New Melodica – How to handle it?

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    jesse jonker

    Just received my Yamaha P37D.

    I had to tune it. I think that it worked fine. I hate when notes are out of tune.
    Anyway, a few notes needs more air pressure before it gives a sound.
    I tried “gapping” but still it gives me not satisfactory.

    How is it with a brand New Melodica? Does it need to sattle for a few hours, days or weeks?

    Hopefully someone understand what i mean.

    Alan Brinton

    Hi Jesse,

    I think from my own experience and what I’ve heard that it’s not uncommon — with Yamaha pianicas –to have trouble with a note or a few notes not playing or requiring special attention. I have found that working on the problem key or keys seems to “loosen the up” though I’m not sure that’s the right description. I’m talking about blowing and sucking on those notes. Over time the situation seems to resolve itself. Yamahas are among the best melodicas, in my opinion. Sometimes they’re sticky after not being played for a while (a week or two) and need a little warming up with scales or arpeggios before being played. Sometimes I blow moderately hard and just run my finger down the white keys and down the black keys a few times. I think as you play the P-37D over time there will be less of a problem and it will be more satisfying than most other melodicas. This is a very good instrument.

    jesse jonker

    Thanks Allan!

    I feel more confident with it now. I Am a piano and Hammond player and it is great to add the Melodica to it. In the passed I try to used an old Honher 26 (40 yrs) but hated the quality and didn’t used it. Now, in the last weeks i learned a lot and know how to tune and gapping adjustments.

    Thank you very much!!


    Alan Brinton

    We have gotten pretty specific on tuning here, Jesse, and I’m pretty comfortable with that (though still experimenting). There’s been some discussion of gapping, but there’s need for more clarity about that. Anything you have to offer about either will be appreciated.

    Steven Morris


    When I tuned my Melodion, I learned that setting the correct reed clearance is a big part of the process. If your reed clearance is high, that particular reed will sound louder- but it may require significantly more air pressure.

    Ideally every note would have the same reed clearance. This would allow for equal air pressure across the keyboard. However, human hearing makes higher pitched notes sound louder, so higher reed clearance on the lower notes and lower reed clearance on the higher notes might help create a more balanced sound. Keep in mind that if you change the reed clearance, you’ll have to change the tuning a bit to compensate.

    Also, your reed clearance should follow some kind of logical change across the reed plate. If for instance, you have a significant reed clearance difference in notes next to each other it is possible to make the notes sharp or flat due to excessive or inefficient air pressure. Too much air pressure causes notes to go flat and too little air pressure causes notes to go sharp.

    Good luck with your tuning!


    Alan Brinton

    Can you say something about how you change the reed clearance, Steven? I do it by gently springing the reed up or pushing it down a few times with a flexible plastic toothpick. On one occasion while widening the gap I snapped the reed off. The reed is inflexible and fragile at the base where it’s connected. In this case, I believe the reed had already failed, and I was getting carried away trying to get it to work.

    Don’t you think the most common way to produce a balanced sound is in terms of what one does while playing, compensating (mostly subconsciously) for how much air pressure is required for where you are on the keyboard? I’m wondering about the advisability (for some of us, at least) of trying to address this issue by reed gapping. I’ve done a lot of tuning but have done reed gapping only to address a problem or when a particular reed’s gapping is noticeably out of line with the others. But I’m open to the possibility of a more aggressive approach.

    Steven Morris


    I got a Suzuki MRT-01 with my Melodion to help with tuning and maintenance. The availability of the MRT-01 and the information on Suzuki’s Melodion website is why I went with Suzuki. I followed the instructions that came with the set.

    Here’s a link to the instructions (page 1 is Japanese and page 2 is English):

    See part B for information on reed clearance. Also, notice the “⚠️ NOTE” at the bottom of part C where it says “Recheck the reed clearance after tuning as it may change”. It’s also important to note that the Japanese and English do not exactly match up. There is no mention of ‘custom reed clearance’ in the Japanese instructions.

    Incidentally, with the spatula provided, I found that I could be relatively aggressive with my reed clearance tuning. I changed the clearance on some of the same reeds over and over and they showed no signs of breaking.

    It’s also worth noting that one should use their main mouthpiece while tuning as air pressure can slightly change depending on the mouthpiece used.

