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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Grist for the Mill » Musical Instrument as a Stress Reliever

   
Author Topic: Musical Instrument as a Stress Reliever
Crystal Stevens
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My husband and I just got back from an Indian Pow Wow that we go to every year. For quite some time I've been looking at Native American Flutes. I've always liked their sound, and they look fairly simple to play. I looked them over and listened to Douglas Blue Feather explain the basics. He even played a couple of them to let me hear the difference in pitch. I tried one too, and he said it wasn't bad for a first try... since I really didn't know what I was doing.

The only thing stopping me was the price. Yes, I know something like this wasn't like buying a cheap children's toy. After all, we're talking about a quality musical instrument that should last for years of enjoyment. I decided to look the rest of the vendor booths over and then decide if I really wanted to take the plunge. By then it was lunch time, and I talked it over with my husband. I could see he'd rather I didn't buy a flute, but could see I wanted to. So, yes, I bought the one Mr. Blue Feather suggested for beginners and told me to feel free to call him online if I had any questions. It came with an instruction booklet and a DVD.

Please be aware I'm not jumping into this blind. I played a clarinet from 4th grade through my senior year in high school. I knew how to play, just not something like this, but even Mr. Blue Feather said I shouldn't have too much trouble with my musical background.

Not only did I think it could be fun, but might be just the ticket to unwind after a hard day or when I feel the need for some creative inspiration. So this got me thinking. Anyone else out there musically inclined and use it to relax or let your thoughts wander when the right words just won't come on a story?

My flute is laying right here on my desk with the instruction booklet beside it. I haven't even tried it since I've been home but instead I'm talking to you folks. I'll let everyone know how it goes. Now, it's time to hear if anyone else has musical talent in conjuction with their writing. So whaddaya say ?


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Meredith
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I have played (although not recently) a neo-Celtic harp. (The difference between a Celtic harp and a neo-Celtic is that the Celtic harp is strung with gut and the neo-Celtic is strung with monofilament. Besides, mine has sharping levers.)

I hadn't played in a while, but I got the harp out of the closet earlier this year. Still not playing it, though. Besides being rusty, I have two problems:

I lost all my harp calluses.

And the first thing that happened was that I broke two strings. I just don't seem to want to play it badly enough to fiddle with stringing it. Harp string knots and I just don't get along, especially on those thin little strings up near the top that are like trying to tie snot. That's aside from feeding the string through that little hole in the sounding board.

Argh. Maybe I should get my bodhran down and start learning that.


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Natej11
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I love music. Often if I see a musical instrument laying around I'll pick it up and fiddle with it, and I love singing my favorite songs. I've also got a set of pan flutes, a simple harp, a harmonica, and a piano and guitar I occasionally "borrow" from family.

Granted, I'm not very good, and I've always been too lazy to get better, but every now and again it's just what I need.

If you've made the effort to acquire the instrument and see to your first lessons you've already made a great start. I hope it goes well for you .


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Robert Nowall
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I've found I can take up any musical instrument and quickly learn how to play it---badly. With more time better playing might come, but usually I don't have the time. I got pretty good at two; baritone horn (grade school, formal lessons), and guitar (college, self-taught). I do wish I had access to a piano---I'd like to try my hand at the piano, but haven't had access to one for more than a few minutes at a time.

Relieving stress? Well, to an extent...


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Crystal Stevens
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That's the beauty of this flute. This one is made of cedar and is very light weight. Easy to transport just about anywhere (I'm crocheting a flute bag with a shoulder strap for this purpose.). It doesn't take a lot of breath or effort to make it play, and I just love the sound. It's recommended not to use sheet music or play conventional or known songs. After all, the Native Americans didn't read music and just played from the heart. Just follow your heart and play whatever comes through.

Simplicity and no specific songs to follow. Just that sweet, pure sound that comes from the spirit within you. Music that is unique to you and no one else. Nothing can let you be more creative than expressing this kind of music and makes me see how much this is like creative writing. You always leave a good portion of what makes you yourself in the end product.

