Melodica Playing Techniques

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  jazzman1945 3 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #1938

    Lowboy
    Participant

    Hi All,

    So I am going to try to post a recording that shows some of the playing techniques I discovered by accident a few weeks ago.

    Keep in mind that I am doing this with a Hohner Piano 26 soprano melodica, which has the sound holes on the back of the keyboard (back side of the melodica). I am using a short rigid mouthpiece and I am holding the melodica at the base (the opposite end from the mouthpiece).

    Basically I am doing several things here. The first part of the recording (the chords), I am showing how you can mute the sounds of the melodica by holding it against your chest while wearing thick clothing like a rugby shirt. When you press the melodica against your chest, the sound is muted. When you lift the melodica away from your chest, it becomes bright. Of course you can get all sorts of variations in between too.

    Then I play a couple riffs where I am moving the melodica towards and away from my chest quickly, creating a wha wha and vibrato sound. I discovered tonight that the heaviest vibrator/wha wha effect is coming (I think) from my finger actually partially lifting off of the key as I vigorously move the instrument to and fro. But some is coming from just moving the melodica in the air and some is coming from the muting and un-muting of the sound holes as they come in near contact with my chest.

    The last part of the recording is me just waving the instrument around. Sometimes I hold it against my chest and quickly twist it to expose the holes to get a harmonica cupped/uncupped sound. There is a little note bending going on too.

    Basically I am trying to make my melodica sound like a harmonica. Slowing I am getting there.

    Anyhow, here is an attempt to provide a link to the recording on SoundCloud.

    Let me know if you can hear the clip. I am new to SoundCloud and still figuring it out.

    Regards,

    Lowboy

    #1939

    Lowboy
    Participant

    Well it looks like the SoundCloud link worked well.

    Lowboy

    #1942

    Melodica-Me
    Participant

    Very cool Lowboy, dig the wha effect.
    Melodica-Me

    #1943

    Alan Brinton
    Participant

    Thanks, Lowboy. It is very generous of you to share and to explain how you’re getting those sounds out of your melodica. It does sound harmonica-like, but it stands on its own.

    #1944

    Lowboy
    Participant

    Thanks Melodica-Me and Alan.

    I think we must expose as many people as possible to the melodica. Recordings posted on the web will help immensely. I hope to start performing with the melodica soon and posting some recordings.

    We must share ideas and support everyone’s interest in playing this instrument. For me that includes taking the instrument to its limit to show what is possible. I would like to see it accepted as a professional instrument and not always referred to as a “learning tool.”

    Regards,

    Lowboy

    #1945

    Melodica-Me
    Participant

    Absolutely Lowboy, recording and posting is the best way to get the word out. I am working on a few tunes that I hope to post soon. I never really used the melodica as my main instrument because frankly I never really got the call for it. I still here musician joke about them and yes some still consider them as toys, granted some are. I was asked to use my Vibrandoneon to replace an accordian to play “Speak Softly Love” you know the Godfather theme, for a small reception basically because the budget did not allow for an additional musician and one of the guys in the group said hey why don’t you play that fancy wooden melodica so there was a need. I was surprised by the amount of people that came up to me to ask what the name of the instrument I was playing was called and to tell me how beautiful the sound was. There are many You Tube videos out there of people playing the melodica as a goof and yes they sound terrible. So it is up to us to record and post material that show what the melodica can really do in as many different genres to show its versatility. Let’s get busy.
    Melodica-me

    #1946

    Kevin
    Participant

    Does anybody know how the melodica is perceived in Japan?
    I’ve seen several youtube videos where Japanese musicians appear to be putting on melodica concerts in front of appreciative and respectful audiences?
    If so, I’m curious what they are doing right as far as the melodica being taken seriously?
    Beyond that it seems the reggae dub community have a welcoming attitude mostly I think due to the influence of Augustus Pablo.
    I think that’s what it’s going to take is an artist with some charisma who plays mostly/only melodica.
    Still, I don’t know if we will get to the point of “Melodica Idol”? 🙂