    Re: What I think about how to produce a balanced sound/Doesn’t it depend mostly on playing

    IMHO, I think of a melodica as a solo instrument (as in its main use should be playing single lines). This has to do with the fact that the mouthpiece is not equidistant to every reed therefore creating an uneven distribution of air pressure causing a difference in tuning between notes while playing chords.

    Imagine, for example, a stringed instrument whose open strings are slightly out of tune- that would be similar to uneven reed clearance. IOW, the player would have to compensate either by playing a string sharp (either by bending or by position) or flat. To me it makes more logical sense to fix the open tuning (or the reed clearance in the case of the melodica) to be relatively in tune with each string.

    Unfortunately, this concept suggests some negative (and inevitable) implications about the melodica. A change in dynamics ultimately affects tuning. The recorder (which is another instrument that is extensively used in Japanese elementary school music education) also has this problem. Thankfully the melodica isn’t as sensitive as the recorder is in this regard.

    If you have the money (and more realistically, the time) then by all means get a spare melodica and some tools and test out a more aggressive reed clearance/tuning approach. Ideally one would have some kind of air pressure machine to test each reed with a consistent amount of air pressure. But those machines can be noisy and expensive.

    Another approach is to use a decibel reader. For example, you can use 80db (or quieter depending on how you like to play) as your reference to help determine if reeds are sharp or flat. Realistically this is a starting point. Once you’ve set the reed clearance so every reed is in tune at the same volume, you’ll want to fine tune the reed clearance so the lower notes are louder (according to the decibel reader) than the higher notes. This will create a consistent volume according to the human ear.

    I hope that helps!

    Alan Brinton


    Although I have in tuning been trying to maintain a consistent level of loudness that’s in the area of the level at which I play, it had not occurred to me to use a decibel meter. I will definitely follow up on that. Thanks very much for that suggestion.

    I can’t find anywhere to order the MRT-01 repair kit. I’d like to have one, but I’m afraid the cost of getting one from Japan would be excessive. Also, it looks like the tools are not much different from what I’m already using. How flexible is the spatula (or reed lifter as some would call it)? I use a 3/8″ strip from a business card or plastic credit card as a lifter. I’m a bit nervous about the kit instructions for tuning, because they have you filing cross-wise, which creates the burr problem at the edges and also would seem to me to place the reed at risk. I insert my lifter lengthwise, to within 1/4″ of the base, and then scrape or file vertically rather than horizontally with curved needle-nosed files (making finer adjustments by scraping with the corner of a razor blade). I’m curious about how flexible the spatula is, as that would make a difference in what kind of support it provides and how much flexibility in bending the reed.

    What you say about a balanced sound makes sense. I’ll have to think further about that. My professional musician friend hits chords abruptly on his melodica rather than holding them at all, and that seems to me to work well. I think someone else here also mentioned that technique recently. I’m working on it.

    This kind of discussion is very helpful to me, Steven. Thanks for your insights.


    jesse jonker

    Hi Alan and Steve,

    thank to you both for replying and all the suggestions!

    I am really getting addicted to the instrument. I have the feeling that my Yamaha P37D stabilized.
    Also i am building wooden box for the Yamaha. It is easy to take the keys with the closed chamber
    out. I made already process and I am very exited about the sound with the wooden body.
    The challenge is to keep the sharp sound alive!
    Anyway, just happy to share it here.

    When i finished I will drop a picture.



    Steven Morris


    Sorry for the late reply!

    I think it may depend on your particular business/plastic card, but as far as the business and plastic cards that I have go, they aren’t nearly as sturdy (or taut) as the reed lifter in the repair kit. I also think it probably reacts to pressure differently due to its narrow width.

    With that said, there is no reason why you couldn’t find an appropriate alternative at a hardware store for cheaper. To be honest, most of the parts should be readily available. However, there are some extra screws and springs (for the keys) included should that kind of thing interest you (probably not worth the shipping cost involved though). I really like the case– It’s a great way to keep things organized, I also keep an extra set of reed plates in mine.

    The files are also just the right size IMO… although I’m sure you could find the same sizes somewhere else.

    Nice tip regarding burrs BTW. I’ll keep that in mind next time I tune mine! Thanks 🙂


    You’re welcome! BTW please post an update regarding your case if you have the time- I’d love to see the finished product.


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