The Melodica is an interesting and fun instrument that is unique. This is an instrument that looks like a toy; only it can be much more than that if you learn to play it.
It is my opinion that the melodica is a great instrument for both kids and adults who have piano experience. While this is technically a free reed instrument, it still resembles and is played like a piano. I think this instrument should be used more often in music.
History Of The Melodica
The modern form of this instrument was invented by the company Hohner in the 1950s. Similar instruments to this have been played in Italy since the 19th century. The melodica is also referred to as the “pianica.” Although a majority of the melodicas you will see are made out of plastic, some are constructed with wood. These are referred to as, “wooden melodicas.”
A fun fact about the melodica is that it is the instrument used in the Gorillaz hit song, “Clint Eastwood.”
How It Works
It is similar to the pump organ or the harmonica. It has a musical keyboard that you play the notes on like a piano and a reed that you blow into. It is a rather easy instrument to play if you any experience playing the piano. You typically hold this in the air and blow into the reed while your other hand plays.
You can use both hands to play this if you get a foot pump for it. This can be a foot alternative to playing it. These are extremely light and portable instruments that can be used by a variety of musicians.
If you are a parent looking for an instrument for your kids, I would recommend checking out my guide to kids pianos. I broke down my favorites and present some good options for the money.
Best Melodicas 2019
- The new Semi Pro M-37C Alto Melodion has exceptional sound and range at a reasonable price. Featuring phosphor bronze reeds, all aluminum covers and full 37 note range. Great choice for the serious Melodion hobbyist and performer.
- Standard Mouthpiece
- Trumpet Style Mouthpiece
- Flexible Tube Mouthpiece
- Soft Gig Bag with Handles
The Suzuki M-37C is one of the best melodicas on the market. This thing sounds in my opinion, much better than the Hohner 32B. I’ve noticed that a lot of people refer to this as the “grand piano of melodicas.”
This is about 3.5 pounds and it works great for an instrument you can carry around and practice with.
For price and portability, I believe this is the current best pick. You get everything you need from a melodica and you get a really nice sound. If you watch a video on Youtube of this, you will be impressed with the sound.
- Range of over two and one half full octaves for soprano or Alto
- 32 keys starting with "F" Below middle "C"
- Ideal for beginners as well as professionals
- Deluxe carrying case, mouthpiece and instructions included
- Black body with black and white keys
Hohner is the company that first made the melodica and I believe this is a great product. You can use this as a beginner and even use it as professional as well. I like the aesthetic of this one because it resembles a piano. This looks like a serious instrument and it also comes with a nice carrying case.
You can play big chords on this quite easily with it still sounding nice. I have noticed that some people do not like the sound of this. I actually don’t hate the sound on the Hohner 32B though. If your melodica isn’t properly tuned, send it back to Hohner and they will give you a new one. It is a pain to try and tune these instruments on your own.
Overall, I believe this is a good product. The sound is questionable, but personally, I like it. One thing that I also like is that it comes with 32 keys.
Schoenhut Puff N Play 25
I actually own this melodica, even though it is advertised more so for kids. This is great for kids, but I also believe adults will like this. I have used this melodica in some Youtube videos and I have also seen great players use this. This instrument is a bit heavier than some of the other melodicas, weighing 3 pounds.
On the sound end, it is pretty good, but not the greatest. The quality feels a little cheap, but that happens with melodicas. This is one of the cheaper options mentioned, but I think you will be pleased with the sound for the price you pay.
If you have a toddler and are looking for an instrument for them, check out my guide on the best toddler pianos.
I used this in a few different videos on Youtube and I think it’s a quality instrument. It’s cheap, but depending on what you’re using for, it gets the job done.
Yamaha P37 Pianica
- Pianicas are free-reed instruments similar to accordions and Harmonicas
- Popular in Asian markets and are used primarily for general music education
- The top choice for many educators and professional musicians
- Produce clear, full tones with solid projection and feature anti-corrosive reeds, providing stable intonation
While this is called a Pianica, it is the same thing. This version comes with 37 keys, so it’s on the bigger end for melodicas. I have noticed that a lot of people who play on the Hohner melodicas tend to prefer them over this Pianica.
For the sound, it is actually pretty good unless you’re playing chords. I have noticed that many people have complained that chords don’t sound very good on the P37.
The P37 has gotten some poor reviews in quality. I’ve seen that it gets ruined quite easily if you’re not careful with it.
Hammond 44 Acoustic-Electric Melodion
- The Hammond 44 incorporate a built-in dynamic microphone
- Designed in collaboration with leading harmonica manufacturer Suzuki Musical Instruments
The Hammond 44 is very nice, however, it is also extremely expensive. I personally prefer the Suzuki because it sounds great and it’s nowhere near the price as this. With this being said; if you’re serious about the melodica and you have the extra money, this is pretty revered in the melodica community.
The keyboard feels a lot different on this instrument as it feels a little more shallow. It has 44 keys, so it is on the larger side for melodicas and it is also acoustic and electric.
Check out my latest post in which I talk about learning piano on a keyboard. This answers the age-old question of whether or not students should learn on keyboards.
Personally, I think this is extremely expensive for a melodica. I would much rather get a digital piano as I am a pianist. The sound is great and the keys are also on the higher end for quality. Something nice with this is the padded case.
