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Thursday, 9 April 2020

Instruments

Piano, 'toy' xylophone and tenor guitar

How many musical instruments are there in your house?

It came up in conversation a few weeks ago at the orchestra where Mrs D plays bassoon. Some answers were truly astonishing.

Our answer is 29. That surprised us but it is nowhere near as many as some. At the folk band I’m in, one chap, let’s call him Clive, could probably outdo them all. He spends every spare moment attending residential workshops of one kind or another, for ever having just come back from a few days playing Dixie banjo or resonator slide guitar, or making Bodhráns, or something similarly esoteric. He keeps bringing along his latest instrument to show us. You get the impression he could single-handedly equip an attempt on the world record for the largest ceilidh band (at present 288). 

To get to our 29, I have counted anything capable of playing a simple melody in tune with other instruments. It is boosted by the kids’ instruments that are still here as they haven’t really left yet. Son takes after mum and did grades in piano and violin. Daughter is more of a dabbler like me but can get a tune out of almost anything.

Piano
Electronic Keyboard
Trombone
Bassoon
Son’s violin
Daughter’s violin
Clarinet (Buffet B12)
Clarinet (Selmer Signet)
Epiphone jumbo acoustic guitar
Teisco Tremo Twenty electric guitar
Ashbury electro-acoustic tenor guitar
Tanglewood electro-acoustic guitar
Nylon stringed acoustic guitar
Mandolin
Soprano ukulele
Baritone ukulele
Single octave ‘toy’ xylophone in D
Chromatic harmonica
Ocarina
Tenor recorder
Alto recorder
6 descant recorders
Penny whistle
Set of ‘toy’ plastic whistles in C

The Cramer upright piano (pictured), from my wife’s childhood, is the oldest, followed by the electric guitar acquired for £10 from a friend of my brother around 1972, but it still plays. The bassoon is next, then my Epiphone acoustic guitar from Kitchen’s music shop in Leeds around 1975. I still have the receipt for the Buffet clarinet for £237.58 dated the 14th March, 1990. Except for some of the recorders, the others are mostly less than twenty years old. The four-string GDAE tenor guitar (also pictured above) is newest, bought this year. I am still too much in denial to admit how much it cost.

We have, between us, also had other harmonicas, bassoons, violins and guitars, including an electric bass lost many years ago during a house move. It seems only yesterday I was pretending to be able to do an A-chord on my first guitar (a metal stringed Sheltone) around 1965. It wasn’t an easy guitar to play, but it strengthened my hands and toughened the ends of my fingers.

47 comments:

  1. I'll have to count tomorrow and then come back with my list. I know I have a LOT fewer drums and percussion instruments than when I was facilitating my drumming circle, but I kept a few favourites when I gave the rest away. I've got a number of recorders kicking around too.

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    1. There is a woman in the next village who runs drumming workshops and turns up with possibly as many as 100 of the things, although it's quite exciting once it gets going. Drummers and percussionists easily have most, so long as you don't count "drum kit" as one.

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  2. What an interesting question. You must have quite a musical family judging by your extensive list of instruments. I love the picture of you with the guitar. If my youngest son was still living at home I would not be able to answer this question as he was a music major and had more instruments than I could ever keep up with in those days. Right now I would say we only have around 8-10 various instruments in the house. I still have two recorders from my teenage years. I'm not that musical but I always loved the sound of the recorder.

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    1. Your youngest son sounds like the chap I mention above - he opens a cupboard and finds things he has forgotten he has. As there are four of us it averages out at 7 each.

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  3. Replies
    1. A melodica can entertain you for many hours.

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  4. Well, if you'd asked me 10 years ago, the answer would have been a little different from now (zero). Back when my husband was still alive, we (he) had an Epiphone electric guitar, and electric base, two acoustic guitars, plus there was my piano.
    Sadly and stupidly, I have stopped playing both the guitar and the piano when I was in my mid-to-late twenties and work had become monstrously busy. I've never picked up either again, but my old acoustic guitar (bought when I took up lessons in 1980, at the age of 12) still lives somewhere in my parents' attic. The piano was sold for a song (pun intended) to a children's music school in my town, more an act of charity than a business transactions.
    These days, the only instrument I still play is my voice, and that one's a bit rusty, admittedly (I used to sing in two choirs).

