Does anyone play without their shell?
Tagged: playing technique, vibrato, wha wha
- This topic has 18 replies, 5 voices, and was last updated 9 years, 2 months ago by Kevin.
November 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm #942
Does anyone play their melodica without it’s plastic shell? I know this isn’t possible with Hohner. I’m going to share my video to get your opinions:
I’ve been playing the Yamaha more and more with the plastic body off and I think it sounds better?
I’m pretty sure I had seen at least one other person do this.November 20, 2013 at 11:59 pm #944
Very interesting question.
I have tried playing my Yamaha 32D Without the shell. Whether it sounds better I haven’t considered, as it seemed to me to sound about the same. I have thought about the possibility of creating some other kind of enclosure. Playing it without an enclosure would seem to put the works at risk.November 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm #949DarenKeymaster
I play without the shell sometimes. There’s a slight difference in sound, but nothing significant to my ears. In your video, it sounds lighter and brighter without the shell. I think I prefer it without…
Alan – what sort of enclosure have you thought about? This is what the Mylodica is – the plastic shell has been replaced with a wooden structure.November 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm #951
The Mylodica was in my mind, and I actually own a soprano Mylodica. But I was actually thinkingt of some more compact enclosure. One thing I like about the 32D Pianica is that it is compact enough to be held in the hand rather than using the miserable hand strap typical of melodicas. I wondered if an even more compact and lighter enclosure might be possible. Not being one to fabricate things, I didn’t give it much further consideration. Something very minimalist, I’m thinking though, after coming to the realization that the enclosure doesn’t make a big difference to the sound.
The enclosure of the Mylodica is just the opposite: bulky, heavy, uncomfortable to hold. I have to say that my soprano is a big disappointment, for that reason and because it’s not so easy to play. Maybe this is because it’s a soprano. I don’t know if the alto Mylodica is all it’s cracked up to be and wish I had bought that instead so I’d know. But I suspect that the sound benefits of the wooden enclosure may be illusory. The Mylodica also has no spit hole. It’s real pretty, but the finish could have used some finer sanding.November 21, 2013 at 8:25 pm #956
Hi Alan, Troy,
Yes the sound difference is subtle maybe a little more pronounced in person (I didn’t record my video with optimal equipment). I was thinking of the harmonica sound which has reeds plates that are only partially covered. I’m thinking of adding a thin wooden strip along the end to serve as a grip and perhaps covering the springs with something as simple as duct tape.
I too have wondered about different materials for a body? I think reverberating plastic is one of the things people are hearing that critique our instrument?
I know the Clavietta, Hohner 36, Suzuki soprano and I think the Hammond have metal covers and are usually described as having superior tone. Most harmonicas are partially covered by metal plates. I’m wondering if that may be the way to go?
Speaking of the Mylodica, I’m curious about their construction? Is the shell removed and the wooden body built around the core or do they simply build a wooden casing around a complete melodica? From photos it looks like I can see the blue plastic body of an L-37 through the soundholes. That lack of a spit-valve was a deciding factor for me not buying one too, Alan. Sorry to hear your frustration with it.November 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm #963DarenKeymaster
In my experience, the shell only makes a very small difference in the sound, with the exception of the Vibrandoneon, where removing the front panel results in a louder and much brighter tone. I bought a Mylodica alto. It looked great, but the wooden shell made no discernible difference to my ears.
Kevin – the plastic shell is removed and replaced with a basic wooden structure. I wasn’t able to remove mine from the case for tuning, as it was jammed in. And the lack of spit valve meant a build up of condensation, which eventually caused the wood to warp. The melodica inside the wooden case was identical to the Angel Melodyhorn 37, and according to this thread, the L-37 is also actually an Angel Melodyhorn.November 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm #970
Maybe you’ve seen this:
I’m wondering if I could transplant a 32 key alto melodica into the body of my soprano Mylodica. I need to get the right kind of bit or screwdriver (Robertson, I think it is) so I can try taking it apart.November 23, 2013 at 10:07 pm #980
I had wondered about the chance of warping when they told me it didn’t have a valve Troy, sorry to hear that it happened to you. That’s an interesting and informative thread you posted.
