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date: 14 December 2019


  • Hugh Davies


[formerly Melodica]

A keyboard harmonica manufactured in soprano and alto versions by Hohner in Trossingen from 1958 and rebranded in 2016 as the Airboard; the name Melodica is nowadays still used generically. The instrument, which has 19th-century counterparts such as the harmonicor, is rectangular and has a mouthpiece at the upper end. The diatonic keys are played by the right hand and the chromatic ones by the left; it can produce many chords and clusters that are impossible on the harmonica, but whereas in the latter some reeds sound when sucked and others when blown, the Airboard reeds sound only when they are blown. Because it is made of plastic (apart from the reeds, which are metal), the Airboard can be mass-produced at low cost; this and the ease with which learners can master the keyboard and mouthpiece (a straight or bent tube that opens out into the reed chamber) have made it very popular in schools, especially in Asia, as an alternative to the recorder or other woodwind instruments. It has also been called for by composers such as Steve Reich (...

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