Yamaha Pianica P-37E – My Report
June 27, 2018 at 6:45 pm #10026
Follow-up on earlier thread on Yamaha’s new P-37E “Adult” model.
I’m still making sound comparisons with the P-37D, a process complicated by the fact that my P-37E arrived badly tuned, in relation to itself but also in relation to standard concert tuning of A=440 Hz. Most melodicas are factory tuned closer to 441 or 442 Hz. This one came in at around A=443.
The P-37E has, in my opinion, a much better, cleaner and more professional look and feel than the trusty old P-37D. It meets the expectations created by Yamaha’s publicity photos. I think these aesthetic differences in themselves place it at a higher value point than the P-37D. It looks and feels at least 43 Euros or $50 better than the P-37D. Melodica Worlders will, of course, want to know in what ways it otherwise differs from the P-37D and how and to what extent that affects the sound.
First, some of my photos:
The E has sharper, more angular but still pleasing contours that are more pleasing to the eye and to the touch than the more rounded somewhat bulging contours of the D. This is enhanced by the E’s rougher surface that softens its look and feel at the same time that it makes for a firmer grip. The E looks and feels more solid. To the eye, the end pieces in particular stand out, flat and displaying the Yamaha name and logo. The D’s end pieces slope down at their front end. The contrast in colors adds to look of the E. I have the brown model, a conservative shade, somewhere between Carob and Brown on color charts.
To be continued.June 27, 2018 at 7:26 pm #10027
Now for what’s inside.
The P-37E disassembles exactly as the P-37D does. At first glance, once the inner melodica is removed from its enclosure, everything looks pretty much the same, except for color differences. The inner melodicas of the P-37E and the P-37E are interchangeable. The cover of the reed chamber is the same, the reed chamber is the same, the reeds are the same; the mechanisms, the springs, the key pads are the same. All these parts are interchangeable between the two models. Your old P-37D will serve as an almost perfect parts backup for your new P-37E.June 27, 2018 at 8:43 pm #10028
But some differences are noticeable, especially when we take a closer look
The vent holes of the E are approximately 1″ long, while those of the D are close to 3/4″. Possibly this is to offset some of the muting effect created by other changes in the E.
The walls of the E’s enclosure are thicker than those of the D, making the enclosure of the E slightly heavier and, it would seem, more durable. This may have some dampening affect on the sound quality and/or volume of the P-37E.
The inside of the E’s enclosure is stamped “ABS+PLA”, which must refer to its “biomass-derived resin ‘Ecodia'” composition touted in Yamaha’s advertising, which is also being used in some of its recorders. As far as I can determine, this is a form of PVC for which Japanese inventors submitted a copyright application in 2009. The rationale for the invention is suggested by the “biomass derived” descriptor: it is better for the environment, it helps with global warming. Whether it actually has any acoustic advantages, we can only guess. It’s possible, but my guess is that the thickness of of the application is more likely to matter acoustically in a melodica.
The most conspicuous likely acoustic difference-maker in the P-37E is the approx. 17″ X 1 and 1/4″ strip of dense foam rubber that runs the length of the backside of the bottom of its enclosure. It is about 1/8″ thick. Insertion of some such strip is something about which we have speculated in past conversations. I experimented with lighter, thicker, more porous foam a few years ago, though only briefly and with uncertain results. There has also been experimentation with strips of wood, I guess on the theory that the presence of wood in a melodica can be counted on to produce a “more acoustic” sound. The concept is simple; Yamaha’s application looks good and seems to be one likely factor in (what I hear as) subtle improvements in the sound of the new P-37E.
The beauty of this improvement is that it is something we can easily try on other melodicas.
Another acoustic difference maker, according to Yamaha, is the thin strip on which the key pads rest. You can (short of more risky disassembly) barely see the air holes in this strip with a flashlight. The decreasing (or increasing) sizes of the holes determine the volume of air passing through when the key is depressed and the pad is lifted. Daren posted an image earlier.
Notice that the size of the openings does not gradually change from one end to the other. This surely cannot be the most effective application of the concept. There are just three sizes. I feel some unexpected resistance in blowing into the P-37D as I move up the keyboard. Acoustic implications seem likely. The quality of the sound may be improved. A slight difference in the playing experience may be felt. There may be a difference in bending notes or producing other effects.
