Yamaha P37D, muffled sounds due to clogged spit
March 21, 2018 at 8:06 am #9772
Am new to this forum and the discussions here have aided my decision to purchase a P37 slightly under a month ago. I have been playing it regularly since!
That being said, I am having troubles with regards to how my spit seems to be clogged somehow. Several notes would be muffled and I could hear bubbling which prompted me to open it up.
I then washed the exteriors and left the reed plates to dry by itself. However, everytime I close the melodica up. It plays fine for awhile, then the clog happens again within minutes. I am really at a loss about what went wrong as I could play this melodica up to 2 hours without issues closer to purchase.
While I do play this about 2.5 hrs every weekday on average, it does seem rather extreme for the reed(s) to have gone bad already. Is there any suggestions on whether I could fix this or have the reeds unfortunately gone bad?
Thank you!!March 21, 2018 at 11:32 am #9773
Just to update, I have been doing abit of reading of the archives forums as well as other resources. It seems that it recommended again blowing too hard for the yamaha, especially new ones with unseasoned reeds. In addition, using the tongue contributes additional saliva into the melodica (from a harmonica forum). I am guessing that a suggested fix would be the to increase the gap between the reeds?
To provide some context, I am actually a brass player and I do blow pretty hard into my melodica as though it was a brass instrument. We tend to use our tongues to “tongue” and articulate notes. I tongue alot as practice. I did notice that the gap between one of the affected reed was totally soaked underneath when I had open it up with just 5 minutes of playing. The gaps between all the other notes seemed generally equally spaced with the except of the high F did seemed wider and sounded abit off.
Sorry for the long posts!March 21, 2018 at 2:30 pm #9774
David I AmParticipant
I know what you are speaking of, I too have experienced this effect with various melodicas. (though I don’t remember specifically if my P37D has particularly exhibited this problem) – my suzuki melodion has for sure though.
So you get this situation where the internals of the instrument are saturated with condensation and water/salivations are clogging up the close tolerance of the reeds.
I have taken a few tacts to attenuate this problem.
1. as I learned is super important with the bass melodion, don’t bother with tonguing, it messes with the attack of the notes anyway, probably because of pressure propagation against the size of the large reeds. I too come from horn playing and have tried to use breath control for some expression, but I think this is actually more of a trap.
2. stick it in your mouth. Like, half an inch or so – so there’s a ‘pool’ of saliva that can form against your lips without running down inside the instrument. Sure, you’ll swallow between verses or something anyway – but anything you can do to keep it from getting excessively mucky down there will help significantly.
3. whack it. Having inspected the internals and found condensation beading on everything, I noticed I could dislodge the moisture by increasing gravity – ‘slinging’ it off to to say. What this amounts to is whacking it end-downwards on my knee when I start noticing tone interference, as a centrifuge is not readily available. I bring it down on my thigh above my knee sharply while pushing my leg up (in a seated position). The idea is that this slings the fluids down towards the bottom of the melodica – which I can then attempt to clear with the spit valve. I also do this before putting it away. When particularly annoyed I wack it towards a side too. It seems to address the worst of the problem and the notes sound more clearly.
Lastly, a proposal – what if we designed a mouthpiece with a spit collector – like a vacuum dust collection bin, effectively – only providing a place for excess salivations to collect rather than going down in the instrument? It would have its own valve on the bottom of it for lubricating the band room floor. 😉
DavidMarch 21, 2018 at 4:43 pm #9775
#3 (slapping instrument to dislodge moisture) is a common harmonica practice.March 23, 2018 at 4:04 am #9776
Thank you for all the advice! Would definitely try to incorporate them 🙂March 23, 2018 at 11:46 am #9781
Welcome to the forum, and congratulations on getting a P37!
You said you’ve been getting gurgling sounds. This is from a build up of moisture/condensation. I also experience this when doing a lot of melodica practise. The instrument can get saturated with condensation, and once wet, can take a long time to dry properly. The moisture causes all sorts of problems – unstable tuning, gurgling, partially sounding notes, and sometimes choked notes.
The only solution is finding a way to let the instrument fully dry. This can take days if you don’t open the instrument up. You said you washed the instrument. Bear in mind that after washing, the melodica is very very wet, and may not have dried as much be as you think, even if the reed plates are dry. If the gurgling happens again, its probably because of this. It needs to be fully dry to operate like it did when you first bought it.
You’ve read that you shouldn’t be “blowing too hard for the yamaha, especially new ones with unseasoned reeds”. I’m not sure I agree with this. Reeds don’t need seasoning, or playing in, and you can play as loud as you want! If you’re blowing excessively hard all the time, the reeds may go out of tune quicker, or fail prematurely, but they won’t cause that gurgling sound you’re describing.
You also said that “using the tongue contributes additional saliva into the melodica (from a harmonica forum). I am guessing that a suggested fix would be the to increase the gap between the reeds?” No, don’t increase the gaps – that would cause issues with the attack of the note.
With your level of practise, it might be worth having 2 or more instruments, so you can swap them over once they’re too wet, giving them a chance to dry.March 23, 2018 at 7:17 pm #9782
I guess I’ll jump in here. I definitely agree with Daren about seasoning or “breaking in” reeds. There’s nothing to that. I disagree a bit on blowing too hard on a Yamaha, as I believe it can affect the gapping of a reed so that it fails when you blow hard on it or altogether, in the sense that the offending reed has to be regapped to solve the problem. For some reason, this seems to be more of a problem with Yamahas. I have fixed Yamaha reeds that are choking up or not playing on several Yamahas.
