Melodica ~ Picasso Styling By Jepps

Melodica ~ Picasso Styling By JeppsLadies & Gentlemen, indeed gracious Boys & Girls also, please welcome into the world the divine and most beautiful face… of the Melodica Picasso.

If you have been following my custom Melodica posts you will notice I have specifically chosen to title this post with the official term ‘Melodica’, rather than my own term ‘Keytoy’. This is because I feel that this, my latest design, namely the Melodica Picasso, is the truest portrayal of the instrument in a professional light.

It is this portrayal which I feel gives divine utterance unto the authentic term ‘Melodica’ and with it a long awaited endorsement of its orchestral designation.

The problem with the Melodica is, unlike all other orchestral instruments, it has always appeared ‘unhappy’ or ‘uncomfortable’ with its own face. This is because having originally evolved from a child’s toy, it never had a professional face to begin with.

For as long as it has existed, the Melodica has retained the same appearance as that with which it was born with. Thus it has always harboured the toy-like face of its original conception.

Yet the Melodica is without shadow of a doubt one of the most professional instruments you may ever have the sacred pleasure of hearing. Make no mistake.

And I myself, a lounge pianist for over twenty years, I have heard this instrument crying to me in the night, pleading for me to please, please, please create and reveal unto the world… its true face.

It says, “I was born a child but I am now a sage. Please adorn me a garment worthy of my name.”

I believe therefore, if there were a standard, as there is with a clarinet, a saxophone or a trumpet, then the Melodica Picasso is where the Melodica finally stands up, puts on its dinner jacket and exclaims, “Listen! I am the embodiment of Jazz itself!”

I built the Melodica Picasso much in the same way as my other custom Melodica stylings, by mixing and matching components from various Hohner branded Melodicas. It’s all Hohner.

The Melodica Picasso features genuine Hohner white & black naturals, white & black sharps, both a genuine black casing and brilliant white mouth piece. Again, it’s all Hohner.

Now you ask, “Why did you call it the Picasso?”.

Well first of all let me explain why the design. A Piano has white naturals and black sharps. A Harpsichord has black naturals and white sharps. The Melodica however is a relatively modern instrument in comparison and until what I feel is this day, today, it had not yet evolved a true relative identity within the keyboard family.

Jazz. To answer the question. The Melodica is the very embodiment of jazz and so, it occurred to me that therefore the instrument should portray that element of its character in relation to the other keyboard instruments in the family.

Thus the Melodica Picasso is a blending of both Piano and Harpsichord styling, whereby alternating octaves display an alternating pattern of white on black and black on white. This 37 key instrument features two half octaves at each end, similarly alternating with the pattern, each embracing the two full center octaves in splendid glory.

I believe absolutely that the Melodica Picasso portrays the instrument’s character completely.

And so… unto Picasso.

It is not merely an artistic ‘label’. Nor do I consider myself a ‘picasso’ in like-mindedness. No, it is because firstly, I genuinely have an adoration for the artist and secondly, I happen to have met and dined with some of his closest friends. Some of whom painted with him at college.

Melodica ~ Picasso Styling By JeppsAt the turn of the millennium I was living and working in Italy as an English teacher, where on my joyous travels, I met many artists with whom I became closest friends. It was here during this time, that I happened to discover how these artists were also close friends of Pablo Picasso himself.

Here, the International Academy Of Art in Turin, of which my friends were administrators, awarded me a 1st Place Certificate In Sacred Art for an abstract illusionary pencil drawing of an “infinite garden painter”. Whilst I wouldn’t claim my “sketch” to be a masterpiece, I am certainly most honoured for the prize.

So there you have it. Good times.

Oh… there is also of course the fact that Pablo Picasso happened to be famous for wearing striped shirts. Yes, that’s it. Striped shirts. Well what do ya know.

God bless and goodnight.

Blue Cross Tuning ~ Diatonic Harmonica

Blue Cross Tuning by Jepps
Blue Cross Tuning of a Suzuki Manji
For generations Blues Harmonica players have been experimenting with different reed tuning setups for their instrument, to increase the musical possibilities in their repertoire.

To name just a few there is, Paddy Richter, Country or Super Country, Harmonic Minor, Natural Minor and even patented tunings by famous musicians such as the Wilde Rock Tuning by Will Wilde.

