Vintage Suzuki Melodion Soprano – 25

Suzuki Melodion, case, Japanese characters, instrument case

No, this isn’t a piece of debris washed up on our shore from the Japanese tsunami.  ;)   (Most of that stuff is still coming.) It is actually the side of a vintage Suzuki Melodion case that belongs to our band’s drummer, Randy Mathers. The case—and the Soprano – 25 Melodion that lives inside of it—originally belonged to Randy’s father.

Suzuki Melodion, case, mouthpieces, vintage instrument, soprano melodica,

Randy happened across this vintage instrument while sorting out gear in his studio. He lent it to me to see if it was playable. Sadly, it is quite out of tune, and not usable for anything other than learning the instrument.

Because I’m interested in vintage free reed instruments, blow accordions, etc. (usually when they are in the shape of saxophones), I tried to do some research on this old Suzuki Melodion. Randy thought this vintage instrument was circa late 70s or early 80s. Interestingly enough though, I couldn’t find any information on it.

Suzuki Melodion, case, mouthpieces, vintage instrument, soprano melodica,

Suzuki still makes Melodions (what are commonly referred to as melodicas), but the Soprano – 25 appears to have been replaced by the MX – 27S, which has 2 extra keys.

Because I’m a sucker for odd instruments, and like to collect images and information about horns that are no longer in production, I thought it would be interesting to have a really good photo article about the this Suzuki Melodion Soprano – 25 published on my site.

I don’t for a moment believe that this instrument is valuable—its tuning alone tells us that it was not built to performance standards. However, since I could find no references to it on the ‘Net, at a minimum this photo essay could prove useful to other Suzuki Melodion owners who are looking for information on their vintage instruments.

How to use the Suzuki Melodion: A vintage instruction manual

I decided to scan the owner’s manual in its entirety. Here too we get the idea that this instrument was built for a younger crowd, and not for professionals.

Suzuki Melodion, instruction manual, vintage Japanese melodica,

Suzuki Melodion, instruction manual, vintage Japanese melodica,

Suzuki Melodion, instruction manual, vintage Japanese melodica,

Suzuki Melodion, instruction manual, vintage Japanese melodica,

Suzuki Melodion, instruction manual, vintage Japanese melodica,

Compare the following models to the current Suzuki Melodion line-up.

Suzuki Melodion, instruction manual, vintage Japanese melodica,

What the Suzuki Melodion Soprano – 25 looks like

Here are the rest of the photos of this vintage Melodion by Suzuki. As you can tell by the pics, this little instrument is basically in mint condition. It’s too bad about its intonation though, because that alone renders it useless. Unless someone out there knows how to tune a melodica?  :scratch:

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2013, Helen. All rights reserved.

Helen

Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.

10 Comments:

  1. Hello Helen, this is very nice, Congrats for have found the rare long mouthpiece exclusive for this model.
    I have 2 years wating to find that mouth piece for my S-25
    Since enuary from the past year I have spend all my money in melodicas, I make a little Channel to show sound test-sounds and simple reviews de las distintas Melodicas.
    Im writting you to say “Thanks”, is in part for the fault of this Blogg that Im a melodica Collector.
    Keep doing great bloggs.
    Regards from México.
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8sZLHs-3j1kn9mabosZSRw

    Luis Melodion.

  2. Hi,

    I just bought a Suzuki Melodion MX-12 and one key is dead. Any suggestions on how to fix it would be much appreciated.

    Such a fun instrument!

    Thanks.
    Chris

  3. I just “won” a Suzuki Study 25 on eBay, which is the companion alto to this instrument. From my experience tuning melodicas, I will express the opinion that how far out of tune a vintage melodica is doesn’t say much about its quality. Hohners from the 1970s are of much better quality than today’s, which are not made in Germany, but reportedly in China. This could be quite a good instrument. Suzuki still uses meal in the cases of its best melodicas, and that probably is the case (pun intended) with these 25 key models. I’ll disassemble, clean, and tune my Study-25 when it arrives and try to remember to report my findings.

    • “uses metal” I meant to say.

      As far as I can tell, almost all melodicas are now made in Asia, the cheapest quality from China. The Yamahas are (for the most part, at least) made in Indonesia but to good specifications. The best current Suzukis have a metal case. The currently available standard for 25+ melodicas is in my opnion the Yamaha P-25F. I’m interested in how a “reborn” vintage Suzuki or Yamaha will compare to it. Another excellent older model that is distinctive and likely (I think) to appeal to musicians is the Hohner HM (or “Piano”) 26. The Hohner Shop is currently selling some of these (old stock, mint condition) on eBay at an unreasonably reasonable price.

