What Can I Play ?
A Book about Musical
B> M. M.
Illustrated by FRANCIS MARSHALL
THE ART OF AMATEUR music-making,
having survived the onslaught of wire-
less and television, continues to find
enthusiasts r ever increasing numbers.
In the new, and almost entirely re-
written, edition of this book, M. M.
Scott answers all the questions that
occur to the beginner. What instrument
shall I take up? What does it cost? Is
a teacher absolutely necessary? Will I
disturb the neighbours? When should
a child start lessons? Every instrument
is discussed, from the violin, the oboe
and the trumpet to the accordion,
zither and musical saw. Useful chapters
are included on running an amateur
orchestra, harmonising at the piano and
singing, together with advice on such
problems as finding a teacher, getting a
piano into a modern flat and others of
a practical nature. Catalogue numbers
of illustrative gramophone records are
given for most of the instruments. The
book concludes with information about
amateur musical societies, useful publi-
cations, and a list of over three hundred
tunes for playing and singing.
Designed, as it is, for parents,
teachers and all sorts of amateur
musicians, What Can I Play? is full of
information and encouragement, and
the author has succeeded in putting
into words her own tremendous
MAI MAR 1 8 1378
.... 110 I lllllIlL .- - -
3 1148 00266 4779
Hftl FEB 6 3900
stacks 785 S42w
Scott, Mary Margareta.
Wtiat can I play? a book
WHAT CAN I PLAY
By the same author
THE BAND BOOK
WHAT CAN I PLAY?
A BOOK ABOUT MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
By M. M. SCOTT
With illustrations by
ERNEST BENN LIMITED
First published by Quality Press Limited ig44
Second impression 1945
Second Edition (revised) 1951
Third Edition (reset and enlarged) 1960
Published by Ernest Benn Limited
Bouverie House * Fleet Street London EC 4
MARY MARGARETA SARGENT 1960
Printed in Great Britain
1 What shall I play? i 1
2 How to get hold of an instrument 19
3 How can I find a teacher? 24
4 When can I play? 27
5 Conducting and running an orchestra 3 1
6 What shall I sing? 42
7 The piano 49
8 The violin or fiddle 60
9 The viola, cello and double bass 65
JO The guitar 73
11 Other stringed instruments 78
12 The flute , piccolo and clarinet 8 1
Jj J!& o&0, cor anglais, saxophone and bassoon 88
i"4 Brass instruments 97
J5 T&6 pipes 105
x6 Other wind instruments 112
X7 The accordion and mouth-organ families 117
J# 77w? harp family 123
jp Percussion instruments 131
20 IVw? organ family 135
2X Reading, playing by ear and harmonising 140
J Explanatory notes 147
2 Schools and societies 150
5 "Useful song-books and other publications 155
4 Tunes to play and sing, and musical games 157
LIST OF TUNES l6l
NEARLY everyone longs to play, and here is a book to help
them to make a start, a book for children and their parents,
for young people who have never had a chance to learn, for
all those people who think they are too old to begin, for
people in hospital with time on their hands, and of course
anyone concerned with the teaching of music. There is
something in it for everyone.
Some people are apt to be rather stuffy about music; some
are very earnest; but some don't appreciate it at all, like the
corporation of a northern town who have a notice up in their
tramcars saying: "musical instruments and other objec-
tionable noises prohibited/'
But " music" doesn't only mean "learning the piano". It
means learning the bass and joining a jazz band, or having
lessons on the accordion and becoming the life and soul of
the party, or even just being a keen listener.
Years ago I ran a string band in a boys' school. As well
as teaching the fiddle I had to find suitable music and make
my own arrangements, because I was determined that these
boys, who might not be able to continue with their music
once they had left school, should have the best opportunity
available. Even if they never learnt to play really well, they
would know some of the finest traditional and classical music
from various countries, which they would enjoy all their
lives. Some of this music was published in the Band Book.
But I had to be sure that these quite ordinary boys enjoyed
the lessons, since they were voluntary. The band was run
on the same lines as scouts or a boys' club. If they hadn't
found the lessons good fun, they just wouldn't have turned
up. I had to think of every kind of idea to make the lessons
lively and varied while striving to interest the boys in learn-
ing a very difficult instrument. No one can learn music
unless lie really enjoys it.
Through the boys' band and other amateur music that I
have helped to organise, and lately, of course, through my
own family, I have gained experience which does not always
come the way of strictly professional musicians. For instance
when inexperienced musicians are faced with an audience
or worse when an experienced audience is faced with an
inexperienced orchestra the whole programme should be
played in sharp keys, which are much easier than flats on
stringed instruments for very young musicians. This is just
one of the practical ideas I have learnt through years of
helping with children's orchestras.
People are often rather unkind about amateur orchestras.
I agree they sometimes make a dreadful noise. But the answer
is, don't listen to them play in them!
I do hope this book will be the means of encouraging many
more people to start amateur orchestras. There should be
holiday orchestras of varying standards in every town where
young people from every type of school could meet together
and play. They ought to become as popular as Pony Club
meets, dancing classes, tennis tournaments and other holiday
fun. All that is needed is a few enthusiasts, a lively conductor,
a large, well heated room, plenty of ham sandwiches and
ginger pop and really worth-while music.
Besides chapters on the various instruments there is a
chapter on the best way of learning to read music and how
to harmonise on the piano. The last part consists of lists of
tunes suitable for every occasion. There are tunes for musical
games, for dancing of various kinds, traditional and folk
songs, tunes suitable for church voluntaries, a list of tunes
you can play over and over again indefinitely, so useful for
amateur theatricals, and a good list of old-fashioned songs
which are still so popular. These lists could be taken out of
the book, pasted on thin card, and kept in a loose-leaf note-
book with spare cards for your own additions. They do not
pretend to be complete, as of course every performer should
really make his own. But if anyone would like to send me
the names of useful tunes I may have forgotten, for inclusion
in the next edition, I should be very pleased, and if anyone
would like more information than he finds in this book he is
invited to write to me at the address below.
M. M. SCOTT
The Old Rectory, Bighton,
What shall I play 1 ?
FAR THE best way to find out what instrument you want to
learn is to read quickly through this chapter, and decide
which family of instruments you think would suit you best.
Then if you do not know very much about the various
instruments, find out where the local orchestra is rehearsing,
and go and watch and listen, and then try to get an appoint-
ment with the conductor. He will be an experienced musician,
and is sure to be very helpful.
Although the piano is far and away the best-known and
most popular instrument, an ordinary pianist is not in great
demand any more, whereas an orchestral player will find a
welcome wherever he goes. There are orchestral groups in
practically every centre for players of every grade. Some are
intended for absolute amateurs, while others, augmented
with professional help for special occasions, reach very high
A STRINGED instrument is much the most rewarding -
though I think that one should make it clear that it is only
possible for the person who has a really good ear, very neat
fingers, who is able to find an experienced teacher, and is pre-
pared to put in a good deal of work, though today even pro-
fessional players do not seem to need to spend as much time
practising as was once thought necessary. Methods have been
much simplified. But even if you never find time to go far
with the violin, there is an enormous amount of classical
ia WHAT CAN I PLAT?
music which does not demand a very great technique, and
you will be able to get a great deal of pleasure out of orchestral
playing, if you are content to leave the solos to someone else.