    What are recorders? To me, a recorder is a tape recorder or a video recorder; I don't understand how it is a musical instrument?

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    1. Meike - please go here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recorder_(musical_instrument)

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    2. Is it a Blockflöte? I had a longish period when busy at work when it seemed too much effort to play anything much at all, but more recently I'm doing a lot more mainly through joining a couple of music groups. Trouble is they are both full of old people except for me. My best instrument of all (not listed above) is probably MuseScore.

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  5. Do you get on well with your neighbours?

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    1. Absolutely fine, Tom. We never hear a single sound from them.

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  6. It must have been lovely to live in a home where there was so much music. I have two acoustic guitars, tom tom drums, two harmonicas, an ocarina (Spelt with a single "c"), my daughter's flute and my son's violin but my wife was never musical. Love of making music rather than listening to it is usually connected with one's upbringing.

    P.S. You missed out saucepans and wooden spoons from your list.

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    1. Must have a sticky 'c' on my keyboard. Oh, yes, pans and spoons. Weren't you in The Two Ronnies once - the cleaning ladies song?

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    2. The Cleaning Ladies Song: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x9v6xf

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    3. My parents didn't play any instruments, but my mum always had The Light Programme on at home when I was little. I can sing my through far more 1950s songs that I should know. Anyone for Alma Cogan, Eve Boswell, Ronnie Hilton?

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    4. Spelling of ocarina now corrected.

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  7. There's a Double Bass, a ukelele and a harmonica. They were my husband's and one of the grandsons seems keen...

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    1. Just let him experiment on his own and he'll be hooked. I remember aged only about 7 or 8 picking up a late relative's banjo at my grandma's and loved it for maybe 15 minutes, but they took from me because it had woodworm.

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  8. It didn't take me long to count up those in our house. Zero.
    Neither of us has been gifted with any musical talent, although I was made to take violin lessons during my first couple of years at school. I had to take the violin home ( awkward on the bus) for practice. I don't think my parents enjoyed that very much.

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    1. It's whether you enjoyed it that counts. Parents have bad musical taste.

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  9. I learned to play harmonica at school and had two, a chromatic and an ordinary(?) one. I got rid of them both in my mass clear out five years ago. I played piano as a child but didn't get on very well with each hand doing different things. Should have practiced more. I can read music which I suppose is a help or maybe not. I have a triangle in the house because I also used to play triangle and bought one in a moment of nostalgia a few years ago and I once surprised my mother by being conductor at a school musical event and not telling her in advance. In common parlance, she was gobsmacked.

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    1. I believe it's all down to practice in the end, but you have to want to do it and be able to see what you'll get out of it. That's why there are loads of male lead guitarists - they're prepared to spend hours practicing in their bedrooms. Recorders are inexpensive if you fancy refreshing an old skill, and there is some really satisfying music fo them.

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    2. I never mastered the recorder which is why I took the harmonica alternative.

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  10. I came from a musical background. My mum had a Singer sewing machine😊.

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  11. Tasker this brought back many happy memories for me. I was a musician (as I have aged I have Benign Essential Tremor which means my hands shake) and my son is a professional musician. His father and I ( he died in 1991 and I married again in 1993)had an Early Music Group - he made crumhorns, recorders (we once had two great basses)and I had as well as my piano a harpsichord. At the time my son played double bass, cello and piano. Music was our life for many years.

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    1. You sound like one of those mentioned in paragraph 2. I've always admired people who make their own instruments. We had a friend who, when he no longer had the breath to play bassoon, started a recorder group. They were very good (you could say of professional standard) and he made himself a sub-great bass recorder. It made an impressive sound. Early instruments are impressive too. I've always wanted to try playing a serpent.

