Suzuki Soprano 25 (1970s)

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    Alan Brinton

    I received two 1970s Suzuki 25s this week, one of which is my third 1970s Study 25 (an A-25), the other a Soprano 25 (S-25). The Study 25 I couldn’t resist because it was listed on eBay as “New–Other,” and it is in fact in absolutely mint condition, like a new Suzuki M-32C direct from the factory and very much in tune. The Soprano 25 is in good condition. The key configurations are the same, except that the Soprano 25 is exactly one octave higher. Middle C is the low C on the alto. Otherwise, aside from color and markings, these two are mirror images, EXCEPT for a more primitive venting mechanism on the Soprano — a button on the end that pushes in and thereby releases air/moisture from the same hole. This is not a good mechanism; it vents poorly, and I will try to modify it. This Study 25 (S-25) alto model was in production from 1972 to 1985. There are plenty of these around, while this soprano seems to be quite rare. The two models appear together in a late 1970s brochure that came with the Study 25; so it’s probably safe to assign roughly the same dates to both, though a lot fewer sopranos must have been produced and maybe not for quite as long.

    Alan Brinton

    Having now had a total of five A-25 (Study 25) Suzuki Melodions, including three of the 1970s model and two of the 1960s model, I feel like I’m in a position to recommend these altos with enthusiasm. Especially the 1970s model, which is not hard to find at a reasonable price. This one cost me $13 plus shipping, though I’d be happy to have paid $60 or more, as it plays and sounds like a new M-32C and is the equal of a Yamaha P-25F. Now I would know to be patient and watch for one that is listed as in excellent condition and looks new in the photos. The Soprano is quite like the current Suzuki S-32C, of which I’m not a big fan. But the 25 is easier to play and seems a bit more mellow to me.

    Alan Brinton

    Yesterday, I disassembled my Suzuki Soprano 25 (1970s S-25) for the first time. The reeds and reed plates were filthy and the keys somewhat sticky, and it was badly in need of tuning. I will describe the cleaning and tuning process here and will also link to this in the construction, repair and maintenance forum, since this is my first use of an electric engraver in tuning.

    Here’s the Melodion again. It looks good, but didn’t play so good or look so good once the reed plates were exposed.

    A lot of sticky gunk on the plates and reeds.

    The first thing I did was to take a toothbrush and toothpaste to this mess — yes, toothpaste, and then baking soda and water. Then I submerged her in a 60/40 mix of warm water and vinegar for about three hours:

    after which here she is, still dripping wet but looking much better:

    After soaking the melodica, I submerge it in plain water, swish it around, work all the keys repeatedly, shake out as much water as I can, then try to play all the keys, starting at the bottom (mouthpiece end). I repeat this process several times, the idea being to loosen up the keys and mechanisms and flush out debris and any other foreign substances. As Lowboy has pointed out, the playability of a vintage melodica is almost always greatly improved by this whole process.

    Now here’s the Wen 21C Variable Speed Electric Engraver, which amazingly is only $10 U.S. on Amazon:

    Variable speed is a key feature for melodica tuning. I found that a 1.5 setting worked well for me. Here’s the engraver with my tuning sheet. I have been finding that vintage soprano melodicas are typically much further out of tune than altos. The tuning on this one was incredibly sharp, so sharp that I decided not to go lower than A-442. You’ll notice that I have a reminder at the top of my tuning sheet to flatten at the base of the reed. This shouldn’t be necessary, but I’ve gotten confused a time or two, so….

    I decided this time to use an injector razor for reed support. It worked fine except for some scratching of the reed plate in using it to lift the reed.

    Those who have tuned will notice that the markings made by the engraver are similar to the kinds of markings made during factory tuning. This is what I expected, since factory tuners of high end melodicas must be using some such instrument.

    I can report now my opinion that a variable speed engraver is the way to tune. I found that it gave me much more control than a scraper or other ways of scraping or scratching reeds, and that was my experience right away. I did experiment first on an old reed plate and felt comfortable right away. Here, finally, in my completed tuning sheet:

    Alan Brinton

    Further Note on Using a Toothbrush

    The reeds and reed plates of this Melodion needed serious cleaning. As indicated above, I used a toothbrush with toothpaste and then baking soda. This cleaned very well. HOWEVER: It pushed the reeds down, closing the gaps on the bottom 6 reeds so that I am now having to open those gaps to get the notes to play. Consequently, I advise against using a toothbrush or other stiff brush on the reeds. The best alternative may be to remove the reed plates and soak them in Polident or a comparable product for cleaning dentures. Or in a 1-5 (or so) mixture of bleach and water for an hour or two.

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