The Amazing Melodica! – Tutorial (fragments )


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    Hello, @jazzman1945
    I’m very intrested in this tutorial but I can’t download the 1st and the 5th part.. Mediafire says theese files are private. I had no problem with the other fragments so I would really appreciate if you can help me. Is there any full version of this tutorial??

    Thanks a lot for your work in this page, many of your messages and replies were very helpful for me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.




    For the first time I’ve touched Melodica in 1970 – after I happened to hear Jack de Johnette, the great jazz percussionist and pianist, playing Melodica. By then I was already a professional musician – playing viola as a “classic” musician and playing piano as a “jazz” musician. I was so impressed by the sound of this new instrument that I immediately fell in love with it. Apparently, I was the first musician in USSR who recorded solo improvisations on Melodica while playing jazz compositions with local radio and TV orchestra.
    Many years later I moved to Israel and continued my career as a jazz musician. I’ve never forgotten the Melodica and used it extensively in studio recordings, in concerts and during jam sessions.
    Most of all I enjoyed and will always love improvising on Melodica; this instrument allows the artist to express his soul most frankly, almost like on the saxophone – one sound will define you completely! And this effect is achieved much easier than on other instruments. Maybe the mouth harmonica alone can be compared to Melodica’s direct expressiveness.
    Exactly this similarity in Melodica and harmonica sound urged me to listen to and imitate the great harmonica artists such as Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder. But I did not dare try it during concerts – so as not to be accused of musical plagiarism.
    During seventies I had a chance to use Melodica while participating in concerts with one of the great blues musicians, Memphis Slim – and this is how I discovered the expressivity of blues and fell in love with it for life.
    Working on Melodica in blues style, my experience of playing jazz on piano and clarinet, and later also on the saxophone, my mastering of various jazz styles – from ragtime and blues to free jazz and fusion – all these became ingredients in the melting pot of creating my concept of playing the Melodica.
    Lack of special literature for teaching how to play Melodica (except for some isolated instructions odds and pieces that could be found on the internet) compelled me to research deeper Melodica’s potentials.
    As I worked more on Melodica, its hidden possibilities revealed themselves amazingly; finally, the most striking of all features became open– straight road to improvisation!

    Alan Brinton

    So, Jazzman, how do we get to the Promised Land?


    Holding Melodica technique

    Melodica is a simple enough instrument: it is held in the left hand and the keys are pressed by the right hand. I wonder how long after holding the instrument in that way will you feel tension in your left shoulder and then pain in your left hand?
    To avoid that you must not let the left hand and fingers be static – change the height from time to time, hold the elbow closer or further from the body, intermittently.
    If using the mouthpiece, left hand may be rested by straightening and lowering it with the instrument – unlike the violin, for example.
    The ‘classic’ left-hand position: 4 fingers holding under the belt, thumb supporting the instrument, elbow lowered freely.

    Melodica holding

    If inclination of the instrument has to be changed, it should be achieved by using the left hand phalanxes or the whole arm from the shoulder – to avoid pain in the hand do not use palm of the hand alone.


    There are also other positions: adults and young people with big hands may not use the Melodica belt, but hold the instrument from below.


    In this case it should be noted that holding the instrument t too tight will affect its sound significantly, considering its size.
    If using the attached flexible pipe (we’ll talk about the mouthpiece later), it is possible to sit down and hold the instrument on your knees or on the table, or even on the piano keyboard on the right side, enabling the musician to play the basses or other accompaniment by his left hand.
    Another option discovered by the author, also with the pipe – slip the waist belt under the instrument belt from the right side, supporting by left hand.

    Another curious technique of playing Melodica with flexible pipe – for showmen: right hand relatively static, left hand holding the instrument vertically and moving it up and down under the right hand.


    One of the advantages of Melodica compared to other keyboard instruments, is that this is the only keyboard instrument playing on which it is necessary not only to adapt the right hand to the instrument but also to adapt the instrument to the right hand – this is important for reducing weariness in the left hand and for convenience of the keyboard position relatively to the right hand.


    Blowing into the instrument

    Breathing and making sounds on Melodica Beginnings of music are in one sound – meaning that improvisation, too, starts with one sound.
    It is easy to get one sound on the piano: press any key and the hammer will strike the string. What will it say about you, about your character, feelings and aspirations? The beginner’s sound won’t say much, most often it won’t sound at all – because of the wrong key pressing.
    What about Melodica? Take the instrument, hold the mouthpiece, press any key – and breathe into the instrument. The resulting sound means you! Unbelievable?
    First of all, the sound conveys your breathing – cease breathing and the sound will stop.
    This sound conveys the minutest changes in your feelings: you’re agitated – and the sound gets stronger or barely audible, or starts trembling.
    You’re getting angry – the sound becomes coarse.
    This is not an instrument but a real lie detector…
    How long, do you think, it takes to get to this level of mastering the piano, to posses instruments’ dynamics and sound ? – years and years!
    What about the saxophone? At least 3 months of hard work are needed to learn how to create a steady sound.
    On Melodica any beginner with healthy lungs can do it offhand.
    And so it becomes clear that the soul of Melodica is in the performer’s breathing, and not in the keys or metal reeds sounding inside the instrument.
    For Melodica, breathing is the most important part of creating its sound. Melodica is not simply an accordion into which you blow; this is a wind instrument with keyboard, and the breathing technique gets the first priority, before we talk about the right hand technique.
    Not much is required to work on breathing and sound making: press the key and blow into the instrument.
    Blowing can be done in three ways:
    1. with a mouthpiece
    2. with a flexible tube
    3. without any mouthpiece