Woodwind and brass instruments
WOODWIND instruments are the easiest on which to become
reasonably proficient in a short time, especially for grown-
ups, and are ideal as a second study for serious pianists and
singers, though not everyone is able to produce a good tone
on them. The best way is as for everything else -'to have a
try and see.
Some people find brass instruments very easy to play, and,
contrary to what is generally thought, they do not need a
great deal of puff.
What sort of musician are you?
THERE are so many kinds of musical people. One can read a
full score, and yet cannot play a nursery rhyme with one
finger; another can tell one recording of a symphony from
another, yet cannot sing c God Save the Queen' in tune;
another can play the music he heard in a show last night by
ear, yet cannot read a simple song accompaniment. The
pianist who plays Scarlatti so delightfully is not able to sit
through a long-playing record without fidgeting; yet they
are all musicians. But most people would agree that the most
fun of all is learning to play an instrument.
Poor readers are not advised to take up the flute, as many
orchestral parts consist of elaborate firework passages which,
to be effective, must be played fortissimo and con brio, which
is not easy if you have a sinking feeling you may come in
four bars too soon! You would be much happier with a nice
quiet desk at the back of the second fiddles, where, believe it
or not, you will learn to read along with the rest. If you have
really small hands, do not attempt the cello or the viola, and
the trumpet is not for those who have a naturally retiring
WHAT SHALL I PLAY? 13
I THINK most teachers would say that exceptionally gifted
pupils are easily recognised from the first few terms, though
there are some children, particularly girls, who seem to have
an amazing facility for playing the piano in their early teens.
They may play brilliantly, and their admiring parents think
that they must go in for music. But nowadays a career in
music is only possible for the absolutely tip-top players on
any instrument. There is so much competition. So often
'going in for music' ultimately means taking up teaching, if
they are to earn a living by it. What they should ask is, should
they go in for teaching music? There is always a demand for
good music teachers, and the demand is growing. It is a
splendid profession for a girl, as it is one of the subjects
that really can be taught part-time, and can be fitted in with
running a home and family. But teaching is an art in itself,
and besides being a naturally friendly person, with infectious
enthusiasm and endless patience, the teacher must really
want to pass on the good news. The fact that she is a fine
performer herself is just by the way.
Some of the most successful teachers, especially for adults,
are the people who still remember how difficult it was to
learn themselves. Not all of us have the resolution to work
through all the books of Sevcik; we may just want to learn
enough to have a better understanding of music, and to play
in an orchestra. We do not want to make it our life's work.
There is a need for teachers for pupils of all kinds. One of the
best violinists I have ever played with first came to our
house to mend the cooker. His father had wisely insisted on
his becoming an electrician. He kept his music for evenings
and week-ends, and seemed to have the best of both worlds.
No need for a professional standard
IF you are aiming at becoming a professional musician I
doubt if you will be reading this book, unless you are tliink-
ing of taking up a second instrument; but if you are just one
X4 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
of the general ran who love music, you may not realise that
it is perfectly possible to learn the most serious instruments
without any thought of having your name in large type out-
side a concert hall It is just like the ability to do first-aid
compared with the work of a well-known surgeon. To learn
to play the fiddle well enough to play in a good school
orchestra is perfectly possible for keen young people along
with ordinary school work, games and fun. It really needs
only commonsense, efficiency and plain gumption. The two
years before working for the G.C.E. is the time to take up
an orchestral instrument. You can always leave off having
lessons temporarily while struggling with exams, keeping the
orchestra for relaxation and letting off steam. Once you play
well enough there are all kinds of delightful young people's
orchestras which you can join during the holidays; they often
make trips abroad, or hold camps in delightful places. Your
teachers will know all about them.
Children should be encouraged
EVEN if a child has only a few terms on some instrument, and
then gives it up, he will never completely forget what he has
learnt, and it is there underneath if he ever needs it again.
He never knows but that, posted to some isolated spot, he
may not bump into some other enthusiast (perhaps armed
with this book) ; or that he won't be writing home to ask if his
clarinet is still in the hall cupboard, together with any
music that would do to play in the canteen at Christmas; or
your daughter, when her children are old enough to start
learning music, may well bless you for having insisted on her
spending a few years at the violin, and will get it out and
surreptitiously practise in the mid-morning hush, so that she
can join the family orchestra when they all come roaring
home for the holidays.
Very few people have absolutely no idea of music; there is
always something they can play* What about the drums?
They are fascinating to learn, and teachers can easily be
WHAT SHALL I PLAY? 15
found through leaders of dance-bands. Artistic gifts,
such as drawing or architecture, or a good ear for languages,
so often turn into musical gifts in the next generation.
So endure the early efforts of your family. If necessary,
resort to those wonderful parent-preserving wax ear-plugs,
which are obtainable at any large chemists'. These should be
more widely known, as they do mean that one child can finish
his prep., while another is practising. And they are in-
valuable for keeping the peace when there are differences of
opinion about what constitutes a good programme on the
wireless or television; and, of course, they are quite indis-
pensable for holidays abroad.
Music at boarding-school
IT is sometimes most difficult to find time for music at
boarding-school, and to be enthusiastic about practising
when everyone else is obviously having smashing fun. One
wonders if the musicians could not have some special privi-
leges, or perhaps be let off some of the less profitable activi-
ties, such as walks, which must surely have been devised to
keep the largest number of young people occupied with the
smallest use of manpower. If the musicians could do their
practice, and then get exercise by being allowed to have a
spin round the school grounds on bikes under the noses of the
returning crocodile, there might soon be quite a craze for
music. It takes a certain amount of stuffing to persist with
practising, and to give up free time to go to lessons. En-
couragement from the management, such as an extra
opportunity to skate or to go to an International, is very
important. Even people who grow up to be really keen
musicians will own that when they were at school they tried
to dodge practising.
Music lessons can be started in the holidays, especially the
early stages. In fact it is almost a must with very young
beginners, who need so much encouragement and help at the
start. (See Chap. 3, p. 26.)
l6 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Children should follow their aptitudes
IT is not always realised that there are many comparatively
simple instruments which take months, or even weeks, on
which to become reasonably proficient. I know I shall have
all the people who have spent years perfecting their technique
writing to say just what they think of me! But all the same it
is possible to learn to play an instrument such as the guitar
or the piano accordion after a fashion in a very short time.
And surely it is more important for a boy to become a useful
player on a simple instrument, than to spend years having
piano lessons, only in the end to be unable to play anything
except a few dreary pieces that are really no use to anyone.
He may easily get so mad on the accordion (it can easily
happen, and why not?) that he can be persuaded to have
lessons and even practise (wax ear-plugs again!). In a few
weeks he may be a useful musician and in great demand to
add to the general gaiety; and you never know that, having to
some extent mastered the accordion, he won't want to learn
the clarinet or some other orchestral instrument, which is
just what you have been trying to get him to do all along.
Less serious instruments
READERS of this book will notice that more has been written
about some of the less serious instruments than about, say,
the cello - the reason being that everyone can get information
about the cello, but not everyone can find out about the auto-
harp, or even the guitar, so more space is given to these, in
the hope that people unable to find time to learn the violin
will still take up something easier.
Though the double bass is a serious instrument and
usually approached after a year or so on the cello, the kind of
om-pomming pizzicato playing favoured by skiffle groups,
and even classical jazz bands, is really very quickly learnt,
and is probably the very best way of all to edge a reluctant
teenager into having music lessons.
