Melodica

mel-uh-dih-kuh
The melodica is a free-reed instrument with a keyboard. It's played by blowing air through it, producing sound by pressing keys. It's known for its portability and is found in various genres from reggae to classical music.
History of the Melodica
The melodica shares its history with the harmonica and other reed instruments that are often attributed to China and the invention of the similar free reed instrument “the sheng”. This ancient aerophone dates back to over a 1000BC. In the 18th century, Dutch physicist Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein would create a reed organ that uses similar principles for creating sound, and instruments like the harmonium also followed. None of these were portable however. A pocket size mouth organ would eventually arrive in Europe and German manufacturer Hohner began to mass produce these instruments in the 1850s. Other reed instruments using air like the melodeon, panharmonicon and pump organ could be considered ancestors of the melodica which was eventually created by Hohner in the 1950s, a handheld instrument with piano keys. Some would also consider an invention by Italian company Borel in 1958 the first melodica but there is continued debate over this issue. The melodica struggled to find its place in music across the world but became steadily popular in Japan and Asia, before predominantly featuring in reggae and jazz in Europe. Various types of melodica can be distinguished in terms such as pianica and clavietta to describe the differing buttons and keys used.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

$20 - $200

Hear the Melodica

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How to Play

A small, keyboard-like instrument that is played by blowing into a mouthpiece and pressing keys to produce notes.

In Popular Music

The melodica features on ‘Clint Eastwood’ (2001) by Gorillaz, providing a new hook during the chorus. Lead singer Damon Albarn has used the melodica throughout his music career. The melodica also appears at the start of ‘Champagne Supernova’ by Oasis from 1996, where it provides a psychedelic drone to set the scene.

Famous Players

Augustus Pablo, Toots Thielemans, Bill Evans

Close Relations

Keyboard Harmonica, Accordion
Video Credit: Melodica Men
Understanding the Melodica
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1950s

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