Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kind Hearts And Clarinets

On the list of things I'd wish I'd done differently as a child, high on the list is learning the clarinet. I might as well have taken up the accordion. I can't figure out a single reason why I chose that instrument other than to bond with my Royal Father, who played it as a kid and did better than your humble servant. All it did was add to my nerd factor.

Yes, I know: Benny Goodman, Woody Allen (yes, he plays it), and who knows who else. But they are they and they aren't me.

I should've followed my curiosity: fooling around on the piano, which has led to fooling around with synthesizers at various points in my life, and I still do from time to time. I can turn my PC into a Prophet-5, a Hammond T., a DX7, an ARP Pro Soloist, or a Mellotron. Ditto for my iPad. I have played "smart chords" on GarageBand and keep up, more or less, while others play acoustically. I still don't know piano, but it's on my bucket list. Tony Banks of Genesis is my keyboard hero, so don't be surprised if you a Facebook photo of me leaning over a synth stack, bobbing my head like he used to do in concert.

I could've gone for drums. My parents are probably glad I didn't, although for a higher price, computerized drum pads are widely available that won't wake up the neighbors. Getting them into an apartment -- another challenge.

People see me in a kilt and ask if I play bagpipes. In a word, no. What they don't know is that the pipes have a high rate of attrition. Before you can even put your hands on the bag, your teachers will require you to spend at least a year on a practice chanter -- a sort of kazoo that thinks its a recorder and got too close to a set of pipes. Master the chanter, and you're ready for the next level.

A young lad in my college dorm played the pipes. Every so often, one could hear the Highlands of Scotland in the University of Missouri. He would stand outside and pace as he played in a slow, melancholy march.

"I love the pipes," said one girl who observed him. "That sound reminds me of Sting."

For the person with no time to learn a lot of fingering, I would recommend the electric kazoo. They play like a kazoo, but plug in like a guitar, meaning the full range of effects pedals are at your disposal. I just added this to my bucket list.

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