WHAT SHALL I PLAY? 17
For serious musicians too
THOUGH this book was not really designed for serious
musicians (and I am afraid I cannot be said to be one myself -
although they usually call on me, not the retired champion of
the Grieg Concerto, when all else fails!) I do hope all the
same that they will find it useful; and that after reading this
book, earnest pianists and solemn singers will feel en-
couraged to borrow a clarinet, a cornet, or a clarsach, find a
quiet corner and have some real fun experimenting. In this
way they will gain a new respect for all the hard work put in
by other musicians, and they will surely want to join in an
orchestra to see what it is all about; moreover they wUl
find their own interpretation wUl improve out of all
Music-making for the convalescent
I ALSO hope that this book will be useful to the people who
are concerned to find the best possible occupations for the
disabled, or for those who have to spend long months in bed.
It is not always easy to find something which can be carried
on after the patient leaves hospital; but music has lasting
value. It is such enormous fun learning to play a guitar or a
cello, that it is worth considering even for people who have
never learnt music before. As most hospitals seem to have to
endure wireless and television non-stop there must be a way
round the practising difficulty, perhaps making use of the
occupational therapy rooms and office accommodation after
hours. Some instruments make a very un-annoying noise,
one of which is the auto-harp. This is absolutely ideal for a
bed-fast patient, and so fascinating that hours and hours can
be spent happily strumming the strings. There are plenty of
hospitals dealing with long-term patients where one feels
some kind of orchestra or band, combining staff and patients
and their visitors, would be perfectly possible. An orchestra
would be a nice change from the endless chat about knitting
l8 WHAT CAN I PLAY ?
patterns and cricket scores. It could be a lot of fun. Instru-
ments can easily be adapted to the needs of disabled people,
many instraments can be played equally well with either
hand, and in a wheel chair. Music, one feels, could become
part of the activities of some of the splendid clubs for handi-
Music is much used in the training of people who are
mentally subnormal, to their great happiness. Patients who
are quite unable to live independently can be taught to play
some instruments well enough to form a band, which is a
great delight to them and their friends*
ALL the television and wireless in the world will never do
away with home-made music, and it is pleasant to be able to
record that since the first editions of this book the prediction
that wireless would mean the end of amateur music, has been
quite disproved. Music shops that used to be rather gloomy
places, frequented almost entirely by teachers, are buzzing
with customers. They can seU all the guitars and accordions
they can get hold of. There seem to be just about equal
crazes for records of the latest pop or jazz, and the most high-
brow classics. Pupils have to go on a waiting list to get hold of
a good teacher for some instruments. Music is more popular
than ever. All we want now is more scholarships open, to
gifted children from any school so that the available music
teachers would be assured that most of their time could be
devoted to really musical and hard-working pupils. Music
will endure long after schooldays are over, when we are too
puffed and stiff for the games and other activities that when
we are young seem so terribly important, and it is the best
possible way to bring together people with different accents,
different-sized wage packets, and different-sized shoes.
How to get hold of an instrument
ONCE A CHILD has expressed a longing to learn music,
every effort should be made to get hold of a teacher and an in-
strument, and to let him have a try. Apart from in shops
there are other ways of finding an instrument, and it is well
worth asking round the family; somebody must remember
what happened to Tom's clarinet or Rachael's cello, and they
are quite likely to be in an attic somewhere, along with the
doll's house and the game that was such a craze long years
ago. There are numberless pianos up and down the country,
doing nothing better than supporting family groups in front
parlours and drawing-rooms; the instruments are never
used. Advertise for a piano in your local paper, stressing that
you want to play it! and that the condition of the case is
immaterial. Almost any case can be miraculously restored by
a good cabinet-maker.
There are plenty of people who will lend a piano, after
making sure that it will be carefully looked after, kept warm,
and regularly tuned, if you can just find them. Your piano
tuner is the man to advise you; he will know what to look for.
I once bought an ancient Broadwood grand (complete with a
silver spoon inside the lid!) for five pounds. It did yeoman
service in the village hall, and then had a session of intro-
ducing our family to music. We didn't want to part with it,
so a good home was found for it in a church hall, in case we
needed it again.
There are several invaluable magazines in whose entrancing
' For Sale ' and * Wanted ' columns many families find all their
20 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
tricydes t children's riding clothes, skates, and other quickly-
grown~out-of equipment, such as the Nursery World, the
Lady, the C.G.A. Magazine and the Sunday Times personal
column. These might easily find you an instrument, such as a
small-sized violin or cello. There are also several musical
papers which contain advertisements for second-hand
Get the advice of an expert
THERE are excellent dealers in instruments, and of course
teachers often know where to get hold of something suitable.
Before buying, be sure it has been vetted by an expert. A
teacher should be able to give an idea of the value, and also
say roughly how much it would cost to put it in working order.
A lot of musical instruments are brought back from abroad,
and their owners, finding new interests at home, are often
quite glad to part with them for a reasonable sum to some
young enthusiast. I once bought a three-stringed bass for ten
shillings, as the family had to find room for a pram. It was
quite adequate for what we wanted, and was the means of a
number of young cellists having a chance to play the bass
part ki a children's orchestra.
Borrowing an instrument
SOME teachers, schools and orchestras lend instruments to
young players, which is an excellent arrangement, since it is
always wise to see if they have a real aptitude for music before
investing in an instrument. In a brass band the more expen-
sive instruments nearly always belong to the band. Members
of the Girl Guides Association can borrow various stringed
instruments which have been given to the Guides. (See
IN the case of woodwind instruments some teachers advise
getting one which is of a "simple system'. (See p, 85.) This
HOW TO GET HOLD OF AN INSTRUMENT 21
enables the player to gain sufficient mastery of the instru-
ment, and to take part in the orchestra comparatively soon,
If he means to become a serious player he will have to change
over at a later date. Where clarinets, for instance, are shared
in a school, each player should have his own mouthpiece,
although sharing cannot be recommended. Oboes should not
be shared at all.
Let children help choose their instruments
A YOUNG player will take much more interest in his instru-
ment if he can take some part in choosing it in the music
shop, as he would his new cricket bat. It should not be con-
sidered part of his equipment for school. Dealers are generally
very human people, and even though the choice has already
been made by the parent or teacher, a little ceremony over
the arrival of a new cello or clarinet makes it seem much
more exciting and valuable. I do like to hear of very young
violinists keeping their fiddles amongst the treasures by their
Stands , cases and bows
WOBBLY stands are the limit* Wooden ones are usually the
best. When not wanted for travelling, genuine antiques -
fine, solid, Victorian, mahogany affairs are excellent. These
can often be found in junk shops and are easily mended.
They are fun to make in the woodwork class. A stand which
will go on a table or book-case and which will fold up and fit
into a music-case can easily be made of Meccano. Metal
stands must be marked; the quick-drying plastic paint sold
for model-making is excellent, and can be used on other
instruments. Your initials carefully scratched on to a part
which hardly shows may save argument. Cases for violins
should be strong if they are to do much travelling. A nice
present for a young musician is a fiat music-case, large
enough to take over-night things, and sandwiches whea
22 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
necessary, with a good lock, and his name or initials on it in
Expense should not be spared when buying a bow, except
for very young beginners. Unscrewing the bow soon be-
comes automatic, A second-hand one is often quite satis-
factory, though it may need re-hairing. A bow, to be the
right length, should reach the strings when the arm is fully
Repairing second-hand instruments
WHEN buying an instrument, find out roughly what it will
cost to have it put in perfect working order. A woodwind
instrument may need taking down and disinfecting and
possibly re-padding; or some crack may need filling. Even
minor repairs are very costly, and it may be difficult to find
anyone who can mend, say, a piano accordion or a Celtic
harp. Bear this in mind when thinking about buying a
second-hand instrument. It might be better to go to a first-
class music shop and buy yourself the shiny new one out of
the window. You know it will work!
