How to play an intuitive musical instrument?
My husband is a musician who built a foundation for ethnic music in the Middle East. He can play a lot of instruments and they took years to learn. Usually, when you play a string instrument well, like guitar, you can easily learn others, like banjo or Turkish jumboush. Most of the teachings of most conventional instruments are difficult to learn and take around 10,000 hours of practice to master. But there are some you can pick up and enjoy that let you be a part of the music from your first beat or tap without knowing music theory or how to read music.
And it turns out that a number of these instruments, no matter how special, are also handcrafted.
How to choose an intuitive instrument?
Ocarinas I made in my pottery workshop, singing bowls played by Buddhist monks or your yoga teacher in LA, tongue drums or a hang drum, whistles, steel drums, cajon (the rhythms that we have at home – and which also makes a good stool for playing the keyboard), kalimba, a ktak, a snare drum that you can wear that we also own – all of these instruments have a simple architecture and can be understood how to be played by touching, feeling and experiencing. You could say, even a piano, if you have a little patience.
Idiophones –– drums, castanets, tambourine, a triangle –– are all intuitive instruments because they create sound through the vibration of the instrument, and some of them are tuned to resonate in a range of pitches. harmonious (like hang drum or steel drum or even Turkish saz which is a string instrument) – so you can start typing, whistling or hitting and creating a melody.
I once took a saz to a party and pretended I was a saz master and people who weren’t musicians believed me. Any blow of saz (it’s a Turkish lute) sounds like angel wings. I am not joking. After a while, without knowing much theory, it gets boring.
The great thing about intuitive instruments is that they invite you in and you can enjoy from day one of your learning. Which is not true for a tuba, saxophone or violin. All of these have very steep learning curves.
The downside of the most intuitive instruments is that you are limited in notes / pitches / resonance. You will never be able to reproduce the full beauty of Mozart’s sonata using a whistle, kazoo or set of spoons, but in the time of Covid, a beautiful instrument to sound at home could beat the speeches of the early days of the violin or the trumpet.
Over the years there is one instrument that I have seen loved by musicians and novices alike. Some people call it the Hanging Drum, although it reminds me a lot of the refined steel drums I heard in the Caribbean. Guess you could make one and a lot of people did when the waitlist for the original Swiss version was 3 years. Fortunately, new hanging drums have hit the market. I will contact the company to send me one to try. It’s called the RAV Vast.
The RAV Vast is a steel tongue drum handcrafted to emit a perfectly balanced pitch and a harp-like sonic voice. To call angels? The note progression tuned across 9 languages can vary from scale to scale (and if you want to make it a group), you can choose 20 scales, each tuned to provide different voices and tones on different scales. The diversity allows you to choose one for ethnic music or even to be part of the jazz standards – as long as you know the key. I like supporting this company because they have priced their handpan drums at a price most people can afford. If something costs too much like some of the original drum makers do, it will only be played by the rich.
With all the drums hanging, each tongue or section on the flying saucer-like drum has up to 7 harmonics which make the drum sound deep and wide simultaneously. Imagine playing seven keys together on the piano. Drums like the RAV Vast Hang Drum can be played by anyone because all the notes of the drum sound harmoniously together. Basically, if more experienced musicians know the key of your drums, you’re good at jamming.
And as I mentioned above, pros like the hang drum too. We have had many music festivals at our home in Jaffa over the years and there is always a hanging drum part of at least one set, often several. Mainly because it is versatile, offering endless options. Simple melodies can be learned and taught to children, or they can be performed as part of a meditative desert retreat while teaching yoga or as a fun version of Mozart. No planning needed. Your subconscious can guide you.
How to play a handpan drum?
There is no right or wrong way to play the hang drum, also known as the handpan drum. The ascending heights are played in a zigzag order from bottom to top. The lowest note – called the Ding – and it sits in the center of the drum. The drum sits in your lap with the lower notes close to you while playing the progression: middle note – lower note – side notes – upper notes.
If you can do it a few times slowly, you can remember the location of the notes. You can also use stickers to memorize the notation (for advanced musicians), this way you can learn to play the “score” faster.
Experiment with the number of notes you play gradually and simultaneously and their order. Do you know that you already play music? Keep practicing, involve your palms, fingers and knuckles as you play. Using mallets or wooden sticks will allow you to produce a different type of melody and a different sound. Let yourself be guided by the instrument and give a hint to create an infinite number of beautiful compositions. Your intuition will guide you. A beautiful thing.