I've noticed that people who play musical instruments tend to gravitate towards one specific instrument. My Guitar Cousin, for example, started out on the flute -- but most of his songwriting and recording features the guitar. He owns an electric bass, but I'm not sure how much he uses it: certainly, he's not doing funky, exploratory bass playing. And although he has an electronic drum kit, I don't think he uses it much.
And I don't think "the instrument you started on" has much to do with your preferences -- beyond getting you in to playing music. As I said, Guitar Cousin started on the flute. I started with an alto recorder -- but as soon as I got my first electric guitar, the alto recorder totally dropped by the wayside.
I think there's two components to what instrument you gravitate to. One is the interface -- the way you access the sound-generating process. Broadly speaking, there's fingering strings, hitting stuff (usually with sticks), playing a keyboard, or blowing on a tube while pushing buttons. Note that this is distinct from the usual classification of "how is the sound produced": vibrating strings, vibrating membranes, vibrating columns of air, and etc.
For myself, my preferences vary. I currently tend towards stringed instruments -- but I think that may be because I'm used to the interface. Even though I enjoy synthesizers, I still feel awkward with musical keyboards -- although presumably that would change with additional "face time" with them. And I do enjoy the control over the dynamics that you get with wind (including brass) instruments. Oh! And playing the drums is quite visceral -- good stuff!!!
The other component is the sound: even though the flute, clarinet, and trumpet (for example) work via vibrating columns of air, their sounds are quite different. So I can understand how one sound (or another) would simply resonate with a person.
Which brings me to the actual point of this post.
As mentioned, I recently bought an inexpensive violin. Last night I let the kids try it out (under **much** supervision!). The two boys (2.5 y.o. each) had a quick dabble -- but The Girl (nearly six) wanted to keep playing. However, because it was a full-size violin, she wasn't able to reach the violin neck -- which is a major limitation.
Still, she clearly enjoyed playing it. She even asked (IIRC) if she could have one for her birthday.
I asked her which she liked better: the violin, or the guitar (she's dabbled on my guitars before). She said the violin. When I asked her why, she said, "Because it has a nice gentle sound." Fair enough: enjoying the sound is a totally valid reason to prefer a certain instrument.
Hmm... I remembered that the store where I bought my full-size violin (AU$99, marked down to AU$69) also had two half-size violins for the same price. However, it had been over a week: would they still be there?
So, while running some errands this morning (Sunday, Aug. 15th), we stopped by that store. I didn't tell The Girl what I was up to: why raise hopes, only to be disappointed? At first, it seemed that they were sold out. HOWEVER -- just moved to a different shelf. Hooray!!!
I told The Girl that I would be buying the violin for **myself** -- but that she could borrow it and play it as much as she wanted. If she played it a lot, then when she was a bit older I would either give her that violin (depending on how attached to it she became), or buy her another one for herself. But also that she didn't **have** to play it a lot, if she didn't want to -- that if she got bored with playing it, that would be fine, as well (she just wouldn't get the violin). That seemed to make sense to her.
I opened the case to inventory the contents: yep, all there. Black -- I think she would've preferred a red one if it was available, but since this was the last one...
Got home, and she asked if she could play it. I said that we had to have lunch, put the boys down for a nap, and that I would have to set the violin up first (the bridge needed installing, and the strings tightening). Had lunch, put the boys down for a nap while she went off to her room to draw. I fell asleep; The Girl came in and woke me up.
Set up the violin; showed her how to rosin the bow and care for the bow and violin. She started playing it (or at least: making sounds, with enjoyment). Kept at it for a surpring length of time: no melody yet, but at least she was getting a good, and consistent, tone.
She put it down, to talk to me a bit. I asked her if she was done. "I want to practice some more," she said. OK, fine. :)
Eventually the boys woke up, so we packed the violin away. The Lady came home; we all went to a park.
Got home, and The Girl wanted to play the violin **some more
**. Unlike the piano (she's taking piano lessons), where she practices only to accrue additional "points" towards the "treasure box" at the music lesson school -- and even then, we have to ask/tell her to practice. With this, it's intrinsic (i.e., built-in) rather than extrinsic (i.e., external) motivation that's driving her.
So, she's in bed asleep now. We'll see whether this interest in the violin continues.
If not, well -- I have a half-size violin, with two additional young children. So maybe the boys will have a go.
Labels: family, geeky, musical instruments