Anatomy of a One-Man Band Pt. 2: Electric Melodica-loo

Part 1, detailing the gear in my looping rig, is here.

I’ve recently been working on becoming more self-sufficient as a performer. One of the great things about The Exited Door was how many brilliant musicians I got to contribute, but the flip side of that is that it can be difficult to perform the material without them!  Generally speaking, I’ve always had the intention of performing with a huge-ass group, giving the tunes a literal reinterpretation of what’s on the record, but that kind of show is A) logistically hard to pull off and B) financially unsustainable.  So, my plan had always been to come up with a way to perform solo or in small group settings – the trick was figuring out how.

Enter my loop pedal. Well, actually, Nervo’s loop pedal that he loaned me, but same difference. Using it, I’ve put together a pretty cool one-man band setup, as I detailed in a post a few weeks ago. It’s been a blast coming up with little “mini-melodies” and working out how to perform them. It didn’t take long to realize that, in addition to playing loop-specific songs, I could use the pedal to creatively add the flavor of the orchestration on the record.

However, as I began to implement this idea, I noticed a few things.  For starters, my setup was taking up too much space – I had all my wind instruments laid out with my percussion on a separate chair, and four pedals in front of the amp… it was just a little too busy.

Another thing I realized was that while it would actually be possible to play a good number of the tunes from the record solo or with another guitarist, I’d need to get creative with triggering loops that I recorded using the melodica.  What’s more, there wouldn’t be time for me to reach over and grab the melodica every time I needed to play a solo (like, say, the trumpet melody on “No Crow, Scarecrow”), so I’d need to figure out a way to have quick access to the instrument while playing guitar.

Melodica Apparatus
The Apparatus.

I’d been thinking about designing an arm-mount for my melodica for a little while – it always seemed like a natural fit for the instrument.  That said, I’m kind of shocked that I actually pulled it off!  All it took was one trip to the haight, where I picked up two matching big thick leather belts and some heavy-duty velcro.

After initially attaching the upper-arm band and the wrist band to my arm and threading the wrist-band through the handle on the back of the melodica, I attached velcro to the outside of the upper-arm band, as well as the underside of the melodica.  It worked great for a bit, but after I started practicing with it, it became clear that I’d need a second strap around the top to hold the instrument in place.  I was initially using string, but that was pretty flimsy; another trip to the hardware store and I found a 24″ velcro strap that was perfect.  I attached another strip of velcro to the top of the melodica, wrapped the strap around, and voila!  The thing wouldn’t fall off if I was chased by an angry mob.  And, taking into account how awful it sounds when I screw up one of these loops, the possibility of that happening isn’t quite as remote as it may sound. Heh.

To detail how it was put together, I took a few pictures (a few used my mirror, so they’re inverted):

The shoulder and wrist straps. Also, the gun show. Yeeeahhh baby.
Reinforcing the shoulder mount & the finished product.

But enough pictures, time to show this thing in action! Without further ado, I give you the YouTube debut of my looping mini-composition “Happy Pants.”

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