Note for Note in AP ® Music Theory

Five students in Dr. Wayne Pierce’s AP ® Music Theory class formed a small ensemble, playing The Beatles haunting “Eleanor Rigby” on the melodica.  

Morgan Siegel ’22 described the melodica as a cross between a wind and percussion instrument.  “We’re using it to work on our pitch and volumes, and major and minor keys,” she said.

The melodica is a free-reed instrument much like the harmonica and the pump organ. There is a keyboard on top; the instrument is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece. Air flows through the reed by pressing keys. 

Dr. Wayne Pierce said one of the main reasons the melodica is employed is its portability. Rather than carry a heavy keyboard, this light instrument has a keyboard and it lays the keys out. “It’s very visual so we can work on chord progressions,” Pierce said.

Generally, the melodica is not a performance instrument but a teaching aid. However, Marwynn Somridhivej ’20 is working on more complex arrangements for the instrument that may become a performance at a later date. "I’m currently working on arranging Bohemian Rhapsody for 4 melodicas and piano. The most difficult part of the process by far is arranging by ear. If one note is off in a chord, there will be a noticeable difference between the arranged and the original. Sometimes finding the wrong note in a chord is tough due to the multiple layers of sound you’re working with. It usually takes around five to 10 revisions if I don’t get it right the first time. However, in the end, it is totally worth it, and I enjoy doing these types of things, especially when the end result is successful. It makes up for all the time spent!" he said.

The students agreed that the instrument is not difficult to master although it does have its limitations in terms of sound. Despite its drawbacks (it’s rather monotone), the quirky Melodica Men have performed inventive spins on Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" and A-Ha's "Take on Me" and Jon Baptiste on the 
Late Show with Steven Colbert is often seen playing the instrument.

In AP ® Music Theory students learn music theory, beginning composition, and build aural skills, dictation and sight-singing. Students learn the basics of music notation and score analysis along with knowledge of basic tonal harmony in the eighteenth century common practice period style/ The ultimate goal of the course is to develop a students’ ability to recognize, understand, analyze, and describe the aspects and processes of music that is seen or heard on a score.
 
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