    Each of these methods has its advantages and shortcomings: it is easy to hold the mouthpiece and there is a strong contact with the instrument. But mouthpiece shapes (there are varieties with a narrow slit or a conical one, like for the trumpet) restrict somewhat the potentially great possibilities for sound ‘articulation’, and neutralize some sound effects which can be achieved only using the tongue.
    Flexible pipe allows holding the instrument on the knees or on the table, playing with both hands. It also enables playing the keys with left hand, while holding Melodica in the right hand (in that case, a longer pipe is required).
    Most professional ‘Melodica’ players prefer to dispense with mouthpiece – this way articulation and the finest breathing modulations can be expressed to the fullest extent. Anyone willing to ‘talk’ via Melodica should better do it without the mouthpiece.

    Breathing techniques

    Unlike with other wind instruments, on Melodica you can use talking breathing techniques, due to the simplicity and easiness of sound making. These techniques include exhalation from the lungs and from the diaphragm. Inhaling is, naturally, done through the nose.
    The first breathing exercise consist of, while pressing any key, for example, middle A, blowing softly so that the sound remains steady and even till the end, without push . Then it is possible to try blow one sound, from pianissimo to fortissimo (crescendo) and vice versa (diminuendo). Metronome: 4/4 = 50 MM These are typical exercises for wind instruments: saxophone, trumpet, flute, oboe etc.
    Prolonged stretched sound should naturally die out at the end – like elapsing breath, and not ‘shut up’. Those using Melodica as accordion, usually do not pay attention to sounds – but they must!
    Very important, cardinal note:
    Any sound created by you on Melodica, always should be based on a concrete word / short syllable from your talking vocabulary!!

    Alan Brinton

    Michelle Anderson of Clarinet Mentors has some videos on breathing and posture that I have found helpful — here’s one:

    According to your tutorial improvisation starts with one note. So first I experiment and do everything I can with a single note? I did this quite a bit after reading Jazz pianist Kenny Werner’s book, Effortless Mastery.


    Hi Jazzman1945,

    Good to see you are back. About a year ago, you said one thing about playing the melodica that has stuck with me and is now instrumental in developing my sound. I am only now realizing how important it is in creating harmonica articulations. You said something to the effect that each note should have its own breath, rather than blowing continuously and just pressing keys. When I do this, it completely changes the sound coming from the melodica and makes it not only more expressive, but more harp-like. Thanks.




    According to your tutorial improvisation starts with one note.

    I would say: the work of breathing and sound quality begins with one long sound. Then after some time melodica starts to sound differently. By the way, try not to play loud in high register – it’s influence on the right ear. Breathing exercises for the clarinet, saxophone and trumpet are very suitable. At the same time syllabulary (dictionary of syllables) for melodica is much more flexible ( about this in tutorial later ).

    Lowboy ,I am glad that you begin to understand the concept; to me it took about forty-one years!

    Robert Terry

    The Melodica is a wee little baby instrument in the history/development of music.
    It ain’t stamped
    “Cremona Approved” … yet!!!
    We all, here, will get that accomplished. 🙂
    Looking at some new
    tools/machines that arrived I know a new melodica will be made in South Florida…..
    Wind&Chords…. from a woodwind player’s shoppe.

    This is serious fun as Boehm/Sax described in their
    writings…. although
    non-melodicable. 😉

    Will start a thread on this project ASAP.

    Trying to keep the width at 3.5″ minus a bit…..



    Adding about the left hand holding melodica Honer or similar type: plastic strap for girth gradually stretched from a large adult hand, and melodica begins to glide from side to side , what less convenient for playing . Therefore , adults are advised to keep the instrument from the sides or embrace the the rear end.

    Alan Brinton

    I find holding the melodica by the strap (as shown in some of your images) to be uncomfortable and unstable, Jazzman. I cradle it, balanced, in my left hand, securing it mainly with the thumb and the middle finger. This works especially well with a 32 key melodica. Your advice against holding the instrument too tightly makes sense to me. It does seem that this would affect the sound in unintended ways. But resting the bottom in the left hand and stabilizing at the mouth also works well.


    In the end, still remains unsolved problem of a suitable mouthpiece, maximally transmitting the articulation of mouth and lips. Existing or are suitable for this partially or not suitable at all.
    In my imagination, it looks something like a harp configuration, tightly fitting to the mouth, but lightweight.


