Reply To: Suzuki Soprano 25 (1970s)

Alan Brinton

Yesterday, I disassembled my Suzuki Soprano 25 (1970s S-25) for the first time. The reeds and reed plates were filthy and the keys somewhat sticky, and it was badly in need of tuning. I will describe the cleaning and tuning process here and will also link to this in the construction, repair and maintenance forum, since this is my first use of an electric engraver in tuning.

Here’s the Melodion again. It looks good, but didn’t play so good or look so good once the reed plates were exposed.

A lot of sticky gunk on the plates and reeds.

The first thing I did was to take a toothbrush and toothpaste to this mess — yes, toothpaste, and then baking soda and water. Then I submerged her in a 60/40 mix of warm water and vinegar for about three hours:

after which here she is, still dripping wet but looking much better:

After soaking the melodica, I submerge it in plain water, swish it around, work all the keys repeatedly, shake out as much water as I can, then try to play all the keys, starting at the bottom (mouthpiece end). I repeat this process several times, the idea being to loosen up the keys and mechanisms and flush out debris and any other foreign substances. As Lowboy has pointed out, the playability of a vintage melodica is almost always greatly improved by this whole process.

Now here’s the Wen 21C Variable Speed Electric Engraver, which amazingly is only $10 U.S. on Amazon:

Variable speed is a key feature for melodica tuning. I found that a 1.5 setting worked well for me. Here’s the engraver with my tuning sheet. I have been finding that vintage soprano melodicas are typically much further out of tune than altos. The tuning on this one was incredibly sharp, so sharp that I decided not to go lower than A-442. You’ll notice that I have a reminder at the top of my tuning sheet to flatten at the base of the reed. This shouldn’t be necessary, but I’ve gotten confused a time or two, so….

I decided this time to use an injector razor for reed support. It worked fine except for some scratching of the reed plate in using it to lift the reed.

Those who have tuned will notice that the markings made by the engraver are similar to the kinds of markings made during factory tuning. This is what I expected, since factory tuners of high end melodicas must be using some such instrument.

I can report now my opinion that a variable speed engraver is the way to tune. I found that it gave me much more control than a scraper or other ways of scraping or scratching reeds, and that was my experience right away. I did experiment first on an old reed plate and felt comfortable right away. Here, finally, in my completed tuning sheet:

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