      Mal’s comments about tuning are very consistent with what I’ve learned in tuning quite a few melodicas. It’s not hard to do. There are Android, iPad, and PC tuning apps, almost any of which will suffice, and I use cheap curved needle tip files and sometimes the corner of a razor blade, scratching for slight adjustments. For cleaning the reeds, I have recently discovered that a paste made with water and baking soda and a toothbrush works well — but you have to be very careful and very thoroughly rinse with water so as to avoid leaving any residue (or a kind of water spotting). But cleaning may require a bit of retuning.

    • The Study-25 has arrived. It is in very good condition and plays well, though it will take more playing to make an assessment in comparison to other melodicas. The tray is metal, and this melodica has some unique features, including a lever spit valve whose design is used on the best new Suzuki models. This is an excellent mechanism, which I had assumed was a recent innovation (for melodicas, that is). The instrument is amazingly air tight. Another unusual feature is the mouth piece receptacle, which is a flat slit; and yet another distinctive is that the hose (it has one) is made of surgical rubber or its equivalent. I have experimented with using surgical tubing in place of the typical kind of hose, but had problems with moisture and gurgling, as the rubber I’ve tried is too thin. This is a bit heavier and does not appear to have the problems I’ve found in my earlier experiments. The seller’s photo, which I posted above makes this instrument look more beat up than it is. Almost all the apparent blemishes were dirt and smudging, which the seller did not bother to wipe off, which took me about five minutes with a damp washrag.

      • Hi there Alan. Welcome to my site.

        I’m intrigued that my Suzuki Melodica post was of interest to you. I wrote it back when I, for a very fleeting moment, thought of taking up the Melodica. Then reason overtook me again and said: Helen, you play in rock and blues bands, what are you thinking? :loco:

        I posted the article on my weblog in hopes that one day it would be helpful or of interest to another Melodica player. Apparently it found someone. This makes me happy, because not only do I know from my stats that my articles get read, but occasionally they make enough of an impact on people that someone actually comments. Yeah!

        As far as your eBay find goes, that sounds like you got a really good little instrument there. Congrats. Now I have a question for you: What do you actually play with them? Do you play them in a band? What kind of music are they used in?

        I’ve wondered what Melodica players really do, besides play in the privacy of their homes. I always see these instruments for sale at music stores, but have never really known of their practical application. I’m genuinely curious.

  4. Thanks for the info on how to tune the Melodica Mal. This will keep me busy when I have one of those rare quiet moments. Should be fun.
    Randy

  5. Melodions are (as I’m sure you’re aware) a harmonica variant, and can be tuned in the same way. If no note is more than a semitone out, this instrument is a good candidate for minimally-invasive retuning. So long as all changes are made at the tip (the last 15-20% of the length) which has essentially no spring force to deal with, the working life of the instrument should be minimally impacted. It will be a bit cumbersome, since the reeds are probably mounted on the inner side of the plate, making it necessary to remove the plate for every adjustment and put it back on the body for testing. A few clamps will make it easier to temporarily reassemble for testing, rather than screwing it back together each time.

    To sharpen a pitch, the mass of the reed must be reduced near the open end. This will allow it to vibrate faster. You don’t want to trim the end and cause an air leak (though this is sometimes done with major conversions), so usually the trick is to sand away a bit of thickness near the tip. If there is corrosion anywhere, usually this is carefully removed first and may get you reasonably in tune all by itself. There most likely WILL be corrosion, since moist air flows through the instrument in use, but it only needs removing if it’s affecting the pitch and/or the timbre.

    Flattening a pitch has two options — first you can sand near the clamped end of the reed, reducing its spring force, which will cause it to vibrate slower. This is suitable for small adjustments (a few cents here and there), but it is not the best option since it permanently weakens the reed. The simplest and least destructive way to lower the pitch of a free reed is the reverse of the sharpening method — add mass at the open end. Fingernail polish works rather nicely, and is reversible if you overdo it. It also works in rather small increments. For large pitch changes (usually used when converting a reed to an entirely different note, you probably wouldn’t do this) sometimes a bit of solder is used, then filed back until the pitch matches.

    Whatever adjustments are required, slip a razor blade between the reed and the plate so that it won’t get bent while being worked on. This may not be necessary for nail polish, but the blade would still keep you from getting nail polish on anything else if it should drip.

    Here’s a harmonica tuning video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rflrvFRlvt8
    He uses a scraping method to lower pitches, which is best avoided in this case. Also, he uses a paperclip to push the blow reeds through, which you can’t because a melodion doesn’t have blow holes for each note. That’s why the plate has to be removed each time. The actual reed adjustment is the same, though you’d be doing it on the opposite side.

    Here’s a page specifically for melodica: http://www.melodicas.com/tuning.htm

    • Thanks for that Mal! I had no idea about any of this stuff. (Not being a melodica player and all). ;)

      I will pass your comment and the link on to Randy. He will really appreciate it.

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