How to find a piano for practice
SEVERAL people have told me that it is difficult for children
to learn music now because no one has room for a piano.
(See p. 58.) I am sure that in small flats and for Service
families who have to move house so much, it must be a
problem. Still, there should be ways of finding a piano for
your children to practise on if you are determined enough.
The local primary school is certain to have a piano. Per-
mission to use it while the school is being cleaned in the
evenings might easily be granted. Most church halls and some
churches have pianos, which may sometimes be used, if the
heating problem can be solved, but I feel sure that there are
many grandparent-aged people who would be only too glad
to let some young learner use their piano. Your vicar might
have some ideas. Or perhaps a group of parents might buy a
HOW TO GET HOLD OF AN INSTRUMENT 23
piano between them, one of them might give it house-room,
and let the children practise on it at different times. If you
have the room there is no problem, as a grand of a sort can
often be picked up very cheaply at sales. It might cost five
pounds to move it, and ten pounds to have it repaired, but
how imposing, and what a bargain! In fact, however, it
should be possible for many of the more expensive instru-
ments to be shared.
THIS is where a music club could be helpful. There must
be plenty of interested people who would find the time to
keep a club together, even if it only consisted of a list of
names of players, who could be called on whenever music
was needed for some special occasion; and a junior branch
which could meet to form a holiday orchestra, as well as
perhaps bringing more sociability into the musical activities
of boarding-schools by organising musical evenings, etc.,
and combining with the other young players in the district.
The club would soon collect a library of teaching-music and
instruments which could be lent to members. In this way
everyone who wants to learn to play should be able to get
hold of an instrument.
How can I find a teacher?
IT IS not always easy to find a teacher, especially for the
more unusual instruments, although many local Education
Authorities now provide free instrumental tuition in school
hours. But a good way is to ask at your local music shop.
They see and hear a good deal of what is going on in the
locality. And amongst the specially obliging people behind
the counter (who are so helpful, even when all we want is
one piece of sheet music, price twopence!) there may be
trained musicians, who perhaps teach in the evenings when
they can get hold of pupils more easily. They should know
all about the local music societies and school orchestras, and
they often have a list of music teachers.
The Rural Music Schools
You may be lucky enough to live in an area where there is a
branch of the Rural Music School. They run classes in in-
strumental music, sometimes in connection with the County
Music Authority. In any case it is a good idea for parents and
pupils to get in touch with them, as they are staffed with
friendly and enthusiastic musicians specially trained to
encourage amateur music-making. They will know about
teachers in the area for players of all standards.
Of course many schools run orchestras, and many offer
free tuition on various musical instruments. You can also
write to the various schools of music to ask for a list of the
qualified music teachers in your area.
Finding a teacher
IF you simply can't find a teacher for some special instru-
HOW CAN I FIND A TEACHER? 25
ment, do remember there may be one masquerading as a
saddler, or ship-chandler; or a retired bandmaster may be
keeping the local sweet shop. Most musicians have a real
longing to teach, and if you put an appeal in your local paper
you may easily track down someone who would not want to
describe himself as a music teacher, but who might easily be
persuaded to help a keen pupil to make a start. There are
also people all over the country who are unable to call them-
selves qualified teachers. They may have married before they
finished their training, or perhaps never had the opportunity
to take a teaching diploma. It is worth while making in-
quiries. Really, in the early stages it is not so very important
whether the teacher is a brilliant performer or not, provided
she is an all-round grand person, inspiring and keen, with a
real delight in music-making herself, and someone all
children naturally take to.
The ideal teacher
A TEACHER must appeal to her pupil; personality comes in a
great deal. If you should receive one of those highly coloured
letters from your daughter at boarding-school saying she
'must give up music', it may only be because she loathes'
poor Miss J who, although she is splendid with Caroline and
Susan, may be hopeless with Diana and Ann. The much less
well-qualified lady who takes the beginners may be just the
one. Tackle Miss J and if she does not concur and suggest a
change for a few terms, your daughter is probably right.
How well I remember the stormy scenes and rare old
battles which ended my lessons with the Best Teacher,
covered as she was with honours and decorations. The
second teacher who taught me so much besides the piano (a
good deal of which has gone into this book) recognised that
my best line was the gift of being able to harmonise easily by
ear, and would not let me get away with it. She made me
work really hard at harmony, instead of only struggling to
perform pieces that the other girls could play so much more
2 6 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
correctly. I can see the old dear now, pedalling away on her
battered bike, clutching a viola, to snatch an hour's quartet
playing on her day off. Thank you, Miss Gumey.
Learning at home
WHERE there is no opportunity for music at school, or if the
teachers seem rather uninspiring, there is a lot to be said for
making music a holiday activity. There is enough time to
practise. Children can make a start on a proper piano, not
some period piece on the platform in a dusty gym, within
earshot of critical classmates. If you can arrange for at least
two lessons a week, and practising for ten minutes 'three
times a day after food ' you will be surprised how much pro-
gress they will make in one short holiday. You may be able
to persuade the teacher to come to you, especially if you offer
her a really nice lunch (which may save her more time than
coming over for the lesson). Perhaps you can round up one or
two neighbouring children to make it even more worth her
while. If stringed instruments are to be taught, this is much
more fun for the children, because they can make a band
from the first few lessons, playing open strings in time to the
piano. She must be paid for her travelling time and expenses,
but it will probably not come to what it would have cost to
pay a helper to take charge while you were out yourself. And
talking of paying: few music teachers seem to make a fortune.
Most of them teach because they really love it. Parents
should show their appreciation of the teacher by paying her
bill promptly and remembering her in imaginative ways.
Everyone who lives on their own, and who necessarily works
in the evening, is glad of a nice home-made plum-cake, or a
meat-pie which will make two meals, and other time savers.
It is not possible to be grateful enough to the people who
have spent a lifetime in learning a skill like playing the
violin, and yet who are prepared to teach our children for
such a modest sum. If they all decided to man petrol pumps
or sell cigarettes, where would we be?
When can I play ?
ANY DISCUSSION on what is the right age to start a child
learning music is bound to end in heated argument. When I
first wrote this book, before I had children of my own, and
before our house was quite so full of other people's running in
and out, I would have told you the right age to begin on any
instrument I But now I know it is just like everything else;
there is a right age for each individual child. It is one of the
milestones, like getting your second teeth, or being able to
spend a night away alone. Each child gets there at a different
time. But nothing will stop parents from bragging of how
incredibly young their miracle children could read, or ride,
or swim, and nothing I say will stop you starting music
lessons at least two years too soon; we all do it. I did it
Of course, in families where the parents are professional
musicians or tip-top amateurs, the children will absorb
music as easily as learning to talk, and they can obviously
begin much earlier, because it is only being 'like Daddy'.
Or if Mummy teaches you how to knit, and helps you to learn
to write, she will show you how to play the cello; after all,
there's one in the corner waiting. It is nothing unusual. My
two children, whose father is a doctor, were competent first-
aiders ages before we would have thought of their having
music lessons. A nose-bleed was not considered worthy of
being reported; they coped, and the child's frock was found
in cold water.
