I’m No Good At Music


There are a number of things that any of us should be grateful for. I estimate the number of things to be at least fourteen. But I think the biggest thing any of us can be grateful for is that I’m not singing for you right now. Very likely I’ll never sing for you. You probably won’t believe just how very good this is for you. Fundamentally, I’ve got a deep incompetence about music.

I used to play the violin in elementary school. They trained us in the classic sequence: “Jingle Bells”, and then “Memory” from Cats, and then the Theme to Masterpiece Theater, and I was all right on the notes where you don’t have to put your fingers on the strings, which are like one-eighth of the notes any song expects. For the rest, again, there’s this wondrous sequence of approximate notes that nobody even knew violins could produce, and certainly not that they’d produce on purpose. The violin teacher was nice, though, and often interrupted class to ask whether the song was “Memory” or “Memories”, which could take the whole day to not resolve, while she walked down to the far end of the hallway. I gave up the violin in middle school, where the hallways were shorter.

Heck, I’m even shaky at listening to music. Like, I’ve seen other people turn on the radio and they get all kinds of songs and musicians and musical styles and such. I try it and it’s pretty near always playing “Friday I’m In Love”. It’s a fine song, sure, but there must be something I’m getting wrong if that’s always on. If I try the Internet radio then they’ve got Dennis Day singing “Clancy Lowered The Boom”, which is a less fine song, the kind that makes me want to walk to the far end of the hallway.

I’m not talking about my voice just being untrained, although it is, because the last music teacher who listened to me singing looked sadly at me and walked to the far end of the hallway, and that was elementary school, when they had a good thing to say about your skills in coloring because you managed to stay mostly within the bounds of the school building.

There’s this part of singing, though, where your voice is expected to hit some note. Most songs are kind of fussy, you’re supposed to get this one particular note that the songwriter expected and was planning around. Maybe you can go into a different octave and find some compatible note, but, that’s not me. I have a hard enough time hitting any note, whether or not it’s in the song and whether or not it’s any note that any human agency has ever been capable of. The correct response to stop paying attention to me and hope I’ll stop, and since I’m not paying attention to me, I keep going. I know, but it makes sense in the middle of the tune.

Worse, most songs require whole dozens of notes, some of them not the same one you started with, and there’s just no hoping I’ll get to any of those either. My chance of getting back to the note I started on are pretty much nothing either. This is why I’m better off sticking to my skill in turning songs into Morse code and a string of humming. Nobody cares about what note you’re humming, because if you’re humming people either don’t pay attention or else they’re looking for things to complain about what you’re doing, and either way it doesn’t matter what you’re doing.

You’d think some practice could train me out of this, but, no. I’ve tried playing Beatles Rock Band, for example, and that gives this little indicator about whether the pitch is too low or too high, and I find, like, in the midst of “Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” that Ringo gets out from behind his drums and slugs my avatar and George just walks sadly down to the far end of the hallway. Paul and John just bury their heads in their hands.

Overall, I like music, and think it’s a fine concept. I’d like to be on better terms with it, but I just haven’t got the knack. I’ve got the Cure, but see where that’s gotten me.

Can’t Stop The Beat


So we got the band back together for our first rehearsal, and that went pretty smoothly. I’m really sure I’ve never met any of these guys. They looked at me with the sort of natural, easygoing acceptance you give to a deer that’s in your laundry room. I don’t think they know each other either.

Besides me on the training violin (it still has wheels) we have one guy with a pair of sticks (not drumsticks, just the kind of sticks you might find in the woods ready to poke people with), one guy with a sheaf of ISO 9000 documentation paperwork (according to the label), another with a long-running quarrel with lyrics web sites about how they’re the most awful web sites in the universe (they are), a bazooka (the other kind), and a bass guitar. The guitar isn’t any of ours. It just appeared there, staring, accusingly, possibly warning us that Terpsichore is not happy with us. This is unsettling since it’s so rare that an ancient Greek god would be offended by something humans were up to. Maybe we shouldn’t have mixed her up with Euterpe.

We tried optimistically to play The Beatles’ “Getting Better”, and soon found that we never actually noticed the lyrics before. We’ve had to consign that to the pile of Peppy Beatles Tunes With Lyrics That Actually Horrify You, alongside “Run For Your Life”, “A Day In The Life”, and every other song the Beatles ever recorded except “Twist and Shout” and the theme to “What’s Happening”. (It was a private session.) Actually most of the day was spent on paperwork. Should be a concert for the ages. Still no idea who I’m playing with.

The Band Always Gets Back Together This Time Of Year


“We’re getting the band back together,” said the person phoning me.

“I’ve never been in a band,” I protested.

“You can’t be the holdout! What are we going to do without bass guitar?”

“I’ve never touched a bass guitar in my life. I only ever played a three-quarters scale violin.”

“See?” said the voice. “That’s what gives us that unique Suburban Jersey sound!”

“The only songs I was ever okay at were the theme to Masterpiece Theater and `Memories’ from Cats. And I was never that solid at the part where I have to finger the strings. Or pluck them.”

“It’s `Memory’. That’s what makes us such an accessible sound!”

“Are you sure you have the right number?”

Anyway, we’re opening the 27th in the Loft in downtown Lansing for Aphasic Marsupials and also Made Yer Bows’ Amateur Hour.