Monday, April 23, 2012

Mastery of Music: Building One's Own

Master craftsmen are protective of the tools of their trade. They are often the proudest of the tools which they have made themselves. Tools that you have made, modified, and maintained yourself -- and tweaked just the way you like it -- can teach you more about a craft than almost anything else.

Very few graduates of government educational systems ever learn to master a craft. Practical skills and competencies have come to be viewed as inferior to politically correct knowledge du jour, and trendy didactic concepts of the day which are most highly valued by teachers and professors. In other words, most children are sent to schools for hours a day, years on end, and finish with little more than obsolete and erroneous "facts" -- and dozens of squandered opportunities to utilise limited windows of learning and development.

If you send your child to government schools, you had best face the fact that your work is cut out for you. If you are to compensate for the cruel failures and designed obsolescence which is built into the mass-production cookie-cutter system of government schooling which passes for "education" these days, you will need to put in a lot of time and effort to make sure your child does not become just another psychological neotenate. A perpetual adolescent of matchless incompetence, suited for nothing more than a basement existence playing video games, drinking beer, and secretly building a porn collection.

One of the best arts to teach a child -- a skill that keeps paying dividends through the years -- is the art of music, music-making, and building his own musical instruments. If the child learns to make a variety of musical instruments when young -- and is encouraged to experiment with variations on construction themes -- he is likely to get an early feeling of mastery in making interesting things.

The simplest musical instruments are the basic percussion instruments: sticks, rattles, table tops, simple drums, etc. But the art of handmade and homemade musical instrument making spans a wide range of skills and complexities, and is worth becoming acquainted with even if one is not assisting a child in learning skills mastery.

Dennis Havlena
There are a number of individuals on the web who are willing to share their wide experience in the art of homemade musical instrument making. Here are some links that will help you approach a variety of projects:

  • How to make Highland pipes from PVC pipe
  • Construct pipe bags from naugahyde/vinyl
  • Simple bellows for smallpipes & Uillean bagpipes
  • Build a bagpipe practice goose from a wine-box bladder
  • Make an extremely quiet chanter for pipe practice, from a tinwhistle _Dennis Havlena

  • Tinwhistle/Pennywhistle -- This is the instrument i started out with. It's easily constructed out of copper plumbing pipe or any other metal tubing you happen to have. You can build one to play in any key you want, especially those hard-to-find low or "in-between" keys.
    Scottish small pipes -- A nice sounding bagpipe that is quiet enough to play indoors and with other instruments. These pipes are pitched in A, and use the same fingering as the Great Highland Bagpipe. The bores are straight and therefore easy to do with hobby-shop brass tubing. This is a challenging project but is eminently satisfying. (Note that the bellows, bag, and blowpipe sections are also applicable to any bellows-blown bagpipe. For example, when combined with David Daye's Famous "Penny-Chanter", you have all the makings for a home-built uilleann pipes practice set!)
    Windchimes -- A musical instrument? You be the judge! :) These are fun to build, and very simple once you know how. Again, you can use just about any metal tubing you like.
    Links to other instrument/building sites.

    _Eric Reiswig

    _John Fisher

    There are instructional websites, videos, and tutorials on instrument-making which range from the extremely simple to the exceedingly complex and sophisticated. For children, it is best to begin with the very basics as soon as the child shows interest or aptitude. Some children will shoot ahead and beg for more. Others may begin to get bored quickly. Such differing reactions should assist you in planning your next move.

    When the child finds a project that captivates him, he is taking the early steps toward mastery of at least one small skill. It is good to acquaint the child with the feeling of mastery as early as possible, combined with the feeling of satisfaction in a job well done.

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