The Amazing Melodica! – Tutorial (fragments )

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This topic contains 81 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  jazzman1945 1 year, 8 months ago.

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    Sound effects


    Vibrato is a result of periodic rippling of the air column (here the air cushion) created by various breathing organs inside the Melodica. Vibrato enlivens and ennobles the sound; without it Melodica sounds like a simple accordion.

    Vibrato can be achieved by following techniques:
    1. using the diaphragm (stomach) – ‘ha-ha-ha-…..” (not the throaty ‘h’ but from the chest – as if warming the hands)
    2. Throaty “h-h-h-h-…” not the guttural but with half-closed throat
    3. by lolling the tongue basis
    4. vibrating the lower jaw – the only way suitable for the short sounds
    5. Lightly pressing and releasing the key by one of the 4 fingers on the right hand. This is done in the following manner: the very end of the white key is pressed but not by the finger end (it is pointed upwards) but by its main, lowest phalange); the thumb supports from the opposite side. This way we get a claw-like grasp by two fingers – the playing one, vibrating from its base, and the thumb.
    6. Vibrato by Doppler effect – as in the “Hammond” organ. In this case Melodica is rotated, by both hands, left in front of the performer in the circle (using flexible pipe allows to enlarge these circles significantly).

    Frullato (coarse sound)

    This effect, suitable only for prolonged sounds, can be achieved by the following techniques:
    1. Throaty wheeze (as if you have a sore throat) but silently
    2. By producing rolling ‘rrrrrrrr
    3. Humming ‘zzzzzzzzzz’ or ‘zhzhzhzhzh’
    Pronouncing ‘uuuuuuuuuuuu , at the same time pressing any key, is also possible. This presents wide options of ‘singing’ with Melodica – unison, octave, third, etc. – as much as your fantasy will allow.

    Tremolo on one or several sounds simultaneously
    Tremolo can be achieved by pronouncing quickly ‘tuku-tuku’ or ‘putu-putu’. Triplet tremolo results from pronouncing ‘patsta-patsta’.

    Glissando (bend) and blues notes

    This is an absolutely necessary effect for blues notes. Best of all to use it on the long sounds, as time is needed for its preparation and performance.
    Best of all it is performed on the white keys as they are longer than the black ones, and it is possible to play on white keys with shortest movements by the low or high finger phalange. All 5 fingers may be used for this effect: the side of the thumb, sides and phalanges of the index fingers, the upper phalanges of the other 3 fingers.
    This is how it is done: finger touches the keyboard end opposite the key intended for bending; then, with increased air pressure into the inlet, press slowly on the key end with one phalange, at the same time changing the inner mouth cavity from wide to narrow. This effect won’t be achieved with a weak air flow.
    Here I need to clarify: by pressing the key we open the vent inside Melodica containing the vibrating metal reed, the same as in the mouth harmonica. If the key is already pressed and the vent is open, there will be a momentous reed transformation from steady to vibrating position, and change of sound practically won’t be felt, apart from when playing in the lowest registers.
    When the key is pressed slowly and carefully (the most suitable point on the key is its end, on the lever principle), the vent will also open slowly; until it is completely open, we’ll get unsteady, “off-key” sound – the very sound suitable for blues.
    The main problem, though, is that this kind of sound making was not intended by Melodica’s first and main manufacturer. On the contrary – everything was made to pass this unsteady sound phase as quickly as possible, like on accordion.
    This is why every Melodica musician should study thoroughly the key pressure mechanics, from no pressure to achieving a steady sound, if he wishes to get glissando and blues sounds.
    Steve Christofferson is a great master of playing blues notes on Melodica.


    Alan Brinton

    This is very instructive — much with which to experiment here. Thanks.



    Coordination of right hand, breathing and articulation

    Very important note: efforts applied in the process of blowing the instrument should be independent, as much as possible, from the right hand movements which have to remain always free, almost limp.

    Technique of rhythm and swing performance on Melodica
    Every jazz pianist knows that for creating swing effects a particular movement starting from the shoulders (or, more specific, from the shoulder blades) is needed. But even on the accordion, movements differ considerably form the ones on the piano: the lion’s share of swing effect depends on using the bellows, i.e. the left hand technique. This requires physical strength and a very good coordination of both hands’ movements.
    On Melodica, all the weight of creating swing and most of responsibility for rhythmic performance falls on breathing technique and breathing apparatus: diaphragm, lungs, throat, mouth, tongue, jaws, lips and nasal cavity.
    The basics of rhythm and swing articulations should be borrowed not from pianists and guitarists but from percussionists and brass wind instrumentalists – trumpet and especially saxophone performers.
    The first stage of working on rhythm and swing articulation should be without sound, then on single note; only at the last stage it should be practiced on a complete melodic phrase.
    Metronome should be used during practice. Indicated ranges of tempo may be varied.