    #1950

    Melodica-Me
    Participant

    Kevin, great question. I have worked in other countries and the one thing I have noticed is that other countries seam to really appreciate music in general and not just music from their country, even if they do not understand the language, where as here in the US we tend to be more regional, in other words we like what is in our own back yard. If you were exposed to all types of music growing up, in general you probably appreciate and embrace sound, melody, lyrics and arrangement, more than just a beat with words you can’t say in public. When I was very young my father gave me a FM receiver in the mid 60’s and at that time you mostly heard classical, jazz and contemporary music on it. We heard a lot of different music in our home. I enjoy hearing music that is new to me. Many years ago I heard a group called Orchesta De La Luz a salsa group that was incredible, what really blew me away was that they were from Japan. Recently I heard a Dutch duo (accordion and guitar) that played music for northern Mexico / Texas. I have attached a link so you can hear. I have listen to Troys Irish reel many times over and over simply because the sound and technique fascinates me a great deal.
    Melodica-Me
    ► 5:26► 5:26
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnAUIPk54mk

    #1951

    Alan Brinton
    Participant

    There are several Japanese composers who are taking the melodica very seriously as an instrument to be composed for as well as to be used in composition. One example is Makoto Nomura, but he’s just the one I can find right away. I think Suzuki’s interest in producing higher end melodions is also indicative of an interest in going beyond its widespread use in music education in Japan.

    http://www.makotonomura.net/blog/texts/melodica/

    Interest in the melodica by classical musicians is another manifestation of its being taken seriously, and it seems to be Japanese classical musicians in particular who are taking interest. If Kyoto (who recently joined this site) is monitoring this conversation, anything she has to say about this would be of great interest, as she is a professional classical pianist. Serious musicians who started out early on the melodica (as would be common in Japan nowadays) are probably apt to be more open to its possibilities, as with Jon Batiste. (And also players/composers like Hermeto Pascoal who aren’t hung up on what is and what isn’t a musical instrument.)

    #2171

    jazzman1945
    Participant

    Lowboy, I’m jealous of Your sound!
    There are even more effects on the instrument:
    If you press the keys to the bottom and play legato, the sound becomes softer without it clicks resembling an accordion.
    If you insert tip of tongue into the tap hole, it turns mute effect.

    #2175

    Lowboy
    Participant

    Hi Jazzman,

    Nice playing. Welcome to the forum. Together, all of us will make the world hungry for the melodica. It may take 50 years however!

    In terms of the key click, I actually like it most of the time as I am primarily a blues and R&B player.

    I tend to play the melodica keyboard aggressively, having played rock and blues Hammond organ for many years. In my organ days, sometimes my hands would be bloody after a concert. The Hammond also has an electronic key click that is considered by many to be an essential part of the sound. So sometimes I play hard to get the click. But I am learning that to emulate the harp, I am better off playing legato.

    I have been working very hard on my sound for the last couple of months and will post my latest advancements this weekend. It has been a struggle to get where I am. There were days when I thought I would just give up, but I am persevering.

    In a few minutes I am going to post a recording that compares the sound of several melodicas. I promised I would do that.

    Then I am going to make a recording of my latest efforts to get a cool “melodica blues sound.” Between unorthodox playing techniques and a few sound shaping tools that harp players use, the blues sound is starting to come together.

    Regards,

    Lowboy

    #2178

    jazzman1945
    Participant

    ” The world hungry for the melodica” ,but he doesn’t know this yet !
    Lowboy , thanks! I am glad that our thoughts are moving in the same direction.
    From experience I know that melody fingers should work easily without pressing keys to the full.Breathing should actually to work more intensively than fingers, but without straining .On melodica easily achieve high speeds if coordinate breathing with fingers (not vice versa).

    If there are problems, then in breathing, not in fingers:
    .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om3pRThTscw

    #2289

    jazzman1945
    Participant

    Different depths keystrokes affect the sound: if you press deeply and quickly, the sound will be softer; if you press the shallowly , the sound gets unstable attack , which makes it more like a blues harp.

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