28 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
This is to explain that this book was not necessarily meant
for the guidance of parents who may have exceptional
musicians for children, but for the parents who may have
exceptional cricketers, scientists, wood-engravers, or even
housewives amongst their brood.
Some show promise very early
WHERE music is part of family fun there is no age to begin.
A five-month-old baby will really listen to and enjoy quiet
singing. Just as soon as your baby can sit on your knee un-
aided she can begin to put her hands on yours and 'play'.
Children often sing, and even whistle, before they can talk,
probably before they are two years old, and by the time they
are three can sing really well, so long as you stick to very
slow-moving tunes with no big jumps. (See p. 43,) They will
be able to beat on a drum in time to the music, and are
ready to join in the family band. If you have a piano, or a
xylophone that is in tune (not just a cheap toy, but the sort
made for percussion bands and nursery schools), they can
begin to pick out slow, simple tunes for themselves (see p.
50); and if you have a small-sized fiddle or cello they can
begin to play away on the open strings for a few minutes at a
time, gradually getting the idea of it, so that when they are
ready for lessons it will be nothing new. If you have plenty of
music in the family, by the time they are old enough to
learn they will know literally hundreds of tunes, nursery
rhymes, hymns, national songs and some less highbrow
music from the wireless and your cheerful daily help. A good
dancing class, where the pianist makes use of traditional
tunes, nursery songs and easy classics, is very important,
especially for a boy, as an invaluable way to learn rhythm
and relaxation, and for giving self-confidence in public, aot
to mention the fun of his first social half-hour.
How to start a child
A CHILD can make a start just as soon as he can read fluently
WHEN CAN I PLAY? 29
at, say, Beacon Reader Grade 6, so long as music lessons do
not entail travelling, and provided he has a parent or some-
one to help him at home, as even the most enthusiastic and
musical child cannot be expected to practise by himself in the
early stages. Keeping a correct position on the violin is really
most difficult at first. Constant checking and reminders from
a grown-up are absolutely essential, and so are frequent rests,
when some other aspect of music can be studied, which is all
too much for a young child. But if music lessons can be put
off until about eight and a half, by which time the child
should know something about reading music, he will leam
very quickly and easily. He will be able to keep his attention
on the job in hand for much longer, read the teacher's writ-
ing, stay up a little later, and will find school life much less
Making use of local facilities
OF course, if you live in a town where violin classes are
organised by the Education Committee or Rural Music
School, you may find that the teachers start very young
children learning the violin in the Primary School, but they
are not expected to practise at first. These classes are meant
more as an introduction to music through the violin, rather
than for producing performers, though any children thought
to be gifted enough to benefit from individual lessons are
given the opportunity to go further with their music.
Recognising a child's characteristics
ONE of the difficulties of starting lessons very young is that
life is hard enough without the burden of music practice
after a long day at school. There is really only time for tea
and a game before bed, and Saturdays should be all peace,
fresh air and fun. Also very few teachers get the wave-length
of a child they only see once a week, and much of what they
say will go over their heads. ('Why does he keep on saying
paws (pause)? Fm not a dog!) Also small-scale violins can
30 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
be most disappointing instruments; even the teacher cannot
produce a good tone on them. Save the money, your time
taking him to lessons, and his energy, till he is through the
endless colds stage, and big enough to play on the best three-
quarter fiddle you can find. He will race ahead when once he
does start, and quickly catch up with the children who have
been trailed to music lessons for perhaps two years. It is also
easier to see if he has a natural gift for music, as really in
these days I do not think it is worth worrying with the very
few who have not got much idea of music. They can have
another try when they are older, rather to acquire a general
introduction to music, but they will never make first class
performers. Let them take up something else instead.
Conducting and running an
NO SCHOOL or community Is complete without a choir,
band or orchestra. In a school, the percussion band, to which
can be added the recorder class, the young people who learn
orchestral instruments, and a few parents and friends, soon
becomes an orchestra. In a small school the headmistress
may find she will have to try to persuade the piano teacher,
or perhaps the games mistress, the matron, or even one of the
parents, to turn themselves into a conductor. It is for these
people that I have written this chapter, as it is not always the
trained musician who is the most successful with very
amateur orchestras; their standards may be too high, or
they may not realise the difficulties of a stringed instrument.
But the cheerful person who is a good musician, and a
natural leader, able to keep order by the light of nature, who
has a fresh approach and can make the rehearsals jolly good
fun, is the one who should be encouraged to make a start.
Parents must ploy their part
IN any school the enthusiasm of the parents is an essential
ingredient. Wherever possible they must find the time to
come to the rehearsals, and perhaps even provide extra
helpers to spare the busy staff and exam-takers such chores
as putting out the stands and music; or, where the rehearsals
are held after school, perhaps offer the conductor, who may
have come some distance, a square high-tea. They must sit
through the concerts, however terrible (mercifully short, I
32 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
hope, at the beginning), and perhaps, if musicians themselves,
they could offer to coach a certain group for a special occasion.
Learning to conduct
LUCKILY, conducting, though perhaps spectacular, is not
nearly as difficult as it looks. Keeping a steady beat soon
becomes automatic, and anyone taking it up finds it the most
fascinating of all musical activities, because one feels that
the whole stream of sound is the result of one's own personal
There are plenty of good books on conducting, but do try
to get some ideas from someone who has the same kind of
band or orchestra as the one you will have to conduct. It is
essential for the conductor of a school orchestra to know
something about stringed instruments, and much the best
way is to get hold of a cello, or viola, and take some lessons
from a sympathetic teacher who will not expect you to work
for the concert platform, but will let you run through the
beginning stages fairly quickly. The fun of this is that, in a
term or so, someone else can take a turn with the b^ton, and
you can join the cellos, or violas, yourself. From time to time
there are conducting schools run by such organisations as the
Rural Musical Schools or Women's Institutes. Ask your
local music shop. It is best if you can make a start with a
choir, as it is rather easier than an orchestra at first, and as
the members are apt to talk even more volubly than in an
orchestra it is splendid practice to silence them with one tap
on the rostrum!
Musical holidays and summer schools
BUT the best way of all is to attend one of the Musical
Holidays, or Summer Schools, organised by various musical
associations and some private individuals. It is possible to
gather a wealth of information in a short time. Instruments
can be inspected, and if the owners are kind, even be experi-
mented on. They are ideal for anyone who has never had the
Amateur orchestras . . . don't listen to them, play in them t
34 WHAT CAN I PLAY ?
opportunity of learning an instrument to gain a working
knowledge of each family of the orchestra, and it is amazing
how much progress a musical person can make in playing,
say, a viola or a clarinet in two weeks with the right kind of
teacher. There will be orchestras at every stage from the
elementary to the highly professional, on which the con-
ducting classes can learn. Apart from this they are held in
lovely places and lead to delightful friendships.
Tips for conductors
A WOULD-BE conductor is advised to practise in front of a
mirror, and to get hold of gramophone records of music in
the same style, or by the same composer, as that which he
will be taking with his orchestra. Sometimes it is possible to
gather a group of friends and make a tape-recording of the
actual pieces played under a more experienced conductor.
This is splendid, and gives youastandardtoworkforand to. The
conductor should take every opportunity to watch conductors
and teachers taking rehearsals in the cathedral choir, and the
local schools (which may have splendid orchestras), and of
course at concerts and on television.
