Originally named melodium, this bellowed and reeded instrument is commonly referred to as a melodeon. Although similar to the accordion, there are no keys but buttons on both the right and left hand playing boards. The right hand plays the melody or treble notes, while the left plays the bass notes. Pressing buttons with the fingers directs the air, created by bellows (material with regular folds that can be made to expand and contract), to flow over reeds, thereby making melodic sounds.
Correctly wear the instrument by placing a strap over each shoulder with the instrument held about chest high. Place the smaller strap over the left wrist. The fingers and thumb of the left hand go through the strap so that the thumb rests on the air button or air bar; the other fingers play the remaining bass buttons. The right hand is centred on the treble row(s) of buttons. When worn properly, there is free movement of the bellows while the playing boards are relatively stationary.
Depress the air button with the left thumb and pull out, allowing the bellows to gather air. Release the air button and push in on the bellows while pressing on a treble note with the right hand. You have now played a melodeon! Experiment with buttons on both boards while you get used to the in and out motion used to manipulate the melodeon's bellows.
Practice using the treble board on your right by playing notes which follow the "do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do" eight note scale. This will help your fingers develop the ability to locate notes easily. Teach yourself a simple song such as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. As you learn the notes for the melody, progress by adding a bass note or two with the left hand as you play the tune. When playing "by ear," clashing notes are not pleasant sounding and direct you to try other buttons until you find one that sounds in sync with the melody.
The ability to read music will make learning songs easier, but it isn't necessary. What is required is practice. Playing scales and tunes repeatedly until able to do so without making a mistake will help you improve on your new skill. Picking out notes and tunes daily, if only for short periods, is one of the surest ways of gaining proficiency.
Enhance your new ability on the melodeon by watching other musicians. Play along with recorded music, music videos and televised concerts. Buy books that will tutor any level of player. Eventually, play along with others, even if only contributing a few notes here and there. This practice will expand your repertoire, give you confidence, and help fulfil your desire of learning to play the melodeon.
If you are buying a melodeon for the first time, scout out the many types available and price ranges before committing yourself, as they can be costly.
To avoid damaging the bellows, always be sure to depress the air button on the left hand side when not playing notes.