What’s a melodica?


What’s a melodica?

It’s a handheld instrument with a mouthpiece and piano-style keyboard. The player blows through the mouthpiece, and presses one or more keys on the keyboard to make a sound. It is like a cross between a harmonica (mouth organ) and a piano accordion. Like these instruments, it belongs to the ‘free reed’ family.


How does it work?

When the player blows, the air travels through the mouthpiece and into an air chamber. Depending on which key is pressed, the air passes from the air chamber through to one (or more) of many tuned ‘reeds’.


What are reeds?

Reeds consist of two elements – a tongue, which sits above the slot in a frame. As the air passes through the slot, the tongue vibrates. Depending on the size and mass of the tongue, it will vibrate at a specific frequency, and create that familiar melodica note. Melodica reeds are very similar to the reeds found in harmonicas (mouth organs), though some melodicas use the larger reeds normally found in accordions.

melodica reeds



What is the hole at the bottom for?

At the base of the melodica is a vent which allows the player to release moisture that’s built up through playing. After around 20 minutes of constant playing, the player shakes the melodica, which causes the condensation to accumulate at the bottom of the instrument. They then blow through the instrument without pressing any keys, to expel the moisture through the vent.


What are other names for the melodica?

The melodica is also known as the melodyhorn, melodihorn, pianica, blow organ, blow accordion, key flute, clavietta, vibrandoneon, melodion, diamonica, wind piano, keyboard harmonica.


Who invented the melodica?

The trading name ‘melodica’ was invented by Hohner in the 1950s, and they are the only company authorised to use the name.  The first melodica was probably the Clavietta, invented by Andre Borel, but it was quickly copied by Hohner, Suzuki melodeon and Yamaha.


How should I look after my melodica?

Keep it in its case in a dusty environment.  Shake out excess moisture after playing, and blow while pressing the moisture release valve button.  Avoid eating directly before playing, or small food particles may become lodged within the reeds.  Avoid sugary drinks while playing.


Can I clean my melodica?

Yes, cleaning a plastic melodica can help it to play more smoothly and eliminate any unpleasant odours. Submerge your melodica in warm water for several hours, working the keys and moisture release button to remove any internal air. When you take it out, work the keys and moisture release button to expel all of the water, until the notes begin to sound. Leave the melodica on its end overnight to drain.


What’s the best melodica?

It’s a matter of personal preference, but the 37 note Yamaha P37D and the smaller Yamaha P32D are very popular on Melodica World


Similar articles: Buying a Melodica | The Melodica in Pop Music

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