    Exercises for rhythm articulation

    (capitals indicate accentuated syllables):
    All exercises should be practiced both with and without the mouthpiece.

    Ex.1 –quarters


    In jazz, blues, rock etc. quarters in melodic phrase usually are not played legato.

    For every part a) :”TA-tat’-TA-tat'”
    b) reverse order: “ta-TAT’-ta-TAT'”
    Possible variations of syllables:
    “Ka-Tat'” etc.
    Practice first by blowing into the instrument without sound, better without mouthpiece and not pressing the key; then proceed while pressing the key which is most convenient for the right hand – for example, A in the first register.
    For one breath 8 bits are pronounced. Do not forget to inhale through the nose!
    Again, first practice without sound, not pressing the key; then proceed while pressing the key which is most convenient for the right hand – for example, G in the first register.
    It is advisable to work with metronome in tempo of 108 MM; those who have jazz profile may set the metronome for 2nd and 4th bit in tempo 54 MM.
    At the later stages metronome can be set to the higher speed – up to 208 MM in quarters..

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 2 months ago by  jazzman1945.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 2 months ago by  jazzman1945.


    Exercise 2 – eights


    Straight eights: A) “TA-tu-TA-tu-TA-tu-TA-tu”
    b) ” tu-TA-tu-TA-tu-TA-tu-TA”
    Syllable variations:
    “TA-PA” etc.
    Metronome: start with 84 MM in quarters, gradually increase to 120 MM.



    Exercise 3

    Combinations of quarters and eights:
    a) “taka-TA-taka-TA”
    b) TA-taka-TA-taka” and other variations of syllables.
    Metronome: from 69 MM to 144 MM in quarters.







    Triplet feel

    Playing 3 eights (triplet) for every bit: “KAtata-PAtata”, “KUtutu-PUtutu” etc.
    Metronome from 60 MM to 92 MM

    In jazz the eights are not equal – every odd eight is longer than the next . The length ratio: 2:1 (triplet in the quarter):

    Exercise 5


    Accented bits – 2nd, 4th- “ta-TAT’ka-ta-TAT’ka”
    Variation: “ta-TAT’ka-ta-TAT’ka”
    Metronome: between 72 – 112 MM

    3 ways to join jazz eights in swing

    In the history of jazz, tradition of eights articulation were laid down mostly by the saxophonists: Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly and others.

    1) Eights can be performed separately as “ta-Ka-ta-Ka”, metronome set between 72 – 108 MM:

    2) Can be played also as “a-Ha-a-Ha-a-Ha-a” legato-like, emphasizing by diaphragm (Ha – as if you were warming up your hands)
    This was the style of saxophone – swing musicians in 30th of the last century. Metronome: 60 – 160 MM.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by  jazzman1945.


    Hello jazzman1945,

    thanks for that tutorial – still a lot to learn on the stairway to mastering that instrument!



    1) Eights can be performed separately as “ta-Ka-ta-Ka”, metronome set between 72 – 108 MM

    Exercise 6

    Swing articulation



    Quetscher , you’re welcome!However, am I doing this not without selfish interests!))
    By putting my stuff publicly, I hope that each of you will pass them on to others, , as in Pyramid system . I see the ultimate goal is that the melodica will become one of the main educational instruments, the status of which will be at the same height. as the Orff instruments.The special properties of this tool allow restoring for beginner students the lost connection between music and native language.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by  jazzman1945.


    Using ‘ghost notes’ (sounds that are swallowed) in melodic-rhythmic phrases of eights

    These are very typical sounds for jazz – you can ‘hear’ them but they are not almost sounded – rather being ‘swallowed’. Ghost notes are always very short, placed between the other, sounding notes.
    There are several ways to ‘articulate-not articulate’ these notes:
    1) On the sound ‘Ts’
    2) Playing such sound while exhaling rather than inhaling
    3) Continuing performance while exhaling, weakening breathing only on the ‘ghost’ sound.
    4) Muffling the sound by the tongue in Melodica’s inlet slit (without the mouthpiece).

    Combinations of regular eights with ghost notes
    (Best to start practicing these specific articulations without the mouthpiece).
    1) Chain of double eights, in a swing rhythm:
    “Tats-Tats-Tats-Tats”. Metronome: 66 – 96 MM:

    Exercise 9

    Ghosts notes

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by  jazzman1945.


    2) Chain of triplet eights with ghost notes:
    a) swallowing the middle sound in a triplet:

    Metronome: 50 – 92 MM:

    triplet swing+ ghost notes


    Alan Brinton

    Thanks, Jazzman, nicely timed, as I have just been working on triplet swing!



    But the most interesting in melodica : the possibility to create ensembles – duos, trios quartets , which can be played in any genre.
    Trio for children – O-BLA-DI ,-O-BLA-DA :


    3rd melodica – Hammond 44 or similar (because of the range).

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by  jazzman1945.


    Here the advanced level: Donna Lee of Parker:

    Donna Lee

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