25 Jan 2015

Wooden Melodica

From the end of 2014 to the beginning of 2015, Ryusuke was back in his hometown in Japan after two years. It was snowing heavily there. After finishing concerts in Aichi, he spent his time for making melodica’s cover of wood with his fathers help. We have been very interested in using different material, especially wood, for melodica, Ryusuke once tried to make a wooden cover in London in 2013, however we did not have enough tools and good material either, so he eventually stopped just before completing. Wood is probably the one of the most popular and general material for making musical instrument, even in when we can choose from most diverse materials. Currently (Jan 2015) most of the melodica on the market are made of ABS, but on the other hand, the wood pattern design on Hammond 44 or PRO-32 V2 by Suzuki seems to represent an admiration for the material by the maker or performers.

There were several wooden boards propped against the wall of his father’s studio, the wood we chose for this time was probably around 100 years old counting its dense grain, perhaps a kind of Hinoki—a Japanese (or taiwanese?) cypress, but it does not have Hinoki’s characteristic fragrance very much. According to Ryusuke’s father, the material has been there in the studio when the town was flooded in 2004, so at least for ten years.

It is very hard to make melodica from the scratch, so this time we just made the outside cover with ready-made one(inside). The working process eventually took 5-6 days. The first thing the sound tells us is that the reed decisively determines the timbral tendency that is not changed fundamentally by the outside cover. The second thing is that the wood may not always produce good, or desirable tone, even plastics might do better (here we are not saying the result of wood was bad). The tone heavily depends on what wood it is (obviously wooden material is hugely diverse), and its structure. Mere 1mm can make considerable difference on harmonic structure. Perhaps Using wood as a single material is not enough, but perhaps mixing different material is needed to reduce unnecessary harmonics. Such thing is presumably obvious for maker/player of concertina—an free reed instrument belonging in same family with Melodica, they have been making very much elaboration to acquire their desirable sound.

Throughout making, there remains many subjects on structure and material, but the timbre came to close to what we want, so we are satisfied as the first work. Regarding its timbre, we heard several people resembles it an organ (Reed organs were used for music class in primary school in Japan).

The details about its timbre will be in later article.

—Ryusuke Koarashi

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