Reply To: The First Hohner Melodica and Clones

Daren Banarsë

Alan, this is potentially groundbreaking! Is there any chance of a photo from Bruno for verification?

Jazzman, thanks for this info, I’ve made a google-based translation below. Where is this from? Is it from Hohner? Interestingly, it says that the first Hohner melodica was the button Soprano in 1958, followed by the piano melodicas in 1961. This would go against the idea of a Pro 36 being made in 1958…


The History of Melodica
In the 1950s, the development of a new musical instrument was advanced at Hohner, which would ideally meet the requirements of musical early childhood and overcome the disadvantages of the then-common instruments (e.g. recorder).
A visually attractive instrument with great musical expressiveness was desired. The authors of the ideas and the “fathers” of Melodica cannot be clearly identified. According to Zeitzeuge, the first form of Melodica resulted from a collaboration of the Hohner-Musterwerkstatt with the department of metal construction accordion under Dr. Dorner.
In November 1958 the new creation was presented for the first time in the Hohner sales information – The SOPRANO MELODICA.
The instrument with the “stump keys” from the family of the Blasharmonikas lets the blown air flow into a channel by pressing a button, whereby a reed is vibrated. Since the airflow flows one-way, the sound can only be produced by blowing in and not by suction, as in the case of the diatonic harmonica. By pressing several keys, the Melodica is polyphonic.
In the first half of the production, the soundboard was made of pearwood, but they then switched to injection molded parts because of the persistent problems with swelling of the wood. The injection mold was developed within the company under engineer Kurt Mast.
Since one wanted to lean on a full-fledged piano keyboard, which should allow the acceptance of melodica as a pre-instrument for accordion and other keyboard instruments, feverish progress was developed. In fact, in 1961 extended models followed in this way, the PIANO MELODICAS. The instrument builder and Hohner employee Franz Lindermaier played a decisive role in the development of this “adult” melodica. In the United States patent of 1962, he is mentioned as an inventor.
There followed numerous other innovations such as the bass melodica, the Melodica Cassotto, today’s popular Clarina (with only 8 keys) or the whimsical Hohner ELECTRA MELODICA (first presentation 1967) with 6 different registers, with which various instruments such as clarinet, brass , Strings or flute, as well as the use of vibrato and wah-wah effects.
In 1975 the number of Melodica players in the Federal Republic was reported as one million (in comparison, at that time about 4.3 million people played recorder in Germany).
In the 1980s demand for this instrument ebbed. Electronic components were becoming smaller and cheaper, so that synths and home-keyboards soon dominated the mass market and pushed the melodica out of the children’s rooms. Until the end of the 1990s, Melodica was a “shady woman” and was mainly considered an old-fashioned toy for children.

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