Reply To: Amplification for Melodicas

Alan Brinton

Thanks, Melodica-Me. I think I have had a few of those kinds of tracks from my brother, who plays Jazz piano. I’ll check into the ones you mentioned

When I studied piano formally, it was always focused on scales and other exercises and learning classical pieces that were usually a step or more ahead of me. Always as if the whole point of study was to prepare for performance in a recital or for a jury, and spending endless hours memorizing and trying to perfect the piece. There was almost no emphasis on chords and harmony and no attention to learning to play be ear. When I took up the melodica, it was to take a completely different approach, to focus on the music (Jazz tunes) and try to learn harmony and to play by ear and do some improvising. I spend some of my time just trying to play along (with no sheet music) and improvise a bit with Jazz recordings that are part of my regular listening. That works better than I expected.

Band-in-a-Box now has what are called “Real Tracks,” which are tracks laid down in the studio by professional musicians. You can select from a whole lot of different styles and choose which instruments you want played, and even by whom. There’s an initial investment of time to figure out what works for you, but then you can save your own styles and favored combinations of tracks. There’s no end to what can be learned and done, but now I spend very little time fiddling with it and usually just use a few tracks. BIAB also shows a lead sheet, and you can have it show the melody or not and show whichever instrument you want, and all that is printable on separate sheets. I started with the basic version for about $100, but ended up getting a $500 package to get the full range of Real Tracks. When I’m playing along with my melodica, I usually play with and then without the melody and with one or a few tracks — mostly bass, acoustic guitar(s), and sometimes drums. They also have a special Real Drums set. There are free downloadable BIAB files for almost every Jazz standard and most other tunes. I never set up my own tune from scratch; I just use what other people have done and modify it in terms of instruments, style, tempo, key, etc., and all that can be done on the fly.

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