Rehearsals should be fun
REHEARSALS need not be stuffy aad schooly, though they
should be serious and brisk; otherwise they will flag. They
must be friendly and cheerful and really enjoyable. They
must never go on too long. The less experienced players should
come first, and start with some pleasant warming-up music
to break the ice. This need not be entirely classical, a few
popular tunes and modern ballards played by ear are
excellent, and are useful for giving confidence to the rather
timid bowers. Best of all, of course, are our own heritage of
folk-songs and dance tunes, such as 'Drink to me Only'
and 'Banks and Braes', which can be most moving when
played in unison. The more advanced players, with the cellos
and violas, should be encouraged to put in a second part by ear.
CONDUCTING AND RUNNING AN ORCHESTRA 35
The rehearsals should not be held when the players are
tired after a long day at school, or panting to finish their
homework and needing their tea. Saturday morning is ideal,
and is something special to look forward to at the week-end.
It is a good time to collect interested parents to be the
' watchers'. The room must be warm and well lit -some
dusty hall just will not do. The players must have comfortable
chairs, not too high, and with wooden seats; do not let short
legs be seen waving about. Feet must be firmly planted on the
floor, or else on hassocks, or volumes of Punch. You may have
to get round the rector to let you have the Sunday School
No effort should be spared in protecting the person in
charge from interruption, even if it means a parent policing
the door. There must be someone to help tune and to put
out the music, and deal with any emergency, such as a loose
tooth or whatever the lively throng will think up to disturb
the proceedings. There should be a break in the middle for
fruit juice and biscuits, and coffee in a thermos for the con-
ductor. Playing in an orchestra is so thrilling and enchanting
that it can be quite emotional and exhausting for the very
young players, if they are doing their best.
The school orchestra
THE school orchestra is the place to learn all the essential
good manners of a first-class orchestra, such as not fiddling
while the conductor is having his say, or bad habits, such as
tapping on the floor. People who cannot behave should be
severely dealt with. An orchestra is a team, and however
efficient a player may be, or however musical, he is no help
if he rags and talks. Some people, though good performers,
are too individualistic to be good orchestral players, and they
do not really enjoy it. You must think more of the music
than of your own performance, and this is not possible for
The importance of learning to keep an eye on the
36 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
conductor cannot be over-emphasised, and if this is all they
learn in the school orchestra, the rehearsals will have been
well worth while. A good dodge is for the conductor to stop
beating, and hold up his hands; the non-lookers will play
merrily on, feeling rather foolish. N.B. The accompanist is
often the worst offender. When playing without a conductor,
the players should keep an eye on the leader of the first
Choice of music
A GREAT deal of the success of the first few terms' work with
an amateur orchestra will be due to a good choice of music.
This must be rewarding, tuneful and playable, and for very
young players must include some easily recognisable and
very well-known tunes (never mind if rather hackneyed - it
will be quite new to them), and of course it must be really
worth-while music. The wonderful traditional tunes that
have stood the test of time for possibly many centuries seem
to almost play themselves and will stand up to endless
repetition. It takes more time and effort to master a nonde-
script modern composition than something possibly more
advanced technically, by one of the great masters. One is a
* piece ', the other a possession. As the children will remember
this music all their lives, make sure it is the best available. It
is worth having a good hunt through the mass of music that
has been written and arranged for amateur orchestras.
Sometimes the county libraries will offer to pay the sub-
scriptions to music-lending libraries, which will send scores
on approval. Good lists are published by the Rural Music
Arranging the parts
A GREAT deal of the work of the conductor of an amateur
orchestra will be arranging the parts. Wagner once wrote
' Find where the melody lies '. This is very important in the
interpretation of a work, such as a Handel overture, where
CONDUCTING AND RUNNING AN ORCHESTRA 37
the theme is given first to the violins and then perhaps to
the cellos. An excellent plan is to mark the parts by means
of a red chalk-line over the phrase that is to be brought
out. In this way quite difficult music can be disentangled at
a first reading.
Some useful hints
EFFECTIVE pianissimos and decrescendos are difficult to obtain
at first. A good way to make the orchestra play a passage
softly is to take the pianissimo bars as silent bars. Again, to
teach a decrescendo, gradually drop off one desk at a time till
only the leaders are playing. Young players must be taught to
read phrasing and dynamics from the start. Music played in
the orchestra should be of a rather easier technical standard
than the music studied during their lessons. The teachers
can have extra copies and run through the pieces in indivi-
dual lessons where necessary, putting in fingering, etc.
Players should not have to take parts home with them, as the
music should be well within their grasp after careful re-
hearsing. Young people who do take away a part and
repeatedly forget it should be well ticked off. Their care-
lessness may easily spoil the fun for dozens of other people.
The only cure is to insist on their writing it out. But all the
same a wise conductor will have a few spare copies hidden
away for real emergencies, and it is a good idea to pencil in
the player's initials at each desk in case a copy does go
SECTIONAL rehearsals are advisable from time to time in all
orchestras. In school orchestras, where the standard of play-
ing varies so much, the good players often get bored, and the
beginners harassed. At the start of a new term the better
players can be invited to a special rehearsal, perhaps com-
bined with Sunday tea (boiled eggs and stacks of crumpets),
38 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
to play through the new music. They can help with the
business of marking the parts and seeing there are enough
letters marking the number of bars, for which coloured
chalks are excellent, as well as gaying up the copies. Where
there is an obvious snag which will need special practice,
pencil in a star or other mark so that it is quickly found;
then, as the difficulty is mastered, the star can be rubbed out.
Preparing the scores
INDIAN ink (provided you don't spill it) is the best for
writing out additional parts, and is easily scratched out.
Where a whole phrase has to be rewritten, paste a strip of
manuscript paper over the mistake and start again, though
small mistakes can be neatly removed by painting out with
white ink. For speed a black ball-pen is useful, though
special music- writing nibs are available. When you need to
write out the words and music of a song large enough to pin
on a wall or blackboard, the black Flowmaster felt pens are
marvellous; only again beware of the ink; ordinary poster
paint is safer. When writing out a part, and there is no
obvious bar for the turn-over, it is a good idea to make the
turn come at a different bar on each copy, as otherwise with
very young players you may hear nothing but silence from
the back desks. It is also worth sub-editing the printed music
for the same reason, rewriting a few bars of one page in the
margin of the next, as some people cannot memorise even a
few bars; thus the whole orchestra does not have to turn over
at the same time,
Some important precautions
WHEN working up for a concert, don't forget to practise
turning over silently, and also 'Operation Broken String',
when the spare fiddle, which you have so thoughtfully put
ready, is handed to the player whose instrument has come to
grief. These should always be available at rehearsals, for even
CONDUCTING AND RUNNING AN ORCHESTRA 39
grown-up players find It a tedious business to fit and tune a
At a concert the conductor must allow plenty of time to
make sure that each instrument is in tune. Small-sized violins
go out of tune very quickly in (we hope!) a crowded concert
hall. It is worth having an older player amongst the orches-
tra, perhaps playing the viola, who can help tune during the
break between pieces. It is difficult for very young players to
hear if their fiddles are out of tune in the noise and confusion
of the orchestra. The best way is for the conductor to call for
unison playing of each string in turn, so that anyone miles off
the note can be quickly spotted.
