Reply To: Yamaha P37D, muffled sounds due to clogged spit

Alan Brinton

I guess I’ll jump in here. I definitely agree with Daren about seasoning or “breaking in” reeds. There’s nothing to that. I disagree a bit on blowing too hard on a Yamaha, as I believe it can affect the gapping of a reed so that it fails when you blow hard on it or altogether, in the sense that the offending reed has to be regapped to solve the problem. For some reason, this seems to be more of a problem with Yamahas. I have fixed Yamaha reeds that are choking up or not playing on several Yamahas.

You didn’t say how you washed your P-37, Yan, or how long you waited to play it. That was a good thing to try, since your spittle may be leaving a deposit of some kind on the reeds that makes them sticky. A solution of 1/3 pharmacy alcohol and 2/3 water is good, because the alcohol will help to dissolve any residues. The melodica can also be given a quicker rinse by running water in through the mouthpiece opening and blowing into it (alternated with running more water) while you work all the keys, blowing the water out until keys start playing (gurgling). Bolw water out through all those reed openings. When you’re finishing up with that process, blow out as much water for all the keys and the spit valve opening, working your way through everything, and finally getting as much water as you can out. I also swing the melodica vigorously with the spit valve held open to eject as much water as possible. It still takes at least a day for the instrument to be playable. If you went through this process once a week, that might help with your problem.

Some other thoughts:

1. Store your melodica on end with the mouth opening down. If possible, it you’re performing, do that on stage with a stand.
2. Some melodicas have better venting systems than others. The P-37D is not among the best. The P-32D or E is a little better, in my experience. A metal tray Suzuki’s rocker arm spit mechanism is quite a bit better. A Suzuki Pro-37v2, with the screw off cap is best of all (Hohner Piano 36 melodicas also have this). You can tell the difference by just blowing through with no keys depressed and the spit valve open: the easier air flows through the better. If it’s barely flowing through on the P-37D, there probably is some blockage.
3. Your issue could possibly be affected by the “attitude” of the melodica while you’re playing. The problem is more likely if it’s pointing up, and less likely if you hold it vertically, with the mouth hole at the top: While you’re playing, you want the moisture and liquid to go downward, toward the exit at or near the bottom.
4. I always have two or three melodicas out. If I were performing, I’d have several melodicas with me and would alternate between them (per Daren’s suggestion), for variety but also in case of moisture problems. I know some of our members have designed cases in which they carry several melodicas to their gigs.
5. It would be interesting to know if you’d have less of a problem with a 32 key melodica. A Suzuki M-32C would anyhow be a good companion to the Yamaha P-37D, and it has the better venting mechanism.
6. It seems silly to ask this, but how frequently do you blow out moisture while you’re playing? Is it part of your playing routine, or do you just do it when there’s a problem?

Let us know what you get figured out, as this is a very relevant topic. Thanks.

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