From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Hohner melodica
Keyboard instrument
Classification Wind; free reed aerophone
Hornbostel–Sachs classification412.132
(Free-reed aerophone)
Playing range
Usually 2 or 3 octaves
Related instruments
accordion, harmonica, pump organ, yu

The melodica is a handheld free-reed instrument similar to a pump organ or harmonica. It features a musical keyboard on top, and is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece that fits into a hole in the side of the instrument. The keyboard usually covers two or three octaves. Melodicas are small, lightweight, and portable, and many are designed for children to play. They are popular in music education programs, especially in Asia. The modern form of the instrument was invented by Hohner in the late 1950s,[1] though similar instruments have been known in Italy since the 19th century.[2]


The mouthpiece can be a short rigid or semi-flexible plastic piece or a long flexible plastic tube (designed to allow the player to either hold the keyboard so the keys can be seen or lay the keyboard horizontally on a flat surface for two-handed playing). A foot pump can also be used as an alternative to breathing into the instrument.[3][4][5] Melodica keyboards typically ascend from a low F note. In the 21st century, 32 and 37 note keyboards are typical, though instruments may have as few as 13 or as many as 44 keys. The melodica with the largest range is the Hammond Pro 44, which has a range of 44 notes.

Pressing a key opens a hole, allowing the player's breath to flow through a single reed. The sound of each vibrating reed reverberates in the shell of the instrument, which may be made of plastic, timber or metal. The harder the player blows, the louder the note. An external microphone can be used to amplify the instrument or record its sound.[6] Hammond's Pro-44 melodion and Pro 24-B bass melodion each have built-in dynamic microphones which can be connected to a PA system or recording device via a single TRS 1/4" jack output.[7]

Melodicas range in price from under US$20 for a simple, plastic instrument to several thousand dollars for a rare, custom-made or antique model.


The melodica was first used as a serious musical instrument in the 1960s by composers such as Steve Reich, in his piece titled Melodica (1966).[8] Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal developed a technique consisting of singing while playing the melodica, resulting in a wide tonal and harmonic palette.[9] Jamaican dub and reggae musician Augustus Pablo popularized it in the 1970s,[10] and his son Addis Pablo continues his father's tradition as a melodica player within these genres. The American musician Jon Batiste is often seen playing a melodica on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The instrument is also associated with the Inti Raymi festival in Otavalo, Ecuador.


Layout of a melodica keyboard with three octaves (36 keys)

Melodicas are classified primarily by the range of the instrument. Melodicas with different ranges have slightly different shapes.

  • Soprano and alto melodicas are higher-pitched and thinner sounding than tenors. Some are designed to be played with both hands at once: the left hand plays the black keys, and the right hand plays the white keys. Others are played like the tenor melodica.
  • Tenor melodicas are a lower-pitched type of melodica. The left hand holds a handle on the bottom, and the right hand plays the keyboard. Tenor melodicas can be played with two hands by inserting a tube into the mouthpiece hole and placing the melodica on a flat surface.
  • Bass melodicas include the Hohner Melodica-Basso (discontinued), the Suzuki B-24 Bass Melodion[11] and the Hammond Bass Melodion BB-24.
  • The Accordina aka 'Chromatic Button Melodica', generally made of metal, uses the same mechanism and reeds as a traditional melodica. The keyboard is replaced with a button arrangement similar to a chromatic button accordion's keyboard.

Wooden melodicas[edit]

Daren Banarsë makes melodicas with a combination of 3D printing, woodwork, and high-quality Italian reeds. These reeds respond better to airflow, stay in tune longer, and allow a more balanced dynamic within chords.[12] His wooden instruments are “professional-looking” and “backed up by a high, crisp tone similar to that of an accordion”.[13] The Sound Electra corporation makes the MyLodica, a wooden melodica designed " produce a warmer richer sound than that of its plastic relatives."[14] The Victoria Accordion company in Castelfidardo, Italy, produces a range of wooden melodicas and accordinas that they market under the name Vibrandoneon. Suzuki Musical Instrument Corporation makes the Wood Melodion W-37 whose body is made of mahogany.[15]

Wooden melodica by Daren Banarsë (2019) made with zebrano wood, aluminium and nylon

Alternative names[edit]

The melodica is known by various names, often at the whim of the manufacturer. Melodion (Suzuki), Triola (Seydel), Melodika (Apollo), Melodia (Diana), Pianica (Yamaha), Melodihorn (Samick), Melodyhorn (Angel), Diamonica (Bontempi), Pianetta (Guerrini), face piano, and Clavietta (Borel/Beuscher) are just some of the variants. When a recording technician unfamiliar with the melodica called it a "hooter", the band The Hooters took that as their name.[16]

Hohner Melodica Soprano: right side, keyboard and bottom views


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Missin P (2004). "A Brief History of Mouth-Blown Free Reed Instruments: Melodica Family". Archived from the original on 2013-09-26. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  2. ^ "Vibrandoneon". Archived from the original on 2016-08-22. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  3. ^ "Oscar Bettison – Composer: Los Angeles Times".
  4. ^ Blow Keyboard with foot pump, using wine cask / bota bag, cork, tubes and a pump, in a similar way to feet bagpipes.
  5. ^ Blow keyboard bagpipe mod in magazine Make
  6. ^ Sounds, Range of (2019-06-19). "How to Mic a Melodica". Range of Sounds. Retrieved 2022-05-26.
  7. ^ "Pro44Hv2 Melodion | Hammond USA". Retrieved 2022-05-26.
  8. ^ "Steve Reich – Melodica". Boosey & Hawkes. 1966-05-22. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  9. ^ Hermeto Pascoal – Rebuliço on YouTube
  10. ^ Kliment and Watchtel (2007). "Augustus Pablo". Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  11. ^ "Suzuki Bass Melodions". Retrieved 2022-05-26.
  12. ^ "/" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "You Won't Believe this Beautiful Melodica Is 3D Printed | Make:". Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers. 2015-08-05. Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  14. ^ "Mylodica". Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  15. ^ "Wooden Keyboard Harmonica alto W-37". Suzuki Musical Instrument Corporation. Retrieved 2022-06-16.
  16. ^ Darling, John (2000). What's in a Name? – The Book of Bands. Xlibris. ISBN 978-0-595-09629-9.

External links[edit]