Polyphony

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  • #2376
    AvatarAndy
    Participant

    Hi All, I recently started working at a Korean school and was issued with a melodica in case I wanted to use it in my lessons. Weird but great.

    I play stringed instruments but have always wanted to try something keyboard-based so have been trying to get into it. The first massive problem I’ve had is that, if I play a left-handed bass chord, it totally overpowers any melody I’m playing with my right hand. Some treble keys actually become inaudible.

    What I’d like to know is, is this just a feature of melodicas? Am I going about things the wrong by by treating it like a little piano? Or do I just have a cheap/defective instrument?

    Many thanks for you help!

    #2377
    AvatarSteven Morris
    Participant

    Andy,

    There is a way to do this, but it will be time consuming. You will need a set of tools to allow you to take apart your melodica, file the reeds, and change the reed clearance, and check your tuning.

    IIRC:
    Lower reed clearance = quieter
    Higher reed clearance = louder

    IOW, higher clearance gives the reed more room to vibrate up and down- raising the amplitude, literally raising the amplification of the instrument. However, if your reed clearance is too low, you may get squeaks and squawks! Conversely, if your reed clearance is too high, your instrument won’t sound until you blow hard enough to get the reed vibrating.

    By changing a reed’s clearance, it will go out of tune. If you decide to, for instance, lower the reed clearance of the lower keys of your instrument, you’ll need to take that into consideration if you try to get even dynamics over the range of the instrument.

    It’s also worth considering the fact that blowing harder typically means going flat, while blowing softer means going sharp (which is the opposite of instruments like the recorder).

    FWIW, I lowered the reed clearance of my lower notes on my instrument. I don’t use it to play chords though! There will definitely be compromises made – I’m not sure if it is possible to get ideal reed clearance and tuning (for playing more than one note at a time anyways).

    Hopefully someone with more experience can chime in!

    Anyways, good luck Andy :).

    #2378
    AvatarLowboy
    Participant

    Hi Andy,

    A veteran accordion technician once told be that melodicas were really intended to play one note at a time.

    That being said, you will see people playing polyphonic music. I like to play chords and intervals in accompaniment to music as well. Mostly I chop chords loud and quickly, or play them softly so I can sustain them for a long time.

    The bottom line is, playing the lowest bass notes while trying to play high lead notes on a melodica is not the melodica’s forte.

    Regards,

    Lowboy

    #2401
    AvatarAndy
    Participant

    Hey Guys,

    Thank you both for taking the time to give such detailed and informative answers to a complete novice.

    It sounds like music with chord bass and melodies is not the way to go. I have fallen in love with the sound, though, there’s plenty of scope for simpler harmony so I’m certainly going to stick with it.

    Yesterday, I worked out how to play Tender by Blur and it’s sounding great. Never more than four notes at once, not too widely spaced on the keyboard. More importantly, it really suits the tone of the instrument. I think I like it better than on my guitar.

    Any other beginner tune suggestions would be appreciated but thanks already for all you help Steven and Lowboy!

    #2407
    AvatarKevin
    Participant

    Hi Andy,
    Most melodicas have the air-flow from the low notes to the highest. When you are trying to play those left-hand chords they are robbing all the air. That’s why you aren’t hearing the high notes. The piano isn’t really a good model for playing the melodica. If you have any experience with an organ it would be closer.

    Polyphonic playing can be achieved, watch some videos of performances of Masa Matsuda http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=masa+mastuda

    One thing to think about is how you arrange the notes. Left hand triads can get pretty muddy. Try playing two and three note chords in the right hand with the melody note always on top. Then use the left hand to play single note bass notes.

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