Oct 11, 2006  •  In Music, Personal

Musical Instruments

I’ve played the piano since I was 5, and the violin since I was 8. There was one year in elementary school when I decided to try the flute but it didn’t come naturally easy to me as the piano and violin did, so I quit.

Since then, I’ve played many different pianos and violins. But I was always sensitive to each instrument. Maybe overly sensitive – meaning I could never play as well on instruments to which I could not connect.

With each new instrument, I would take at least a few minutes to get to “know” each other. I would test the responsiveness, the sound quality, the build quality. And the instruments would test my limits, challenging me to create and be creative. If I couldn’t connect with a particular instrument in those crucial first minutes, I knew nothing special would come out of the relationship.

I’ve always treasured my violin – crafted in the 1890’s by a lesser-known Italian violinmaker, it certainly wasn’t the best quality or the most expensive violin available for sale at the time. It has numerous nicks and scratches, and had been repaired many times over. But I love that it has this history. And I love that the back body was carved from a single piece of wood, when most violins have 2 pieces that comprise the back body. It has a deep, rich sound, and the dealer who sold it to me informed me that many people did not like it because it is louder than your average violin. However, this is perfect for me because I was never as confident in my violin playing as my piano playing and so I need an instrument to counteract my shyness.

The piano we have in my parents’ house, however, is not my favorite. My mother had chosen it for its looks: she liked the deep mahogany wood. It has pretty good sound and responsiveness, but since the piano wasn’t chosen for its performance, I just like it okay. And perhaps I always knew deep down that it wasn’t mine, since my sister regularly played it too.

My favorite piano while growing up was our friend Annie’s. Not only was it carved beautifully, it had a soft yet rich, melodious sound, with just the perfect amount of stickiness in the keys.

Later, when I attended violin camp as a teenager (yes, there is such a thing as violin camp, and yes I went to one), I came across a Bösendorfer piano. Each Bösendorfer is hand-made, where crafters work alongside walls covered in pictures of beautiful, and often nude, women. They look to these women for inspiration while carving and assembling each piano…how sexy is that?!?

Bösendorfers start at tens of thousands of dollars, reaching hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions, so of course I’m not able to afford one. However, the one I did get to play while at violin camp was wonderful. It was the best piano I ever played.

Do you play a musical instrument? Are you sensitive to each instrument as well?

One Response to “Musical Instruments”

  1. Adam:

    I do play an instrument. I’m originally a trombone player, but I have been teaching myself piano, guitar and bass. I’m picky with each instrument I play. For me, it has to feel and sound good. Then, it has to look good once it feels and sounds good. Every instrument has its own character and you have to find the one that suits you. The guitar I have now is probably a piece of crap, but I love it. Doesn’t have the best electronics, but they still work and sound nice. The actual guitar itself is comfortable to play and isn’t too heavy or too light. For me, it’s pretty much what suits you. I must say picking up guitar was probably the best choice musically I have made. My mum has been nagging me for years to play as she said I could you it to “pick up girls”. Ever since, I started playing she’s been trying to get me to stop. I really enjoy reading your blog. Coming from an Asian household, it’s much easier to kind of sympathise or connect.

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