Button melodicas

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    Johan Pieterse

    I’ve heard that some of the first melodicas that were made by Hohner were button melodicas instead of the current line of piano keyboard melodicas. The layout of these button melodicas were similar to the piano melodicas with the white note keys on the right and the black keys on the left.
    Are there still some companies that produce button melodicas except for some small toy instruments with 10 or 12 buttons? I’m thinking about instruments with something like 25, 32 or 37 buttons like our piano melodicas.
    Are the button layouts more compact than piano keyboard layouts?
    If there are no more new button melodicas, wouldn”t it be viable to start producing them again? Maybe the smaller button layouts would be more beneficial to those players who are holding their instruments like a flute or trumpet in frunt of them. They can have more buttons closer to each other to play good music. Furthermore it is more comfortable to hold a compact melodica in frunt of a stage microphone instead of struggling with pickups and other gadgets for bigger melodicas. Some dubbstep musicians use smaller piano style instruments like 25 or 26 key melodicas for that very reason.
    It would be wonderful to hear your opinions about this.

    Adam Tombs

    The button melodicas from hohner have quite a following, perhaps not on this site so much but they are very popular for their sound, shape and playability. Have a search for Hohner Student, Hohner Alto and Hohner Soprano on this site. The Hohner student is a push button that is featured on Darren’s 13 melodicas comparison video on youtube.

    I love these little guys. I have a pretty decent collection of vintage melodicas that includes a couple of rare hohner models that are celebrated for their unique sound and the push button family compares well amongst the more fancied melodicas like the Piano 36 and Pro 36. I am always impressed by the sound and volume from such a little instrument. I think they are easy to play and the painted metal is a nice touch, which is superior to plastic imho.

    The pushies will never be as nimble the key style melodicas for playing more complex pieces but they make up for that by being very easy to play with both hands due to their size and shape.

    Adam Tombs

    Also I hope you were referring to reggae dub artists like Augustus Pablo etc as opposed to dubstep ‘artists’ like skrillex (shudders).

    I have never heard a melodica played in dubstep but then my entire dubstep listening experience is limited to the interval of time between when I hear dubstep and when I lurch to my feet and turn it off or change the channel on the radio haha…

    Johan Pieterse

    O yes I was referring to reggae dub like that of Augustus Pablo and others like him. I got abit mixed up.
    It is just sad that the Hohner alto, suprano and vintage student are now discontinued. Do you know about anyone still producing pushbutton melodicas?

    Stuart Goodall

    The playing technique has little in common with piano keyboard technique – which is one reason I’ve always thought the button melodica was not ideal for children in respect of learning to finger the keyboard. But maybe the way to think of it is like the button-only accordion and “squeeze boxes”, which also demand a new fingering technique from that of the standard keyboard. The Hohner soprano, by the way, has a much more folky tone, just perfect for certain kinds of music, and unlike the more developed tone of the Piano 26 model of the same era. Just my views.


    Johan, apart from the Accordina replicists (Marcel Dreux, Laurent Jarry, Joseph Carrel, Claude Labourdette), there is someone I know who’s just started making a new high quality button melodica. His name’s Edward Jay, and here’s an early prototype:

    And this is it finished as it looks now:

    I’ve heard it in person, and it sounds great

    Johan Pieterse

    Daren, thank you very much for the information and the video links. I must agree with you that this melodica has a quality sound.
    I also agree with Stuart that the button melodicas are not the ideal instrument for children to learn on, but I was thinking more about intermediate and professional players who could use a more compact melodica for their sessions that has a good tone as well.


    Hello to you all,
    I’m new here, just registered.
    I have been playing chromatic button accordion for 20 years, and also classical guitar. I recently (since 2012) picked up the melodica, because I like small and tiny music instruments.

    There is an interesting patent online (see “Google books”):
    Keyboard for musical instruments
    US 2701498 A

    This is a very interesting document to read. You can view 2 technical drawings of these “melodica” types, one is unisonoric (blowing only), the other is a bisonoric (blowing + sucking air) prototype from the 1950s.
    The Original inventors had a 4 row chromatic layout in thoughts (Janko style).

    I suppose the Original patent text is in German, this is some robotic English translation, very difficult to read.
    If anyone has got the Original German patent text online, I would like to see it.


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