Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Oops!...I did it again

To err is human; to forgive...extremely unlikely if the mistake in question concerns grammar and the internet. Fortunately for me, my most obvious cock-up in the last few months only involved things musical and money (my own), so swift, merciless and near-universal condemnation will possibly be avoided on this occasion.

Earlier this year I allowed myself to get swept away in a flurry of ignore-my-own-limitations excitement and "forget that I haven't played any wind instruments properly in over a decade" general stupidity, and bought a Yamaha WX5 midi wind controller on eBay. Cue many hours of trying to get the thing calibrated properly, and reprogramming my Roland XV-2020 synth module's patches so that
the lip-pressure-controlled pitch bend didn't sound like someone was randomly choosing notes from a large sack while blindfolded. Heck, even "free jazz" is (usually) tuned correctly...well, at least up until the point where folk actually start playing. My poor neighbours...

Anyway, eventually I reached the point where I felt confident enough to try recording a wee bit of looping stuff with it (this being roughly the original purpose - that I could integrate the synth-sax-whatever with my bass-looping noises at live gigs)...and that was when I finally realised that developing my use of the (not exactly cheap) beastie to anything close to an acceptable standard was going to require far more time (& effort) than I could possibly put in.

So it all turned out to be a bit of a waste all round, frankly. And when you're on a relatively slim budget to start with...ouch. Still, with any luck it'll be sold soon, so at least I'll recoup some of the cash. As for the time spent swearing copiously while fiddling with a small screwdriver, Midi-Ox and Roland's powerful-but-annoying patch-editing software (oh, how it makes you yearn for a good old-fashioned synth covered in knobs and faders), that'll just have to be put down to "experience". Yet again.

Mind you, I suppose if we don't get things wrong on at least a semi-regular basis, that's probably a sure sign we're just not trying hard enough...or something equally self-justifying of that nature.

I have, however, found a much cheaper, yet immensely fun alternative for the "wannabe-sax player who has no idea whether they'll have any ability whatsoever to pitch a note accurately by gripping a reed between their upper-front-teeth and lower lip with varying pressure which will initially make their mouth more knackered than they ever thought possible" - a Xaphoon!

The nicest-sounding ones are made of bamboo, but you can usually get one of these almost-indestructible plastic Xaphoons second-hand for about £45 (or less) - they make a surprisingly deep (and relatively pleasant) sound for something so small, use standard alto sax reeds, and could be a great starter instrument for anyone thinking about taking up the saxophone. Of course, I still haven't got the necessary time to become seriously proficient on it, but at least this little instrument won't make me feel guilty whenever I catch a glimpse of my bank balance. Do feel sorry for the neighbours, though.

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