Multi-tracked Melodica
March 17, 2011 7:29 PM   Subscribe

The melodica has all the irritation and the none of the charm of the accordion, but James Howard Young is doing amazing things with it... and multi-tracking. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 3, first movement, arranged for 10 melodicas (the video shows 9), Vivaldi's L'Estro Armonico Concerto no. 8 in A minor for 2 violins, 3rd mvt arranged for 7 melodicas, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto, no 1, first movement, arranged for 12 melodicas. All videos featuring just one melodicist.

There's more on his Youtube Channel. If you have a tolerant family, you appear to be able to buy melodicas here.
posted by Jahaza (40 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
(no relation)
posted by Jahaza at 7:30 PM on March 17, 2011


The melodica has all the irritation and the none of the charm of the accordion

Wha... are you... you take that right back!
posted by spiderskull at 7:32 PM on March 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


Well, I'm impressed.
posted by gc at 7:36 PM on March 17, 2011


The melodica has all the irritation and the none of the charm of the accordion

you don't listen to enough twee indie pop

er, not that you should. but it's pretty damn charming
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:43 PM on March 17, 2011


you don't listen to enough Augustus Pablo either.
posted by puny human at 7:47 PM on March 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is cool!

Bach on anything would sound good I think, provided the musician could play (and this guy can).
posted by carter at 7:50 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Came here to mention Augustus Pablo, but puny human beat me to it!

As this site explains, here in Japan the melodica (usually called a "pianica" here) is the standard issue musical instrument (along with the recorder) for ALL Japanese grade school kids. My daughter (4th grader) has one, of course. They're really quite loud.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:56 PM on March 17, 2011


flapjax, one of my favorite memories at an elementary school here is I was waiting around for a class in a big media room our school was using, and I could look down through the open window to the music room, where the students were practicing their standard issue recorders.

The cacophony was nothing short of incredible.

But I've also seen those same kinds rocking their melodicas. The elementary school bands sound so good.
posted by gc at 8:00 PM on March 17, 2011


Yeah, if you're going to (indirectly) insult Augustus Pablo in your FPP, expect some comments.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:06 PM on March 17, 2011


OMG Vivaldi, Four Seasons, Summer, ONE melodica
posted by leotrotsky at 8:59 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


(HOOTERS JOKE)
posted by mintcake! at 9:14 PM on March 17, 2011


The melodica has all the irritation and the none of the charm of the accordion ...

How DARE you insult the likes of - for instance - Donald Fagen and Joe Zawinul, sirrah!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:15 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


you have seriously underestimated the melodica as a musical instrument

i wish i had one - it's enough to give me the blues
posted by pyramid termite at 9:21 PM on March 17, 2011


Yeah nthing Augustus Pablo and dub in general. I'm a proud melodica player. Raw, in person, yeah it can be grating. But with some delay and reverb that shit is pure magic.
posted by Hoopo at 9:40 PM on March 17, 2011


good goddamn!

my darling boyfriend proudly presented me with a melodica a couple valentine's days ago, knowing me to be the musical type. i've never really known quite what to do with it, but this certainly counts as inspiration.
posted by hollisimo at 9:43 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ha irritation have you ? No charm would you? New Order - Love Vigilantes will fix that.
posted by merocet at 9:48 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


This twee little indie track features a sprightly melodica part.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 10:19 PM on March 17, 2011


It's been said already, but I will reiterate. Augustus Pablo is the godfather of the melodica. He was creating masterpieces for this instrument over 30 years ago.
posted by sophist at 10:19 PM on March 17, 2011


Momus & Tomoko Miyata

Melodica comes in around 3:20
posted by puny human at 10:39 PM on March 17, 2011


Augustus Pablo now you take that back!
posted by bboyberlin at 12:26 AM on March 18, 2011


I was more impressed by his recorder work. By 'impressed', I mean, I didn't know they got that big. And I like the sound better than the melodica.
posted by Goofyy at 12:47 AM on March 18, 2011


Oh my god make it stop.
posted by ReeMonster at 1:06 AM on March 18, 2011


MetaFilter Music tracks featuring the melodica.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 1:42 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The little melodica bleats on Gang of Four's Entertainment! are also choice.
posted by Beardman at 4:06 AM on March 18, 2011


Augustus Pablo: Java Live (Japan Reggae Sunsplash)
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:19 AM on March 18, 2011


ack, bboyberlin beat me to it. I love "Java."
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:20 AM on March 18, 2011


Nerdy side-thought: interesting that Bach's first Brandenburg concerto seems to be much more difficult to get together for him. I always thought it's because of these blasted no-valve horns and their triplets, but apparently, there's more obstacles in the score than that (maybe he also takes it a bit too fast).
Now, of course, we're waiting for Brandenburg 5...
posted by Namlit at 4:52 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the post Jahaza, but you're still a Philistine.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:39 AM on March 18, 2011


I used to play the melodica during school music lessons because I was one of only two kids in the class who could play piano. I can't play piano now, but I bet I could still play the melodica.