I hadn’t seen that photo Alan. Very impressive work, I;m struck by how much it looks like the Mylodica, wish they had posted a soundfile.
I can’t wait to see if you can fit your Yamaha into the Mylodica body and hear what it sounds like.February 25, 2014 at 10:11 pm #1896barbParticipant
I liked your sound best without the shell, a subtle difference that is to my taste. I play without the shell so i can take it apart to tune more quickly. I know I run the risk of damaging the innards, but so far i take it to gigs in its case and everything’s been fine…February 28, 2014 at 8:23 pm #1916
After a lot of experimenting I’m still liking the open sound too. I’ve yet to damage mine playing that way.
The only thing I’m missing sometimes is that very dark clouded sound that the vintage Hohners seem to have.
I’ve tried putting tape over the vents in the shell and stuffing Styrofoam and even cotton into all the spaces in the end caps.
It doesn’t achieve that effect.
The part I can’t get is what I discovered by accident is if I lay the melodica down on a soft blanket and play it has a lovely warm character that I haven’t been able to reproduce.March 3, 2014 at 3:37 am #1925
I learned a technique by accident two weeks ago that is really influencing my sound, playing, and the expressiveness of some of my melodica.
I have some melodicas with sound holes on the bottom side of the instrument. When I want a muted sound, I hold the body of the melodica against my chest and stomach, covering the holes. When I want a brighter sound, I lift the instrument away from my chest.
Taking this one step further, by quickly rotating the melodica against and away from my body, I get a wha wha effect much like cupping and uncapping a harmonica.
Furthermore, lifting the instrument straight away and back to my chest quick provides another kind of wha wha or tremolo effect.
These techniques bring the instrument alive.
You must use a short rigid mouthpiece and hold the melodica at the bottom opposite the mouthpiece, which is the way I usually play.
I have not figured out the best type of material to wear yet that will provide the most modulation.
LowboyMarch 3, 2014 at 3:53 am #1926
Also, to get a nice natural vibrato, I can rapidly hit myself in the chest with the melodica as I move it away and towards my body. The fast movement seems to produce an acoustic vibrato (from the moving instrument) but as the instrument contacts my chest, it pushes air out of my diaphragm and produces a nice series of air pressure pulses, that, when repeated in fast succession, also produces a smooth vibrato.
LowboyMarch 3, 2014 at 4:02 am #1927
Please excuse all the typos in my last few posts but I am lying down and writing these posts on a tablet and trying to hurry to get all the information out before I retire for the evening.
LowboyMarch 3, 2014 at 12:02 pm #1930
So another thought.
Am not sure yet, as the melodica is new to me and the techniques described above are new to me, but I think I am favoring smaller melodicas (26-key and 27-key) over the larger ones, at least for executing the above techniques. These smaller melodicas are simply easier and lighter to move around. And if I select the right melodica for the song (soprano or alto), the range is normally sufficient. This early opinion could change, but right now that is what I am thinking. I have a couple of light Piano 32s that are also relatively easy to manipulate.
If the above wha wha and vibrator techniques are not important in the song, and I am looking for a slightly brighter sound, there is nothing like pulling out the relatively larger and heavier Hohner 36-key Piano.
The above playing techniques take some getting use to and require some practice before you can really maximize the modulation. I am still finding them tricky to execute while I am playing, but they add such expressiveness (at least to the bluesy kind of music I play), that I plan on working at them to perfect the techniques. I only discovered these techniques 2 or 3 weeks ago, so I have a way to go to fully integrate them into my playing.
I will try to post a short recording within a week of what these playing techniques sound like.
LowboyMarch 6, 2014 at 9:31 pm #1935
Those are interesting techniques Lowboy.
I usually play with the hose, so reaching the chest isn’t too difficult for me.
On my old vintage Hohner 32 I can get something of a wah sound by wavering my hand(similar to harmonica technique) over the holes on the back.
However it doesn’t seem to produce the same effect from other melodicas and the Hohner 36 as you know has no holes at all so not much happens with it.
Oh, and don’t sweat the typing 🙂 I never even noticed.
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