How Did You Choose Your Instrument (or Did Your Instrument Choose You)?!?

The Face of a Child:

When I was ten years of age, the conductor and violin teacher of our school orchestra, Mr. Robert Martin, came to visit our elementary public school in Cincinnati. He demonstrated just about every instrument that could be played, but especially the array of classical orchestral instruments.

The face of a child is always very honest.  During the presentation that day, something on my face must have caught Mr. Martin's attention.  Afterwards, he approached me directly about playing a violin.  I'd already knew that I was in love with the instrument, because I had heard it played SO EXPRESSIVELY in my parent's American folk, bluegrass and country music, and in countless soundtracks. He prompted me to ask my parents about buying me a violin, but he also offered to lend me a violin if I wanted to play!!!

I asked my dad about buying a violin, but I didn't know if he could. He surprised me by purchasing a violin for my eleventh birthday present. It must have been a real hardship for our family.  Looking back on it, I estimate that my dad must have labored for about 200 or 300 hours to pay for it.  Oops, and I wanted to convert it into some fiddle playing right away!

Sadly, things got busy, and my fiddle sat lonely for many years as I became a busy teen and adult...

The fiddle found me again, so I got it back out of it's case about two years ago.  It's been helping me have the time of my life!  So, I like to think that my fiddle chose me!!!

 

We must have been attracted to play the instruments we love for a reason...

Maybe you found your instrument under a parent's guidance and tutelage?

Maybe the instrument "runs in your family"?

Maybe you witnessed an amazing performance?

Maybe you are influenced by a legendary musical icon or hero?

Maybe you don't have much recollection about the reason? 

 

It would be interesting to know YOUR musical instrument story.  Thanks in advance for sharing!!!

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My mother had purchased a small parlor sized "Stella" acoustic guitar for me when I was age 6. She had the insight to tune the small guitar to an open chord using the old upright piano to tune against. Mom never had a lesson in her life, and she could not read a note of music, but she certainly had a musical gift. With the guitar tuned in this way, it was easy for me to "bar" chords by laying a straight edge on the frets. An old butter knife served this purpose very well! This enabled me to initially focus on knowing when to change chords and rhythm while I sang tunes like "On Top of Old Smoky" with her. Later, I went on to study classically for awhile, studied other genres, did the professional gig a short stint, and played other instruments along the journey. However, the guitar has remained my staple always. I love it's voicing, versatility, and portability. It's an orchestra within its own right and the instrument accompanies vocals very well. My focus in traditional Irish Music has continually evolved during the past dozen years or so. I find that it has been used primarily as an accompaniment instrument to the traditional "melody instruments" within this genre. It is my hope to continue promoting as a solo instrument as well as demonstrate it's ability as a "melody instrument" in the tradition of "new grass" flatpicking technique.

I must confess, I am now 59, and my instrument never sits idle, and it has accompanied me wherever I go. 

Sidebar: I recently found and purchased the exact make and model of that very first Stella guitar! It rests in a very special place within my studio!

:::---( o )

Hi Ed!

That's a really beautiful story... your mom was very clever to provide you with your very own guitar at such a young age! Despite her shortcomings of musical knowledge, she helped you learn play it as best she could manage.  Children are always fortunate when they have parents who guide them in music and all other aspects of their lives.

Your story made me remember about my mom and our little "family band" that my sisters and brother and I would make at her urging.  My mom and dad had emigrated to Cincinnati from the coal mining country of Kentucky and West Virginia during the 1950's, where both of my grandfathers and my dad were miners.  We were poor during most of the early days of my childhood, so we didn't have the luxury of any real musical instruments, save a "Jew's" harp and a harmonica. So we would make our own band! Sometimes my grandma from Tennessee would join in.  We used pots and pans. spoons, and a big gallon jug to make the bass sound!  We would play them in our "tent city" we made by stretching blankets over chairs. You can see the old pic of me wearing my old beaten saddle shoes in a picture with my dad on my profile!  Sorry for rambling on about my own childhood memories...

Beyond the credit owed to your mom, you obviously demonstrated your interest and aptitude with music, which has carried on throughout your life. I'm guessing that she probably sang to you when you were a baby and toddler!

Personally, I think your guitar has developed very beautifully over the years.  I am not an expert about any guitar playing, but it's quite a joy to hear.  So, I hope you will keep playing your guitar, and posting videos, and that you will always keep your guitar by your side... even when you get to be a very old man, and your fingers may shake and not bend so well anymore.  Little children and old people are the most beautiful players of all!

P.S.  Can you make a fiddle with keyboard characters too?!?

~Connie

 

Hi Ed,

I have just realised that it was your video "Hares on the mountain" that I watched and loved last week! (Should have commented at the time, sorry) It's seems like your guitar is like a third arm for you ie having played and loved it since a child. I find your sense of rhythm and it's importance to the melody captivating. Must check out your other videos.

Thanks for your story

Áine

Thanks for your kind words Connie! I must confess that my interest in recording hadn't bloomed until fairly recently (past 3 years or so). It actually came about during a conversation I had with my oldest son, Chad. It was during one of those discussions about life, and coming to terms with one's own mortality. He was the one who suggested that I consider recording some of my material. Little did he know at that point that he created a monster!! I haven't stopped since!