When the orchestra contains some enthusiastic but not
specially skilled players, rather than having to ask them not
to play (with their proud parents already in the front row) it is
often possible to arrange a 'utility' version of the piece being
played. Better than to let their inexpert playing spoil the
effect, make them leave out the difficult bars, trills and
turns, the very * black* passages and any very high, exposed
notes. You can simplify the part by putting the viola part an
octave higher or by introducing a long sustained note or even
a comforting row of rests until the worst is over. These keen
young players should not be left out.
The first concerts
THE very first concerts can be quite a strain on the audience,
however nearly related they may be to the players ! But it is no
good having an orchestra if it does not give concerts. You
must have something to work for, even if it is only a run
through the term's work in front of the school's devoted
daily helps. (They make a most kindly and uncritical audi-
ence.) But the secret is to play only bright and fairly quick-
moving tunes. If there is a marked rhythm the out-of-tune
notes will be less noticeable and quickly over! And keep to
sharp keys. The flat keys on stringed instruments in the early
stages should be kept for home consumption only
40 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
The conductor as librarian
AT school the conductor is usually librarian as well, and he
will have to find a simple and quick way of storing the music.
One of the difficulties is that the orchestra will often be work-
ing on two or more pieces in the same edition. This is very
confusing and wastes much time collecting the music at the
end of the session. You will find that marking the parts with
coloured paper is excellent. Get a packet of the sticky
coloured-paper squares sold in one-shilling packets for
children. Cut it into labels, and put one on each part, back
and front; and on the score put one also on a tie-on label. The
music should then be put in a polythene bag and tied with
string or tape, so that you can see at a glance what is on the
shelf. The gay colours help, as you can then say to some child,
* Get the red polychordia ' or the * green folk-dance suite ' and
so on. Music not in current use, or 'not wanted on voyage',
should include besides the title, composer and the number of
parts, some useful notes about each piece, a record of any
snags encountered when it was performed, and even the
amount of stars you feel it deserves, both from the players'
point of view and from that of 'audience appeal'. These
should be included for your successor or another generation
of players. And don't forget to re-order torn or lost parts be-
fore you put the music away.
The music for very young players should all be pasted on
cardboard, even if this means buying two copies. They will
use this music a great deal, but for a very short time; how-
ever, if covered with cellophane or varnished, it will last for
numberless beginners. The cardboard does help to stop the
music being blown off the stand each time a late-comer opens
the door. Music is so expensive that children must be taught
to take great care of it. It is a good idea if the young people's
pocket-money be augmented so that they can pay for their
own music. If returned in good order the teacher can buy it
back for another younger child.
If you are taking a number of stands to an orchestral
CONDUCTING AND RUNNING AN ORCHESTRA 41
rehearsal, a rug strap is excellent, or one of those rubber
expanding 'spiders' used for car roof-racks, which can
be bought in cycle shops.
EVERY amateur orchestra, which, as well as being a musical
enterprise, serves as a social gathering, should have a break in
the middle for a gossip and a nice cup of tea. The players
may have already had a long day and travelled some distance.
Sometimes lack of keenness is just plain tiredness, and a
short * half -time* is very reviving.
It is immensely hard work to run an amateur orchestra, but
so very rewarding. Perhaps it is the most fun of all, as the
really fearful noise at the beginning will give way, after some
weeks of careful rehearsing, to an amazingly high standard.
Anyone lucky enough to have played in a well-run amateur
orchestra with an inspiring conductor who was a born
f hander-on* will have an enormous experience of music
from the inside that no amount of listening can possibly give.
Even now, when I hear music that I played long years ago, I
see again the Parish Room in the grey North country, and
remember the mounting excitement as we took ojir places
and began to tune : all the comic incidents and the delightful
friends we made amongst the varied collection of musicians -
the taxi-driver, the schoolmistress, and the reporter -and
the fun we had, I wouldn't have missed for worlds.
What shall I sing?
TO MOST people singing is one of the greatest joys.
Although lately there has been some most successful
instrumental teaching in schools, few children will ever
be able to play a difficult instrument, such as the violin,
well enough to make a really musical sound on it, and very
few will ever be able to get beyond the elementary stage; on
the other hand a children's choir under a good teacher can
reach the very highest standard. The nearly perfect singing
of children's choirs in such gatherings as the Westmorland
Festival, and of course the cathedral choirs up and down
the country, cannot be compared with the instrumental
classes in schools or festivals, many of which can only, at
best, be described as a cheerful noise. Many people feel that
too mucli time and money is being spent on these instru-
mental classes at the expense of singing. Used as a means of
discovering the children who are musically gifted enough to
benefit by individual lessons, or as a specially valuable intro-
duction to music, they are excellent. But as the Chief Inspec-
tor of Music, himself an instrumentalist of front rank,
says - singing should always be at the base of all musical
Non-singers are not always unmusical
As has been said before, Nature's instrument is not the
violin - it is the human voice. Everyone should sing, whether
he has a voice or not.
The people who do not seem to be able to keep on the note
should be given individual teaching, as most of them will be
WHAT SHALL I SING? 43
able to join the choir by the time they are eleven or so. Some
people sing well at two, others gain control of their singing
muscles later, but even if they can't sing, it must not be
taken for granted that they are unmusical. I once met a most
successful choir trainer who owned that she could not sing
a note! They may be keen listeners and real musicians, and
if given a chance might easily learn an instrument.
When to begin singing
MUSICAL children of two can often sing quite well, and that
is the age to begin. Anyhow, start by teaching them all the
wonderful old nursery rhymes by singing them yourself,
but remember that all music for very young children must
be slow and quiet. c Little Bo-Peep ' is ideal, and so is * Hush-
a-bye Baby'; also 'Boys and Girls come out to play* and
* Oranges and Lemons '. Choose the tunes that have no large
intervals. Tolly put the Kettle on* is quite difficult, especi-
ally the second strain. There are dozens of lovely ones in
The Baby's Bouquet and Baby's Opera which have wonder-
ful illustrations, though some of the verses are rather alarm-
ing! But these can be bowdlerised for the non-readers. If,
for some reason, the words to a good tune are unsuitable,
just teach it to 'la'- it is better than some meaningless or
After the traditional nursery rhymes there are wonderful
collections of folk-songs and national songs -an endless
variety for every age and mood. Parents and teachers must
see that children have every opportunity to learn these
wonderful old songs and tunes. It is a good plan to keep a
song-book in the picnic basket. Long, dull car journeys and
going to school in the morning can be splendidly enlivened
by singing. In this way you will find that the children become
familiar with hundreds of tunes even The Beggar's Opera,
Purcell and Handel - and it's a grand way to start
44 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
How to begin singing
SINGING is also the simplest medium for teaching staff
notation. If this was really well taught from the beginning
as an ordinary class subject, one of the stumbling-blocks to
learning an instrument later would be overcome. The use of
sol-fa, though admirable for some purposes, creates much
confusion when it comes to reading on an instrument, and
following a conductor, and there doesn't seem to be much
point in studying two methods. Ability to count is essential
and you must learn to write music. It is really very simple,
and it is the only way to keep for ever the tunes you are
sure to hear on the wireless, from friends, or even in films.
Amongst the tunes I have collected are a folk-song I heard
played by a monk on an organ in Florence, the tune * Little
Fish' out of that splendid film Captains Courageous -, and the
* Bells of Vendome *, which I first heard at a French Brownie
meeting - all safe in my music diary.
