A demon­stra­tion of the Melodica app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. There are sim­i­lar apps out there — Tonepad, Synthtopia — but none of them are as sim­ple and pol­ished. That being said, there are a few fea­tures that could make Melodica stand out even more, such as the abil­i­ty to save com­po­si­tions on-the-fly and lay­er them under new ones, or the abil­i­ty to change the sam­ple sound, so I’m hop­ing they’ll be added in an update. Regardless, I’ve only had this app for a day, and I’ve been enjoy­ing it immense­ly.

Some tips for composing/performing songs in Melodica:

  • The rests, or spaces between the notes, are impor­tant too. Don’t feel that you need to fill the board with notes. Just like in jazz, it’s impor­tant to hear that notes that aren’t played. Sometimes a melody is strong enough that a few spar­tan notes by them­selves are enough to estab­lish some­thing beau­ti­ful. Or you can places notes on every beat of a mea­sure, except the down­beat, which sub­tly implies “this silence is where the down­beat is sup­posed to be, even though no note is being played”.
  • Don’t feel that you need to use bass notes to estab­lish a rhythm. You can switch it up with high notes as well, and have the base­line as the melody.
  • Syncopation is pos­si­ble. If you imag­ine each of the 16 squares going across as quar­ter notes in four bars in 4/4 time, then you can estab­lish as rhythm by hav­ing a note at the begin­ning (count­ing as the “one”) of each bar, and the third note if you like. You can achieve a nice syn­co­pat­ed sound by putting a note on the sec­ond and fourth quar­ter note of a bar. But be care­ful; if you decide to remove cer­tain notes, don’t remove the rhythm before you remove the syn­co­pat­ed notes. Otherwise, the lis­ten­er eas­i­ly los­es a sense of where the down­beat is sup­posed to fall, it begins to sound like you’re mak­ing a mis­take, and the song eas­i­ly falls apart.
  • Try to have a pur­pose, or an idea of where you want to go. Improvisation is total­ly one of the main advan­tages of Melodica, but you can still decide where you want to go dur­ing a song. If you can see the struc­ture then it’ll be eas­i­er to work up to that ahead of time. For exam­ple, if you want a song that starts qui­et, builds slow­ly to a cli­max, then crash­es dra­mat­i­cal­ly before re-estab­lish­ing a steady pace, then you can plan out which notes to add and take away that will quick­ly and effec­tive­ly achieve these changes.
  • End your songs. Instead of just stop­ping, or clear­ing the board, fade out by tak­ing ele­ments away. And if you can, end your phras­es, which means remov­ing the notes from left to right as they’re being played. If you remove notes from right to left, it’ll sound like you stopped abrupt­ly in the mid­dle of a song. Sort of like hear­ing Westminster chimes with­out the last note, leav­ing the lis­ten­er to won­der where the res­o­lu­tion is.
  • Use sev­er­al notes of the same pitch in a row spar­ing­ly. This is total­ly a per­son­al pref­er­ence, but I find I get tired of hear­ing these quick­ly.
  • Songs sound bet­ter with con­trast. That means keep­ing some space between highs, mids, and lows. Or aban­don­ing the mid-range sec­tion alto­geth­er, since there isn’t much ver­ti­cal room to com­pose. This is because you can cre­ate the illu­sion of more lay­ers by hav­ing strong­ly defined parts of a song. Otherwise, it all sounds like one com­plex melody.


  1. Wicked fun… I just down­loaded it and spent 90 min­utes play­ing with it.

    • I know…I could total­ly spend a whole day using such a sim­ple appli­ca­tion!

  2. Excellent primer for the novice. I might try this out if I ever get out of my Twitter loop.

  3. I down­loaded this after read­ing your post and then pro­ceed­ed to burn my break­fast when I could­n’t put it down ;)

    • At least you did­n’t miss some­thing like surgery! Although maybe it could be used for anes­thet­ic, like Guan Yu is said to have done by play­ing Go dur­ing an oper­a­tion.

  4. I love Melodica, but I rarely use it after dis­cov­er­ing SoundGrid.

    SoundGrid has the melod­i­ca inter­face, but has 3 grids that play simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, and each grid can have 8 vari­ants that you can change on the fly. It also has six sound banks, includ­ing minor sounds, so you can have more com­plex melodies, and drums. Plus lev­els for each grid, and a very cool visu­al dis­play of all the notes on the grid zoom­ing in and fad­ing out at once. Since every lay­er has dif­fer­ent col­ored note/squares, it makes for a neat effect.

    • I’ve tried SoundGrid as well, and while I admit that it’s more pow­er­ful, the inter­face and sam­ples aren’t as pleas­ing to me.

      I’m hop­ing the next Melodica update will bring it more in line with what oth­er sim­i­lar apps are capa­ble of.

  5. I’ve been mak­ing grids on Melodica for a long time now, and I real­ly liked it. But the app real­ly needs an update with more func­tions (like that you list­ed in the can­dy­cane­fo­rum). But it sad­ly seems like there will nev­er be one.
    I also tried oth­er apps like sound­grid, but with those you can’t make music like with melod­i­ca. I don’t know…
    I’d just like to have a “rat­ing sys­tem” in Melodica, like in Soundgrid, because I want to share my songs and lis­ten to oth­er good ones. Right know its extrem­ly hard to find any good ones, because 99% of the pub­lished are just bad.
    Maybe there will be an update now, after “Faad” made it free for one day and many peo­ple got it. But I don’t real­ly think it’ll hap­pen.

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