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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Hi Bruce,

I hope you won't be depressed about any music situations too much! I think the main thing must be to try to have fun with it, no matter what!  If you ever make it over to Cincinnati, I hope you might visit The Riley School of Irish Music on some Saturday! Thanks for posting again :)!


Thanks Bruce, I will.  Keep the fair side out!!!


I someday hope to get a nice nyckelharpa, but they can be rather hard to find in the States. Do you know of any nyckelharpa sellers in the States that have quality instruments?

Write me at and I'll see if I can help you find one.


My mother was a music teacher who sang and played the piano. Her students would come over to our house for their lessons. After the lessons were over, I would sit down at the piano and try to imitate what I heard them and my mother playing on the piano. So my mother decided to teach me how to play the piano correctly and began teaching me when I was seven years old. I am now in my fifties and I still enjoy playing the piano.
While I was an enlisted man in the Navy and was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, there was a folk music festival in Norfolk. Since I wasn't on duty that weekend, I was able to attend the festival. The subject of one of the workshops was Folk Piano and it was taught by Triona Ni Dhomhnaill--formerly of the Bothy Band. Attending this workshop and then listening to her perform later that evening with a band called Touchstone opened my eyes and my ears to the possibilities of the piano in Irish music. So I bought a copy of O'Neill's and one or two other books of Irish music and tried to play them by myself on the piano.
After I finished my military service, I came back home and decided to use my GI Bill benefits to go to college (I majored in music). I continued to play Irish music by myself at home because I didn't think there were any other local musicians who liked Irish music enough to play it with me. Then, in 1995, when some other local musicians started an Irish Music Session here, I went and listened because I had never heard of an Irish Music Session. I was interested and I asked if I could come to the next session and participate. They asked me what instrument did I play and they said yes although I told them I was a piano player.
Ever since then, I have playing piano at the local Irish Sessions off and on--more or less irregularly.
Since the places where they have the Sessions don't have a real piano, I have to bring my Roland EP-90 Digital Piano to the Sessions.


That is a great story!  It never would have occured to me to even invite a piano player to a session, much less expect him to bring his own instrument.  Do you have to have help hauling it in, or is it light enough to transport on its own?

I brought my digital piano to our session once.

Once. I had to use a two wheel dolly to transport the piano, the stand, a stool and an extension cord from a block away. It didn't really fit well and it was a real balancing act. My piano is really just a "use at home" instrument and while people liked the sound, most of the time they said they couldn't hear it well. They said I should bring an amplifier. 

I have an amplifier. Then I would be transporting the amplifier, the piano, the stand, the stool, and a bag with the extension cord, a power strip, and a patch cord. I would then need to make two trips with the two wheeler and sometimes I wind up parking three blocks away.  

Ain't gonna happen, sister.

My genuine imitation piano weighs thirty pounds, is five feet long, and has eighty-eight keys just like a real piano. Yes I am able to carry it by myself (with both hands) and I do have a stand to set it on while I play it. I do have to bring an adapter and an extension cord so I can plug it in. Also, it came with a sustain or damper pedal.

Since my Roland Digital Piano has built-in speakers, I can leave the Peavey amplifier at home. The most difficult part of carrying the keyboard is getting through doors--especially when the door is closed.

The first time I went to the local Irish Session, I sat there all evening and listened to the music as well as the conversation and jokes when they weren't playing music, I decided to ask because I enjoyed it. I figured the worst thing they could do was to say "NO" and they said "YES" instead. I was surprised when they said "YES" because I didn't play an acoustic instrument but I was assured that they definitely wanted to add a piano to the general cacophony of their sessions. I don't participate as much or as often as I used to because there has been some turnover in the membership and there have been some personnel changes. Some of the newer musicians seem to disapprove of me because I don't play an acoustic instrument. Their attitude seems to be that I am not playing a "real" instrument.


"I am not playing a "real" instrument."

Laurence, there are always people ready to look down their nose at someone or anyone. At some sessions the guitar players and bodhran* players are told that they are not playing true traditional instruments.

*I am a little surprised that bodhran is not in the spell check dictionary for this site.

I am somewhat surprised by the attitudes of some of the other musicians at the local Irish Sessions because besides piano, I also play bass--both acoustic and electric. I play my three quarter size bass fiddle (or double bass or string bass) on a regular basis once a month with an old time folk music group who play only acoustic instruments. In addition, once a week, I play my acoustic bass with a mandolin and guitar group on a regular basis. I play my electric bass guitar almost every Sunday for the services at two different churches. Someone jokingly told me that was my "altar ego".


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