Friday, May 15, 2015

More about vibrato on melodica

Hi there :) Sorry I did not update the blog last week as my schedule was busier than I expected. But now things have been settled and it would be back to routine (update on every Saturday).

Last time we talked about the importance of vibrato on melodica, and how it changes the sound and expression of melodica playing. But you may think of one more thing, HOW do you perform vibrato on melodica?

First, I have to let you guys know that I am a classically trained baritone singer. The video on the right is how my singing voice sounds like:

You may wonder: why hearing my voice is relevant to how vibrato on melodica is created? The secret is by applying a breath control technique called appoggio. This is in fact an opera singing technique to control the breath flow through the vocal cord in order to maintain a "natural vibrato", and to maximize the volume of the vocal tract to get the deeper, darker, richer, bigger, yet ringing vocal sound. Appoggio can only be achieved through the control of the intercostal muscles, which control the movement of the diaphargm. As I apply appoggio both on my singing and my melodica playing, you may hear the tonal similarity on my schubert lied singing and my dragon ball GT song melodica playing (i.e. both have very rich, dynamic, expressive tone, and natural vibrato that makes the melodic lines flow smoothly). The melodica itself works just like a human vocal cord.

However, there is still a slight difference between the breath control on singing and melodica. On singing, you only have to control the air flow by appoggio and let the air goes like a stream. But on melodica, say if you note can sustain 10 vibrations, you actually have to blow 10 times BY USING appoggio to create a natural vibrato. Hence as I said, it could take years of training to sound great on playing melodica; and the same case as opera singing, the ideal is using appoggio to keep your larynx low when playing melodica as it gives the least tension for the throat and gives a more resonant sound. Most of the people who do vibrato on melodica are using their throat, which to me sounds quite unnatural and not very smooth/expressive.

Anyway hope my information helps and see you guys next Saturday :)


  1. This is really helpful info (I'm a jazz pianist who just picked up melodica), but isn't what you're describing tremolo (variation in volume) as opposed to vibrato (variation in pitch)? I'm wondering if there's a way to add actual vibrato to the sound of the melodica, or even bend a note. Regardless, thanks for all the info!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read the article :)
      Well basically "variation in pitch" = vibrato is more like how you do vibrato on bow string instruments like violin or cello. In singing, vibrato basically means the natural effect of a consistent air flow through the vocal cord, tremolo means using some throat muscles to "squeeze" the vibration, and it always sound kinda shaky and "too fast vibration". You can do variation in volume while doing vibrato or tremolo in singing. I don't check by tuner if my pitch changes while doing vibrato, but I don't think of it that way while singing.

      For playing melodica, since the pitches are fixed by the reeds, you don't really change the pitch when you blow a note inside the melodica by applying vibrato. And for bending notes, as I know it could be done by blowing air in it, but not holding down the key all the way, but I rarely use it though.

      P.S. The link of my singing is now fixed. It is a German Lied by Schubert, and a Japanese Operatic song. And here is another link of my singing a Russian style Chinese song in better recording device: