7 Best Melodicas for Beginners and Versatile Musicians

Do you find it difficult to play both the keyboard and the harmonica in your garage blues band? Are you bad at multitasking? Or are you just bored with the instrument you’re playing now and you’re looking for a different kind of challenge?

Instead of playing two instruments at the same time, how about playing one instrument that requires you to use your hands and your mouth at the same time? Enter, the melodica.

Melodicas are very interesting instruments and should pose a fun challenge even to more experienced musicians. They have keys and a mouthpiece, they can be tuned, and they have quite the range. What’s even better is that they don’t need to be plugged in to be heard.

7 Best Melodicas for Broadening Your Musical Horizons

Of course, if you want to sound good, you’ll need to look for the best melodica for your playing style and genre of music, as not all melodicas sound the same or even play the same.

Yamaha calls its melodicas pianicas. The P37D is a 37-key melodica which means it’s pretty much stage-ready. There’s a wide range of notes and octave to let you play in any scenario whether it’s for yourself or for an audience.

The tone is quite full and rich-sounding, which is not really surprising given the manufacturer’s reputation. The air pressure needed when pressing more than two or three keys remains constant. This is great news for any beginners out there looking to learn on a stage-ready instrument.

The plastic build doesn’t give it the best durability but it does make it light, easy to use, and very affordable. The anti-corrosive reeds balance out the plastic parts and also help maintain a steady intonation.

What’s also impressive is how long the P37D stays in tune. If you’re looking for a good long-term deal, this may be the one to go for. Of course, the main advantage of the P37D remains the uniform air pressure.

  • Hard plastic carry case included
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    Maintains tuning for long periods of time
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    Don’t need to blow harder when pressing multiple keys
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    Affordable
  • Not as loud as some competitor models

This Suzuki 37-key melodica makes for an interesting choice. It is mid-priced but has a very vibrant and rich sound. Due to its keyboard design and the full metal body, this is considered a professional-grade melodica.

The consistency of the key pressure is spot-on. The keys have a slightly weighted feel, which should give you better control over the notes. The air pressure when pressing multiple keys is constant as long as you’re forming notes of up to three keys.

A particularly impressive design feature is the seal. It’s one of the best I’ve come across regardless of price. The build is lightweight and the melodica doesn’t come with built-in hand straps, which means that you can play it whichever way you want.

What’s also nice is that the M-37C comes with a carry case. It has bold-looking faux leather handles and trims and seems quite sturdy and easy to carry.

It also comes with three types of mouthpieces to give the melodica even more versatility. The trumpet-style mouthpiece, for example, is usually only found on high-end Suzuki melodicas.

  • Sturdy design
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    High-end features
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    Consistent key pressure
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    Quality seal
  • Slight resonance issue with the high notes
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    May be difficult to play for beginners

If you’re just starting out and you’re not sure what kind of melodica to get, Eastar may have some options. The budget manufacturer makes 32-key and 37-key melodicas, both of which come with a carry case.

Although very affordable, the Eastar melodica has a pleasant rich sound. The keys are on the lighter side but they still maintain a decent pressure consistency, which makes this a very solid learning instrument. It also comes with an extension hose so you can adjust your playing stance accordingly.

When playing this Eastar melodica, you may have to use a bit more lung capacity. The air pressure requirement increases when pressing three keys together, if you want to maintain the volume.

What’s surprising at this price range is the use of phosphor bronze reeds. They help to produce a consistent intonation as long as the melodica is perfectly tuned. This one is also available in multiple colors.

  • Very affordable
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    Carry case included
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    Light and easy to use
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    Playing accessories included
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    Available in beginner and pro sizes
  • Average build quality
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    Light pressure keys

This melodica is characterized by its clear and bright tone. It has a full-range keyboard which makes it suitable for professional players and advanced students.

Although it is a plastic model, it’s one of the sturdier Hohner melodicas. Hohner is known for its harmonicas so you can expect the quality of the brass reeds to be impressive, ditto the tonality of the three octaves. The air pressure requirement remains constant throughout, which always makes playing easier.

One minor issue seems to be the tuning. The keys go out of tune faster but this is not unique to the Performer model. It is common for all Hohner melodicas, whether 32 or 37-key.

If you’re a fan of Hohner instruments, this melodica is a solid choice. It’s light and easy to play, it has 37 keys, and it comes with its own carry bag. There’s also an extension hose included if you like experimenting with playing angles.

  • Accessories included
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    Carry bag included
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    Bright and bold tone
  • The keys may go out of tune sooner than other models

Although this is one of the more affordable melodicas on the market, there’s a lot to like about it. If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, this may be a good choice for you.

Mugig throws in a very solid carry case with a shoulder strap and a carry handle. There is also an extension hose as well as two mouthpieces for you to switch between. This should let you experiment with the tonal variation.