You didn’t say how you washed your P-37, Yan, or how long you waited to play it. That was a good thing to try, since your spittle may be leaving a deposit of some kind on the reeds that makes them sticky. A solution of 1/3 pharmacy alcohol and 2/3 water is good, because the alcohol will help to dissolve any residues. The melodica can also be given a quicker rinse by running water in through the mouthpiece opening and blowing into it (alternated with running more water) while you work all the keys, blowing the water out until keys start playing (gurgling). Bolw water out through all those reed openings. When you’re finishing up with that process, blow out as much water for all the keys and the spit valve opening, working your way through everything, and finally getting as much water as you can out. I also swing the melodica vigorously with the spit valve held open to eject as much water as possible. It still takes at least a day for the instrument to be playable. If you went through this process once a week, that might help with your problem.
Some other thoughts:
1. Store your melodica on end with the mouth opening down. If possible, it you’re performing, do that on stage with a stand.
2. Some melodicas have better venting systems than others. The P-37D is not among the best. The P-32D or E is a little better, in my experience. A metal tray Suzuki’s rocker arm spit mechanism is quite a bit better. A Suzuki Pro-37v2, with the screw off cap is best of all (Hohner Piano 36 melodicas also have this). You can tell the difference by just blowing through with no keys depressed and the spit valve open: the easier air flows through the better. If it’s barely flowing through on the P-37D, there probably is some blockage.
3. Your issue could possibly be affected by the “attitude” of the melodica while you’re playing. The problem is more likely if it’s pointing up, and less likely if you hold it vertically, with the mouth hole at the top: While you’re playing, you want the moisture and liquid to go downward, toward the exit at or near the bottom.
4. I always have two or three melodicas out. If I were performing, I’d have several melodicas with me and would alternate between them (per Daren’s suggestion), for variety but also in case of moisture problems. I know some of our members have designed cases in which they carry several melodicas to their gigs.
5. It would be interesting to know if you’d have less of a problem with a 32 key melodica. A Suzuki M-32C would anyhow be a good companion to the Yamaha P-37D, and it has the better venting mechanism.
6. It seems silly to ask this, but how frequently do you blow out moisture while you’re playing? Is it part of your playing routine, or do you just do it when there’s a problem?
Let us know what you get figured out, as this is a very relevant topic. Thanks.March 24, 2018 at 12:21 am #9783
Good points Alan
I believe it can affect the gapping of a reed so that it fails when you blow hard on it or altogether, in the sense that the offending reed has to be regapped to solve the problem
This sounds entirely feasible!
Interestingly, the moisture release buttons on all my Yamahas have been modified – replaced with screw on caps, so they can be left open to dry. Sometimes while performing, I leave the cap off, and cover it with my left hand, so that the instrument is “airing” for every moment its not being played.March 24, 2018 at 2:00 am #9784
Could you describe the nature of the modification, Daren? That sounds like a great change, especially for the P-37D.
Then there’s my melodica tracheotomy, a simple modification that was designed to address the problem of moisture retention.
But installing a screw-off cap sounds like the ideal solution.March 24, 2018 at 12:56 pm #9785
Thank you Daren & Alan for taking your time to type out so much!!
I had basically washed the exterior of the P37, the maroon/chocolate cover, the plastic cover covering the reeds and the rubber seal with dishwasher soap and left it under a really scorching sun for 30 mins until it was completely dry. I had wiped the reeds gently with a cloth and left it indoors for about the same time before covering everything up.
What happened afterwards was that I did some finger practices, such as arpeggios which involved running around the same few keys alot. Guess that contributed greatly to the build up of spit. Ever since, I have been playing less of these finger exercises and just normal pieces. The choke happens once in a while but doesnt linger on like I did at the time of my original posting. Likewise the same occur from some notes which had some excessive ringing. I did not widen or flatten any of the reeds throughout this period.
Regarding how often I empty my spit, I guess its a habit to clear whenever possible from years of brass playing. That being said, it initially seemed as though my P37 had a leakage problem. I couldnt figure out why a river of saliva coming out from the last key when I inverted my melodica, until opening it up. If i had the resources, I would definitely reworking the exterior case and modify the 5 screws reeds cover plate like Daren did.March 24, 2018 at 4:37 pm #9786
It’s not advisable to leave your melodica out in the hot sun, Yan.March 25, 2018 at 1:32 am #9787
I understand that the heat would damage the reeds and had left the inner section indoor. What i dried under the sun was the only exterior maroon/chocolate case and the reeds cover.March 26, 2018 at 9:59 am #9788
Could you describe the nature of the modification, Daren? That sounds like a great change, especially for the P-37D
I literally cut off the whole mechanism at the end of the melodica, and replace it with something like this, which accepts a cap.
It’s quite a big job, as you also have to make a new case!March 26, 2018 at 10:09 am #9789
Regarding how often I empty my spit… a river of saliva coming out from the last key…
Just a technicality Yan, but its not saliva that collects inside the instrument, it’s condensation, from moisture in the breath. The warm moisture is attracted to the cold metal reeds. Hence, the warmer the instrument/atmosphere, the less problems you’ll have with condensation.
You can expect the odd note to go a bit funny from time to time – you’ll find ways of clearing it.
I do a lot of my practice silently, not blowing, but just finger movement. That way I can give all my attention to the mechanics of the fingers, making sure everything is relaxed and working efficiently. During this time, I leave the cap and mouthpiece off, so there’s a circulation of air, and it can keep drying.
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