Improving the perception of the melodica

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    “I’m not keen on having a superstar who is not much of a musician and just jumps around the stage waving a melodica, though that will get lots of people to go out and buy one.”

    To be sure Alan I wasn’t thinking of the likes of Mick Jagger or Bono carrying one on stage.
    I mean superstar as in Jazz (or at least instrumental) player who becomes identified with that instrument the way Charlie Parker is with the saxophone or Toots Thielman is with the harmonica.


    “interestingly, nearly always described as either a harmonica, accordion or concertina in any sleeve notes, so as not to put TV editors off using it!”

    I think this deserves some further discussion Daren. I was thinking of starting a thread along those lines but I think it fits into this exciting and interesting discussion we are having here.

    Part of the perception problem the melodica suffers with is one of identity.
    In a recording mixed with other instruments and heavily processed can even we regular players be sure we are hearing a melodica instead of a harmonica, accordion, harmonium etc.
    Much less the casual listener. They may barely be aware that they like the sound of a free reed instrument and not distinguish or care what makes the sound.

    I’ve never actually heard anyone say they loved harmonica but hated accordions or any similar statement.
    Certainly the visual appearance of a melodica rarely fails to illicit a response but if it’s just a recording I’ve seen far less, actually no-one say “Hey what is that instrument I hear?”

    Likewise I don’t know what serious accordionists, harmonicists etc. think of us trying to take our instrument seriously? I would think an accordion player would say “You are only playing half the instrument. I had to learn all these buttons over here under my left hand.”

    Gianluca Barbaro


    I would think an accordion player would say “You are only playing half the instrument. I had to learn all these buttons over here under my left hand.”

    Maybe that’s true, but people (and many melodica players I’ve seen on yT, not people on this forum) tend to forget that the melodica is a WIND instrument too. Breath control and tongue articulation really make a difference in tone quality and interpretation, but many keyboard players who undertake the melodica seem to not know that. And even the marketing strategy of Suzuki/Hammond maybe is accomplice in keeping alive this misunderstanding.
    The melodica offers TWO types of articulation technique: keys and tongue. From a technical point of view that means we have to master both, but the instrument can be uniquely expressive, in a way no harmonica or accordion could be.
    There are tons of materials on articulation on the baroque recorder (and oboe, many more than with modern flute) and tons of materials on breath control for any wind instrument: I think we should integrate those into our “regular”studies…

    Alan Brinton

    I think Charlie Parker would have been doomed if he had been a melodica player, Kevin, but I have to agree on Toots. So all we need is a Toots Thielemans whose preferred instrument is the melodica and we’ll be in business.

    Other more familiar instruments have often been regarded with condescension, the accordion for example, the harmonica, the ukulele, the pan flute. And how about the bagpipes? Are they a real musical instrument. I wonder if percussionists ever worry about this. If Tom Teasley bangs two sticks together in the forest, are they a musical instrument?

    Daren Banarsë

    I think Toots sounds like he’s playing a Clavietta!

    There’s a sexy symmetry when you see a great harmonica player. Look at Toots here:

    Toots Theileman

    It sort of gets lost when you increase the size of the instrument:

    bass harmonica

    It’s rare indeed to find good images of melodica players, though there’s one or two out there, like this one of Francis, also several by Melodica Me, with his own Diamante or Vibrandoneon

    Francis photo

    One has to consider that even instruments like Oboe, Bassoon or the Barritone which are professional instrument and used in many types of music, are not a popular instrument to the non musician and even some professional musicians that never played in an orchestra.

    I’d forgotten about that – there’s many instruments most people aren’t particularly interested in hearing, and often don’t even know about. I’d say the melodica already has more appeal than many established, serious instruments, for instance a trombone or a contrabassoon. But I’m talking about mass appeal, say to a Youtube audience, where people are making spontaneous choices about what they like or dislike, compared to a conservative classical audience, who might be more influenced by what they’ve learnt. This is one of the appeals of the melodica to me – it’s new, and free from any history. It’s ready to make history!


    Hi Daren.

    Good point on the rarity of professional photos of melodica players. Professional-quality photos of players with their melodicas would go a long way in setting or changing the perception of the instrument.

    All one needs to do is Google “star” or “famous” or “professional” accordion players and select “images” in the Google toolbar, and you will be treated to thousands of interesting photos, many of which are professional PR shots that project the instrument and the players as vibrant, sexy, and professional.



    Daren, I have to agree with you about loosing it’s sexiness with that huge harmonica lol. I love the size of the Clavietta and how it feels in my hand, but I do like the range of the Hammond Melodeons. I am working on a new Melodica project that I had originally figured on using accordion straps to hold as I play it (yes it is a “Monster Size Melodica”) I just had to say that lol, but I actually built a walk up stand so I can either play it in a standing or sitting position.

    Alan Brinton

    The development of new models, even if they are one-of-a-kind, is an important influence in establishing the credibility of the instrument. I think attention to the history of the instrument also matters.

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