Technique for Playing the Blues on Hohner Piano 26/27/32 Melodicas
October 30, 2016 at 2:51 am #7782
The regulars here on Melodica World have heard me talk many times about how I press the back of certain melodicas into my chest to obtain certain modulations. This technique only works with these out-of-production Hohner melodicas because they are, to the best of my knowledge, the only melodica in the world where the sound is actually projected out of the back of the melodica. (Please let me know if you know of other melodicas where the sound is projected from the back side.)
Anyway, the key to this technique is getting a good seal between the back of the melodica and your chest. A good seal enables you achieve several conditions: a build-up of back pressure downstream of the reeds and valves before you play a note; a buildup and conscience variation of back pressure within the melodica chambers while playing a note; a muffled sound (which you can then contrast with the normal bright sound); and other modulations.
A good seal is important to achieving these modulations. So, if you are wearing a cotton T-shirt under a flannel shirt under fleece overshirt, you are not going to seal anything. You need to wear a thin, sweaty, polyester disco shirt to get a good seal against your body. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I threw out my polyester disco shirts about 1978. You can achieve a good seal by playing without a shirt on. This works well, but it is not an option for me. My boyhood figure has disappeared.
So what is the solution? A melodica apron of course! A melodica apron can be made out of vinyl or other soft smooth material. In the photo below, you can see my first prototype apron in red and my second prototype in black. My next prototype will include a number of improvements.
When you use the Hohner Piano 26/27/32s in conjunction with a keyboard harmonica apron, and get a good seal, many modulations are possible. In my next post, I will talk about how to modify the keyboard harmonica to maximize the seal.
Lowboy BootayOctober 30, 2016 at 3:06 am #7783
I think there could be a problem with the website. I made four or five edits to my post and it looks like each edit created a whole new post.
LowboyOctober 30, 2016 at 11:41 am #7786
Let me correct, with more precise language, the following paragraph from my post on the melodica apron. (I was tired last night and writing fast.)
“A good seal enables you achieve several conditions: a build-up of back pressure downstream of the reeds and valves before you play a note; a buildup and conscience variation of back pressure within the melodica chambers while playing a note; a muffled sound (which you can then contrast with the normal bright sound); and other modulations.”
Sealing the melodica’s sound output path (sealing the back of the melodica it against your body) does not build up pressure downstream of the valve and reed. But it does seal the sound output channel from atmospheric pressure. So when build pressure in the reed chamber and release it by pressing a key, the air flows more slowly pass the reed. The pressure begins to build downstream from the valve and reed. This is a condition not achieved in normal playing, where the pressurized air in the reed chamber flows through the reed without restriction (except for the resistance of atmospheric pressure).
This pressurizing of the downstream side of the reed is what harmonica players do when they cup their instrument to seal it off from atmospheric pressure. The sound is muted when they do this as well. When the harmonica player releases the cup while playing a note, the air rushes out past the reed at a faster velocity and into a rapidly changing downstream pressure. The tone brightens up.
Anyway, by manipulating your breath and the melodica in various ways (sealed, slightly sealed, open, rapidly alternating between sealed and unsealed, and many other gestures), you can obtain a significant number modulations including: wah wah effect, timbre modulation, volume modulation, Leslie effect, sounding of sympathetic notes, harmonic distortions, and more.
At least that is the way I see it.
LowboyOctober 30, 2016 at 2:49 pm #7787
Hi Bluesmen and Blueswomen.
Here is how I modify my Hohner Piano 26/27/32 melodicas to help seal them well against the melodica apron to maximize expressiveness. The photo below shows modified and unmodified melodicas. You can see from this photo, that I remove the little nubs intended to raise the melodica off of a table. I also remove the water valve shield. I also remove the handle which I don’t use with my playing style. These parts of the melodica get in the way of good sealing. So they are gone.
One note. If you remove the handle, you must seal the rivet holes on the inside of the back cover as the space underneath the handle is a sealed area within the melodica, and you will have leak if you don’t seal the rivet holes, as small as they are.
You can easily remove the handle by gently hitting the rivets with a hammer and punch on the inside of the back cover, which pushes the rivets out a 1/16 of an inch on the outside of the cover. Then grab the rivets with pliers and pull them out.
Here is a Piano 26 ready to play the blues.
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