Learning instruments and singing lessons

Continuing the conversation started in the Our So Called President thread…

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Ukeleles are easy and fun!


I was in marching band, starting in 7th grade. Marching in unison isn’t that easy, when you have a bunch of people. But I do suppose that a little bit of Souza makes the marching a little less intimidating.


It’s especially not easy when you’re marching in a line with other people cross-weaving with a line of other people, and you’re carrying a big honking sousaphone, and it has to stay honking despite your oncoming asthma attack.


I played the flute, except for the last year when I played the sousaphone. Odd switch, but we had so many flutes, and I was friends with the two tuba guys who taught me how to play. They had to get a fiberglass one for me, because the brass one was about 85 pound. I probably weighed 125 pounds at the time, so the 45 pound fiberglass one was about the most I could manage. That was the year we played a song in 3/4 time for the field show. That marching pattern interesting to learn.


I used to play tuba and trombone, but my asthma got so bad I had to give up all brass instruments permanently. I also never really had the lung capacity for woodwind instruments.


Are you saying wind instruments require more lung capacity than brass ones?

That seems counter-intuitive to me. Good to learn!


Confession: In the third grade I started learning to play the Saxophone because Ritchie Cunningham played the sax on Happy Day’s and at that time Ritchie was what I though being cool looked like.


True, but in order to learn saxophone, don’t you need to learn clarinet first? Nothing looks uncool as clarinet. Not even violin.


Not at my grade school. The music teacher came around to each class one day and asked who wanted to be in band class and what they wanted to play. Went home and the parents rented a sax from Weather’s music and started class after that. No requirements other than curiosity.


I had a similar experience, but I went with the flute, because it was the only instrument that was even remotely possible given how little money we had. My folks wanted me to play something, and stretched to rent that flute. I kept it up long enough to own it, partly because I enjoyed it and partly because I was warned against wasting money we barely had.

Actually, I was in choir before I was in band, and it was very kindly suggested that while my voice was pleasant, I was pretty much tone deaf for singing and perhaps a musical instrument would help with that. It takes a gentle soul to be a long time music teacher at the elementary level.


I wish I had stuck with it. In middle school I became aware of nerds and not-nerds on the first day. And made a conscious choice not be in the group getting picked on. Mid high school I formed a band with friends (many of which had been in band since grade school) and I could tell I lacked the foundation they had. In college I got pretty involved in sampling and loops type electronic music and didn’t pretend to be a musician. I self described as as an artist that worked with sound versus a musician that made art.

Oh my son is tone deaf. Never had the heart to tell him. Growing up he loved to walk around the house singing. More than once I had to go “do errands” because it hurt my ears so much.


For what it’s worth years in band did help with my tone deafness. I can now learn a song well enough to sing close enough to on-key to not embarrass myself. Not that I sing in front of anyone but the cats.

I actually did sing in public once, when I was in high school. It was an event for the deaf, my friend and I wrote and sang a song. We had a sign language interpreter, which was a relief. The audience loved it :blush: or at least, the audience applauded when it was over.


I’ve considered taking voice lessons as an adult just to feel comfortable singing around others. I’m not tone deaf, the opposite if anything but I just don’t have any experience with singing. Every time someone mentions karaoke as a “fun” thing to do I break into a cold sweat. While typing that I broke out into a cold sweat. Gah all cold and clammy now.


Me too. A lot of people say they like my voice and I think it’s just a matter of breath control. Janis Joplin didn’t have a beautiful voice but boy could she sing. I’d be interested in learning how to express myself in my own unique way. I accept that I will not be on American Idol hitting the high notes.


I wish it had been that easy at my school. It was 5th grade and they had never had a band class before, didn’t know how to fit it into the schedule, and were starting the program with one small class (something like maybe 20 kids or less out of the entire school could get in). So they had tryouts - we actually had to audition for those limited slots for a class in middle school.

Of course, the vast majority of us didn’t have instruments and had never had any training. (We must’ve looked really silly pursing our lips and pretending to blow while wiggling our fingers.) I think only a few rich kids whose parents had already made them take lessons got in. :frowning:

I never learned to play anything (except O Tannenbaum on a keyboard that I had begged my family to get me for Christmas one year). Years later played around a little with Impulse Tracker and some things like that, but had no idea what I was doing.

:laughing: That’s not the point of karaoke. If they wanted professional singing, they would have hired a professional. It’s an opportunity for us quiet people who can’t sing to get up and perform while everyone’s too drunk to notice how bad we are (or they’ll have fun laughing about it).

Far better than just having to talk a minute for something like “Stand up and introduce yourself to the room”, that’s what makes me break out in a cold sweat. hmm… Maybe I should find a song that fits me and just always introduce myself with karaoke. :upside_down_face:


Yes, exactly. I have no desire at this point to be a performer. I would just like to have the basic level of skills so I can participate and and enjoy the activity.

My middle school had auditions. But grade schools shouldn’t. That’s a shame.

The problem for me isn’t what someone one else wants. It’s that my ear is much better than my throat. To the point that singing as it is now is not enjoyable.

I hate that too and the Brady Bunch trick of imagining everyone in their underwear doesn’t work. Actually that’s another problem. I hate being the center of attention. Like when someone forces a birthday party on me. Unless there are multiple birthday people I am miserable.


I always thought the Japanese got karaoke right the first time, where the convention is to sing facing away from the audience.


I totally get that. I’m quite serious as a musician and I just can’t sing or whistle in tune – it’s like I can hit the first note and then completely fail to match the interval to the second one and beyond. Yet I can play things by ear, more or less, on a keyboard or fretless bass.

I played violin in school in the 80s and I was quite good for that experience level (first chair most of the time, except when the conductor decided to rotate me out of it to let someone else have a chance). I also played jazz piano in the high school jazz ensemble, and I was not very good at reading chords and playing independent hands, but could improvise well enough and my overall skill level was about on part with the rest of our (terrible) band.

Electronic music is more my thing – sound design with modular or software, composition, improv, “production” (though I dislike the word) and a very small amount of coding. Hand percussion and taiko as well as electronic finger drumming. I can also noodle almost half decently on a fretless bass in a pinch.

But don’t expect singing. Only a few They Might Be Giants songs when I’m in a good mood (usually when “Experimental Film” comes on I will sing “Yeah!” and leave the rest to my spouse), or some other things when I’m exactly the right kind of drunk, which is pretty rare.


Some years ago my then boss took the staff to a team-building exercise. Thank the fucking fuck I was too big for the jumpsuits so I got to sit out on the paintball game. After dinner the bus drivers, a surly bunch of middle aged men as they always are, retired to the karaoke room next door and began belting out trot songs and old Korean ballads.

It wasn’t long before the foreign staff joined them and started singing English songs. They were mostly appreciative but I had to go ruin it when I took the mic. Yeah, I’m not a great singer by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t think they enjoyed my repeated invitations to the gay bar…

The fact that the karaoke machine had Gay Bar to begin with has always brought me joy and I consider going to karaoke/ noraebang/ KTV incomplete experiences without it.