Melodicas might not be as popular as other instruments like drums or guitars, but they have a very important place in music for their unique sound and assistance in musical education. Because of these use cases, their parts quality and design must be perfect, as these two factors can a huge impact on ease of use, tone accuracy, and overall sound quality. If you're looking for the best melodica, we'd recommend the Hohner 32B. After reviewing nearly a dozen melodicas of different styles, the Hohner offers the optimal balance of performance and price. Article Summary
To most people, melodicas are a relatively obscure type of instrument. However, those who are familiar with them know that melodicas have a lot to offer both in sound and even in musical education. In case you’re not familiar, to put it in very simple terms, melodicas are wind operated instruments that have a keyboard and resemble accordions in the way they function and sound. However, instead of pushing air into the instrument using bellows, you do it by breathing air into the air chambers using a mouthpiece, similar to any other wind instrument.
Melodicas are generally a very simple instrument to use. Many like to use them as a practice tool to learn scales and chords for a piano. What makes them so suitable for this purpose is the fact that an average melodica doesn’t require any kind of power. On top of that, they are light and fairly compact, meaning they can be brought along with you no matter where you go. With that said, melodicas can also be played for personal hobby or even in a band because of the unique sound they offer.
Although they might appear rather simple on the outside, there are key differences in melodicas that make certain models better than others, just like any other type of instrument. The design of the mouthpiece, the style of the body, and the general quality of the parts are all things that can affect the playing ability of a melodica. Low-quality models tend to have sticky keys and off-tune sounds, but high-quality models feel just like a traditional keyboard and have the perfect notes to back them up. This is where choosing the right brand comes into play.
With these factors in mind, we looked at 11 popular models from some of the top brands like Hohner, Yamaha, and more. Trying to find the best melodica of all, we compared their quality, parts designs, and sounds with the help of some feedback from dozens of different users. After careful consideration of the options, the three models below are what we think are the top models.
The best melodica overall
Hohner makes a wide range of musical instruments, but they are particularly known for their high-quality melodicas. In appearance, the Hohner 32B doesn’t look any fancier or more intricate than some of the other brands, but the quality and sound accuracy it offers is the main reason why this is our top pick as the best melodica.
In a way, the Hohner’s minimalist design is one of the best things about it. The body of this melodica is very low profile and made out of black plastic, albeit a fine plastic and not something cheap or thin. The keyboard makes up a majority of the body, which is nice because that makes it easier to handle and play. As far as quality goes, the materials are decent in terms of durability, but don’t expect this to be something that can be tossed around. As with any instrument, if you treat it with care, it should last for years without an issue.
In addition to the body, the mouthpiece is made of good quality composites that are slightly flexible but don’t allow for a lot of movement. The finish of the mouthpiece makes it comfortable for use, without any mold remnants cutting you or inducing discomfort. On top of that, you also get an extension hose which you can attach instead of the mouthpiece. This way, you don’t have to play it upright but can instead lay it down and use it as a regular keyboard.
As the name implies, the Hohner 32B features 32 keys. In other words, that means you get two and a half octaves at your disposal. The first note on the keyboard is an F below a middle C, which is fairly standard for melodicas. The keys themselves are probably the most important thing about any melodica. A lot of models have issues with poor key design in that they stick or become loose over time. While you can’t expect weighted action like you do on an acoustic piano or a decent digital counterpart, there should be some quality in the way the keys behave. In this case, the keys on the Hohner 32B have received great feedback, allowing you to be relatively free with your expression. The action is pretty soft, linear and consistent.
In terms of sound, the Hohner 32B offers very defined tones, something important when considering which one to buy. When you play chords, often times the individual notes can become indiscernible on lower quality melodicas. The Hohner 32B doesn’t have that problem. With its pretty wide scale, even the lowest notes come out clean and tangible. There have been a few concerns about a couple specific tones in the lower octave section, but for the most part, feedback is overwhelmingly positive. The important thing here is to put all of this in the context of the price tag this model carries. We are looking at a melodica that is much cheaper than some of the prominent Yamaha models, while still offering a very comparable performance.
