Vintage Hohner "Student" versus vintage Hohner "Alto"

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    Hi guys! It’s surprising how little info there is on the web about vintage melodicas (compared to, say, vintage harmonicas and accordians). I recently bought a vintage Hohner “student” melodica in (what I consider a pretty good) eBay deal ($23, shipped!), and I’m looking for some info on it (I like to know as much as I can about my instruments). It “looks” very similar to the older Hohner “Alto” and “Soprano” models, that have the “buttons” instead of keys, although this one is grey instead of red or green like the Alto and Soprano, respectively. The buttons are why I was interested in this little guy, and I really like the wide key spacing (I have fat fingers). To me, although its range is smaller, it’s easier to play (and has better tone) than my modern Hohner “Student 32”. Do you guys know how it compares to these other “button” models from Hohner (other than the obvious cosmetic differences). From what I can hear on YouTube, the range of this vintage “student” model seems about the same as the “Alto”, although I’m not 100% sure of that. Are there any other differences? Do they share the same reeds/reed profiles? Is the build quality similar? Anything I should be aware of? Any info would be greatly appreciated.


    Hi OneHarp

    I also love the design of these early Hohner melodicas. I have a2 student models – one in grey and one in bright orange. The range of the student is the same as the soprano, but without the last 5 notes. Tone and build quality appear identical in all the models, though I haven’t taken them apart.


    Thank you! You’ve told me the main two things that I wanted to know (that build quality is similar, and that the range overlaps with the Soprano model, not the Alto). Really, what I wanted to know is if my “next” vintage button-style Hohner melodica purchase should be the Alto or Soprano, and you’ve answered that.

    I really love this little guy. I have taken it apart (mainly to clean it), and although I only have one other Melodica to compare it to, I have extensive experience with Harmonicas (including reed work and other custom modification), and to my eye, the build quality of this Melodica is excellent. The gaps were all set very well, the sizing of the reed slots were very tight, and the instrument thus produces a really nice tight focused sound (contra to my modern “Student 32”, which I assume was made in China from the quality of the reeds and reedplates, and which consequently produces a very “airy” tone). The only negative I could find about this vintage Melodica was that the gasket was not really fully airtight anymore, and one of the screw holes for the back plate was stripped because it’s just a hole in the plastic body with a “wood” screw, not a machine screw into a properly tapped hole. I expected some of that, and I think I can fix it with a tiny dab of epoxy in the stripped screw hole to give the screw something to bite onto. Other than that, this is a very high quality instrument, and I really really really love it!

    Rick Reid

    I think the main difference is that the student model has fewer buttons for smaller hands. I have both the alto and the soprano models. They sound of the the two instruments is identical except for the difference in pitch ranges.

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