JEPPSQUARE / Simon Jepps
JEPPSQUARE
The Micro Blog Of Simon E. Jepps

www.jeppsquare.me


The Jeppsax

JEPPSAX / Simon JeppsHere is my fantastical invention.

I am originally a lounge pianist who has played in bars and restaurants both home and abroad. Since returning from Italy where I lived, worked and performed publicly for some years, I decided it was time to acquire and learn for myself a more portable kind of acoustic instrument.

I had become frustrated with the inconvenience of pianos, their size to accomodate, their great cost to acquire and the obvious hurdle of only being able to play one where they already reside.

I spent the good part of a decade buying exotic instruments, from flutes of all shapes and sizes, through unusual stringed instruments and even various melodic drums.

Yet whilst it was the Melodica which most naturally called me to its keys, I always felt it was missing something vital and profound.

Aye, more expressiveness. More accompaniment. It needs to BEND like a SAX...

A little background to the Melodica...

The Melodica is a wind~reed instrument, constructed much like a Harmonica, but played like a Keyboard.

Professional grade Melodicas are extremely responsive and produce a variety of tones, from gently sweet Accordian harmonies through subtle Saxophone ballads to powerful horn-like expressions.

Once upon a time the Melodica was only found in toy stores, or fairly selective music shops. It was by no means seen to be a professional instrument, not in any way.

It was however embraced rapidly by the Reggae communities and in time became a hallmark of their music.

It was here and then whence stage pianists became interested in the possibility of a more academically encompassing Melodica, with a greater scope for novelty accompaniments and indeed teaching.

Once the guys at Hohner became aware of the interest, they set themselves a little side project, just to test the waters... of a performance grade Melodica.

JEPPSAX / Simon JeppsHohner released a couple of these "scouts" onto the market... they watched... and waited... looking for any sign of a cultural rustling.

And when it came... it came from the top.

Famous or well known Jazz pianists were slowly turning their eyes to this gentle, yet powerful reed instrument, as if the most powerful woman in the world had just quietly strolled in.

Gradually it was becoming a dish between meals, on stage, as the forefront middle eight solo performance.

Hohner had it... and now the world was watching.

No sooner than you could feel Miles Davis' Autumn Leaves falling all about you, giant names in music, such as Suzuki, were also getting on board the Melodica rocketship.

Yet a miracle be it known, for without a shadow of doubt, this instrument was born from the womb of Music's own calling... as it made its own righteous way from the good hands of a Child, onto the world stage.

It spoke. It was heard. It was enthroned.

Pianists all over the world were finding a way out of the formal restrictions of stage piano. They were experiencing a freedom of a new unrestrained expression, an ability to bring the sweetness of wind unto the grace of their melodies... and to actually walk amongst those Autumn Leaves as they played.

Yet little would they know, that in the year 2022, the JEPPSAX would be born.

What IS The JEPPSAX?

In short? A hybrid musical instrument made by marrying a custom styled Hohner Melodica with a custom configured Seydel Big Six harmonica.

To put it into more broader terms, the JEPPSAX is indeed a kind of "saxophone", in that it has the capability to express itself in very similar ways.

Yet it is much more than that. It is both an acoustic keyboard and also a blues harmonica all rock 'n' rolled into one. This means it can play not just melodies, not just chords, but it can BEND those melodies and it can BEND those chords.

JEPPSAX / Simon JeppsIn fact, being part blues harmonica, this hybrid Melodica can finally HOWL like a WOLF. And that... Is just the beginning.

The two married instruments not only compliment each other perfectly, being born of the same soul & the same science, but either can accompany the other with chords or melodies as the performer sees and feels right in the music.

In fact it's not only the Jazz & Blues genres which will welcome the JEPPSAX, for unto the Reggae world, where the rhythmical uplifting spiritual syncopation of tribal chords entwined with prophetic melody are paramount, the JEPPSAX is surely a dream come true.

Construction of the JEPPSAX...

Of course, aside from the particular custom styling of the JEPPSAX Melodica itself, which requires a lot of time, very nimble fingers and a ready available selection of parts, anybody with a musical mind can construct a JEPPSAX.

The custom Melodica styling was implemented by mixing and matching different keys and fascias of various Hohner Melodicas, such as the Rasta, the Superforce 37, the Ocean and the Supreme.

Yes, all Hohner Melodicas feature interchangeable parts. So of course, if you have the time and dedication that I have, go ahead and design your own keys!

To make a JEPPSAX you will need:
  • A quality Hohner Melodica 37 Key.
    • The one featured here is actually, you guessed it, a combination of different Hohner Melodica components. However from experience, the Superforce 37 is a good model and it is in fact Superforce 37 reeds inside the JEPPSAX. Whilst the AirBoard Rasta is supposedly from the same base model as the Superforce 37, I have never found it to be as high a quality as the SF37. Also now I believe, the AirBoard Carbon is a higher quality option than both of these, although I have not tried it.
  • A Hohner BlowFlow mouth piece.
    • Depending which Hohner Melodica you bought, you may or may not already have one. They come as standard with the AirBoard Rasta and now I believe newer models also feature them. Yet they are also acquireable separately. Whilst the mouth piece is more conveniently removed whence playing both Harmonica & Melodica together, I have showcased it here to demonstrate how the Hohner BlowFlow mouth piece can actually be shortened by merely disconnecting and reconnecting the individual segments.
  • A reconfigured Seydel Big Six Harmonica.
    • The JEPPSAX features a Seydel Big Six in G, whereby the Hole 6 Draw has been sharpened by a semitone and all the Draw Reeds feature Gazell Valving. This configuration provides an extra F Blues Chord and the ability to Bend on all Blow notes in addition to the standard Draw Bends. Whilst any Blues Harmonica could theoretically be used, standard Harmonicas are quite bulky, certainly heavier than a Big Six and will not sit as comfortably on the Saddle. The JEPPSAX features the Seydel Big Six because it is immensely powerful for its size, bettering many standard harps and furthermore everything about it, including its vital accessories, makes it the perfect marriage made in heaven for the JEPPSAX itself.
  • A piece of rubber about 6cm x 1.5cm x 1mm.
    • This will serve as the 'Saddle' upon which the Harmonica sits. The rubber underneath it is vital to prevent the Harmonica from slipping onto the keyboard. Ideally this rubber saddle should be super-glued to the Melodica case to prevent itself from likewise slipping. If you do not wish to glue the saddle (this does no harm) then a second rubber wristband beneath the Harmonica as well as the 'Brace' will be more secure than an unglued saddle. However, two wristbands may cause undue stress on the casing, so I recommend glue.
  • A rubber/silicone wristband, preferably Seydel branded.
    • This will serve as the 'Brace' which wraps around the Harmonica, hooking under the Melodica's casing feet and securing the Harmonica to the top end of the JEPPSAX. This must likewise be a flexible rubber, not merely to brace the Harmonica, but because the rubber likewise prevents the brace itself from slipping off the Harmonica cover plates.
  • A Seydel branded Big Six neck strap.
    • This will serve as the JEPPSAX Neck Strap which carries the weight of the instrument, allowing even two-handed playing. Assuming you have bought a Seydel Big Six, you should also now own a Seydel Big Six neck strap. Attach this to the handle at the rear of the Melodica. This neck strap features a separation clip, allowing you to unclip the JEPPSAX whilst still wearing the neck strap. Personally I like to double loop mine, bringing the mouth piece closer to my mouth.
JEPPSAX / Simon JeppsAye, finally we have here a truly orchestral instrument.

Whilst it is actually possible to "bend notes" on a Melodica, it is a very precise skill requiring perfect timing of key pressure and even then, it only allows you to bend by a quarter tone to almost a whole semi tone.

Certainly nowhere near the howling cries of a blues harp.

Yet now the good Melodicist is no longer restricted in this expression. All the subtleties of Saxophone, all the harmonies of Keyboard, all the brassiness of Trumpet, all the classical grace of Oboe, all the accompaniment of Accordian and all the howling bends of Blues Harmonica are now all encompassed and embraced together into one fine instrument.

Which is why the Seydel Big Six is the heaven sent angelic partner to the JEPPSAX. Herewith in unison the two instruments form an unbreakable marriage as they dance effortlessly together through time and space... Unto another world of Jazz, Blues, Reggae... and ultimately Rock & Roll.

Thank you for reading.