Side Note: I was told traditionally that only men play flutes. It's considered sacred, and men were the tribe's spiritual leaders. Even today, women are not allowed to join the men who sing and play the drum at the pow wow due to strong spiritual traditions.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I took flute in middle and high school and played in my university marching band for one year (then they killed the band, only to resurrect it after I'd graduated). I have a blown glass flute, but the one I used in school has gone on to other students.

I've tried the bodhran (djvdakota's for that matter--she plays to accompany her daughter's fiddling, and they are amazing) and I'd like to learn Japanese drumming.

I'd also like to learn how to play the bagpipe, or at least the chanter.

But for inspiration or stress relief? Umm, knitting does that.


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Pyre Dynasty
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Just yesterday I bought myself a cheap clearance electric guitar. It's tiny, but it's fun to mess around with. I suppose now I'll have to learn how to play the thing.
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Robert Nowall
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Where did I acquire my musical instruments? Let me see...

Baritone horn: acquired through the school for (originally) music lessons through the school. (Originally I asked for sousaphone, but they didn't think I was big enough and gave me second choice---boy, I showed them!)

trumpet and trombone: acquired by brothers for same purpose; tried my hand (or lips and lungs) at it.

recorder: a later school.

guitar: belonged to my mother; tried my hand (literally) when I ran across instructions and chords in a folk-music book.

harmonica: picked up a "Harmonica for Klutzes" book.


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Crane
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This conversation reminded me of something I heard on the radio one time:

"The flute is the show-off of the wind section, the big shot: Jean-Pierre Rampal, James Galway--both millionaires. (How many millionaire bassoonists can you name real fast?) Well, that's fine. Everybody knows it's the hardest, blowing across a tiny hole with your head tilted all your life: it's like soloing on a pop bottle. The problem with the flute is that it vibrates your brain, and you start wearing big white caftans and smocks and eat roots and berries. You become a pantheist and sit in meadows, and you believe that all is one and God is everything--God is a column of air vibrating--and you know that's not right."

--Garrison Keillor, in The Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra


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Crane
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Then again, while I was looking up the above quote, I also found this one (perhaps more appropriate):

"Playing a flute is like writing a book. You're telling what's in your heart...It's easier to play if it's right from your heart. You get the tone, and the fingers will follow."
-- Eddie Cahill


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Crystal Stevens
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Crane; You're thinking of a conventional flute. The Native American flute is nothing like that. You hold it much like a clarinet, vertically not horizontally. It's not hard to play at all. You blow in one end, finger the holes to change notes, and the music flows. I don't have the actual email addresses, but do a search for Douglas Blue Feather (recording artist) or Odell Borg (Native American flute maker). They explain it better than me.

NA flutes come in all different sizes too. From bass to soprano. Some have very deep notes on the larger flutes and high pitched like a piccolo on the smaller ones. Mine is in the middle of the road in the key of "A".

Your Eddie Cahill quote could very well have been about the NA flute. It's designed to be played from the heart without trying to play any kind of written or known songs on it. You just start playing notes and let the music flow. I love playing mine like that. It's soothing, relaxing... just the thing to unwind and let your spirit fly.


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Robert Nowall
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One thing I got out of the experience is the ability to read music---after a fashion. I see a few bars of music notation and I can pick out the tune in my mind.
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mythique890
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I love to sing, but part of the problem with that is you have to have a specific song in mind, and the words may or may not match exactly what you need. But that doesn't apply to songs in foreign languages, because often I have no clue what I'm singing about, it's just the music. I love that.

I've had a few guitar lessons, a few piano lessons, and I played the clarinet in 5th grade band, but I'm not that great with instruments (too lazy to practice when I was younger, now I'm focused on other things). I have a sister who is very gifted at piano and flute and a brother who can literally pick up any instrument and play it well, which is infuriating . He's mostly a drummer. Right now he's the section leader of his college band's percussion section, which is really cool.

It's a lot of fun when we get together; there's always some kind of impromptu concert (which includes our other sister, who also sings). I think that's my favorite time to make music.


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