Reply To: The Amazing Melodica! – Tutorial (fragments )
Exercise on breathing on a single note:
Playing Melodica with a mouthpiece
The mouthpiece is taken into mouth, or, if it is shaped like the one for trumpet – it is held sidewise close to lips. Apart for using breathing to create sound (here Melodica replaces vocal chords as an external sound source), all the breathing organs used for singing or talking, can and should be used while playing Melodica – diaphragm, throat, front and back parts of the tongue, mouth cavity and lips.
Instrument with a mouthpiece reacts very well to pronouncing consonants ‘g’, k’, ch, throaty ‘r’, ‘t’, ‘d’, ‘p’, ‘b’. Other consonants – ‘l’, ‘s’, sh’, ‘shch’ – do not come through so well. Of course, articulation of any sound, whether long or short, does not start with a single consonant but with syllables: ‘Ta’, ‘Da’, Tee’, ‘Dee’, ‘Bee’, ‘Boo’ etc. , per your imagination.
Consonants “P”, “B’, “T’, “D” a best suited for accents/
Prolonged, not accentuated sounds are being played simply like ‘Aaaa’ or ‘Haaa’.
Playing Melodica without the mouthpiece
Playing without the mouthpiece allows to literally pronounce parts of the words through the instrument. Pronouncing or even the attempts to pronounce songs’ texts via Melodica fills each sound played with concrete meaning, enriching the musical performance.
Apart from that, tongue can be placed in the inlet slit, creating the sordino effect, or the effect of ‘ua-ua’.
Right hand positioning on the keyboard
Movements of the right hand
First of all, the right hand should feel most comfortable and free on the keyboard, so that its movements would be prompt and effortless.
Unlike on accordion and other keyboard instruments, comfort of performing is created by both hands. Imagine pianist playing with his right hand, while his left hand is moving piano left-right, for the playing hand comfort. Wild fantasy, isn’t it?
But on Melodica it can really happen, and is even desirable: hand moving to upper registers, ‘pulls’ the keyboard (and so the whole instrument) to the right, while moving to the lower registers, it pushes the instrument to the left. ‘Pulling and pushing’ are, of course, relative terms – in fact, the left hand follows right leading the keyboard so that it will be convenient for the right hand.
Pianists are jealous…
And what about the right hand movements? This is simple: watch the right elbow and you will see that its movement starts in the lowest position at the right side – for the lowest registers. To play the high registers, the right elbow moves back and up, but not too high –keep the arm attached!
Right palm position – not too curved-in and not too arched, its role is to be a flexible resilient shock absorber, not unlike in the vehicle.
Fingers positioning on the keyboard
For Melodica, fingers’ form and the angle of placing them on the keyboard vary from absolutely straight to bended (but not too much).
Fingers’ movement also changes from using the whole finger to the minutest movements of the last phalange.
Depth of completely pressed key on Hohner student 32 Melodica is approximately 7 mm, but steady sound can be achieved alredy from the depth of 3 mm. So there is no need to press the keys completely – middle way is quite enough. Deep touché like with piano won’t add anything to the sound texture, apart from the knock sound, at the same time fingers will ‘stick’ to the keyboard interfering with playing technique.
Out of the wealth of musical articulation only two functions are attributed to fingers: bringing sounds together and their separating; all the rest is done by breathing.
Keyboard mechanics allow the key spring to ‘throw’ the sound up when pressing finger is released. This should be one of the first exercises to practice: press the keys one after another by a single finger, and then release by turn.
And so the right hand fingers are in a constant contact with the keyboard (but not necessarily simultaneously), almost never above it. Not to press completely – movements should be sparing.
In other words, the right hand is ‘crawling along the keyboard and not flying over it as on piano.
Specifics of Melodica’s fingering
Keyboard on Melodica is simple, the instrument is held close to the body – meaning that the fingering is different from the classic one developed by Czerny whose etudes are well know to all piano students.
Main features of Czerny fingering are: positioned playing by fingers 1, 2, 3 around two black keys (C sharp – D sharp) while the other group of 4 fingers 1, 2, 3, 4 surrounds 3 other black keys (F sharp-G sharp – A sharp).
Black keys are not played usually by the thumb, which is used for white keys.
Change of position by fingers 2-1, 3-1, 4-1 in ascending movement and 1-2, 1-3, 1-4 in a descending one is achieved by bending the thumb under palm and moving the palm over it.
For Melodica similar technique is used for the lower half of the keyboard; in the high register this is not comfortable, although it depends on the thumb length.
As, unlike on the piano, the right hand fingers are in a constant contact with the keys, pressing not too deep, it is natural to use gliding movement by a single finger from the black keys to the white – up and own (including the thumb); gliding from the white key to the white key in a descending melodic movement – by each of the 5 fingers; and also moving the 3rd finger above the 4th and 5th in a chromatic ascending movement – this is typical for cembalo.
Those who like chromatic scales may practice the following fingering: in an ascending movement (from the lowest F): 2-3-4-3-4-3-4-5 // 3-4-3-4-5-3-4-3-4-3-4-5// 3-4-3-4-5-3-4-3-4-3-4-5// (double lines indicate registers)
In a descending movement the fingering is, of course, the same but in a reverse order.