One of the best things about the melodica is that it provides a really easy way to learn music, even if you’re a complete beginner. This is one of the reasons that schools are becoming more and more eager to bring the melodica instrument into their classrooms. The keys are generally easy for kids’ fingers to find and move around on. The instrument is small and lightweight, making it simple to move from a cabinet or backpack to a student’s desk whenever it’s time for music class. And there’s another really great feature of the melodica, which is that the keyboard is the same layout as any normal piano or piano-based instrument. So, the short, most honest answer to the question, “Can I learn piano on a melodica,” is, yeah you pretty much can.
So, is the melodica only for kids?
Let’s clarify two things before going much further. First, even though we’re talking about kids learning piano on the melodica above, obviously melodicas are not just for kids. As with any instrument, there are different levels of quality, size, and much more.
While you can find something along the lines of a toy melodica pretty easily, there are some very high-quality professional melodicas on the market. If you’re looking for something like that, check our roundup of the best professional melodicas. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised with the quality of the options. Once you’ve fallen in love with the melodica and decided to take it more seriously as an instrument on its own, you’ll be wanting to upgrade.
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Will the melodica make me a piano pro?
The second thing we should clarify is how much piano you can actually learn on a melodica. While the keyboard is laid out the same way in terms of larger keys and smaller keys in a similar arrangement as on a piano, there are some very significant differences as well.
We’ll get into the specific differences and how they affect your learning process in just a bit. For now, just realize that there will be some aspects of learning the keyboard on a melodica that will feel quite different from a traditional piano. And when you do move on to the piano, you’ll need to make some adjustments to your technique.
Similarities between the melodica and piano
So, as mentioned, the keyboard of a melodica will look very much like a small version of a piano. This is mostly because it actually is. You’ll have the same layout as a piano with larger keys (usually, but not always, white) and smaller keys (usually, but not always, black).
The notes will also be the same, and this is probably the most important similarity for people who are wanting to dip their toes into learning piano. Since the notes and the layout of the keys are the same on melodica and piano, you definitely will be able to start learning notes names, scales, chords, and other basic aspects of music theory on a melodica. You’ll also be able to learn basic keyboard technique like finger placement and dexterity. However, this is where a lot of the differences will be most apparent.
With a melodica, you’ll be able to learn things like how to play melodies, how harmony works, and how chord progressions work as well. It can absolutely give you a head start with training for a piano. And since these aspects are the same, you can bring them over with you when you do start playing an actual piano. Learn a song on a melodica, know it, for the most part, on a piano as well.
“Key” differences between the melodica and piano
Sorry for the bad pun, but let’s dig into the differences between these two instruments. The most substantial differences will be in how the keys feel and how many there are to play.
For instance, a full-sized piano has 88 keys, while most melodicas are between 32 and 37 keys. Some melodicas are smaller, and some are larger, but for the most part, this is the range that you’ll see most often. Also, the keys on a melodica will normally be quite a bit smaller than on a standard piano. For smaller hands, this can be great. However, people with larger fingers will need to work a bit more to be comfortable with both instruments
Another big difference between the two is the amount of pressure required to play a note. On a melodica, very little pressure is required to get the instrument to sound. Remember that you’ll also have to blow through a tube to get a sound to come out, but the keys are pressed much more easily. A piano has weighted keys that hammer a string, so some strength is required. A melodica simply needs to open a reed to let air through. When you switch over to the piano, you will definitely need to build up some finger strength to play.
Why not just buy a small keyboard then?
Great question! And for many folks, this is actually the best way to go. If your end goal is to learn only the piano, and you have the money and the dedicated space for a keyboard, then I’d say go that route. Make sure to pick up a decent quality keyboard if you can. Shoot for something with at least 61 keys, and try to get something with semi-weighted keys as well if possible. If your focus is only piano, this is probably your best choice.
Here are a couple of suggestions for you if you’re going down that road. The Alesis has semi-weighted keys to feel more like a piano while the RockJam does not:
However, if you’re of the opinion that learning a great-sounding, super fun instrument while you get some of the basics down with piano all at the same time is actually a good thing, the melodica is your best bet. They’re super portable, fun to play, and they’re becoming more and more popular in music all the time now.
Melodicas are commonly featured instruments in styles of music like reggae, jazz, and folk. One of the most well-known players today is Jon Batiste who leads the band on Stephen Colbert’s, A Late Show. Whether or not you like the show, it does demonstrate the visibility of this great instrument.
So, can I learn piano on a melodica?
I think the answer is pretty clear; you can most certainly learn the basics of piano and music theory on a melodica. And that knowledge and skill will transfer over when you do start playing the piano more regularly
Just remember that it’s more about your situation in terms of space, budget, and overall interest. For someone who wants to learn a fun instrument that will stick with them even after learning piano as well, get a melodica!
If you’re convinced, and you’re in the market for a good place to start, check our roundup of best beginner melodicas. There are some really great instruments out there that won’t break your budget.
Here are a few suggestions to start you off. The Cahaya is definitely a budget option. And while it’s a great choice for people who just aren’t sure they want to commit to buying a melodica, you do get what you pay for. Both the Hohner and the Suzuki are excellent instruments that will be with you for a good while.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve started on melodica and then moved over to piano afterward. What were your pitfalls and benefits? We’d love to hear from you.
Last update on 2024-02-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API