With everything said, there are three main reasons why we have chosen this affordable model as our top pick. First, the ratio of price and performance is just too good. You get a melodica that performs better than models that cost twice as much. Second, the quality of materials and finish is more than decent compared to Hohner’s direct competition. Finally, the quality of sound is just beyond anything we expected to see in a model such as this one. While it might not be something a professional would want to use on stage, it is still very well within the scope of professional melodicas. With that in mind, it goes without saying that anyone from beginners to experienced users would find the Hohner 32B to be the best melodica.
A good bang for your buck
Our second melodica of choice is the D’Luca M37. As you might’ve guessed from the name, this is a 37-key instrument as opposed to the 32-key Hohner, giving you an extra few notes to play. While this is another great value for your dollar melodica, the build quality was a little less satisfying than Hohner’s model, which is why this landed number two instead of number one.
Let’s get right into the thick of it – the D’Luca M37 was designed to be used as a student model. This fact is apparent right off the bat; one glance at the M37 reveals a somewhat different story than we have seen with the Hohner. There is much less detailing, and the materials used feel a bit different as well (in terms of quality). Now, this isn’t to say that D’Luca M37-BK is a poorly made instrument – in fact, it’s actually quite nice considering the price range – it’s just not on the same level as our top pick.
With the purpose explained, let’s talk about the M37 in more detail. First off, the body is pretty compact. D’Luca went for mobility over versatility which has its benefits depending on the type of application you have in mind. If you are a student who needs to lug around few more things aside from a melodica, you will probably appreciate this reduction in size and weight. On the other hand, taking this route means some compromises had to be taken.
Now, in terms of scale lengths, the D’Luca M37 offers 37 keys modeled after those you can see on a piano. In other words, the keys are pretty thick and meaty all around. One of the only issues with choosing this design is the fact that shape and size are not the only factors that define piano keys. You also need to take into consideration the materials they are made of and how they feel. As you could expect, keys on a melodica are hardly going to be made out of wood or some other more exotic materials. Because of their plastic nature, having piano style keys feels a bit weird. Compared to the Hohner, the action is not as smooth and definitely not as linear. Feedback is inconsistent, although that doesn’t affect the performance much if you are going for high-velocity tones. Anything more refined than that will be much trickier to perform.
Moving on, we see a pretty standard mouthpiece that is devoid of any sharp edges or similar imperfections that could give you trouble when playing. Just like the Hohner 32B, D’Luca’s melodica also comes with an extension hose meaning that it too can be played like a regular keyboard.
The main reasons why Hohner’s melodica took the first place and this D’Luca found itself in the second are these inconsistencies. The D’Luca is more affordable, which is something we have to take into consideration, but in our opinion the difference in price is too small to justify the lack of performance. With that said, the D’Luca M37 would still be a great choice for those who are just starting out or those who need a light model with an extended scale.
A high-quality professional melodica
Last but not least we have the Yamaha P37D – the highest in quality of our top three, but also the highest in price, which is why we’ve listed it as third. Yamaha, being the versatile brand that it is, didn’t miss out on the melodica market. This can be explained both by this instrument’s popularity in Asia and the fact that Yamaha has a considerable experience when it comes to keyed instruments. After all, their pianos – both digital and acoustic – are among the best out there.
This model can be classified as more advanced, both in terms of its build quality as well as the sound it offers. Even if you give it only a quick glance, it becomes apparent that you are dealing with a finely crafted instrument. Quality control and overall finish are on point in every single aspect you could think of. Again, typical for Yamaha.
Even though it is far above the entry level range, the P37D still features a plastic body. Reasons for this are numerous, but the main one comes down to weight. Using any other material would drastically increase the overall weight of the instrument, thus diminishing its mobility. With that said, they have used premium quality composites to build the body. Nothing feels cheap or off in any way, and the instrument inspires confidence when you pick it up to play.
As you can probably determine from its name, the Yamaha P37D comes with 37 keys (melodicas don’t really have super creative names like other instruments). The keys are also styled to mimic those of a real piano keyboard. When it comes to the quality of action, it is far better than what was described on the D’Luca model, to say the least. You get linear travel that responds very well to velocity and input. In other words, you can be as subtle and expressive as you want.