Ugh. The spit button. Gah. I shall never understand how people decide to play wind instruments. Yuk.
posted by Decani at 6:24 AM on March 18, 2011


merocet: Hah, I was going to post that exact song. First song that comes to mind when I think of the melodica. Also used to great effect by Sumner on Your Silent Face.
posted by kryptondog at 8:49 AM on March 18, 2011


Melodicas have a lot in common with recorders. They are used as training instruments, although they are quite difficult to play well. Both are technically quite rudimentary instruments and require a lot of skill to be played in tune and sound good. Indie bands use them to sound bad. Most of them are made of plastic. Wooden ones usually sound better.
posted by ikalliom at 1:55 PM on March 18, 2011


How do you play a melodica out of tune? If I blow mine too hard the notes go flat a bit, but I have to blow real hard. I find it several orders of magnitude more difficult to play the guitar in tune, and I've been playing guitar for fifteen years.

Genuinely curious.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:01 PM on March 18, 2011


How do you play a melodica out of tune?

Indeed: not. The basic principle of the recorder (of which I have made 10, so for once I know what I'm talking about) makes that the pitch goes up with increasing pressure.
Melodicas, on the other hand, are free reed aerophones.
"In a free-reed instrument, it is the physical characteristics of the reed itself, such as mass, length, cross-sectional area, and stiffness, which primarily determine the pitch (frequency) of the musical note produced. Of secondary importance to the pitch are the physical dimensions of the chamber in which the reed is fitted, and of the air flow."

Problem with many cheap instruments of any sort is that they don't come well-tuned. That does indeed apply to recorders and melodicas in the same manner.
posted by Namlit at 3:35 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Twelvthing the love for Augustus Pablo. I like my melodica well enough, but I love my button accordions. They just sound more like a musical instrument. Plus this guy's melodicas don't sound that great (might be due to the recording or the multi-track post processing or something).
posted by sneebler at 6:30 PM on March 18, 2011


The Hooters, And We Danced also has melodica.
posted by jonp72 at 6:56 PM on March 18, 2011


spiderskull: "The melodica has all the irritation and the none of the charm of the accordion

Wha... are you... you take that right back
"

Melodica Playing Chicken redeems all.

Ignores the haters.
posted by symbioid at 8:18 PM on March 18, 2011


Confession: I play both melodica and recorder. While the sound generation method is indeed different, I am firmly of the opinion that they are not very good training instruments for children.

The pitch goes up in a melodica too when you blow harder, although not as much as with a harmonica (or recorder). If you blow softly, the low notes go noticeably flat. Suguru Ito does this at 0:58 in the amazing video pyramid termite linked to above (as well as other effects, at 3:32 he tongues a really fast tremolo). As you play, moisture from breathing makes the reeds heavier, and the melodica goes out of tune even if it was properly tuned when dry. Few people tune their melodicas, most of them are more or less out of tune, but the uneven vibration of the single metal reed hides tuning problems somewhat so I guess the bad tuning can be considered a part of the melodica sound.

If you press the key very lightly, the note bends downward quite a lot, perhaps a quartertone or so. You have to press so lightly that it is impossible in practice to compensate tuning like this when playing fast passages. It is more of a special effect you can do with single long notes.

Suzuki-Hammond has a new model, the Hammond 44 Melodion which looks like a serious instrument and has a quite serious price tag ($550), but I'm not sure if it sounds that much better than the cheaper Yamahas or Hohners or even the chinese Victory which costs 1/20 of the price of the Hammond.
posted by ikalliom at 2:48 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Taking the risk of talking to myself at the end of the thread, the Suzuki Andes 25F is a surprise. It looks like a melodica and sounds something between a recorder and a pennywhistle. Best of both worlds, one could say.
posted by ikalliom at 7:42 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Taking the risk of talking to myself at the end of the thread

Nope, still listening! Thanks for filling us in.
posted by Jahaza at 6:01 PM on March 19, 2011


Sorry to have sounded belligerent, I am a card-carrying melodica enthusiast. Thanks Jahaza and Namlit for the info.

As a peace offering, please accept this performance of the New Pornographers' "My Rights Versus Yours", with... something out of tune.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:09 PM on March 19, 2011


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