Finally, it is often said that it is a disadvantage of the P-37D that moisture is vented inside its enclosure rather than out an escape hole. As a practical matter, that may be. The clearly visible escape hole below the moisture release button of the P-37E may look like an improvement. But has been there all along on the P-37D.June 27, 2018 at 10:27 pm #10029
I have had a hard time tuning the P-37E. Almost there, but the problem is getting clear and consistent readings, plus gapping issues. I have not had comparable difficulties tuning P-37Ds (two of them). My guess is that this has to do with the strip with the holes, which makes the reeds seem less stable. In my opinion, less stable reeds (often thinner reeds) make it easier to bend notes and manipulate sound. I’ll have to see how this plays out.June 28, 2018 at 10:28 pm #10030
Very interesting Alan! We can always count on you to be thorough.
Of course I have a couple of questions:
With the key pad strip: are the large holes over the large reeds and the tiny holes over the small reeds?
Having played the Suzuki soprano a lot and working on reed organs. I know it takes more air-pressure to play the high end reeds.
I’m thinking it might be helpful to have wider holes over the smaller reeds?
Sometimes my physics understanding is faulty so maybe I’m wrong there.
Since it seems to be the same reed plates and reed cover I’m going to guess it has the same moisture blocking air problem that plagues the 37D?
Finally to get a bit personal Alan. Are you enjoying playing this melodica?June 29, 2018 at 1:21 am #10031
I’m having issues playing this melodica because of frustration with tuning and getting all the reeds to function consistently, Kevin. My suspicion is that there are problems arising from the key pad strip. The key pad strip is an interesting concept. But I’m having my doubts about execution. What really is the point of the differences in SHAPE of the holes? If this concept has been worked out adequately, why are the openings in a tacked on strip rather than in the frame of the instrument? Why three banks of different size/shape holes corresponding to the three reed plates?
I have been making comparisons between the unenclosured P-37D core and the unenclosured P-37E core, since these can be played outside their enclosures. The point of these comparisons is to isolate sound differences that are a function of the difference between the core melodicas, which seem to relate mainly if not completely to the holey keypad strip. I hear a difference mainly at the bass end, in the first bank of reeds. The sound of the E in the bottom (F3 to E-4 is), to my subjective perception, slightly more muted, and I find this to be pleasing. The advantage is somewhat offset, however, by the instability of the intonation of those reeds in the E.
Physics/schmysics, I think the larger holes are at the bottom end but am not sure. But I agree that it does take more air pressure to play the higher notes. And smaller holes at the bottom end may make note bending easier.
It’s possible that I will end up transplanting my P-37D core into the P-37E enclosure. The E enclosure is clearly superior in look and feel; I need to do further experimentation in relation to its supposed acoustic enhancements. Visually speaking, also to be considered is the fact that the white keys of the D are a creamier, darker white than those of the E.
I may also try transplanting the (440 tuned) lower and middle reed plates of my P-37D into the P-37E to find out whether their tuning holds up in that environment.June 29, 2018 at 12:47 pm #10032
My P37E arrived today, so I thought I’d add to the discussion with some initial thoughts…
To me, it looks a bit more like a retro melodica than the P37D. Although I like the slightly rough finish of the plastic, I prefer the overall, more rounded shape of its predecessor.
There is considerably more blowing resistance when compared to the P37D. This is fine for me, but I wouldn’t call it an improvement.
The sound is more muted, in the way that the Hammond 44 is more muted than the Hammond 44HP. If you’re recording, or amplifying, you could recreate this on the P37D by rolling off some of the high frequencies on a graphic equaliser, or tone control. In a live setting the muted sound may help you to blend with other instruments.
In brief, it looks a bit different, sounds more muted, and takes a little more effort to play with the extra air resistance (though some players may like this).
In general I prefer the P37E for its sound, but would turn to the P37D if I needed brightness to cut through a mix, or to give me more (pre eq) options while recording.June 29, 2018 at 2:12 pm #10033
I’m glad you have yours, too, Daren, so we can make comparisons. Good observations. “Retro” explains some of the appeal for me. I need to get out my vintage Pianica 36.
I removed the top and bottom keys to take a look at the holes. The big ones are at the bass end. The Yamaha photo of the hole strip is distorted the round holes are actually elongated vertically (not sure what the term is, I don’t think “oval”), and the squares are elongated vertical rectangles.
Your comments incline me to create a hybrid of these two models, Daren, using the core of the P-37D with the P-37E enclosure, probably with a white keys exchange and maybe using the E’s black reed chamber cover. I do notice the added resistance while blowing, which for me is a negative. It must be the source of my difficulties in tuning the P-37E.
The holes concept is good, but it seems to need more work.