The quality of tone is also top level. Every note played sounds wholesome and defined, which makes playing chords a real treat. While playing, it is very easy to feel how much air is left in the instrument and when it’s time to add some more. This translates to very well-timed air delivery that keeps the notes sounding even and consistent. In addition, the Yamaha melodica comes with a mouthpiece of great quality and finish, as well as an extension tube. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
At this point, you are probably wondering why we haven’t put this Yamaha in first place instead of the Hohner? The answer to this question is very simple. Even though it is better, the type of performance you get for the type of money goes in favor of Hohner. As simple and basic as it is, Hohner’s 32B brings you a lot more bang for the buck. As a matter of fact, performance-wise, these two melodicas are not too different – at least not different enough to warrant almost double the price.
So who is the Yamaha P37D recommended for? Professionals looking for a light model, performing artists who need a reliable instrument for gigging, and beginners whose budget allows them to go for the high-end gear. Although we felt the Hohner offered a better bang for your buck, the Yamaha is outstanding in terms of quality and performance.
Things to consider before buying
Melodicas come across as pretty simple instruments, and in most cases, they are. However, no matter how true that statement is, there are still some things you need to consider before going out and buying one. We will run you through the most important stuff, which should allow you to make an educated choice later on.
Deciding which model you want to get will be dictated mostly by the type of use you have in mind. If you are someone who is just starting out and is looking for a good beginner model, you can get away with using just about anything. On the other hand, if you are a performing artist who is in search of an instrument for serious gigging, your standards will be much stricter. Figuring out what you plan on using the melodica for is absolutely imperative.
Application and budget go hand in hand when it comes to just about any instrument out there, including melodicas. One good thing about melodicas is that they usually don’t cost too much. Sure, there are still well-defined categories and price ranges, but compared to guitars where you can easily spend thousands of dollars for a high-end model, melodicas come across as cheap.
Even so, it is highly recommended that you define your budget before shopping. If necessary, save up a bit longer and get the good stuff. Since melodicas are so simple, they are often made by various manufacturers who have no business making musical instruments in the first place. Avoid those at all cost. Set up a budget and get the best melodica your money can buy.
Melodicas come in various forms. The main difference you will see is going to be the number of keys available as well as the tonal range of the instrument itself. Some melodicas are designed with 37 keys while others feature a two and a half octaves long scale. Figuring out which one suits you best is going to depend on your playing style and whether or not you value mobility over versatility. This is a very personal choice, so make sure that you get to a conclusion on your own. After all, it is you who will play the instrument, not us nor anyone else who is making recommendations.
Benefits of using a melodica to learn piano
Comparing an average melodica to an entry level keyboard, or even worse – a piano – feels impossible. Aside from the keyboard pattern, all of these instruments share nothing with each other. Yet, melodicas are one of the best tools you can use to learn how to play the piano. The main reason why comes in form of the melodica’s light weight nature. We are talking about an instrument which you can transport with you anywhere you need to go. That is something you can do with a very small number of keyboards and probably no pianos.
With that said, we need to define why a melodica is a useful tool for beginner pianists. It can’t and won’t mimic the sound of a piano nor was it ever designed to do that. What it will do is give you a platform you can use to learn the basic chords and even some more advanced ones. On top of that, a melodica is a good tool you can use to teach yourself proper hand positions as well as where each not one a standard piano scale is. Lastly, a melodica is just so much cheaper than any of its keyboard and piano alternatives. For a very small amount of money, you can get yourself a platform that not only works but also introduces you to the basics of piano playing and so much more.
In addition, a melodica allows the experienced piano players to apply their skills in a whole new environment. Melodicas are becoming increasingly popular in modern genres of music, which opens a whole lot of new doors for those who are interested enough.
Learning how to play the melodica
If you’re just now getting into these instruments for the first time, check out this guide on how to properly play and handle a melodica. This will set you up with everything you need to know about proper care. Next, check out the video below for an introduction to the basics (it’s an older video from eHow created in 2008, but it’s still very helpful nonetheless). When you’re ready to continue developing your skills, you can watch their entire series of melodica lessons on YouTube.
Wrapping it up
Melodicas may not be the most popular instrument in the world, but their value has been proven many times, especially if you consider their role as a learning tool. Whether you are someone looking for an affordable way to get into pianos or a true fan of melodicas in general, each of the models covered in our guide would be a great choice. The Hohner offers the best balance between quality, performance, and price, whereas the D’Luca offers a slightly lower price and more keys. Finally, the Yamaha offers the highest quality and truest performance, but also a large price tag. The choice is ultimately yours, but in our opinion, these are the best melodica instruments available.