If you are a pianist, check out my guide on digital pianos, as I break down all of my favorite choices.
Types Of Melodicas
Soprano & Alto Melodicas: Soprano and Alto are higher pitched than tenors and they sound thinner. These are the most popular types of melodicas today. These are typically played with two hands with the left hand playing the black notes and the right hand playing the white notes.
Tenor Melodicas: These are lower pitched melodicas. The left hand will hold it on the bottom while the right-hand plays it like a keyboard.
Bass Melodicas: These are the least popular type of melodica.
What To Look For In A Melodica
Price: You want to gauge how serious you are about playing the instrument and figure out who is playing it. If it’s just for a kid, I would recommend getting a cheaper one.
Key-Action: The action isn’t going to vary much between melodicas, to be honest. Some of the key-beds will be worse than others though.
Look: The look varies with the color on these instruments. I personally am a fan of the blue melodicas. You will want to get a case, but most of them come with cases. If it doesn’t come with one, make sure to get one as they can get ruined fairly easily.
Chords: I’ve noticed that some melodicas don’t play chords as well as others do. Look for something that allows you to play chords without breaking up in sound.
Are Melodicas Good Instruments For Kids?
Yes. Melodicas are great for kids as they are kind of neat instrument to play. You’re also teaching kids to learn elements of the piano while learning how to control their breathing as well.
They actually make quite a few melodicas for kids because they work so well for younger ages. Younger kids will most likely run out of breath easily while playing. This is normal and it will get better in time.
Most melodicas are going to be built mostly of plastic. You will find that as you go up in price, you will start to find better materials such as wooden melodicas.
The wooden melodicas do feel better, however, that doesn’t mean that you will like the tone more as well.
Ever wonder if the piano or guitar is easier for beginners? Check this article out here.
I would say that most melodicas that I have played on have been plastic and they tend to feel pretty cheap. With this being said, they still tend to last a pretty long time. The durability is actually decent across the board, as long as you don’t drop it or crush it in some way.
As far as breaking the keys from playing them, I haven’t had that problem at all.
All melodicas come with a rather a small octave range that’s anywhere between 2 and 3 octaves. I prefer the larger ones as I try and take advantage of different ranges. However, you don’t need to go with a larger one if you’re new to the instrument.
Is A Melodica Hard To Play?
This question completely depends on your experience. If you come from playing reed instruments or you have some piano knowledge, you should be able to get hang pretty quickly.
Since my background is playing the piano, I’ve found it rather easy to play the melodica. There’s also something that I really enjoy about them. They can work as another way to spark some creativity for songwriting.
If you’re someone who is wanting to learn to play them, I recommend jumping in and getting a grasp of the piano. The notes are the same with the only difference being the size and the fact that you also use your mouth in order to create noise.
My personal belief is that melodicas are rather simple to play, especially if you have other musical instrument knowledge. With them being so small and following a similar layout to a keyboard, they should instantly feel familiar.
How Much Does A Melodica Cost?
This is a commonly asked question. Most Melodicas range between $40 and $120. You can find cheaper ones and more expensive, but on average you can expect to spend between $40 and $120.
If you’re not someone who is serious about playing, I would recommend just getting a cheaper one in all honesty.
Is A Melodica A Real Instrument Or Just For Kids?
The melodica is a real instrument. As state above, it is a free reed instrument that is used by kids as well as adults. While I do think they make as great instruments for kids, they also have far more use than just being used as a toy.
Can You Busk With A Melodica
Of course. Busking can be done with really any instrument that you are good or creative with. In all honesty, having an unusual setup can often lead to the busker make more money in tips. This is because people are more likely to stop and observe what you’re playing if they aren’t very familiar with it.
Melodicas are a perfect instrument to pull out and surprise your audience, especially if you are good at them. Remember, typically the better you are at the instrument, the more money you can make.
What Is The Button On The Back Of A Melodica For?
It is the spit valve. You will want to open the vent periodically to let it air out. When you do this, you will want to shake your melodica as well.
Do You Need A Melodica Case?
I actually suggest having one if you’re planning on traveling with them. Some melodicas will actually come with cases where some won’t. You can find soft cases for cheap if you can’t find one as well.
Cleaning Your Melodica Keys
If you’re looking to clean your melodica, I recommend using a damp rag and gently rubbing the keys. When doing this, try and use some paper towel first. This will allow you to get the major dust off before giving them a nice clean.
My Experience Playing The Melodica
I started playing the melodica about 8 years ago. With this being said, I don’t play every single day. I like to switch it up and play when I’m looking for some more creativity.
Personally, I think this is a super fun little instrument to try out. I always found it cool when musicians would get super good at unorthodox instruments. The best part of learning the melodica is that there are a ton of great resources that you can find on the internet. Youtube is probably the best place for this.
There are many different things to look at when purchasing a melodica. I hope this guide broke everything down for you in an easy way.
I personally believe that the Suzuki M-37C is the best option for most musicians. It’s not overly expensive and it also sounds crazy good.
Are you a fan of unconventional instruments? Check out my reviews on the best keytars.
Do you own a melodica? Which is your favorite and why? Let me know in the comment section below!