new project: adapting the C. Wheatstone "Symphonium"

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    I’m new here, and new to the melodica universe.
    I have been playing melodica since 2012, level: beginner.
    Being a CBA button accordionist for 20 years, I found an André Borel accordina from the 1960s.
    I also have the Hohner Student 32 piano melodica.
    Both the melodica and accordina are fine instruments, but I’m not satisfied with the response and the sound.
    The sound of the Hohner is too plastic, but a very good response of the melodica reeds.
    The sound of the accordina is top in the high notes, but not good with low notes.

    I want to ask advice from the melodica forum members in my “symphonium” project.
    What I would like to “create” is a 4 row Wheatstone symphonium, with all the buttons on the right hand side. I’m looking for a 2,5 octaves instrument (30 buttons in total: (4×7)+2 buttons.

    You can see the 4 row keyboard here, and a video and info of the Wheatstone symphonium here:

    Here are some fine photos of the inside of a symphonium:

    Here is a video demonstrating the Wheatstone “symphonium”:

    This video shows the instrument is to be adapted, the sound is not very good. Chords need a lot of air.
    Maybe the Original comb inside is not present anymore.
    Charles Wheatstone talks of a “comb” (like a harmonica comb) that can be put inside the symphonium.
    The Original patent is here, with a detailed drawing at the end of the types of symphoniums:

    I am looking for an instrument with maximum lenght or height of 15cm to 20 cm (so half of a 40 cm melodica).
    The symphonium could be as small as 6cm to 7 cm … , that’s too small for me.
    Wheatstone used alternate fingering on the left and right hand sides, but I would choose a 4 column/row right hand side only. The left hand only using for holding and stabilising the instruments, or wah-wah harmonica effects (if possible…)

    Anyone ever seen or held a symphonium and try to play it?
    I think the Hohner Student 32 reed plates (16 x 2 plates) could be used to make some sort of symhonium, but the comb would have to be very small.



    Sounds like a really interesting project Stephen.

    I don’t think there’s many Symphoniums about these days. Didn’t the originals have silver or gold reeds?

    I’ve never held or played one, just heard a couple on videos, and as you say, the sound isn’t too good. And I believe it went out of fashion because it too so much effort to play.

    I’d love to see how your project progresses.


    The most interesting Wheatstone symphoniums are the 24 keys, 32 keys, and even 44 keys versions, because they have all the chromatics (The photos and description are online, on the concertina museum website )

    The only video I found was the one of the Boston Museum of fine arts
    ( )

    Did you say you saw other symphonium videos? Are these videos online on the net? And where could I watch these?


    I think the reason why the symphonium in the video doesn’t sound good, is that the mouthpiece is oval or round, and the diameter is too big.
    If I were to make one, I would use the Hohner Student 32 melodica plastic black mouthpiece: this has a round opening at the end, but it begins with a very thin flat opening.

    When you want to exhale really hard and you want to produce a loud note, people tend to close their lips together. So the O-form of the lips changes to a more closed form. That way you can exhale with force.

    Try to exhale really hard and at the same time keeping your lips in an O-form (oval or round shape), it’s impossible.
    I think the Wheatstone Symphonium could work better with a “melodica mouthpiece”.
    But because I don’t have a symphonium at home, I can’t test it…

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