Sunday, June 19, 2016

Wrong Path to Competence

I own six keyboards, four recorders, four other assorted fipple flutes, a crumhorn, a shawn, and a ukulele. I just bought yet another instrument and I'm actively shopping for a new uke.

And I can't play anything well.

Okay, this isn't as bad as it looks. I'm not trying instrument after instrument hoping that one of them I'll actually be able to learn. Well, not entirely! On that flip side, there is a difference between individual examples of the same instrument. On the ukulele, for instance, beyond the fact that my first uke is very cheap, with a poor sound and the fretboard is not set correctly (meaning fretted notes are slightly out of ratio with open strings, it is also a "standard" or soprano. My fingers are really more comfortable on the just slightly larger (but otherwise identical "concert" ukulele.

(Of course, me being me, instead of just purchasing one I set out to carve my own solid-body electric. All the parts for that are still in a box in the closet.)

Even when you aren't the greatest player, cheap instruments are cheap instruments. They are harder to work with, harder to learn on, and can learn you bad habits. It is surprising just how much even a poor player like me can feel and hear between, say, a Yamaha 300 series and a Yamaha 600 series recorder. Same plastic, same shape, same company, but the more expensive one falls into the notes cleaner.

My crumhorn, as another example, is a Susato and is not even slightly in tune with itself. And is hell to articulate. I tried out a thousand-dollar hand-rebuilt Moeck soprano at an Early Music fair and that thing just sung...went right to the notes with a wonderfully clear tone and crisp attack and release.

Oh, yes. And only one of my keyboards is a full length controller with working keys. The Roland W30 has a plastic action and several broken keys, and everything but the Behringer are under 24 keys -- used almost entirely as effects controllers. (And even then, one of them is a replacement for one of the others, which has seen some hard use through the years).

Still, it does seem pretty silly that I have my eye on brass (would really like a trumpet with the whole "Silent Trumpet" practice system), a bowed string of some sort, electric guitar, and a couple drums...bodhran for starters, then see how it goes.

And, yes -- I just dropped fourteen bucks on an Irish tin whistle.

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