Yamaha’s Pianica is an acoustic, inexpensive, easy to use instrument right out of the box.
What is the Pianica?
The pianica is a small keyboard-based instrument that requires blowing to make a sound. It makes a sound similar to an accordion. There are no batteries or plugs. The pianica comes at a few different sizes and prices. The size reflects the range of keys or pitches (how high or low you can go in sound.)
What’s in the Box?
The box is the carrying case, which, depending on the size purchased, will be a hard or soft case, but all protective. The soft case has a shoulder strap as well. Inside is the pianica main body which has keys like a piano, a handhold strap on the back, a moisture release button on one end, and a hole for the mouth attachment on the other. There are two attachments for blowing air. The first attachment is a small mouthpiece that fits directly on the pianica body, the other is a tube that fits on the body with a mouthpiece at the end of it.
The pianica, no matter what size, has two different ways to play. The sound is the same, so it’s just what is most comfortable for the user. To play straight out in front like a recorder flute, the direct mouthpiece is inserted in the hole on one end of the main body. Then one hand is placed through the back handhold strap and the other hand is placed on the keys.
In the main image above, I am holding the larger pianica with the direct mouthpiece. People who use a similar instrument, the melodica, hold it with the keys facing the side, which I will try next time. It makes it easier to see the keys while playing.
To play on a lap, the tube is attached to the hole on the main body with a mouthpiece at the end of it. Both hands can be used on the keyboard that way. In the image above, my niece is using that method.
How Do You Use A Pianica?
Once you have chosen your method of playing, you can get sound right away! Pressing the keys won’t make any noise unless you blow at the same time. Similarly, if you just blow, only the sound of air will be heard. The pianica can be used in two ways musically: either playing the melody of a song or chords to accompany another instrument or voice. The volume is controlled by how hard you blow. It has a surprisingly large dynamic range.
Playing the melody is as simple as blowing air and pressing the keys. If rudimentary music theory knowledge is there, sheet music can be used to learn songs, but using your ear to pick out notes is fun too. (And making up new ones!) If someone else in your home plays piano or guitar, this matches well.
Playing chords makes a great full sound on the pianica. This can be a wonderful way to accompany another person in your home singing or playing the melody on another instrument. If a child is beginning piano or violin, the pianica offers the perfect duet opportunity.
After using the pianica, remove the mouthpiece or tube. Then press the button on the other end and shake it out, gently tapping. This will remove any moisture build-up to keep it clean.
Why You Should Get A Pianica
In my twenty-plus years of teaching music, I’ve seen two main obstacles for learning an instrument, cost, and ease of use. (Time is not one of them- if you make music a priority, you find the time.) Although I try my best to make lessons affordable and even have used bartering (Spanish conversation practice! duck eggs!), I cannot buy my students their instruments. Many instruments are difficult to play anything that sounds nice in the beginning (violin!) and or actually hurts (fingers on the guitar!)
The pianica takes care of both of these issues. The smallest model is $67, which is less than a cheap (not worth it) electronic keyboard. The larger model I tried (37E) is $150, and has a mellow tone equal to much more expensive accordions.
For ease of use, it’s hard to find a better starter instrument or a new sound in your musical life. The video at the bottom of this review was taken 5 minutes after taking the pianicas out of their cases. My niece (11 years old) had absolutely no prior experience playing a pianica. (She does take piano lessons.) I told her where to plug in the tube and then said, “Let’s jam!”
The pianica can be used as a trial instrument before splurging on a large keyboard or full piano. It can also be used as a duet or band instrument with others for either chords or melody. It blends well with other acoustic instruments. It is easy for travel, as it is very light and comes with a carrying case in all models.
Using breath for playing music has been shown to increase lung capacity and breath control which is useful for those with asthma, allergies, and mindfulness techniques. Plus, playing an acoustic instrument is an experience that has multiple benefits both mental and physical. Using the pianica with others in your home can build bonds and provide entertainment skills that last a lifetime.
The key size is smaller than a standard piano, so translating piano-learned pieces onto the pianica can be a little tricky. Only the larger size works well for playing two hands, with one hand melody and the other chords. It is very important to clean the moisture from the pianica after each use and to clean the tube and mouthpieces from time to time. Otherwise, bacteria can form.
I highly recommend the Yamaha pianica for both children and adults. It is easy to play and can fit into a budget, bringing music into your family’s life.
Disclosure: GeekMom received a sample of this item for review purposes.