The Story of Melodica

form "The new grove" - Dictionnary of musical instruments - Stanley Sadie

Melodica is a wind instrument created and selled by Hohner since 1959. They are manufactured in Tressingen (Germany).

Melodica can be described as an harmonica with keys (buttons or keyboard). A mouthpiece conducts breathing on some metallic reeds (contrary to an harmonica, you can only blow). It's a polyphonic instrument (so different voices or even chords can be played). The miscellaneous versions of melodicas cover ranges from alto up to soprano (the biggest model have a nearly 3 octaves range).

Melodicas have a rectangular shape and they are held vertically with the left hand (a handle is located underneath the instrument). It is made of plastic (but the piano 36 have a bottom in metal), except reeds which are made of metal (like an accordion or an harmonica).

In 1967, Hohner made the Electra-Melodica*, that is to say an electronic melodica. It was a monophonic intrument with a 3 octaves keyboard. The breathing blowed in the mouthpiece controled the volume of an electronic oscillator. The sound could be transposed over 9 octaves.

Some years ago, Yamaha also made melodica (named Pianica because the word melodica is property of Hohner) very similar to the original model. Here, a photo of my friend Ira Martin with his nephew holding his pianica.

This funny instrument have been used by composers as David Bedford, Alison Bauld, Anthony Braxton, Rodolf Komorous. He is also very used for improvisation.

* I'm looking for any photo or testimony regarding to this instrument.