I personally prefer the more angular contours of the E. My wife Linda wouldn’t let me get the hybrid Toyota RAV4 (as it was not available in red — who can argue with that?). But I’ll get my way on this one.June 29, 2018 at 6:15 pm #10034
I’m about to make an important announcement. But first a couple of bad hole photos. The first is of the key pad hole of the low key (F3) of the P-37E, the second of the same for the high key (F6).
These show the true shape of the holes. It seems that the geometrically correct name for the shape shown in the second photo (same shape as the smaller holes in the middle) is a “general oval”, close relative of the “stadium oval” in which football games are played.
Again, on the hole strip there are three stages of holes corresponding to the P-37D/E’s three reed plates. The large holes for F3-E4 are the same same shape and size on both the D and the E models. On the P-37D, all the key pad holes are this same shape and size on the P-37D. There are three sets of holes with the P-37D. The mid-range holes (for F4-F5) are smaller and have the general oval shape, while the top end holes F#5-F6) have that same shape and are yet smaller. I’ll repeat my opinion that if this hole concept, which may be a good one, were fully applied, the size and/or shape of holes should morph gradually all the way up the keyboard.June 29, 2018 at 6:53 pm #10035
Introducing the new hybrid model, the Pianica P-37H.
This model is still under development, but here you see the basic concept worked out. The P-37H closely resembles the previously introduced P-37E. Beneath the surface, however, hidden within the enclosure, is the tried and true Yamaha Pianica P-37D, as is suggested by a close examination of this photo, which reveals the familiar mouthpiece opening of the P-37D. Also noticeable is the burgundy hue of the hybrid’s moisture venting button. This finishing touch was suggested to our engineers by the E’s white button snapping off off during production.
A couple of other small modifications: Since the white reed chamber of the D model would show through the vent holes of the H, it had to be swapped out and replaced with the E’s sleek black reed chamber cover. Small foam rubber pads have been inserted, as shown in the following photo, to further stabilize the seating of the D body within the E enclosure.
Legal Disclaimer: Though closely resembling a Yamaha Pianica and constructed from genuine Yamaha parts, the astonishing P-37H is not an actual new model being introduced by the Yamaha Corporation or any of its affiliates.June 29, 2018 at 9:22 pm #10036
Hygen’s Principle and Single Slit Interference
I asked my friend the distinguished professor of Materials Science whether sound is influenced by the size and shape of a hole through which it passes. This is not quite the question of how air venting toward or away from a reed is affected by the size and shape of the opening through which it passes — he knows that the melodica is the application in which I’m interested. But he says that he believes the answer is Yes, and he gave me the following link to the physics in relation to light, saying that the same principles apply to sound. Physics is definitely not one of my strong suits.July 7, 2018 at 5:20 pm #10042
The P-37E shell, even with the old P-37D core inside (i.e., my hybrid P-37H), produces a noticeably more muted sound than the old P-37D, especially at the high end. This must be on account of the rubber strip and the new shell material and thickness. I believe, based on my experimentation with rubber strips, that it is the new shell that’s making the difference. The result is very pleasing to me, especially when I compare it to other Yamaha models, EXCEPT at the high end. the top five notes or so (the difference between 37 keys and 32 keys, of course) require much greater air pressure. It’s possible that widening the gaps on those reeds might help. I’m leery about experimenting with that at the moment.July 7, 2018 at 10:37 pm #10043
I’m confused Alan – why would the P37D (in a P37E shell) become harder to play on the top notes? Is it the shape of the E’s black reed chamber cover? I know I could open mine and have a look, but I don’t feel like tinkering right now!July 7, 2018 at 11:12 pm #10044
I’m not entirely unconfused myself, Daren! I don’t think the reed cover has anything to do with it, although it’s a bit different. My impression is that it is the external shell that’s making the biggest difference in sound, due to its thickness and perhaps due to a difference in the plastic. The end pieces are also flatter on the P-37E. My guess is that the sound is muted for the entire keyboard but that the muting is more problematic at the high end. More air pressure is, it seems, required at the high end of the P-37D and other melodicas. The muting by the P-37E case exacerbates this issue. To confirm this, I should take the core out of my modified P-37E and see how the high notes play.
But I already have been familiar with how the P-37D plays outside the shell, and I’ve already taken the damn thing apart so many times, I hate to do it again. But eventually I’m sure I’ll take it apart to see if there’s anything I can do to improve the situation with the high reeds.
I really like the sound of my altered P-37E. It’s special. But I’m likely to avoid the top end keys.
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