Suzuki A-27 (1963-75)


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    Alan Brinton

    I have had my eye out for one of these in playing condition for several years. This one arrived this afternoon. Price at Buyee 300 Yen (about $2.89). Japanese sellers do not seem to have a profit motive in selling their old melodicas, which encourages my faith in humanity (or parts of it at least). Delivery $52. A common problem with this model and its soprano stablemate, the S-27, is breaking or cracking of the hard plastic end pieces. I already had both an A-27 and an S-27, both with cracked or broken end pieces that seriously compromise the airtightness of the instrument, which I have not been able to successfully address.

    This baby is, except for a bit of superficial marring, in near mint condition. It has a deep and rich sound that makes it stand out among vintage Suzukis. The original tube is shown. It came without a mouthpiece, but any current Suzuki mouthpiece, such as the one show, works fine.

    Here’s what my earlier one looks like, photos taken from the original auction listing:


    Wow, what a design!

    Alan Brinton

    It looks better to me now that I’m able to play it. I’m reluctant to take this one apart, but Here are a few inside shots of my earlier one.

    I may dig that one out to examine more closely. Suzuki did some interesting experimentation on some of these early models, as did Yamaha.

    This design is far more sophisticated than is the case with its later 27 key models.

    André Sant’Anna

    What a wonderful instrument, Alan!

    Alan Brinton

    AND NOW…. Here are some more inside photos, just taken, during which process I made an interesting discovery.

    This is the original, the first Suzuki A-27. It’s a little tricky to remove the inner works from its metal tray. It does not slide out unless you bend the tray. Remove it by springing the front lip out just a bit and gently prying the inner melodica up and working it out. Then the reed cover can be unscrewed and removed. These reeds do not show signs of having been played much or of post-factory tuning. At the high end, there’s a bit of corrosion from exposure to moisture.

    The discovery is this: The pads that cover the rectangular shaped key holes when the keys are not depressed are uniform. However, the holes at the low end are larger than those in the middle, and those in the middle are larger than those at the high end. This is of interest because this is one of the featured “innovations” of the recently introduced Yamaha P-37E (“Adult” Pianica). I don’t know whether this feature is to be found on any other models. Possibly it is and I have simply not noticed it. From my comparisons between the Yamaha P-37D and P-37E, I’m skeptical as to whether this feature actually makes any difference.

    Michael O’Keefe

    I recently acquired one of these beautiful melodicas, and will post a photo of it and its original mouthpieces as soon as I have an image hosting account setup somewhere. In terms of its visual aesthetic it’s pretty much the coolest looking melodica I’ve ever seen (looks right at home alongside a Wurlitzer 200), and it sounds incredible (very delicate sounding, for lack of a better term; its tone is antithetical to the dark and solid sound of the Hohner hm-926/927, and more diffuse/less-focused than the sound of a modern pianica, all while being particularly breath-sensitive, allowing for very easy and dramatic control of the amplitude dynamics). The keys are maybe a bit clackier than I’d prefer, but the raw sound makes up for that minor shortcoming.

    I have a couple questions for those of you more familiar with its inner-workings:

    1. Firstly, the water-valve has me a little perplexed, even in light of Mr. Brinton’s photos of the interior. Is the condensate supposed to escape via the button’s hole, or does it just sort of release into the case itself? I’m hesitant to play it much without a better understanding because I don’t want it to deteriorate due to excess-moisture.

    2. Do the small screws holding the melodica within the outer case fit into threading in the metal of the case’s body, or is there some sort of nut or insert within it that I should be aware of when disassembling?

    3. Finally, there’s a superficial, hairline crack (which doesn’t affect airtightness) where the mouthpiece fits in; would you guys recommend stabilizing that crack (maybe with a superglue and baking soda mixture or something) or leaving it well enough alone?

    Thank you guys for your insights, and thank you for providing an excellent resource here in general.

    Alan Brinton

    Hi, Michael.

    I don’t have the instrument at hand, but:

    1. To the best of my recollection, the moisture is expelled from the melodion when you push the button and blow. I wouldn’t worry about condensation damaging the instrument. If you’re concerned about this possibility, simply store it on end with the mouthpiece hole down.

    2. Disassemble on a towel so as to catch any small nuts that slip out of their slots when you remove the bots/screws. You’ll be able to see where they were seated, where they’ll remain unless they fall out when you turn it over.

    3. If it is airtight, I would not try to do anything to the hairline crack. Better to just leave it as is. With anything that might affect airtightness, I’d just leave it alone if there’s not a problem.
    Good luck with this; it’s a nice instrument.


    Michael O’Keefe

    Alan, thank you so much for the guidance. And thank you for your vintage melodica posts in general; they are a wealth of relatively esoteric info, and are a pleasure to pore over.

    This is my first Suzuki. I’m impressed so far by their metal trays and their general design philosophy that seems to carry through to even their contemporary offerings.

    Alan Brinton

    Thanks for the kind words, Michael. I agree with you about Suzuki.

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