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  12. There was the record player and a piano when I grew up. My children played piano, clarinet, flute, and by the time the grands came along, I treated them and their parents to a lot of instruments. One set of grands played all marching band: French horn, trombone, flute, trumpet. The other set of grands are not musical, and their mother gave away the great instruments I'd accumulated. A dulcimer, a thumb piano, a small harp, penny whistles.....

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    1. All those brass instruments - they sound wonderful but I can't play any brass at all. I do think, though, that learning an instrument as a child is great for mental development. I didn't until I was around 15 which probably explains quite a lot.

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  13. We have two: a piano that has not been tuned in the over 50 years we have had it, and a two-manual Baldwin organ with 2-octave pedal range that was GIVEN to us about 5 years ago. When my children still lived at home we had a flute, a piccolo, an alto sax, a soprano sax, an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, an electric bass guitar, and when they were children we had a one-octave toy xylophone, a harmonica, a ukelele, probably other things as well.

    At my daughter's house now are two french horns, a trumpet, a flute and a piccolo. My older son has the woodwinds and my younger son has the guitars.

    Do you know what they call people who like to hang out with musicians? Drummers.

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    1. I'd hide from Debra (first comment) if I were you. Sounds like your house was as noisy as ours. I was going to say I'd enjoy trying out your organ but certain other readers would be sure to misinterpret that deliberately.

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  14. Attending a residential workshop would be a great holiday if only I could play an instrument. I played the flute badly in school orchestra.

    One of my mates went to southern France on a workshop-holiday, building an accordion. The couple who ran the two-week accordion course were Cordon Blue chefs. In the evening they all dined out in the garden.

    He must have at least twenty accordions in his home; in one week he ordered three. Recently he was stung for nearly £2000 (his own fault for not using PayPal) by a man claiming to live in Stornaway, who went so far as to post a picture of his *home* online. A scam.

    My friend payed the money through his bank and then waited for an accordion which never arrived. The conman's sortcode was generic so my friend's bank could not be held accountable. Beware buying online!

    Your piano reminded me that jazz giant McCoy Tyner (born 1938) died on March 6 2020. Downbeat magazine online has an obituary of the last living musician who played with John Coltrane. End of an era.

    New York writer-musician Leslie Pintchik penned a piece for Downbeat on another of my lost heroes, *My One Lesson With Bill Evans* March 24 2017. His advice to her was simple: Listen.

    YouTube has a number of videos of Bill Evans playing, haunting beyond words, genius beyond comprehension. Wish I had seen him at Ronnie Scott's in 1969! Many astute comments on him, below YouTube videos.

    John Haggerty

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    1. Thanks again, John. Yes, the chap I mentioned really does enjoy his music workshops and is always circulating details to try to get us to attend them with him. Some people simply accumulate instruments and are prepared to spend a lot of money on them, as indeed one can. I'm not convinced, though, that £5,000 guitars always play better than £500 ones. Don't know of Turner or Evans, but then I have never specifically listened to jazz or sought it out.

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  15. I am too long in the tooth to try to convert anyone to jazz, Tasker. Jazz leaves many of my friends quite cold. I began to listen at 18.

    You might want to give ten minutes to Bill Evans on YouTube: My Foolish Heart and A Time For Love; two standards recorded by Marion Montgomery and Matt Monro, singers I associate with a pre-Beatles era.

    There is a deep sadness in the Bill Evans sound. Many perceptive people pick up on this in the combox. The suicide of his elder brother and his own heroin addiction set him on a road from which there was no return; a predestinate tragedy.

    When Tony Bennett's career was in trouble he went to Bill Evans and cut one of his best albums. The forgotten singer Johnny Hartman did the same with John Coltrane. I wish Robert Goulet, a great artist who never got his due, had done the same with Oscar Peterson.

    The Canadian writer Gene Lees was one of the best jazz critics. He could write an evocative essay that reads like a good story. Lees wrote the lyrics of Yesterday I Heard the Rain, recorded by Tony Bennett, Shirley Bassey, and Perry Como. All on YouTube.

    Lees described it as a song about losing faith in God and then finding it again. He writes about this in his book *The Singer and the Song* which was published in paperback by the Oxford University Press.

