A melodica is a free reed system instrument in the same family as the pump organ (accordion) and harmonica. It comprises a mouthpiece, air chamber, and keyboard to produce a sound that is nothing like a piano or keyboard, despite its resemblance to these instruments.
Choosing a melodica can be difficult; you need to consider a number of factors aside from just price. For instance, what will you be using the melodica for?
A different melodica will be suitable whether you’re playing for fun or playing in a band. The most common mistake made when buying a melodica is to go for the cheapest option without considering quality, tuning or purpose.
In this article, we provide what to look for when buying a melodica and reviews of five melodicas currently available on the market.
What to look for when buying Melodica?
Keys and Octave Range
There are five different types of melodicas available on the market. This is in relation to their octave range: soprano, alto, tenor, bass and accordina with the soprano, alto, and tenor the most common.
Basically, the soprano is the highest pitched melodica, followed by the alto, then the tenor, and the bass is the lowest and rarest melodica. The accordina is virtually a melodica, except for the fact that it uses buttons to play notes instead of keys.
The keys on the melodica are another thing to consider. Since the instrument is played by holding it with one hand and using the other to press keys to play notes, this is an important factor.
The keys will feel different when you press them, which will generally feel lighter and less consistent on a cheaper quality melodica than on a higher quality one, where the keys will be heavier and solid.
Weight and Durability
Consider whether you require a light melodica that’s easy to hold and transport vs. one that’s durable. If you’re touring with a band, for example, you’ll need an instrument that will last and stand the test of time when things get rough while on the road.
Tenor and base melodicas are larger than soprano and altos and are sometimes, therefore, played using a tube, allowing the player to place them horizontally on a surface and use both hands to play the keys. These will be heavier instruments and harder to hold.
If performing in a band or solo, it may be worth investing in a melodica that is a tad lighter, but still quite durable.
Breath and Action
Melodicas only produce sound from exhaling breath, not inhaling. Different quality melodicas will also have different breath control.
The addition of valves to the instrument allows you to control how much lung power is required to play, and how sensitive it is to your breath.
Key action should also be considered, such as how responsive they are to your fingers, and whether or not they’re easy to press down as opposed to feeling as though they get stuck.
The best features of this Hammond melodica are that it is a highly professional instrument with a robust design.
While it is extremely expensive in relation to others on the market, this is because it is quite unique in relation to them.
Its sound and tune is almost impossible to beat, and is the perfect addition to a song with other instruments involved, making it great for band-play.
It is very high quality, and though a little heavy it is very durable and great for a long-term instrument.
- Very in tune
- Professional sound
- Most expensive on market
- Takes time to break-in
SUZUKI M-37C Melodion Melodica
This Suzuki melodica is a very high quality and competitive instrument to the most expensive on the market.
It produces a loud and very in-tune sound and the keys react very well to touch without being sticky.
The addition of three different mouthpieces (a brass mouthpiece that rests outside pursed lips, a plastic mouthpiece and a tube) makes this instrument stand-out from others.
It is relatively easy to play, though slightly difficult as the keys are quite narrow. It is also very durable and sturdy, though slightly heavy, and will last as a long-term instrument.
- Sturdy and high-quality
- Multiple mouthpieces
- Narrow keys
- Not for kids/beginners
Yamaha P37D 37-Key Pianica
This is a good quality, mid-range melodica.
It is able to produce very clear notes and, for the most part, full, tuned tones that produce a lovely mixed sound of harmonica and accordion.
The valve addition means that you have a flexible level of breath control and the instrument is easy to clean.
While some of the notes are quite sharp making it difficult to pair with other instruments, it produces a loud sound and is arguably the best melodica currently on the market, especially for the price.
- Produces a loud sound
- Has a spit valve
- Mix of harmonica and accordion sound
- Slightly out of tune
- Notes very sharp
- Caseless aesthetic than others
Hohner 32B Piano-Style Melodica
This is a great melodica for the musical hobbyist. It produces a loud sound that is relatively in tune, though there have been some experienced issues with the A key becoming quite out of tune.
It is fun to play because of the breath flexibility, allowing the player to increase or decrease volume with their breath to get different expressions.
The lack of spit valve means it’s harder to clean, and there have been reports that the mouthpiece becomes loose after prolonged use.
Overall, it’s a good introduction instrument that will last a while, especially given the price.
- Produces a loud sound
- Breath expression flexible
- Used for quality soprano or alto
- No spit valve
- Slightly out of tune
- Mouthpiece loosens with time
Melodica 37 Key Piano Style
This melodica is one of the cheapest on the market, which means its subject to some disadvantages.
It is quite low quality and while some of the keys are in tune, others are not.
However, it is perfectly suited for children and first-timers because it is very light and easy to hold when playing.
Many children use it as a beginner melodica with much success and lots of fun is had when playing.
While cheap, it is still good value for money and a positive place to start.
- Among the cheapest on the market
- Very light
- Fun to play
- Some notes out of tune
- More suited to children
- Low quality