Why do these different tunings exist and why is there not simply a standard tuning which suits all styles of music?

Well it is quite a detailed discussion, but essentially it all comes down to the fact that the standard tuning of your common 10 hole blues harp was originally designed for playing chords and Major melodies as an accompaniment to band parades.

As such its chromatic capabilities or range of native keys is extremely limited.

Of course, since the discovery of various employable techniques such as bending and overblowing, these ‘limitations’ have almost, at least for the most part, become extinguished by a new ‘class of embouchure expertise’.

The once merely diatonic harmonica, became with the evolution of study and collaborative research, practically 100% chromatic ~ purely from embouchure technique alone.

Yet a hard truth remains.

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Suzuki Manji ~ Low Eb

Suzuki Manji
The Suzuki Manji features a Bamboo composite comb which produces a most exotic bluesy voice.
My heart is shaped by the sound of bamboo. Friends of this blog will know I am deeply fond of the Chinese Xiao flute and the infinite voices which resonate throughout its eternal chambers.

Hitherto, as a Blues Harpist on the side, I have likewise always been on the search for a wooden instrument, able to produce the natural resonances and tonal colours so commonly associated with a flute.

A decade later, after flirting with various wooden combs and cover plates, all of which would eventually warp and crack, little did I expect a Blues Harp to be created from actual Bamboo.

Furthermore, little did I expect it to keep its shape. In fact, the shape of the Suzuki Manji is a very special wonder indeed.

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Cfa ~ Jeppsian Tuned Chromatic Dulcimer

Cfa ~ Jeppsian Dulcimer
The Jeppsian Cfa
Pronounced “kuh-fah”
During my adventures over the past few decades, experimenting with various small acoustic instruments from around the world, I often investigated unusual stringed instruments.

That is to say, stringed instruments which differ somewhat from your regular Guitar or Violin. Of course there is nothing wrong with a good old Guitar, but apart from finding six strings a bit of a handful, I have always preferred the sounds of more exotic stringed instruments, like for example the Bouzouki or the Pipa.

Indeed, many stringed instruments passed my way over the years. The single stringed Dan Bau, the multi keyed Bulbul Tarang, the Baritone and even Bass Ukulele… and even the humble Tumbi.

Aye, in fact one experiment of mine revealed, that the somewhat bland Indian Tumbi can actually be played with a Violin Bow. Go ahead… give it a try!

Yet the one instrument that kept calling to my heart would only do so from a cage of incompatible design.

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Kaval ~ Ancient Transylvanian Flute

Moldavian Kavals by Winne Clement
Moldavian Kavals by Winne Clement
Imagine yourself strolling through a beautiful forest, a canopy of trees and grasses, a myriad of flowers all around and just up ahead, a clearing where a river flows down into a deep pool.

As you approach the water you hear a flute playing. The music is coming from the hillside beyond. You decide to sit a while and listen to the sweet harmonics which echo throughout the landscape.

Then, as a wild Deer wanders into sight across the pond and casts its gaze upon you, a falling rock crashes into the water. The Deer is startled but doesn’t move. For the Deer has heard the music too. And the Deer knows this song.

This is the song of the wilderness.

The Moldavian Kaval is perhaps one of the most powerfully startling flutes in the world. At first its voice, sweet and sonorous, innocent and fragile… yet thence in spirit, becomes the thunder, the rain and the mighty rumbling of the mountains.

For this flute, believed to originate in Transylvania many hundreds of years ago, is a flute with many transcendental voices.

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Vanilla Gershwin Grand ~ Turbolid Custom Covers

Vanilla Turbo Lid
Behold the Vanilla Gershwin Grand, my personal choice of Turbolid combination.
All my life I have taught people a blessed miracle of music, that whence the passion of creativity resides within one, an orchestra can be painted from a pallette of only three colours.

This is one reason I prefer the ten hole Blues Harp over the grander twelve hole Chromatic Harmonicas.

At least it certainly has become so ever since I discovered ‘Country Tuning’, a gentle change in pitch of the 5 draw to a sharp note, creating a Major 7th chord in 2nd position. Miraculously, this simple change in the pitch of a single reed actually harbours, unto the dedicated artist, a whole library of jazz chords and phrases.

