Wood Body Melodica
March 12, 2015 at 5:30 pm #4364
I spoke with a woodworker, a friend, this morning about the possibility of creating a wood body melodica, and it looks like we may go forward on this when his schedule allows for it about a month from now. I showed him my soprano Mylodica and a Yamaha P-25F and explained to him how melodicas work and in particular the Mylodica’s problem of having no moisture venting device. We discussed the alternatives of having an entire plastic melodica (such as a Yamaha P-25 or P-32) encased in wood vs. replacing the plastic body with wood. His initial suggestion is to carve out a thick piece of, say, teak, drop in one of the Yamahas or a Suzuki, and then run screws up to hold down a covering plate (wood or something else). He understands that the finished instrument must be able to be taken apart for tuning. We’ll be meeting late in April so he can examine some assembled and disassembled Yamahas and Suzukis and the interior of the Mylodica. He is willing to take this on as an experimental woodworking project, so that the cost (of a prototype at least) will not be prohibitive.
There would be obvious advantages of a wooden encasement into which a respected current model can be dropped or inserted. The encasement should be as compact as is feasible and comfortable to hold in the hand. However, it also occurs to me that an original Hohner Piano 26 or 27 might, because of its dimensions, serve very well as the “inner” melodica — and these are easy to find at reasonable prices, plus they have a very distinctive sound.
I’m very much interested in any suggestions fellow denizens of Melodica World have in relation to this kind of project.March 13, 2015 at 1:17 am #4366
A wood body would definitely make the sound more rich I would think. This is quite an exciting idea.March 13, 2015 at 10:04 am #4367
A wood body is one part of the tone generating process. The other part is the right channeling of the tones e.g. tone chambers as on cassotto instruments, and in which directions it is “bended”. Any accordion builders here??? 🙂
Very exciting! Keep up the good work! Thanks!
Greetings: BalázsMarch 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm #4369
That sounds very interesting. Keep up the good work. We surely need more research on building better melodicas and how different materials and channeling may influence the sound of the instrument. May your project be just as successful as Troy’s 3d printed melodica project. That instrument sounds absolutely superior.March 13, 2015 at 2:27 pm #4370
Thanks for the encouragement, guys! I’m not thinking of anything comparable to the innovation of Troy’s Banarsë. My idea is to get an existing good quality melodica functioning well inside an attractive, artisan produced wooden case, see how it sounds, and then perhaps make some alterations on the basis of that.
One of the challenges, as illustrated by the Mylodica, is the spit valve. The first Tokai Gakki and Yamaha Pianicas had a sliding rod, with the push end by the mouthpiece, that might work. These Pianicas are from 1961-62 (+?), have solid internal construction, and produce good sound. Here’s what the spit mechanism looks like, and in my experience it’s an excellent mechanism and vents extremely well.March 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm #4371
This is a great idea Alan, and something I’ve also considered. Surely a sliding rod is a lot of equipment for a simple job? Maybe you could chop off the Yamaha’s moisture-release valve section, and add some plastic piping to take it to the edge of the wooden case. And then add a simple valve, like the Suzuki or Clavietta?
Whatever method you use, there’s always the potential danger of staining/warping the wood when it comes into contact with moisture. I think it would have to be well lacquered…
Looking forward to seeing the results!March 13, 2015 at 6:07 pm #4372
Yes, the sliding rod does seem like overkill. Its advantage would be that both the button and the vent hole are on the end pieces. Plastic piping is a good idea, maybe combined with a lengthened push button. My woodworker (Rick) suggested teak as a kind of wood that would withstand moisture, but lacquering up sounds right. My first thought was sandalwood. I have a sandalwood Buddha I bought in Myanmar, and it has a wonderful natural aroma (not having been artificially odored up as is often true of sandalwood beads).
I like the kind of combination of wood and other materials in your Banarsë, especially the mouthpiece (it will be interesting to know how that holds up). So we’ll consider different possibilities, possibly for end plates or the top plate, which could be metal or plastic. Rick pointed out that the thickness of the wood will be relative to the extent to which it is supported by the rest of the structure.
The selection for the inner pre-existing melodica core will, it seems to me, constrain or encourage decisions about the rest of the design. So I think our first step will be to familiarize Rick with a variety of melodica models and designs, including some vintage instruments.March 17, 2015 at 11:23 pm #4395
I’m also a fan of Sandalwood, but don’t know anything about it. I think it’s restricted? Whatever timber you do use will have an effect on the sound, as will the thickness and overall shape. I think it’s just a matter of experimentation and trying out a few combinations…
I used tung oil on my mouthpiece, and I’m still applying more layers, every couple of days, to build up a barrier to moisture.
I’m interested in which current models you’ll present to Rick? Which melodicas you rate as having a desirable combination of good tone/response/reliability.March 18, 2015 at 12:54 am #4397
The Yamaha P-32D is still my favorite, so my immediate inclination is to use that or the P-25F. I’m thinking small to make weight less of an issue and make for less of a carving job. Otherwise a Suzuki M-32C. I’ve had all these apart and have worked on them, but I need to examine them more carefully. Those are probably the only contemporary models I’ll show Rick. I’m curious about the Suzuki MX series, which have some history and should be superior to the new cheap Suzukis.
Sandalwood is available. My jewelry making daughter uses it to make beads, and I see some in blocks on the Internet. I don’t know anything about its hardness or how it might be to carve, though it is used in Asia for carvings.
I’m wondering about sound, not so much getting special advantages from wood, but more in terms of the extent to which sound has to not just come up through the keyboard. I just “won” an early Suzuki S-25, which interests me partly because of the large “vent” holes in the end pieces. Those kinds of holes could be carved into a solid wood body.March 18, 2015 at 1:53 am #4399
I think the difficulty of using sandalwood might be in finding a useable piece to work from as it is not a big tree and it grows kind of skinny. It’s also very expensive stuff, at least the grade used for cosmetics and perfumes is. It’s a valuable export crop grown in very small amounts in Australia. I was wondering at using the kind of approach to building a melodica body as a guitar or ukulele, so solid top or body, or laminate? What kind of wood, Spuce, hoop pine etc? My guess would be that any of the woods used to build good ukuleles would be good to provide that warmth and volume. Koa, monkeypod, mangrove, maple, agathis (like mahogany), mahogany etc etc. Solid wood sounds ‘better’ but is harder to work with and more sensitive to chnages in humidity. Laminate gets a bad rap but is actually a more resilient approach that is tougher, lighter and not that far off solid wood in sound. consider the early Japanese Martin guitar copies that were made in laminated wood, beautiful sound and as highly sought after as other solid body guitars these days.March 18, 2015 at 3:21 am #4401
How about the possibility of incorporating a sound board into a melodica, regardless of what the casing was?March 19, 2015 at 3:12 am #4409
I think that was where I was heading Alan, incoporating the soundboard as part of/ or, the, casing…..
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