Tone, Range, Color
July 13, 2015 at 8:56 pm #5617
I’m very close to buying my first melodica.
I’ve played piano for over 40 years and am good enough at that to be a back-up pianist at my church when the organist is out. I played oboe from middle school through college. And I’ve been playing harmonica for the past 4 years or so.
I’ve looked over your “Buying a Melodica” guide as well as the individual reviews of the models listed there – and these were very helpful. I’ve viewed/listened to a variety of YouTube videos as well in my search for the best instrument for my needs.
Now, I’d just like some direct feedback.
I’m leaning toward a Suzuki because, with their harmonica-manufacturing reputation, I’m thinking they may have better reeds than the Yamahas. And it may be easier to obtain replacement reeds if I break one. Only while researching melodicas have I learned that Yamaha actually makes harmonicas. They just don’t have as strong a following in the harmonica world as Suzukis.
But I’ve seen the comments, especially by Alan Brinton, that the tone of the Suzuki M32D is better than the tone of its bigger brother.
The live tone is probably most important to me, but range is a factor! How big a sacrifice would I be making by adding those five extra notes? Or, conversely, how big a gain would I receive by losing five notes? From my experience with other instruments, I also know that tone is largely determined by the skill of the player. A bad player on a good harmonica will still sound like crap.
I don’t want a melodica with a tinny or brassy or honky sound. Would prefer a smooth sax or clarinet sound, if possible. If not, more of a harmonica tone than accordion.
I really like the sound of the M37D in this video: https://youtu.be/v72aP2N1dnc The artist tells me he may have used a little reverb but otherwise no recording effects. Do those of you that own one feel the tone quality is true to your experience? Is the M32D really so much better than this?
I also really like the sound of Mario Dueñas playing this no-longer-made Hohner: https://youtu.be/pNYIiyt0MRE
As a pianist, keyboard touch/response is also a factor for me though less so than tone.
Finally, I’ll admit to being so shallow that the blue color of the Suzuki and Yamaha 32-key models is a turnoff for me. Would prefer classic black or at least something a little sexier, but if the tonal quality of those smaller models is appreciatively better, I might be willing to swallow that bitter pill. I don’t mind the look of the burgundy Yamaha P37D.
Would appreciate any opinions you can throw my way!
PaulJuly 13, 2015 at 9:48 pm #5621
Sorry, should have called the Suzukis M37C and M32C …July 15, 2015 at 3:29 am #5629
I went through a pretty exhaustive process of trying vintage hohners, suzukis, yamahas and then sprung for a new Hammond (suzuki) Pro44 HP. I did this mainly on the strength of how the upper end suzuki’s sounded and having been lucky enough to score an unused vintage suzuki that I fell in love with, that sealed the deal for me.
At the high end, either yamaha or suzuki are both good options. If we look at what Oscar (melodica me) is playing most of the time for gigs, he is using Hammonds, either the Hyper or the Pro44. Jon Baptiste, also favours Suzukis… Yes it is about twice to thrice what you might pay for a high end suzuki or Yamaha but the overall result is worth it in my opinion.July 15, 2015 at 2:29 pm #5634
Hi, Paul. You are taking a very thoughtful approach to getting your first melodica. My guess is that you won’t be satisfied with just one melodica! Or maybe even with just one key range. The fewer the keys, all other things being equal, the easier it is to play a melodica, due to the size and weight but also due to the amount of air it takes.
The first video presents the sound of the M-37C very accurately. But this is a highly skilled player playing a tender piece of music so that the bit of edginess I’ve mentioned doesn’t come out. The M-37C is an excellent melodica, however, and although I prefer the M-32C, I’d choose the M-37C over it if I preferred 37 key melodicas.
I have been examining and playing a lot of vintage Suzuki Melodions and Yamaha Pianicas. Their reeds haven’t changed noticeably since the 1980s (at least). Yamahas generally hold their tuning better and suffer less discoloration of their reeds, so that I would give the nod for reed quality to Yamaha. Except that it is easier to manipulate the intonation on the Suzukis. I think it’s because Suzuki reeds are less stable – an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how you look at it.
