Almost every melodica, mine among them, looks like a toy piano keyboard on top of a rectangle stuck to a big kazoo. The keys work like those on an accordion, opening up space for air to move through a reed; unlike accordion reeds, though, melodica reeds sound when the player blows air directly into the instrument, either through a thumb-sized nozzle at one end or through a siphon-like plastic tube. Playing a melodica is a visceral experience, even for beginners: your breath leads directly to each note, almost as if you could play a melody on a trumpet or a trombone on your first try. One note at a time, the melodica’s big, thick timbres suggest those of a distorted clarinet. Chords or tone clusters sound more like the instrument’s older relatives: the accordion, the harmonium, the harmonica. And the melodica isn’t very old. Related instruments date back to East Asian antiquity, but the word is a brand name, created by the Hohner company around 1959.