|Classification||Wind; free reed aerophone|
|Usually 2 or 3 octaves|
|accordion, harmonica, pump organ, yu|
The melodica is a free-reed instrument similar to the pump organ and harmonica. It has a musical keyboard on top, and is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece that fits into a hole in the side of the instrument. Pressing a key opens a hole, allowing air to flow through a reed. The keyboard covers usually two or three octaves. Melodicas are small, light, and portable. They are popular in music education, especially in Asia.
The melodica was first used as a serious musical instrument in the 1960s by composers such as Steve Reich, in his piece titled Melodica (1966). Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal developed a technique consisting of singing while playing the melodica, resulting in a wide tonal and harmonic palette. It is associated with Jamaican dub and reggae musician Augustus Pablo who popularized it in the 1970s, and more recently with Jon Batiste, who is often seen playing the instrument on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Melodicas are classified primarily by the range of the instrument. Melodicas with different ranges have slightly different shapes.
Although the majority of melodicas are made of plastic, some are made primarily of wood. The Sound Electra corporation makes the MyLodica, a wooden melodica designed "...to produce a warmer richer sound than that of its plastic relatives." The Victoria Accordion company in Castelfidardo, Italy, produces a range of wooden melodicas and accordinas that they market under the name Vibrandoneon.
The melodica is known by various names, often at the whim of the manufacturer. Melodion (Suzuki), Triola (Seydel), Melodika (Apollo), Melodia (Diana), Pianica (Yamaha), Melodihorn (Samick), Diamonica (Bontempi), Pianetta (Guerrini), face piano, and Clavietta (Borel/Beuscher) are just some of the variants. When a recording technician unfamiliar with the melodica called it a "hooter," the band The Hooters took that as their name.