How to Read and Play Music for the Melodica

Updated July 20, 2017

The melodica is a wind instrument that looks like a truncated piano keyboard held vertically, with a mouthpiece at one end. Sound is produced by air passing over internal reeds, like a harmonica, but you can only exhale with this instrument. Most melodicas have keys that look exactly like piano keys and range from two to three octaves. The Hohner 900 series has spaces between the keys so the black keys can be played with the left hand, but it still resembles a piano keyboard with its groupings of two black keys and three black keys. The melodica's portability makes it a popular choice among street musicians.

Place your left hand in the strap on the back of the instrument and bring the mouthpiece to your lips. Blow lightly while pressing any key with your right hand. Increase the amount of air you use until you have achieved the sound you want. If your melodica has "chicklet" keys (like the Hohner 900 series,) hold it with both hands, using your left hand to play the black keys and right hand to play the white keys.

Find a group of two black keys and play the white keys on either side ("C" and "E") with your right thumb and middle finger. Play the white key that is two keys to the right of "E" ("G") with your right pinky. Blow into the instrument while holding down these three keys. Alternate between playing the keys one at a time and playing them simultaneously. Notice how the volume is decreased when more than one note is played with the same amount of air.

Produce a tremolo sound by quickly varying the amount of air you expend. Find the group of three black keys closest to your mouth. Play the white key that is between the first and second of those black keys ("G") with your right thumb. Play the "G" which is one octave higher with your pinky. It is eight notes down, counting both "G's." (All "G's" are found between the first and second black keys in a group of three black keys.) Play the lower "G" followed by the higher "G." Hold the higher "G" longer while applying the tremolo technique.

Play a G Major scale. Place your right thumb on the lowest "G" (the one closest to your mouth.) Play "G" followed by each adjacent key: "A" with your index finger, "B" with your middle finger, "C" with your thumb, "D" with your index finger, "E" with your middle finger. Skip the next white key ("F") and play the black key to the right of it ("F Sharp") with your ring finger, followed by the next white key ("G") with your pinky. If your melodica has chicklet keys, play "F#" with your left index finger.

Play the beginning of the theme song from the American version of "The Office." It starts with the lower "G" (which we will call "G4") followed by playing the higher "G" (which we will call "G5") for a longer period of time. The greater than (">") symbol indicates holding a note longer.

G4 G5 > | > > F# G5 F# D | E > > > | C C C B A B | G4


If you are using a flex tube on the mouthpiece, the melodica can be placed horizontally on your lap, giving you the flexibility to play with both hands, as you would play a piano keyboard. The symbol for "sharp" is "#," as in "F#".


Do not blow too hard or too percussively. This may damage the internal reeds.

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About the Author

Celesta Letchworth started writing professionally in 1982 as a technical writer for a computer department. She has since had articles appear in "The Chorister," plays published by Lillenas Publishing Company, and has sold greeting card ideas to Dayspring. Letchworth holds a Master of Music degree from Southern Methodist University.