In my opinion, the Yamahas have much more of a clarinet sound.
By the way, if you search for “refinish” in the forums here, you’ll find photos and description of the refinishing job I did on a Yamaha P-32D, changing it from blue to black. This is my favorite melodica. I Play it all the time, and the new finish has held up very well. It was easy but has to be done carefully. We have had a bit of discussion about how the look of the instrument can affect what the listener (and even the player) hears.
In the development of melodicas, Suzuki has historically been more adventurous, more experimental, more diverse than Yamaha. Yamaha has been more conservative, doing less but doing it very well and sticking with what works. But both the model lines you’re considering have been around for a long time.
Duenas appears to be playing a 1960s Hohner Professional 36. These are rare and very expensive and don’t seem like a good choice for first melodica. Melodica-Me is the guy here who really knows the Professional and plays and works on them.July 15, 2015 at 5:41 pm #5638
Thanks to you both, gentlemen!
I’ve just now ordered the Suzuki M-37C through Amazon. Now I have 4-6 weeks of eager waiting!
I had liked the sound of the M-37C in the Deyama video I linked to in my initial post. And I also preferred it to the Yamaha P37D in the 13 Melodica Comparison video (https://youtu.be/UCz2nUjlwCI). The clencher was hearing it in a very amateur recording (https://youtu.be/GwCZkf232So) and still thinking it had a great tone.
I think the model is high-end enough not to disappoint me, but not so expensive that I’ll kick myself if it turns out I don’t like playing it. If I enjoy it and get good at it, I can always buy up (Hammond) or down (32-keys) for tone, range, portability or “ampability.”
Thanks also, Alan, for the information about refinishing. It had occurred to me that, if I got either of 32-key models, I might want to “wrap” the blue cases with car wrap. A variety of colors, patterns and finishes are available.
PaulJuly 24, 2015 at 7:29 pm #5677
Hi Paul , I bought an M37C last Christmas ( wifeys pressy for me ) and use it in a 4 piece. I cant complain about the sound , sweet tones , nice chordal sounds too. I run it through the PA as well a small Vox combo. I use a cheapie contact mic on the instrument. Just adds another dimension to our sound.July 24, 2015 at 8:01 pm #5678
Thanks, Paul –
That makes me feel more confident in my purchase! Tracking shows that my M37C arrived at customs in New York on July 19. Not sure whether I’ll get another status update until I receive it …
I’m eager to get it and start playing on it!July 24, 2015 at 8:47 pm #5679
I’d be surprised if you have any regrets. Let us know how you like it.July 24, 2015 at 10:23 pm #5681
Another couple of thoughts ,the Suzuki action is much lighter than my Hohner Student , which I like , and I noticed the Hohner doesn’t seem to expel all condensation resulting in sticking keys , that hasn’t happened to me yet with the Suzuki.July 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm #5712
Received my M37C on Saturday and I’ve been enjoying playing it! It makes one of my dogs howl, but that’s all part of the fun!
I like the rich tone and was surprised at how attractive and well-made the instrument is in person. I have found against expectation that I prefer the trumpet-style mouthpiece over the short conical tube. A couple of notes are noticeably flat but can be “pulled up” with extra air pressure while playing. After I’ve broken it in a bit, I’ll attempt to tune it according to the MelodicaWorld instructions. Response is even throughout with the exception of the lowest note which requires a little more force to sound. Will adjust the gapping on that note when I tune it. I’ve found that sighting down the keyboard while playing can be confusing. For now, I’ve put different colored stickers on Cs and Fs so I can get my bearings. When I get a little better, I may upload an MP3.
I should add that the flexible tube mouthpiece is too short for me to comfortably play with the instrument in my lap like a piano. Will have to buy a longer tube somewhere if I want to play that way.
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