The problem has been in finding a musical instrument that I not only am able to play, but also that I enjoy playing. It’s not that I don’t enjoy playing a lot of different instruments. It is that I have some physical and probably mental reservations about trying to play different instruments.
I have always liked music. In the 1940s I first learned a little bit about the piano. We had a grand piano in our living room because my mother and my sister played very well. After that I took lessons on the alto sax and sang in the church choir, Glee Club and Double Quartet.
After High School my attention was on other things until I was married and had our own children in high school. Both of our boys got involved with some kind of music. We had an old upright piano that both boys took lessons on. Then, they both decided to play trumpet in the high school band. The younger one decided he also wanted to play electric bass so we got a guitar and an electric bass. I did try the guitar but found I couldn’t get my arthritic hands around the neck. That guitar got turned into an electric guitar and one boy would play the electric guitar while the other would play the electric bass. This generated a lot of noise. I decided I was time for some revenge.
I wanted to get back into playing some music. I’ve always liked music, but have always felt that I just wasn’t good enough to play because of my arthritis, breathing problems and so forth. Anyway, I decided to look for something for me to play. Wind instruments were definitely out of the question. While I was at my music store, I saw a student violin outfit. Of course, I wasn’t going to take lessons I was just going to play my beginners lesson book. My first efforts at playing were a little scratchy but I found that with practice the fingering was easy to figure out so I started on my second music career. Learning to bow the strings became a challenge, but with practice I found I could do that too.
As time went on, I decided to take a few lessons. I met David at String Thing Music and started taking violin lessons which led to learning the how to play the viola. Again one of my biggest problems has been all those years of not using my hands fingering musical instruments. They were stiff and arthritic and not used to moving in an independent orderly fashion (needed to play the different notes).
The Viola is a little larger and mellower than the Violin. This became my next instrument of choice. I learned about the different size violas. The largest is a vertical viola (which was played like a cello). I soon became interested in the vertical viola, but found that they were few and far between. Most of them are custom made and very expensive. After a little investigating, I found that a small professional cello with longer viola strings could be made into a vertical viola. This was quite a challenge but I was very pleased with the result. Soon, I was playing the Vertical Viola as my main instrument.
Again arthritis and joint pain came into the picture and I was in for a series of operations on both my hands and wrists. After all this I got back to playing the vertical viola. I also picked up a cello to play. I found that the weakness in my hands from these operations made the cello hard to play. My music was becoming less relaxing and more of a chore than a relaxation.
By this time my music teacher who had been putting up with all my shenanigans( including the day I brought in a clarinet to help with my breathing) looked at me and said that he needed a bass man for his folk group. As it just happened, one of my sons had left a very nice Fender Jazz bass home while he was off at school. So, I got it out, dusted it off, and started to learn the bass. I began to realize I didn’t need to learn chords. I just needed to learn to play one note at a time. It was the same with the other stringed instruments, I had been planning all of them use just one note at a time.
After learning the basic notes, I went to my first group folk group session and found that it was FUN. I could make a difference, be part of the group and enjoy the music. I think after all of my effort, I have found something that I am able to enjoy musically. Again I have run into problems with my hands, and have modified my bass playing a little by going back to using the cello. After all musical instruments are not for one specific type of music but can be used for any type of music. I needed to practice my play in pitch practice program for the folk group. We played for a couple of hours my hands and wrists don’t get tired. That made my music enjoyable.
There are a lot of things to think about when looking for enjoyment. I do believe that each person has their own musical goal. If I had given up playing the violin because my hands were bad or playing cello because the strings were too hard to push down, I would have stopped playing. By trying different types of music and different ways to play my music, I am able to still enjoy my music and the company of playing in a group.