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.