    Exercise on breathing on a single note:


    Playing Melodica with a mouthpiece
    The mouthpiece is taken into mouth, or, if it is shaped like the one for trumpet – it is held sidewise close to lips. Apart for using breathing to create sound (here Melodica replaces vocal chords as an external sound source), all the breathing organs used for singing or talking, can and should be used while playing Melodica – diaphragm, throat, front and back parts of the tongue, mouth cavity and lips.
    Instrument with a mouthpiece reacts very well to pronouncing consonants ‘g’, k’, ch, throaty ‘r’, ‘t’, ‘d’, ‘p’, ‘b’. Other consonants – ‘l’, ‘s’, sh’, ‘shch’ – do not come through so well. Of course, articulation of any sound, whether long or short, does not start with a single consonant but with syllables: ‘Ta’, ‘Da’, Tee’, ‘Dee’, ‘Bee’, ‘Boo’ etc. , per your imagination.
    Consonants “P”, “B’, “T’, “D” a best suited for accents/
    Prolonged, not accentuated sounds are being played simply like ‘Aaaa’ or ‘Haaa’.
    Playing Melodica without the mouthpiece
    Playing without the mouthpiece allows to literally pronounce parts of the words through the instrument. Pronouncing or even the attempts to pronounce songs’ texts via Melodica fills each sound played with concrete meaning, enriching the musical performance.
    Apart from that, tongue can be placed in the inlet slit, creating the sordino effect, or the effect of ‘ua-ua’.

    Right hand positioning on the keyboard

    Movements of the right hand
    First of all, the right hand should feel most comfortable and free on the keyboard, so that its movements would be prompt and effortless.
    Unlike on accordion and other keyboard instruments, comfort of performing is created by both hands. Imagine pianist playing with his right hand, while his left hand is moving piano left-right, for the playing hand comfort. Wild fantasy, isn’t it?
    But on Melodica it can really happen, and is even desirable: hand moving to upper registers, ‘pulls’ the keyboard (and so the whole instrument) to the right, while moving to the lower registers, it pushes the instrument to the left. ‘Pulling and pushing’ are, of course, relative terms – in fact, the left hand follows right leading the keyboard so that it will be convenient for the right hand.
    Pianists are jealous…
    And what about the right hand movements? This is simple: watch the right elbow and you will see that its movement starts in the lowest position at the right side – for the lowest registers. To play the high registers, the right elbow moves back and up, but not too high –keep the arm attached!
    Right palm position – not too curved-in and not too arched, its role is to be a flexible resilient shock absorber, not unlike in the vehicle.

    Fingers positioning on the keyboard

    For Melodica, fingers’ form and the angle of placing them on the keyboard vary from absolutely straight to bended (but not too much).
    Fingers’ movement also changes from using the whole finger to the minutest movements of the last phalange.
    Depth of completely pressed key on Hohner student 32 Melodica is approximately 7 mm, but steady sound can be achieved alredy from the depth of 3 mm. So there is no need to press the keys completely – middle way is quite enough. Deep touché like with piano won’t add anything to the sound texture, apart from the knock sound, at the same time fingers will ‘stick’ to the keyboard interfering with playing technique.
    Out of the wealth of musical articulation only two functions are attributed to fingers: bringing sounds together and their separating; all the rest is done by breathing.
    Keyboard mechanics allow the key spring to ‘throw’ the sound up when pressing finger is released. This should be one of the first exercises to practice: press the keys one after another by a single finger, and then release by turn.
    And so the right hand fingers are in a constant contact with the keyboard (but not necessarily simultaneously), almost never above it. Not to press completely – movements should be sparing.
    In other words, the right hand is ‘crawling along the keyboard and not flying over it as on piano.

    Specifics of Melodica’s fingering

    Keyboard on Melodica is simple, the instrument is held close to the body – meaning that the fingering is different from the classic one developed by Czerny whose etudes are well know to all piano students.
    Main features of Czerny fingering are: positioned playing by fingers 1, 2, 3 around two black keys (C sharp – D sharp) while the other group of 4 fingers 1, 2, 3, 4 surrounds 3 other black keys (F sharp-G sharp – A sharp).
    Black keys are not played usually by the thumb, which is used for white keys.
    Change of position by fingers 2-1, 3-1, 4-1 in ascending movement and 1-2, 1-3, 1-4 in a descending one is achieved by bending the thumb under palm and moving the palm over it.
    For Melodica similar technique is used for the lower half of the keyboard; in the high register this is not comfortable, although it depends on the thumb length.

    As, unlike on the piano, the right hand fingers are in a constant contact with the keys, pressing not too deep, it is natural to use gliding movement by a single finger from the black keys to the white – up and own (including the thumb); gliding from the white key to the white key in a descending melodic movement – by each of the 5 fingers; and also moving the 3rd finger above the 4th and 5th in a chromatic ascending movement – this is typical for cembalo.
    Those who like chromatic scales may practice the following fingering: in an ascending movement (from the lowest F): 2-3-4-3-4-3-4-5 // 3-4-3-4-5-3-4-3-4-3-4-5// 3-4-3-4-5-3-4-3-4-3-4-5// (double lines indicate registers)
    In a descending movement the fingering is, of course, the same but in a reverse order.

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