailers. We just love their work and want to share that with you.