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    Tatu Salmela

    I have read a few posts here concerning the structural differences between these instruments. There seems to be an agreement that the melodica is more like a harmonica because of it’s brass reeds. There is more to that. I have built instruments with both steel and brass reeds, and in these the differences between structure are more important than the reed material.

    Melodicas and accordions are similar mechanically, as the reed is inside the air chamber and the key valve is between the reed and outside air. The difference between the sound of the two is more about the size and shape of the air chamber: melodica has a minimal chamber (made of hard material) enclosing the reeds, and adding significant resonance to the sound. Most listeners call this resonance “nasal” or “toyish”. It also makes the melodica (pianica etc..) reasonably loud. Free reeds have a rich harmonic content and the air chamber with the channel opening acts as a filter (helmholtz resonator?) So, instruments with larger chambers draw more air (air is compressible) but let out a bassier, warmer sound as the Vibrandoneon. In an accordion, the bellows is the air chamber, which is flexible and quite large, so the sound is full and warm and you don’t have to worry about getting out of breath.

    Pump organ, Borel accordina and the Clavietta have the reeds outside the air chamber. The key valves are between the reed and the chamber. A harmonica works also like this, if you think of your mouth as the air chamber and your lips as the valve. An accordina will sound dynamic and full across the scale. It has a more mellow harmonica-like tone to it. I’d say it’s as loud as a melodica, but not as pronounced on the upper-middle frequencies. I haven’t tried the Clavietta, but I have built a similar mechanism. I have read in this forum that the Clavietta is quite low in volume, so perhaps it’s not as good as a Borel or Dreux accordina. In accordina, the reeds are on the sides of the instrument, and not restricted to a small resonant (air)chamber. Also the air chamber can be smaller without making the sound too shrill, giving you a better control of the reeds. On my button harmonica I have found that my mouth has a bigger role in the sound than the air chamber, allowing harmonica-style vibrato and some good throaty bends. The steel air chamber still adds some resonance, but it’s a nice ring to a sound (almost like some more sustain on the reeds), not any nasality.

    I have found that while playing harmonica, accordina or my button harmonica, the sound is reinforced more by my body than the instrument. You know, a Hohner Marine Band harmonica can sound really big, even though it fits the palm of your hand.


    Hello Tatu, one of the reasons the clavietta is not as loud is that the sound can only exit through a small amount of room through the top back side of the keys. If the rear body is removed the volume is much louder. In my opinion, the sound of the clavietta is more refined than most melodicas with the exception of the Vibrandoneon or Eolina, the tone of the Hohner professional or the rare Solist is much harsher even though the inner main Reed frames are made of wood. My opinion again is that the reeds used by Hohner are phosphorus bronze and the clavietta are stainless steel. All the melodicas mentioned have one common feature, they all have single reeds and not a plate with multiple reeds. Tone is subjective as some may like the sound of stainless steel reeds and some más prefer the bronze. I find that all have a place dependíng on the style of music you play.
    Monsters of Melodica

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