I know that at some point I may not ever be able to play an instrument again. Unfortunately, it will come to pass for all of us at some point. Life is a gift, and we as musicians share and appreciate the gift of music together as well, but we all know it is temporary. It is my aspiration to leave some small legacy to my family and friends of what had provided so much joy in my life and contributed to who I am today. I will continue to play and strive to improve for as long as I am able!

 :::---( o )

Hi Aine! Thank you so much! Ya...I thought I would try something different on that tune and add a little harmonica to it! You don't see the harmonica often played within this genre, (saw a great video of a virtuoso harmonica player on this site though) but it has a great deal of potential! 

The guitar has certainly been a "companion" of mine throughout my life and it does feel like a bit of a "third arm"! :)

Meeting so many wonderful folks on this site for sure!! 

:::---( o )

Hi Ed.

Your goal as a musician: to continue to play and strive to improve as long as you are able?

I like it. In fact, it's the only way ahead. Your family are very pleased with your decision to record I'll bet.

Áine

 

Hello all new TradConnect members.  It would be fun to hear your story about how you started playing your Irish traditional instrument(s)!

Please share in this discussion when you have a moment :)!!!

Short version:  I'm a cheapskate, but  wanted to meet people.

Long version: I'm an American with nary a lick of Celtic blood in my veins.  Most of my heritage is German, so this is the story of how I ended up on der Dudelsack.

Mom started me in on piano when I was grade-school. I played the flute, tuba and french horn at various times in middle and high-school.  I let all but the french horn go by the way-side when I went to college.  Post college, I was flipping through the adult education catalog from my local school district looking for classes to take as a way to meet people.  I noticed music lessons for $18 for the whole semester.  I called up the info number to make sure that was correct and it wasn't actually $18 per lesson, and it turned out it wasn't a typo.  The instructor was only charging a $1 per lesson to cover the cost of renting the room.  SIGN ME UP!  So I went to lessons the first day, bought a practice chanter for $75 (Still $93 for 18 weeks of lessons is only $5.16 per lesson!  A bargain!) and have been addicted to Great Highland Bagpipes for 11 years now.

Along the way, I met up with a lot of Celtic groups in southwest Michigan, and met my future husband, who at the time was playing Irish Flute and whistle with a local group named Fonnmohr.   He started me on the tin whistle and going to Irish sessions.  I picked up a bodrhun because it was tuneable and on-sale for $60.  I also picked up a set of small pipes so I could play my primary instrument with my husband's family band, Celtic Roots, but I have learned a few crossover tunes so I'll pull them out at the local sessions now and then.  (Currently working on Congress Reel and Mason's apron on pipes.  I'll get there eventually.)

Hi Connie,

About twenty five years ago, I started off with the bodhran and got fairly handy on it, my policy being that a good bodhran player knows when to stop!  However, I just found that accompanying the music wasn't enough.  I really wanted to play the tunes.  I was watching a really good fiddle player one night and was fascinated at how much seemed to be going on at the same time, so many sounds and blends of notes.  I guess that was it.  I was hooked.  I swapped a book on psychology (go figure!) for a cheap chinese fiddle and managed to learn two jigs.  I shelved it then, as my career involved an awful lot of travelling so I never had time to practice, or even to attend a session consistently enough to learn anything.  I changed jobs and careers in June and am home every night so I recently dug the fiddle out of the attic and started scraping again.  I remembered the two jigs and have added another three, along with a reel (The Maid Behind The Bar).  I am currently looking for a teacher and will buy a better fiddle soon.  One thing is for sure - I never lost my love of the fiddle.  I really enjoy every practice session and totally lose myself to the music. Paul

For reasons I will not go into, I am a bit depressed about some of musical situations around here. Your post made me feel 100 times better. Git after it, bro!

Hi Jenni!

I'm always intrigued by women who play pipes!  It almost sounds like destiny that you are playing them today, according to your story!  Sounds like you are making great progress too!

Pipes are one of the most beautiful, powerful ans expressive instruments.  Can you imagine the fear stricken into the opposing soldiers hearts as the great bagpipes were carried blaring into battle?  You have to remember that there was no sound amplification method in those days, and that those sounds of pipe and drum corps must have been awesomely intimidating to the opposition to say the least!!!

My personal favorite is the Irish style uilleann pipes - but I do love all pipes - and have been lucky enough to hear a variety of pipes being played from different countries.  Really, they are just spectacular instruments in so many ways!  As a very young girl, I remember seeing one of my eight year old classmates play Great Highlands bagpipes with her dad in second grade at my school - I would have given anything to trade shoes with that little girl!

Well, definitely keep up the great work - I really love that story more than you know!  And don't discount possibility of Celtic heritage - Celts have spread freely all around the world with ease, including Germany and the entire globe!  I think you will feel it inside whether you know your entire lineage or not :)!

~Connie

Hi Paul,

I love your story! Obviously you are feeling a calling to your fiddle.  I feel the same way!  Life does have a way of getting mixed up with "fiddling around"!  We have so many obligations!  Please don't ever give it up - you are an inspiration for everyone else who has put off playing the instruments they've loved for years, and for those who aspire to learn something new.  I hope I can get to play a fiddling jig with you someday!

~Connie

 

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