Yet the reason I am writing today, is to spread the word about a fabulous company in the USA, Turbo Harp, who, amongst their many revolutionary innovations in harmonica evolution, created the Turbo Lid, a specially shaped ergonomic cover lid for your ten hole blues harmonica.

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Suzuki Overdrive ~ Start Your Spaceships

Simon Jepps' Suzuki Overdrive
The revolutionary Suzuki Overdrive is a quantum leap in the evolution of biological Blues Harp chromatics.
The Suzuki Overdrive is both ingenious and beautiful.

One merely has to take a glance at its facade to appreciate that this is no ordinary Harmonica. Yet the real beauty of this instrument may well come as a surprise to you… for it is, the final frontier of authentic Blues Harp chromatics.

I have blogged regularly about the next evolution of the Blues Harp, or to be more technical, the Diatonic Ten Hole Richter Tuned Harmonica.

Most specifically I have addressed the argumentative concept of chromaticising its tonal range. This is the idea that by altering its tuning, installing valves, magnetic switches, spring loaded slides, or even extra hidden reeds, one might accomplish the seemingly impossible task of making an instrument which was born to weep, dance as if it had never cried.

And yet doing this doesn’t make any sense.

For whence it comes to the aspect of sacreligious change, I have always believed it to be imperative that a Blues Harp retains its original philosophy of design in order to be considered authentic and praiseworthy. Its music is about making the most out of what little you have and finding the fruition of a miracle within one’s own determination.

So, I feel many new designs aimed at “chromaticising” the Blues Harp, whilst revolutionary and ingenious, only find themselves eventually stripping the instrument of its ancestral belonging and in turn its very own appeal to be played.

Instead all that is accomplished, is a precision engineered technological monstrosity which only feels like you are cheating at life when you attempt to play it.

And so here, a paradox looms.

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Keytoy ~ Rainbluew Styling By Jepps

Keytoy ~ Rainbluew Styling By Jepps
The Rainbluew Keytoy By Jepps
Ladies and gentlemen, this little beauty you see right here is my most recent and beloved creation.

Readers of my blog will know I have dabbled in custom styling of melodicas before. Yet even whence dancing with the radioactive moon in the grace of the night, I still felt my one true love to be amiss.

I have discovered gradually over many years that my “problem” with the melodica is nothing to do with its performance, or that it is a “one handed” instrument.

Nay, for even a trumpet is a one handed instrument and besides, the performance of a melodica is purely a question of decent reed quality and adjustment.

Indeed, the base model featured here is a Hohner Superforce 37. Give the reeds a personal tweak and she will be your spouse for life.

No, my “problem” in the end all crunched down to aesthetics. How does it look and feel to hold?

Thus after experimenting a few times, I decided it was high time I actually put in some serious effort to design my own “Jepps” style.

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Xiao ~ Ancient Chinese Flute

Simon Jepps' Xiao Flute
Simon Jepps’ Xiao Flute
A good piece of bamboo and eight good holes are all thou needs to transcend nirvana.

Aye, even the existence of God can be found within the endless caverns of the Chinese Xiao.

Time has called me herewith to write about this ancient Chinese instrument.

Of course, the reasons why I write about any instrument are only of the utmost profundity. The Chinese Xiao is of no exception. In fact, whilst there will be many more flutes and musical curiosities to come from this good blog, I can proclaim to you now, that, the Xiao, is beyond all of these, both in time and in space.

There are flutes. There are flutes that command the falling of rain and the roaring of thunder. There are more flutes to behold in Heaven than there are Stars to worship in the sky.

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Tenor Harp ~ Authentic Terminology For An Authentic Harmonica

Tenor Harp Hohner CX12 Jazz
Hohner CX12 Jazz Tenor Harp
Here is an interesting story of how about I came to play the Tenor Harp.

Those familiar with my blog will know that I am originally a lounge pianist, who has performed in many locations such as the Royal Palace, Turin.

Yet since returning to England shortly after the turn of the millennium, it began to become ever moreso apparent to me that the Piano was only a burden on my freedom.

Whilst passionately in love with the instrument since only a child, it would become both the heartbreak and the revelation of my musical destiny.

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