Maybe you're like me, and have been through 5 or more 'Instrument Phases.' This is when you witness someone playing an instrument so awesomely, that you must be just like them. So you sell everything you own to buy one for yourself, then realise you cannot in fact grasp said instrument, and it collects dust in your spare room for the next three or so years.
Having said that, if you're after a 'regular' instrument to learn for yourself or your children, go for the drums. This is the only instrument I have ever grasped and stuck with, probably because it's the best stress relief ever. All you need is a little rhythm and co-ordination.
Then again, maybe you've tried them all and failed, but your bucket list says right down at number 34: 'Learn an Instrument.' My tip here is to learn something unique. Something that majority of the population cannot play. That way, people will never know if you're playing it wrong or out of tune.
And if you get it right, you have more chance of joining a band with it. What band doesn't need the spoons? So, here is my list of unique instruments you might like to learn. The only challenge will be finding where to buy one.
The Bonang is an instrument which gives off high and low pitches, almost like chimes or bells. It is made up of two rows of gongs, which when struck by padded sticks (tabuh) give off the different pitches.
Said to be invented over 230 years ago, and now frequently used in Java, this unique instrument would add a wondrous chime like quality to your household. Or, you might like to have a man playing it at your front door instead of a door bell.
Okay, so probably an instrument that would cost a good portion of your life savings. But unique nonetheless, and worth a mention. Put simply, the Laser Harp is an electronic instrument consisting of a series of laser beams which can be plucked like the strings of a harp to produce the sound.
If you've been lucky enough to see the British band Little Boots, you may have witnessed this thing in action. Now you may be asking the question I asked, how can you pluck laser beams in order to produce sound?
It's built using a single laser, and the beam is then split in to several. The laser is then controlled by connecting it to a synthesizer, sampler or computer. And the result is out of this world. Imagine one of these down at your local, or during your garage gig. No doubt the whole of Perth would want you in theirs if you got your mits on one of these.
This instrument was marketed by Suzuki in the early 1980's. If you've ever picked up a guitar, then immediately broken it over the nearest piece of furniture, the Omnichord is for you.
It's basically operated by pressing the chord key, then strumming the touch sensitive pad. No longer do you have to have 21 fingers per hand, or be Santana to play a guitar with ease. Granted it doesn't really sound like a guitar, it's actually likened more to the harp with its haunting electronic sound. You could definitely start your own MGMT cover band with this baby.
Many big stars have been known to get their hands on the Omnichord and use it during performances, such as Robbie Williams and David Bowie.
4. SPEAK & SPELL:
You may remember playing with one of these as a kid in the 1980's. It was built as an educational toy so that kids could learn how to spell and pronounce words, and consists of a speech synthesizer and keyboard. You might remember seeing the Speak & Spell as a feature in the film E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.
So it didn't take long for it to be used in commercial music. Artists like Beck and Coldplay have been known to use the Speak & Spell for certain spoken parts in their songs.
The Speak & Spell is also known to be 'Circuit Bent' by musicians. This means, the case is opened and the components
modified to create new sounds.
Does anyone else see a futuristic 'YMCA' in the works?
5. CHAPMAN STICK:
If six strings aren't enough for you, you'll want to look in to a Chapman Stick. Maybe the guitar player in that sick band has taken your girl. Don't worry, you'll win her back with this because it's a little trickier than a guitar, and far more impressive.
The Chapman Stick is electric, and usually has ten or twelve strings. Unlike the guitar, instead of one hand fretting and the other hand plucking, both hands strike the strings against the fingerboard. This then allows the instrument to sound more notes at once than your usual stringed instrument.
So if you're really clever, you could work bass, chords, and melody all in to one and be your own one man band.
I adore the sound of this instrument, but I can only do your basic GCD on a guitar and doubt I could do this justice.
Now it might be a little difficult for you to get your hands on these instruments. But if you're willing to spend a little, and become expert at something so few are, give eBay a try. Or, Google your preference and see if you are able to buy it somewhere in the world.
I hope this article has inspired some of you to pick up something new.