All these music festivals Andrea and I have gone to for the past few years (Shelter Valley Folk Festival in particular) have rekindled an interest in re-learning to play an instrument.
In my youth I took lessons on the recorder, then the flute. I played cornet and euphonium in a marching band too. Later in life (in my early 20’s 🙂 ) I had a banjo and can still recall playing some Bob Dylan tunes on it.
I gave all that up years ago… I really wasn’t any good at it and I wasn’t patient enough to learn to read music so I tried doing much of it by ear once I wasn’t taking lessons. I even bought a hand crafted wooden flute, it’s been traveling around in my camper for years wrapped in the leather case I made with a braid of sweet grass in it. I may have used it once or twice in the past 10 years… I used to take it on canoe trips but never played it when someone else might hear.
So what on earth am I up to now! Something about listening to all these musicians at festivals, something about listening to friends we’ve made in recent years, something has inspired me to try again.
After listening to James Hill at SVFF I decided to try my hand at a ukulele. They’re not expensive, not complicated, they use them to teach music to children. Surely even I could learn! And The Ukulele Way that James has set up is a great place to learn. There are lots of other great resources though… another one I like is Ukulele Underground.
So now it’s a couple of months later (this all started in September) and I’m happy to report that I can now find my way up and down the scales, can play a handful or chords and more or less keep to a beat. Most of the time. I won’t inflict any on you but you will find one simple song by me on soundcloud.com if you want to inflict it on yourself.
Here’s my instrument… it’s a Kala travel concert series with a slim body that has a spruce top mated to mahogany sides and back. It stays in tune well and is a pleasure to play.
So imagine my surprise when I was offered (and accepted) a 5 string banjo from Andrea’s dad. I gather Perry used to play it a fair bit but hasn’t used it in years! And he was happy to see it find a new home. Not sure what sort of a monster I’ve created but the good news (for the neighbours at least) is that I broke a string tuning it so I haven’t been able to play it yet.
The bad news is that at some point in its past the neck on this banjo broke just below the head. It’s been put back together and seems to be holding up but I’ll have to ask Perry a little more about this instrument. It’s an Aria (the company is still making guitars, banjos and other instruments) and I’m going to guess it’s over 40 years old. The resonator is removable, for the most part it looks to be in good shape other than the neck repair I mentioned. We’ll see how it sounds with a new set of strings. I think I’ll get someone else to look it over and install the new strings though…
Here are a few photos.