Number of Keys

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    Alan Brinton

    I find that I have lately gravitated toward playing my shorter melodicas, especially my Yamaha P-25E or F and some of the short vintage Suzukis (including the plastic Study II 25). I thought maybe it would be interesting to have some discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of different size melodica/keyboard harmonica keyboards. A whole lot of questions come to mind, such as the relevance of number of keys to musical genre and what’s best for a beginner — for example, if starting out with a Yamaha, is it better to begin with a P-25F or a P-32D than with a P-37D? Is having a shorter (or longer) keyboard more conducive to learning to improvise, or for getting in the habit of playing without having to look at the keyboard, or for learning to play by ear? There are also questions about key size. Hand size has obvious implications. The key sizes of a first generation Hohner Piano 26, might work well for a Donald Trump but not for an Oscar Verdugo.

    Pál Krammer

    For those very experienced with a keyboard and improvisation, the two octave range might be limiting. Perhaps it depends on one’s personal style or style of music. Genres that fit within concert F3 to F5 would interest me.

    On the other instruments I play, sometimes notes from concert G5 to C6 are needed for my favorite songs. So the P32D is perfect for me, but the P25F would be slightly limiting.

    I’m relatively new to keyboards (my home keyboard has 61 keys), but even my P32D’s short range is sometimes visually intimidating even though I know where all the notes are by patterns. Somehow I just get lost. In contrast, I think the P25’s layout would be trivial for me to comprehend. Well, these are just my beginner’s thoughts. For beginners, I do think starting with a 25 key layout is best.

    The P25 is so compact, so inviting. I think that adds to encouraging someone to just pick it up and start playing.

    The P25 really tempts me. The “classic” P-37D tempts me as well, even though I’d rarely use those five higher notes (I’d prefer more bass instead).


    I think of 37 keys as a resource that can be used.
    My car has a speedometer that reads over 100. I may never drive it that fast and I might not handle it very well going that speed. Point of fact I hover around the speed limit.
    However I would feel limited if there were a governor on my cars engine that kept me from going over 50mph if a situation arose where I needed it.
    Average vocal range is around two octaves likewise I believe the recorder. If you are playing vocal-like melodies the 25 key range is acceptable.
    There are some common melodies where at least 32 would be needed.
    Any two-handed style of playing benefits from the extended range.
    A fuller range lends itself to styles of playing where you might accompany other instruments in the lower register then take your solo in the higher notes.

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