Sunday, March 27, 2011

Don't Fret!

Becky (She's in the band) asked if there were any 12 step groups for people who acquire too many instruments -- I think she meant me, but she may have to hold an intervention, because I'm still in denial. I mean if you don't count the accordion -- which I'd actually been eye-ing for two years. Or the cabasa and the castanets and finger cymbals and the slapstick -- because percussion instruments are really just nicknacks, then I only bought an acoustic bass with my income tax refund, which is way better then last year.

And if there was a 12 step program, Becky would NOT be a very good sponsor because she is baby hungry for a ukulele. She's been ogling my tenor ukulele (Ohana made of Koa wood). She likes the deeper sound of my low G-string. And I know it sounded geeky when I told her, "Tenors ship with a high G, but if you swap the nylon G string for the wound C string you can tune it to a low G."

That makes me sound cool, like I'm so good I can mod out an instrument. I was stewing about how I am NOT so good that I mod out my instruments -- when I realized that swapping the strings might help the sound of my banjo ukulele, which is just a little high for my tastes.

I think sometimes I forget that instruments are machines designed to produce sound and tweaking the machine to produce a different sound is totally acceptable.

From Joe filing down reeds to get exactly the resistance he wants for the sound on his clarinet, to Sam redesigning a travel guitar to be a travel bass, to Bobo insisting we get a toy banjolele to hold a tune, to Sam and Joe collaborating to make a washtub bass -- my kids have amazed me with what we can do if I swallow my inhibitions.

I thought I'd share some old timey videos on the blog today to illustrate old timey mods. In this first video, check out the harp guitar (right next to FDR).

And in this one, check out the bass banjo. (Proof that he's not the only nutjob with a bass banjo can be seen here.)

As a post script, I am really liking the word "fret." Becky (I mean Jenna) reminded me that in our classical ensemble, "The Southwest Fretted Philharmonic," we have one instrument -- the glockenspiel -- that doesn't have fretts. Which is ok, because Tessa (who plays it) "frets" all the time. I love that pun. I was thinking, maybe we should come up with an old lady band name that replaces "ettes" with fretts. Like instead of Barettes, we could be the Bar Fretts. Which would only work if we were singing in bars...So if anyone has any better ideas, let me know in the comments.


  1. What, that was totally me who said the glockenspiel was the geeky outcast instrument!

  2. Sorry Jenna, I fixed it so you have credit for the pun -- now if you could come up with a better name for us than "Bar Frett" which actually sounds like "Barf-rette" that would be great :)

  3. Those videos really made me grin from ear to ear! It was a grin big enough to give you an earache! Loved them!

    I so relate to you. I also have fretted fever. I'll have to put some thought into a name. That is very clever punning with the word fret. My original band briefly considered naming themselves the Mother Pluckers! Either that or the G Strings, as we played only in the Key of G. We came up with the much more respectable Slo' Pickers, which we never really knew how to spell.

  4. Joan, you are so hilarious! I laughed myself silly while reading your entire blog post. Instead of rescuing you from your habitual musical instrument acquisitions as I intended, I find that instead I am daydreaming of how I might add an instrument or two to my family's collection. In other words, I think your musicaholism is rubbing off on me!

    Thanks for being such an awesome leader of the band. I truly treasure the time that our families spend together making music each week. :)

  5. I don't think you need an intervention, I think Becky is eyeballing you uke. I have no name for the band because I can't conceptualize music. It's the bane of my existance.

  6. I am just laughing over Bar Frettes... which yes, you have to say very carefully...

  7. Smur-Frett, bachelor-frett, brunette-fret ,marion-frett, major-frett, nymphrettes,

    Sad face -- I give up

  8. Fretters on the Roof
    Dueling Frets
    Soothing the angry Fret
    Fret Out
    Frets Galore
    Frets of Silence
    Fret America
    Frets Kazoo
    12 easy Frets
    Shivering Frets
    Pique Frets
    Joni and the Dithering Frets
    Frets of Reget
    Fret Quartte

  9. Fretters on the Roof is my favorite. But everyone I say it to gives me a blank stare -- where are all the Fiddler on the Roof Fans????

  10. I liked 12 easy frets best