I really miss playing in jam sessions. I learn so much just by listening and trying to follow along. Granted, I’ve participated in lots of online sessions and I’ve had time to hone my skills and learn new tunes during this pandemic, but it’s just not the same.
I made one trek to the Pickens Flea Market last fall, mainly with the intent just to walk among the stalls while masked. I dropped by the Musician’s Circle and they insisted that I join them. Annette loaned me her banjo since I hadn’t brought an instrument, and I sat on the opposite side away from everyone and played a few tunes.
With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner I was feeling a bit down that I couldn’t join in a Celtic music session. Fortunately, my brother Houston was there to bail me out. He has been just as cautious as we’ve been during this pandemic, so I feel comfortable having him over to make music. He brought a few of his instruments and we played through lots of tunes with various combinations of instruments.
We even recorded a birthday song for our brother, Stephen.
With thousands of dollars worth of instruments and recording gear, the best we could do was, “What Shall We Do with an Aging Taylor?” for Stephen’s birthday last week.
I’ll swear that the banjo was in tune before we decided to add capos.
After Houston departed I decided I would make a video with banjo and tin whistle. My plans were quite ambitious. I was going to start with the tune “Foggy Dew” since St. Patrick’s day turned out to be so foggy, then transition to “Star of the County Down” as a jig with bodhran. After spending all of St. Patrick’s Day doing various takes with different recording configurations, all I completed was Foggy Dew.
Laura took one look at our collection of guitars, banjos, bass guitars, mandolins, and ukuleles scattered around the living room and declared that we were “Music Hoarders.” Perhaps, but I just love learning about new instruments and how to play them. As seen in the above video I’ll try several different instruments at once. When two of us are together there are lots of possibilities.
I confess – I own a LOT of instruments. I’ve taken lessons on many of those instruments. I’ve taught others how to play some of those instruments. I’ve even played some of them in public. I decided to make a chart showing how many I have, how many I can play, and how many I’ve played in public. I’ve also ranked how confident I am on each instrument, from 1 to 5, with 5 meaning that I may own one, but I can’t play it at all.
|Instrument||Can Play – 1 = Confident, 5 = Can’t Play||Own||Taken a Class or Lessons||Played in Public|
|French Horn Bugle||4||√||√|
|High D Whistle||2||√||√||√|
|Low D Whistle||2||√||√||√|
|Native American Flute||2||√||√||√|
This chart isn’t complete. There are lots of percussion instruments such as tambourines, triangles, guiros, etc., that I can play. There are tuned percussion instruments such as glockenspiels, marimbas, xylophones and Orff instruments. I don’t have much need to play these now, but as a music teacher I’ve used them with students. It also doesn’t include some weird instruments like kazoos and the Shower Hose in D, which I’ve played twice in renditions of PDQ Bach’s The Seasonings. I’ve also played a tuned wine glass as part of a concert.
The other thing the chart doesn’t show is how many of each instrument I own. I’ve got a couple of acoustic guitars, a couple of ukuleles, and several keyboard synthesizers. I’ve got several soprano recorders and a couple of alto recorders. I have lots of harmonicas and tin whistles as they are inexpensive. I’ve put one in each guitar case so I’d have it available. My goal is to have a musical instrument of some kind (besides my voice) wherever I go.
I get asked why/how I play so many different instruments. The answer has two parts. As a music education major I had to take lessons in at least three different instruments, so I studied voice, piano, classical guitar, and organ at Furman. As part of the curriculum I also had to learn how to play recorder (which I had already learned in high school) and other classroom instruments. I played trumpet in the band in middle school and high school.
The second part of the answer is that once you learn an instrument in one family you can usually extend that knowledge to other members of the family. It’s much like learning a new language. Once you learn a new language it becomes easier to learn other new languages.
Laura contends that instruments aren’t the only things I hoard. She says that I also hoard music itself. I’ve gotten better about it. When I was a choral director/church choir director I had boxes of choral octavos that I picked up at various reading sessions. I purged those, but I still have my piano books and music and have now collected several volumes of folk tunes. I still have an extensive hymnal collection, but I’m even debating how much longer I’m going to hang onto those.
Now I’ve gone mostly digital, downloading files that can be pulled up on my iPad or printed as needed. There is so much available for free online through services like Ultimate Guitar and The Session that now I have a new hoarding problem and a Dropbox that’s almost at capacity. It’s the same with recorded music. I’ve got large collections of vinyl and CDs, but now mostly play audio from files or streaming services.
Not that I’m ashamed of any of my collections. (Yeah, but I’ve got a problem with kayaks and cameras, too.) Music has been such a huge part of my life that this obsession will always be there.