Melodica Tuning and Detuning and Being Out of Tune
February 5, 2015 at 3:58 am #4029
Things I have found out lately that seem to be helping me not go crazy while tuning.
I start by warming up the instrument until I get condensation or 10-15 minutes. I triple check that my tuner is calibrated where I want it (A442 these days). I write down the temperature of the room. (I don’t tune in a cold room unless I plan to perform in a cold room)
Then I check for notes that speak late at a medium soft volume. When the instrument is apart I will look at the gapping on these notes. I do this check from top to bottom and again from bottom to top. (If you want, I’ll tell you my persnickety way of doing this). I write everything down on a chart I made for each instrument.
Then I listen to octaves, crescendoing each octave from medium soft to pretty loud, from bottom to top. And mark down which are offensive. Sometimes I try fifths too
Here’s what is helping me the most: I do NOT tune to the meter on my tuner any more. Tuning to a meter does not help me get a melodica in tune. It’s the same when I tune harpsichords – the needle does not stay still, and does not read the same from one breath to the next.
Instead, I play along with the sound of the tuner. For this, I find that the melodica is too loud when I play it trumpet style (my preferred way). So I use headphones or an ear bud to get the tuner in my ears, and I use the melodica tube so I can still play as loud as I usually do when I perform. I mark down the most offensive unisons. Maybe later I use the meter to give me an idea if the note is hi or low – sometimes I can’t tell by ear for the highest notes.
How do you all tune?April 16, 2015 at 4:10 pm #4701
Good suggestion about tuning to the tone and not the meter; I’ll try it! Also agree with your observation about blues. I’ve spent many hours tuning my Hohner-32, and could never get the intonation perfect, so can’t stand to hear the slightly-sour chords. But, for solo runs – in blues and even for single-note pads and fills, it can sound great. Sometimes it’s a bit strident — but it can cut through other instruments (I don’t know if there’s a way to control the timbre), but – for sure – it weighs a lot less than a piano!
My big fear: Walking into a place and getting “Oh, no … here she comes with that goddamned melodica!”April 14, 2016 at 8:46 pm #7074
Thank you for this interesting idea! I am a singer/pianist/flautist with a classical background, and my husband is a professional blues/jazz guitarist and bassist — we say we have an intermusical marriage. I teach him about classical and he teaches me about blues and jazz. I LOVE the note bending in blues and jazz, I love bending notes while singing. I too wish there were a way to bend notes on the melodica and have talked with my husband about ways melodicas might be designed to do that — one way I wonder might work might be to make it so the keys could be slightly moved to the right or left while producing a note, so that a little less air was going through the reed, would that work to change the pitch a little? (You can bend notes a little on the flute by turning the mouthpiece outward or inward a little while producing a note, this idea reminds me of that.) What if the manufacturers used harmonica reeds instead of the accordion reeds they seem to use? Is there any reason that the melodica could not be manufactured that way?
Now, from what I read here, the detuning is just natural and accidental, you don’t intentionally detune it in a particular way? That reminds me of accordion (which I play too) — they can grow a little out of tune with age as the reeds deteriorate, unless carefully stored in a dry place, and for some styles of accordion or concertina playing, that slight out-of-tune-ness adds to the charm.April 16, 2016 at 11:58 am #7098
Welcome to the forum. There are many people working on note bending in free reed instruments. It is a very complex subject and not an easy thing to do on a melodica or harmonica for that matter.
I am finding the harmonica websites provide a wealth of information that can be applied to the melodica.
Here is an article on free reed instruments and note bending:
This forum as a search function that can root out posts on bending and tuning. I will try to answer you questions on bending in another reply to one of your posts.
LowboyApril 16, 2016 at 12:32 pm #7099
To answer your second question, I have found that the melodicas I play (out-of-production Hohner Piano 26/27/32) are no where near as stable as other brands of melodicas in terms of tuning. If your put AP Tuner (a free tuning software program) on your computer, you can see how your melodica reacts to changes in blowing pressure. My Hohners take a dive bomb as blowing pressure increases, dropping somewhere around 20 to 40 cents with even moderate blowing pressure (which still does not sound much like a bent note, but either sounds cool, interesting, or bad depending upon your perspective, what type of music you are playing, and the instrumentation you are playing with). I don’t intentionally tune off key, however, I did just recently have Hohner service tune one of my melodicas to A = 445. I have not experimented much with the results yet, but I think I like it at first blush for playing straight. (When the pitch dive bombs, I am still in tune with the other musicians.)
I can say that I love to bend notes and I could write a book about it. I will respond with some note bending information in your post where you ask about bending notes.
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