    The jazz critic for The Scotsman, Tony Troon, has passed away at a fair old age. He was a gifted journalist and a gentleman. I only meet him once, on a private flight from Edinburgh to the Macallan single malt distillery. We were on a whisky-tasting freebie.

    John Haggerty

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    1. Can't remember the small ad exactly.
      The Will said:
      Pour the Macallan on my grave
      To quench my dead soul's thirst
      So I poured the Macallan on his grave
      But through my kidneys first

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    2. I do have some jazz recordings: Miles Davis In A Silent Way, and lots of Ella Fitzgerald and Cleo Lane if you count that.

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    3. I had never heard that Macallan ditty but I shall commit it to memory!

      Once in a blue moon I enjoy a single malt with sparkling water as my father did. Especially when the nights are drawing in and I feel like hearing the pibroch on CD.

      The Cafe Royal bar in Edinburgh is a couthy place to enjoy a dram. Decent clientele too. Across from Waverley Station, up a lane.

      In A Silent Way and Kind of Blue are my favourite Miles. Bitches Brew I could never take to. He grew bitter and resentful.

      Ella and Cleo, Sarah Vaughan and Anita O'Day are where it's at. Wish I had seen the great Annie Ross when she was singing in Glasgow one Sunday evening at the Oran Mor.

      When I was young and in love I would associate a song with the girl of the moment. One girl's personality might be Lullaby of Birdland, or Moonlight in Vermont, or Laura, or Days of Wine and Roses, or Wonderful Day (from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers).

      Do you remember the soundtrack on the Joseph Losey film The Servant? Written by Johnny Dankworth and sung by Cleo Lane.

      It's a creepy movie, half vampire, half ghost story. With brilliant performances by Dirk Bogarde and Michael Fox.

      There's a man in Barcelona who runs his own jazz school. He plays sax in his own band with several young women who sing wonderfully well. They are on YouTube. I'll get you his name in my next comment.

      These young singers make up for the terrible emptiness I felt upon the death of Amy Winehouse. Her Don't Go To Strangers with Jools Holland is on YouTube. She did My Funny Valentine with Tony Bennett.

      John Haggerty

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  16. The man in Barcelona who runs the jazz school is Joan Chamorro, double base player. YouTube numbers of his I can recommend:

    CHEEK TO CHEEK. Joan Chamorro Quartet and Rita Pages, Andrea Motis, Luigi Grasso.

    LULLABY OF BIRDLAND. Andrea Motis, Joan Chamorro Quintet and Scott Hamilton.

    WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO. Magali Datzira and Joan Chamorro Quartet and Luigi Grasso.

    Andrea Motis and Magali Datzira are two of the girl singers who so impressed me with their impeccable timing and phrasing. But they play instruments too. Amazing girls!

    Other Joan Chamorro numbers with vocals: These Foolish Things, Unchain My Heart.

    John Haggerty

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  17. YouTube:

    SONHO MEU. Elia Bastida, Alba Armengou, Carla Motis, Joan Chamorro.

    I'VE GOT A DATE WITH A DREAM. Alba Armengou and Joan Chamorro Quartet and Luigi Grosso.

    Elia Bastida and Alba Armengou sing like the proverbial nightingale in Berkeley Square or maybe that should be the Ramblas in Barcelona. Very talented young women.

    John Haggerty

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  18. I wrote Rita Pages when I should have written Rita Payes. I hate to misspell anyone's name!

    Rita Payes in another songbird in Joan Chamorro's wonderful jazz school.

    Haggerty

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    1. Goodness, John, you write the longest comments I've ever had. I don't know where to begin to respond.

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  19. No need to respond, Tasker.
    Just listen to the music when you feel Younger Than Springtime, a Sinatra standard.

    Haggerty

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  20. That is so impressive. I'm from a very unmusical family and never had anything to pass on. So, not a single instrument in the house, unless you count an upturned bucket on which I practice my drumming lessons over Zoom!

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    1. See rhymeswithplague's joke at the end of his comment, above (10th April at 14.11).

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    2. Hmmm. I think he needs to hear my drumming before he could decide if musicians would even let me any where near them!

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