The melodica, like the pump organ and harmonica, is a free-reed instrument. Performers blow air through a mouthpiece that fits into a hole on the side of the instrument. A musical keyboard lies on top. Pressing a key opens a hole, and enables air to flow through the reed. The keyboard typically has two or three octaves. Melodicas are compact, light, and portable instruments.
The melodica has evolved into a distinct voice in a wide range of musical genres, including jazz, reggae, and minimalist classical music. It is also widely used in certain areas of international music education, particularly in Japan. At its core, this is a wind instrument. The idea lies in the notion of combining wind and piano-style instruments, into a design that’s comfortable to hold.
Design and manufacturers of the melodica
In 1958, Hohner, a German manufacturer of harmonicas, launched the first melodica. Instead of piano keys, the design included buttons. Borel, an Italian company, also released its initial version in 1958. Their version had the piano keyboard that we now recognize as a conventional melodica keyboard. The melodica’s popularity in the West declined during the 1980s and 1990s, despite the existence of genres and musicians with a long affinity towards the instrument. These include Reggae and artists such as Augustus Pablo. Regardless, the melodica is gaining prominence today in jazz, folk, and several other genres.
Types of melodica differ between themselves mostly by the instrument’s range. Diverse ranges also result in varying forms. Some are intended to be played with both hands at the same time. In such cases, one hand holds a handle on the bottom, while the other plays the keyboard. Designs where the left hand plays the black keys and the right hand the white ones also exist. Additionally, when the melodica lies on a flat surface, performers may play with two hands with the help of a tube that fits into the mouthpiece,
Designs of the Accordina, sometimes known as a ‘Chromatic Button Melodica,’ use metal and employ the same mechanism and reeds as a standard melodica. A button layout, similar to that of a chromatic button accordion, replaces the keyboard.