For a plastic melodica, this model isn’t as quiet as you would expect. It has no resonance issues and creates clear-sounding notes from each of the 37keys. When pressing multiple keys together, you may need to blow a bit harder to maintain the volume.

Of course, if a 37-key model seems too difficult to play, Mugig also offers a 32-key melodica. It’s slightly cheaper but comes with the same range of accessories.

  • Available in 32-key and 37-key sizes
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    Rugged carry case included
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    Very affordable
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    Clear tone
  • Average build quality
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    Not loud enough for live gigs

The D’Luca M37 is an affordable melodica. I like the color variety as well as the slim design. For a 37-key model, this melodica has a slimmer body than most competitor models. Not too slim, but enough to make a difference when playing for long hours.

The zippered carry case seems sturdy and offers enough protection for the plastic instrument. A mouthpiece and an extension hose are included in the package.

The tone is very interesting. The M37 has a rather piercing tone which makes its sound unique. If only this melodica could play louder it would’ve been a great professional-grade instrument too.

That the budget M37 comes with all accessories, good build quality, and a crisper tone makes it a nice learning instrument, especially for someone with previous piano or keyboard experience.

  • Slim build
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    No extra air pressure required
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    Affordable
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    Full-sized model
  • Uneven key response
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    Requires tuning more often

Yes, Chaya went with the Yamaha nomenclature for melodicas. Some piano makers have their own terms for melodica, such as Samick’s melodihorn, but they all mean the same thing.

The interesting thing about this instrument is that it’s a kid’s model. In fact, both the 32-key and 37-key Chaya pianicas are recommended for young students. Mainly because they’re light and come with short mouthpieces which are easy to blow.

Chaya adds many accessories to the package. Along with your melodica, you will also get two short mouthpieces, two long mouthpieces, a user manual, and a carry bag. Note that the user manual doesn’t teach you how to play or what to play, it mainly offers maintenance tips.

Still, many appreciate the addition of all the accessories. This may make the Chaya melodicas, or pianicas, more valuable to students or anyone that has the spare time to practice a lot.

  • Multiple accessories included
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    Available in black and blue
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    Available as 32-key and 37-key size
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    Kid-friendly and easy to play
  • Average build quality
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    Uneven key pressure

What I Look for in a Melodica

The key count is the first thing I think about. Professional melodicas tend to have 37 keys. That allows players to have great range. However, I’m no professional melodica player. I find that a more compact instrument should be quite alright for both beginners and professionals.

A 32-key melodica is easier to hold and still has enough notes and octaves that you can play. But the quality of the keys (including the mechanism) is also important. You should aim to get a melodica that has a consistent feel across the board. Keys that have a weighted feel tend to be more consistent than light keys and should come naturally for those with keyboard or piano experience.

The craftsmanship and quality of the mouthpiece is the third item on my list. Factory mouthpieces tend to be sufficient for learning and jamming purposes. However, if you’re buying a melodica for live performances or studio recordings, you may want to consider some aftermarket designs too.

Pricing Expectations

When it comes to this instrument, there’s only one real accessory that matters in my opinion. The case. A good case keeps your melodica protected. These instruments can be quite fragile, especially if you’re always on the move.

A melodica at a higher price point should also have a higher build quality, sometimes significantly so. It may just be worth spending the extra buck if it also sounds better.

As far as the build is concerned, the tray is worth paying close attention to. Melodicas with metal trays tend to have a fuller sound than those with plastic trays. This too may drive up the price of the instrument.

Features that Can Be Overlooked

Although they look simple enough, melodicas are complex instruments. But do I think all features carry the same weight when judging the value of an instrument? – No.

If you’re comparing melodicas, the above mentioned features carry the most weight. The following ones, not so much – unless you’re very picky.

Hand straps aren’t always necessary. Although they make it easy to hold a melodica, they also restrict your hand’s range of motion and playing angles. Not all players use hand straps even if they’re there.

The weight of the instrument is also less important here. It’s true that sometimes more weight is indicative of a more durable build. However, a heavy melodica may be uncomfortable to play. Also, a beefier instrument may not indicate a higher quality sound.

The tuning is oftentimes hit or miss, even if you’re splurging on a melodica. Factory tuning isn’t always spot-on. Luckily, you can tune the instrument on your own so you don’t have to worry about “perfectly tuned” labels.

Learning Piano the Easy Way?

A lot of people say that playing a melodica is an easy transition for piano players. While there’s truth to that, there’s also something to be said about doing it the other way around. A melodica has a lot less range and keys than a piano.

If you’re scared of trying the classic instrument, then a plastic melodica might help you familiarize yourself with the playing style.

And, just because you think that most of these melodicas look alike doesn’t mean that they all perform the same way. Each melodica will have its own tonality and sound clarity. This is something you will surely notice once you try out various melodicas.

Gavin Whitner
    Gavin Whitner
     

    A guitar player, songwriter, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

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