In this melodica tutorial for absolute beginners, learn the names of the notes, and how to play a simple scale and chord.
No.1 Which melodica do I need?
No.2 First things first
Before picking up the melodica, lets have a look at the keyboard. It’s worth learning the names of the white keys right from the beginning. You’ll notice that the black notes are grouped in 2s and 3s. Look for a group of 2 black notes and find the white note immediately to the left of them. This is called ‘C’. In fact, wherever you see this pattern of 2 black notes, the white note to the left is always a ‘C’.
No.3 And what are the other notes called?
Now you’ve found a C note, you can identify the other white notes. The next note, to the right of the C is called a D. The next is an E, then an F, and a G. But pay attention here! The note to the right of a G is called an A, and then a B. And the next note? Notice you’re back at that position – you’re on a white note which is immediately to the left of a pair of black notes. So you’re on a C again
No.4 Making it stick
See if you can randomly pick different white notes and say what they’re called. You’ll find you get better and better at this. If you get stuck, look for a C (to the left of a pair of black notes), and count up
No.5 Shall I use the hose or mouthpiece?
You should have a long hose and a short mouthpiece with your melodica. It’s easier to start with the hose, as it means you can blow in to the instrument while still looking at what your fingers are doing.
No.6 How do I hold the melodica?
While you have the hose attached, you can lay the melodica on a table, placing your fingers on the keyboard as in the photo. The thumb should be over a C note. The index finger over the next note to the right, a D note. The middle finger will be over an E, the ring finger over an F and the little finger over a G. Make sure the hose is in your mouth.
No.7 Play time
While blowing through the hose, try pressing your thumb into the C key. It should already be above this key, so just push down with the thumb. You should hear the instrument sound. When you release the key, the note will stop. Then try pressing down with the other fingers, one at a time. This might feel uncomfortable and awkward at first, but it gets much easier with time and practice.
No.8 What’s a scale?
A scale is a succession of notes in order. Start with a rising scale. First make sure your fingers are in position above the notes, as in No. 6. Begin the scale by playing the C note with your thumb (1). Then the next note along, the D note, with your index finger (2). Follow with the E note (3), the F (4) and finally the G (5). When you get good at this, you can reverse it, and start with the little finger on the G note, playing the notes in descending order, ending on the C, with the thumb.
No.9 What’s a chord?
Chords are 2 notes or more played simultaneously. First place your hand in the position described in No.6, with the thumb above a C note, and the little finger above a G. The chord will have 2 notes, C and E, played with the thumb and the middle finger. While blowing through the tube, allow both thumb and middle finger to press the keys underneath them at the same time. Meanwhile, the other fingers simply rest on the keyboard
As there are no melodica tutorial courses out there, the best way to take your learning further, is by getting piano or keyboard lessons, and applying what you learn to the melodica. You could try one-to-one piano or keyboard lessons with a local teacher, or try learning online with a course. Use the forums to report back on your learning progress, and to swap tips with other members.
The melodica pictured in this article is the popular Yamaha P37D.
Next article: The Ultimate Guide to the Melodica in 2022