Hohner melodicas were developed from the mid 1950s and the first model, with button keyboard style, was introduced in 1958. They’ve made many classic models over time, and are still making instruments now.
Some of the things to watch out for if you’re buying a vintage model: 1) They might be out of tune, and it’s not always practical to tune an old melodica. You can do what I do and use a pitch corrector after recording, like Melodyne, or the free one on your workstation. 2) Also, some old melodicas really stink, and you’ve got to wonder if its good for your lungs. Make sure you don’t breathe in, or you’ll inhale 50 years worth of dust and bacteria. The Claviola actually gives you another note when you breath in, like a mouth organ, but again, its not a feature I’m really keen on exploiting.
The Claviola really stands out as an interesting sound, flute like in timbre, with the ability to bend notes by putting fingers over the corresponding tubes. It was discontinued after several weeks, as it went out of tune under the heat of stage lights.
One gem from this comparison is the Cassotto melodica. A cassotto is an inner chamber housing the reeds to give them a mellower, darker sound. This isn’t just a gimmick, you can really hear the difference, a very characterful mellow tone. I used this instrument in the backing track too, because it blended well behind the other melodicas.
The HM Alto, is also a fav of mine. It has the classic look of a button melodica, as well as a solid full tone, which sounds good playing chords – this is quite rare for melodicas. Complex playing might be a bit tricky with the buttons, but I was surprised with what I could do with it.
Which ones did you like best? Let me know in the comments!
0:04 Hohner Alto (button vintage)
0:25 Hohner Piano 27 (vintage)
0:47 Hohner Airboard 32
1:08 Hohner Cassotto 26 (vintage)
1:29 Hohner Superforce
1:51 Hohner Claviola (vintage)
2:13 Hohner Professional 36 (vintage)
2:34 Hohner Student 26
2:56 Hohner piano 32 (vintage)
3:17 Hohner Soprano (button vintage)
3:38 Hohner Airboard Rasta 37
4:00 Hohner Jubilee (limited edition)
4:21 Hohner Student 32
4:43 Hohner Student (button vintage)
5:04 Hohner piano 26 (vintage)
5:26 Hohner Fire