A melodica is a free-reed instrument that is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece in the side of the instrument. A keyboard on top allows notes to be played by opening a hole for air to flow over a reed and create a note. Most melodicas have keyboards that are 2 or 3 octaves long.
The modern melodica was invented in the 1950's by the music company Hohner.
Other forms have been around since the 19th century.
Melodicas are a great instrument to learn music on, and are used by many music schools for instruction. They are much easier to play chords and accidentals on when compared to other woodwind instruments.
Melodicas began to be used as a serious instrument in the 1960's by composer Steve Reich and Jazz musician Phil Moore Jr.
Jamaican Dub and Reggae musician Augustus Pablo used it extensively in the 1970's.
The band New Order used melodicas prominently in the 1980's
The band Gorillaz have used them heavily on many songs.
Melodicas have become very popular in indie folk and rock music
Types of Melodicas:
Soprano & Alto: Higher pitched, thinner sounding usually played with 2 hands.
Tenor: Lower pitched usually played with 1 hand on keyboard and one holding the melodica or with an air tube on a table and 2 hands.
Bass: Lowest pitched, least common, used for bass tones.
Accordina: Keyboard replaced with buttons, usually made of metal, but many inexpensive models are plastic.
Melodicas have several alternate names such as: Melodion, Melodika, Melodia, Pianica, Melodihorn, Clavietta. Hooter(nickname)