This one is easy. Feed the livestock. Walk to the school bus. Shovel the sidewalk. Scrub the bathroom. But what do you do with the kids when they finish their chores?
Young or old, winter and other harsh weather keep us away from a brisk walk, a stint in the garden, mowing lawn, etc. Energy peaks and plummets. We re-learn, again, that “sleepy is from lack of exercise” – tired is from need to rest.
Remember back in school, just learning to play the clarinet? Remember how it sounded so horrible, and seemed to take such effort, to get it to sound good? Depending on the reed and instrument – the clarinet is hard work. And the brass, and the percussion, and the other woodwinds. Sitting in a chair, holding still trying to read the silly music – you are working your lungs and back and ribs and abdomen. Working them hard.
Remember chorus? Learning to sing the right notes, and the right words, in tempo, and keep breathing for the whole song?
Music is still a socially acceptable form of exercise. For yourself, there is the piano, the organ, just singing for yourself, and the instruments. Pawnshops might have a student grade or better instrument for a reasonable price, or you might find one at a flea market or Salvation Army. Sheet music and music books are reasonably available. And don’t overlook your church – you may be able to buy a copy of your regular hymnal for a very modest cost, or order one from your church’s publisher.
Hymns have generally stood the tests of time – memorable tunes, and the melody (alto or next-to-top notes in the blue Lutheran Hymnal) line is reasonably easy to play. Or sing.
eBay regularly has listings of sheet music and music books. Local music stores have books, and possibly even lists of instructors to help you get started.
Note: According to Paul Harvey, humming will help opened clogged sinuses. I find that Saline Nasal Mist helps clear sinuses, even when not congested, and soothes dried (frequent nosebleed) sinuses, dry cough, etc. – two *big* sniffs in each side, once an hour, and blow. SNM can help clear up to a sinus infection, and reduce allergies, according to my family doctor.
I wanted an instrument to play. There was this Helen Reddy song (if you don’t remember her, don’t ask. She sang. “No Way To Treat A Lady”, etc.) I tried a harmonica, but after playing B-flat, Alto, and Bass Clarinet in junior high and high school, I was pretty sold on a concert or symphony, read-the-music type instrument. One with “this finger goes here for that note”. Just as I graduated college, I noticed a Zenon brand Recorder on a rack in the university bookstore, for $4.95 or so. On the way to the car, I pulled it out of the plastic tube, and noticed a piece of paper dropped out. When I got home, I figured out – that was the fingering chart. You know, the place where you learn which fingers go where, to play this note and that one.
A few years later I again had time, and interest. And wandered past this music store in San Jose, CA. The owner didn’t have recorder fingering charts – except with this Hohner maple Alto (18 inch, key of F) recorder. I picked up a book, and the recorder. And my room mate went crazy. The first song I memorized, at age 35, was “Go Tell Aunt Rhody”. (“Go tell Aunt Rhody, Go tell Aunt Rhody, Go tell Aunt Rhody, The old gray goose is dead.” I never knew if this was an invitation to goose supper, or the sad duty of reporting the loss of livestock. Or maybe even the celebration of the passing of the terror of the front yard. Whatever.)
John Lyons tells us that horses have excellent retention, about 95% over five (5) years. But the horse takes 50 successful repetitions, after learning the lesson, to “master” the lesson. I am convinced the “master” part takes about 50 reps for me, and for most of the kids I have seen. I consider 50 successful repetitions about right, for “mastering” a skill or technique.
So, while learning Go Tell Aunt Rhody – we all got to know the tune. And still that short nursery rhyme ditty, again, and again, as I worked to remember the tune, to hit the fingerings accurately time after time, to maintain breathing and tone. “Go tell Aunt Rhody..”
Beatles for Recorder. Hymns for Recorder. I have two different collections of Paul Simon for Recorder. Piano music, like the hymnals, just pick out the melody line. Choral music, pick the melody line, or share with a companion if you have someone to play another recorder or other instrument. Or to sing along.
Recorders, like clarinets, are available in several ‘voices’ or sound range. The Sopranino recorder is usually described as “nine inches”, the Soprano (the one the elementary schools often use) is 12 inches, the Alto is 18 inches, the Tenor is 24 inches, the bass is 36 I believe. Actual dimensions vary a bit, between instruments, makers, and product lines. Soprano and Alto are concert key of F, Soprano and Tenor are concert key of C, Bass is E-flat or F, I have seen both. Alto and Tenor are an octave lower than the Sopranino and Soprano, respectively.
Some recorders are hard to play, others hard to play well. The cheapest, the ones schools often hand the 3rd-5th graders, are often the worst. But they might also be very playable. I recall an Aulos 803s soprano recorder I picked up in a music store outside Sierra Vista, NM, for $3.50. Nice enough tone, really easy to get the fingerings right, and played pretty well. I have a Hohner Pearwood recorder I paid $27 for, that plays almost as nicely, but has a better tone. I have another Hohner Soprano recorder, Maple, that cost more. It’s sound is brighter, better suited to classical chamber music. And there is the imported Kung symphony-grade recorder. Another wood soprano doesn’t do well in the upper registers. But for popular music, it is fun to play and sounds just fine. Donovan’s “Jennifer, Juniper”, Beatles’ “Little Girl”, J.S. Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”.
For fun and music, the recorder and singing pass the time, keep spirits up, exercise the body, and, together with others, can bolster family and community with shared efforts. Shared music preserves culture, improves memory, concentration, and connection of self to culture. Learning to perform – to intentionally select pieces to set, to transform, to sustain, and to change moods and experiences – creates a craft. Having a song to share can improve the self esteem. And the gift of music can be given again and again. “Go tell Aunt Rhody..” loL! Instead of “Stop chasing around the kitchen!” how about “Go practice that second hymn from last Sunday!”
Little money need be invested to get started, and it can be done by candle light if need be. Pick up some blank sheet music staff paper, and copy interesting song melody lines (with words, and songwriter and publisher and year – you may want to track the song down again later. Don’t ask.) from song books from friends and from the library. Copying the music can be a good way to learn a new song. With practice, even most of my copied songs are readable enough to play!
For a more strenuous workout, there is dancing. Or the Clarinet, or brass, or percussion.
I never learned to fiddle.