Have you ever thought that you might like to learn how to play a musical instrument one day? Or you used to play one at school and now, 20 years later, you’d like to pick it back up? I reckon a lot of us say yes to one of those questions, but never do a thing about it beyond purchasing the instrument of choice, picking it up once and then using it as a costly doorstop or fancy bookend. It’s just one of those things – the idea of playing skilfully is the shit, but the reality is…you just sound like shit!
I would never judge anyone for doing that as I did it myself. It just takes so looong to get good! I wanted to pick up the trumpet… (it wasn’t even the trumpet that I learnt at school) I wanted to pick it up, immediately play to a grade eight standard because I’m so gifted, join an awesome band, quit my day job to go on tour, write a hit song and live off the royalties for the rest of my life! It could happen! To one person somewhere in the world it could happen, right? Obvi’ it did not happen. So after listening to me moan about how I don’t have enough time to practise or how I’m really just being considerate to my neighbours, my boyfriend, the seasoned musician, told me that the only way to get good was to join a band. “Join a band?” I’d say. “Yeah, join a band,” he’d say. “But I don’t know how to play,” I’d say. “That’s why you need to join a band,” he’d say. “But I don’t know how to play though,” I’d say. “Exactly, so join a band,” he’d say. “STOP TALKING DAMN FOOLISHNESS!” I’d say. “Just join a band,” he’d say. I mean, honestly, what was he going on about? You can’t join a band and not know how to play an instrument. I’d look a right fool! You wouldn’t get a job as a driver and then be like, “BTW, I can’t drive,” would you? What’s he on! As I couldn’t afford lessons, I decided I’d be content with my trumpet adding a new and classy dynamic to my flat on its stand in the living room. Lovely.
A few months later, he sends me a link to an ad on gumtree about a beginners brass band that welcomed all levels – even if you’d never played before – and it was totally free! I couldn’t argue with that, so…I joined a band.
After such a build up, I was actually reeeally excited for the first day of band. Even the act of carrying the trumpet on the tube ride there – I loved that shit. Bashing up kneecaps like, “Oh, sorry, it’s just my trumpet!” You’d have thought I was Dizzy Gillespie, the way I was going on! (Same cheeks) Even the fullness of the tube, the two bus rides and the ass battering walk up the hill to get to the community room did not get me down! Buzzin, I was!
Finally, I get to the community room, a cross between a school classroom and a church hall, but nestled under the grandness of Alexandra Palace, and I was greeted by two kindly gentlemen. Immediately warm, immediately welcoming. We had a little chat about the band, about the skill levels, I talked about myself a little – I was very happy indeed. That is until… (and it’s not that he was shouting, but I feel that caps are the only way I can express the level of enthusiasm) ..
“OH, BY THE WAY, I’M AFRAID TRUMPETS ARE NOT ACTUALLY IN TRADITIONAL BRASS BANDS.”
I’m all like, “Whaaa? But they told me I… Why did the ad say… I walked up that hill… Whaaa?”
“BUT NOT TO WORRY, I HAVE A CORNET FOR YOU.”
At this point I’m feeling a bit like my computer when I’m mad clicking on a million things at once – too much to process. First I was excited, then my heart was singing at how friendly these guys were… You know when you come across people that are just totally unaffected and…nice? I was taken aback. ..then I thought my dream was over because all I had was a trumpet, then I was cussing because I’d hauled my butt up that hill, then I was thinking, “what the hell is a cornet?”
“The cornet is a brass instrument very similar to the trumpet, distinguished by its conical bore, compact shape, and mellower tone quality.” Oh. Right then. So, I guess now I had a trumpet AND a cornet! What I musician I was turning out to be! We started out with a little one-to-one session where my nerves were quickly soothed by the unrelenting kindness and encouragement radiating from the band leaders. In any other situation, if someone had blown spit down a small object and then handed it to me to put my mouth on, it would have been a flat out “FUCK NO” but there I was, giving it a go! I didn’t even wipe the mouth piece first! He was looking right at me, so I couldn’t be so rude, but still, I found myself not even minding because he was so kind. What the hell was this place?
Later on, the rest of the beginners arrived. A wonderful ensemble of enthusiasm and friendliness. A tone deaf ensemble of autism and friendliness. It was purely lovely. (I mean, I’m slightly projecting here, the band are just delicious, me on the other hand, I definitely sit somewhere on the spectrum) I was at home.
I’ve been going every week for about two months now… Well, apart from one week when I turned up and didn’t recognise anyone through the window and went home, only to be told later it was all the same people as usual – I’ve been avoiding an eye test and all that face breathing. ..and every week they show me that it doesn’t matter if you’re just a bit shit at something sometimes, just give it good go and have fun. Saying that, I do notice the odd moment where you can totally tell that the shitness is starting to grate, but still, the encouragement is always there. Now that I’m over giggling at the trombones putting their hands by their bell ends, and the constant offerings of help with my fingering, I think I’m really starting to improve! It’s ace.
So what I’m trying to say here is, if you ever get the opportunity to “just join a band,” DO IT.