The Complete Bach Cello Suites on Melodica
- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 1 week, 2 days ago by Andrew Yoon.
May 14, 2023 at 5:38 pm #14855
Hey everyone! I’ve been lurking on these forums for a while, but this is my first time posting anything. I’m Andrew; I’ve been playing melodica since around 2018 and over the past couple years I’ve been getting increasingly obsessed with this quirky and beautiful instrument.
As a sort of technical challenge I’ve been learning to play the Bach cello suites, and recently I’ve gotten it sounding ok enough that I decided to record them! It’s a complete studio album (my first) set to come out on June 3, with accompanying video for the whole thing. A few movements are up for preview on Bandcamp now, and I’ve just put the whole first suite up on Youtube here! I’d love to hear any feedback you all have 🙂
Some preliminary shop talk: everything is played on a Hammond-Suzuki 44HPv2; of all the instruments I’ve tried this is by far the most capable. The open back and phosphor-bronze reeds give a very clear and hair-trigger-sensitive sound, and the extended range (to viola C) allows playing most cello music shifted up an octave. I play two-handed with the instrument on my lap, and use a cut up non-slip rug pad to keep the instrument in place. I circle breathe almost continuously through the music – which is not so difficult on melodica! – and I use a sort of open-mouth technique on note releases to allow the reeds to naturally decay. I had to come up with some more exotic techniques in later suites, like partial key presses to balance pedal tones, but I’ve been surprised to find how naturally playable most of the music is. I still struggle a lot with some of the instrument’s pitfalls though, most direly the low reeds which tend to choke and speak unpredictably (and I actually had a reed break on me during one of the recording sessions 💀). If anyone from Hammond is reading…I have notes…
I’ll be sharing videos from the other suites as they drop in coming weeks. Great to meet you all!
PS – if anyone is in New York, my melodica quartet will be celebrating the release with a show on June 3 in Queens – we’d love to meet you!May 14, 2023 at 5:45 pm #14856
Oh, and another potentially useful discovery, made by the excellent engineer I was working with, Robin Buyer, is that ribbon mics are the way to go with melodica. He told me this type of mic is often used for brass because it helps keep the very high overtones under control. The whole album was recorded with just one ribbon mic centered a few inches from the instrument body and two room mics (I don’t remember the kind, but I don’t think it was all that important). In my experience the pickup built into the 44H* models does not sound that good, so we didn’t use that at all in this recording.May 16, 2023 at 9:43 pm #14857Daniel AleksandrowiczParticipant
Well done! That’s a very challenging piece on any instrument.
Robin is correct. The ribbon mike works nicely.
Thanks for sharing!May 21, 2023 at 1:34 pm #14862
Thanks so much Daniel! The video of second suite is out now as well here. Second suite works very nicely on melodica since it spends a while in the low registers and has lots of drawn out dissonances in the Sarabande, along with some nimble dancing in the quick movements.
I’ll probably hold off on sharing the other 4 here until they’re all out so I don’t spam too much 🙂
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