- January 20, 2022 at 9:24 pm #13859
About two years ago I bought a wonderful P-32D and then followed up later with a P-37D.
Regarding tuning, it seems many people consider being within 5 cents as being “in tune”. Some more expensive tuners will show a green light for exactly in tune, a yellow light for a few cents off, and a red light for noticeably out of tune. I think many would consider 10 cents off as a bit out of tune and 20 cents is easily noticeable.
Whereas my P-32D seems to be in tune for every key, within 5 cents when A=442 Hz, my P-37D is at least +20 cents (sharp) for all keys from lowest F3 to about C5 (that’s one octave above middle C). From there on up, it’s surprisingly in tune.
My thoughts are to open it up and scrape the out of tune reeds. I’m wondering whether I should do them all so that they are all in tune at 440Hz rather than 442. That way, there would be an even greater distinction between the P-32 and P-37. What say you?
Also, my D4 key (D just above middle C) is slow to respond sometimes – it will respond, but sometimes the delay is noticeable enough and distracting enough to affect playing. What causes this and can it be fixed?
Thank you in advance.January 23, 2022 at 8:08 am #13869Daren BanarsëKeymaster
I’d probably tune them nearer to 442, because once you start playing, the moisture from the breath will collect on the reeds and they’ll sound a few cents lower.
Take a look at the D4 reed – you’ll probably find that the tongue has lifted slightly. If so you need to gently massage it back into place. Its called ‘gapping’, you can look it upJanuary 25, 2022 at 5:31 pm #13879
I decided a few years ago to start tuning to A=440 and trying to get within plus or minus 3 cents. So I did that with quite a few melodicas. I have drifted over time toward A=442 as Daren suggests (or perhaps A=441). I think it’s best to start out by determining the standard to which the melodica is already closest, which in general in my experience is usually about A=443. In deciding the target standard for the particular melodica, I prefer not moving further than I have to from the existing standard. The risky notes to tune are the ones that are extremely sharp (extremely flat is a very bad sign, the reed may be failing).
If I have a reed that is not responding predictably to my scraping, I let it go at 5 cents off. If you tune your melodica today to your specifications and test it a week later, I can just about guarantee that at least two or three reeds will be more than 5 cents off. I think this is more a matter of the difficulty of getting consistent readings than it is of reed instability. I think it will drive you crazy if you keep checking the tuning and striving for perfection.
I agree with Daren about your D-4 reed. You can usually tell by looking whether one reed is more open or more closed than the others. I use a flexible plastic toothpick to gently depress or raise the end of the reed, pulsating, springing it up or down (probably down) a few times.January 25, 2022 at 11:12 pm #13883
Thank you Daren and Alan for your thoughts. Based on what you say, I think the safest and wisest choice for me is just to adjust the dozen or so low reeds to 442Hz. I’ve never scraped a reed before, so I certainly don’t want to make it too flat.
These melodicas are so addicting, especially the vintage ones I’ve seen on this site.
Thanks again!January 26, 2022 at 7:53 pm #13988Daren BanarsëKeymaster
Be gentle!January 26, 2022 at 8:41 pm #13989
Absolutely. The same with scraping, a little bit at a time, and less is required on higher (increasingly smaller) reeds.February 10, 2022 at 2:40 am #14023
If I can give my two cents here, always do the gapping before tuning, if you have to. I noticed that most of the times when the gap changes, the tuning changes too. Maybe you have to do the gapping again after the tuning but the difference will be minimal.
Another thing, for me it was more efficient to emulate the conditions when I play before work on tuning. As I always play for a long amount of time with the same melodica, it collects a great amount of moisture. It would be better to play it for a while and do some tuning just after, always playing again for a few minutes to check the tuning, after close the reed chamber. There are players that changes between some melodicas in one presentation, playing two or three songs with the same melodica. It is a smart strategy but much more expensive, hahaha. So they can do the tuning with the melodica dry inside.
Finally, the tuning can change when the melodica is outside the body. I really don’t know how to explain (sorry about my english), but I noticed that with some models, the tuning is different when you only close the reeds chamber (if your melodica does have one) and close the melodica entirely, with all the parts. So, it’s nice to check with the melodica all assembled to know if the tuning is as you want to.February 10, 2022 at 3:29 am #14028
Thank you, André – that is very good advice.February 15, 2022 at 3:58 pm #14033barbara weissParticipant
I use beeswax and a tool (kiska, used in Russian egg wax/dying) to add small amounts to the tip of the reed (for flattening), or base (for sharpening) of the reeds. You have to be careful you don’t get wax in the the gap, or that you accidentally wipe it off when drying the reeds.
I never have to worry about scraping too much off.
If anyone is interested, I can get a source for the tool and black wax (easier to see).February 15, 2022 at 4:22 pm #14034
I would very much like to hear further details about your method, Barbara. Sometimes I hesitate to tune reeds on a vintage melodica because I’m worried that the reed may be too fragile and irreplaceable. There are also cases in which the required amount of scraping threatens the integrity of the reed.February 15, 2022 at 4:53 pm #14036barbara weissParticipant
here’s a start about using beeswax to tune. The tool is called kistka
I think it is best to practice drawing with the kistka before going near a reed, to learn the technique. Wax comes out most easily if you hold the tool perpendicular to the surface.Before using the tool on each reed, I always draw a line on a plate first (never tried a paper plate) to make sure that a big blob doesn’t come out first! None of the videos warns you about that!February 16, 2022 at 3:48 am #14037
This is awesome, Barbara. I will certainly give it a try.
You know, I’m trying to tuning the reeds with nail polish with good results, but I can’t recommend it to other people because I don’t know if it can eventually cause any damage to health since it’s a product considered toxic (although I use an organic nail polish, which is less toxic).
Anyway, when I use it on the base of the reed, to flatten the pitch, it doesn’t work! Are there any tricks about this procedure?February 16, 2022 at 4:12 pm #14038
How close to the base of the reed are you applying nail polish, Andre? Too close maybe? Also, is there a problem removing polish if you have too much?February 16, 2022 at 9:29 pm #14039
That is an amazing video, Barbara; compared to those egg designs, tuning a melodica is easy!
I like this technique of applying wax – it seems much safer than scratching and removing metal.
There are numerous Russian and Ukrainian stores near me, so finding that tool and the wax won’t be difficult.
My great thanks to everyone who has replied in this thread.February 17, 2022 at 3:54 am #14040
Alan, I noticed I misspelled the previous message. Applying nail polish to sharpening the reed didn’t work. I applied the nail polish in various spots and amounts on the first half of the reed. All the extent where we usually scrap to turn the pitch sharper. I tested it only on one melodica (Suzuki Melodion M-36), maybe I should try on other models to see if the result is the same.
Applying to the tip of the reed to flattening the pitch worked very well in many melodicas.
Dealing with nail polish on the reed is very simple. After it dries, it is very easy to remove small parts of what was applied or even everything that was applied with just the tip of a scraper, just as we usually do when scraping.
But again, I don’t know if the nail polish can damage our healthy even though I’m still alive, haha
What I know is that it has a strong and not good smell. After a few days the smell goes away.
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