A good voice is not essential
FOR most people, singing means singing in church and
round the piano at home, to the cream separator or the
Hoover, or to the wireless; (try the Schools' broadcasts on
Mondays, * Singing Together'). But even if you have no
special voice you should try to join a choir and take part in
some big choral work, such as the Messiah or the Sea
Symphony. Nothing can be quite so inspiring or exhilarat-
ing. For choral singing a voice is not required; perhaps it's
even a disadvantage. Anyone who can sing in tune and read
fairly well will find that keeping a part is simple with a large
number of other people. So many organisations and institu-
tions have choirs, that some time in your career you will get
a chance. No child should miss the opportunity of singing
in one of the musical festivals, where the choirs combine
to sing some choral music under a well-known conductor.
The individual voices need not be very special, but the
children's enthusiasm, freshness and enjoyment of the
WHAT SHALL I SING? 45
music result in really splendid singing under a skilled
Where there is a good choirmaster a boy will learn a great
deal, and get tremendous pleasure out of singing in a church
choir. It is a fine discipline and provides a wonderful oppor-
tunity to become familiar with some of the most glorious
music ever written. Many of the loveliest solos can be tackled
successfully by quite young boys, and it is a fine thing to
have learnt as a child something like * I Waited for the Lord*
and 'My Heart ever Faithful'. They will be in Ms memory
whenever he needs them. Such music makes a lasting im-
ANY boy who, by the time he is seven, seems to have a clear,
true voice and a good ear, who is attentive, intelligent, and
who has been brought up to attend church regularly, might
well be considered for a choir scholarship. There are many
choir schools all over the country run in connection with
cathedral choirs, where the boys receive a first-class educa-
tion on the lines of a preparatory school. Some can even con-
tinue their education right up to the time when, their voices
having broken and settled down, they are ready to rejoin the
choir as tenors and basses. This is a wonderful opportunity
for a musical boy. By the time he is seven or so it will be appa-
rent whether he would have a chance of a scholarship. For the
test he would be asked to sing a song up to the standard of,
say, 'The First NoeP and be able to sing any three notes of a
triad, know his notes, and perhaps be able to read something
about the difficulty of a hymn tune. He must have a feeling
for music, and want to sing. The scholarship will pay for his
schooling and his board. Most choir-boys come from families
where music is a family tradition, but not always. Contrary
to what parents might imagine, I can say from first-hand
experience that choir-boys are just as happy, shining, lively
and high-spirited, and as likely to gain a scholarship to a good
46 WH&T CAN I PLAY?
public school, as any other boys. They get tremendously
keen and interested in the music; the rehearsals and choir
practices do not seem to burden them, since the work is care-
fully planned, and although they do spend Christmas and
Easter away from home so as to take part in special services,
they seem from all accounts to come in for a lot of fun,
owing to the many kindly people connected with th.e cathe-
For families with several boys to educate, a chance for
some of them to spend impressionable years as choristers
amid wonderful surroundings, is well worth thinking about.
Anyone wanting more information should write to the Royal
School of Church Music, Croydon.
Sample tests for prospective choristers
THOUGH no special preparation is recommended, simple tests
are given to discover alert, intelligent boys with promising
voices. Music sight-reading is not expected, but it is always
an advantage if a boy has had lessons in either piano, violin or
elementary singing, They will be asked to sing a simple song
A good ear is essential and they would be asked to sing any
note of a triad, repeat a simple melodic test, and clap a simple
A song should be chosen that the boy enjoys singing and
something he knows very well, of about the difficulty of
'the First Noel', 'I Saw Three Ships', 'Dashing away with
the Smoothing Iron*, or * Golden Slumbers'. Whenever
possible, a few terms' singing lessons are a great advantage
and, of course, so is a general introduction to music on the
lines of the suggestions in the first few chapters.
Singing in adolescence
MANY people ask whether boys should be allowed to sing
during adolescence. It is now geaerally accepted that gentle
singing within a small compass is to be recommended for
WHAT SHALL I SING? 47
both boys and girls for the exercise and pleasure it gives, but
complicated part singing and the roaring out of choruses that
result in strain should never be allowed.
Everyone should sing
EVERYONE, however little voice he may have, should have a
few good songs that he can sing, if need be. Songs with
catchy, easily picked-up choruses, and words which tell a
story, such as 'The Raggle Taggle Gypsies* and 'The Laird
of Cockpen*, some of the Sea Shanties and the Border
Ballads are as effective today as they were when they were
written more than four hundred years ago; and there should
be one or two to amuse children. There are times when some
good songs can save the situation; snowed up in a ski-ing
hut, becalmed in a sailing boat, or just to fill in time waiting
for something to happen.
The curious thing is that people who, when they were
young, had stringy little voices, may easily find as they get
older (and perhaps more portly) that they actually sing better.
They have more tone, and more to put into the song. You
need never stop singing!
THE art of whistling is not appreciated as it should be. A real
virtuoso is a delight to listen to, and it is so entirely indivi-
dual that no two performers will whistle the same tune in the
A whistler should indeed cultivate the art. He should listen
to others and try to pick up any little trills, tricks, * warbles'
and special effects that he can, and practise to get a good, full
tone and a wide range. The good whistler usually has an
especially good ear, and so is invaluable to his companions,
since he will be able to recall music that they have forgotten.
I have listened to a good performer whistling whole move-
ments from classical symphonies.
48 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Good whistlers, girls as well as boys, should be encouraged
to become even better at performing on the most portable,
and the most cheerful, instrument of all.
'Shanty-OP Campion RRV 1001.
EVERYONE who possibly can should have a few terms on
the piano. It Is probably the easiest Instrument for most
people to play; anyhow a great number of people manage to
play it very well.
The pupil likely to become a first-class pianist Is usually
apparent fairly soon. But everyone, from the pupils who may
become professional pianists down to the ones who, even if
they work really hard, will never get very far, must each be
considered Individually, so that they will each get the most
out of the time they spend learning music. There Is ob-
viously no sense in making the pupils who will never get on
to a platform except to present a bouquet to someone else, go
on and on struggling with one set of exam pieces in order to
gain a certificate, when they could be learning worth-while
music that they would enjoy playing all their lives. There is
plenty of wonderful music by the great masters that is
technically very simple, actually far easier to play than much
modern music, which will be difficult to remember in years
to come. Even if a pupil is only able to play the Anna
Magdalene pieces, a few nursery rhymes, plantation songs,
traditional tunes, a good march, one or two hymns, and a
convincing rendering of the National Anthem, no one will
think he has wasted his time, and he will think gratefully of
old Miss T for the rest of his days.
Sizing up a pupil
THE experienced teacher will soon size up a pupil, and find
JO WHAT CAN I PLAY?
out what kind of music he will eventually want to play. A
good dance-band pianist needs just the same solid grounding
as a classical pianist, and even those whose lives seem dedi-
cated to swing and pop have to learn scales and exercises and
start by playing the works of the classical masters; but this is
just as well, as the craze for jazz may fade, while Mozart,
Bach and Beethoven can last a lifetime.
How to start a young beginner
MUSICAL children of three can start to pick out tunes they
know on the piano. Suitable ones will be found in the list
on p. 162. It is best to mark middle C with stamp paper.
Having taught 'Little Bo Peep' as a song some time before,
you will find it is the best tune to start with on the piano.
The first two bars are easy. Let the child play them, and then
play 'and doesn't know where to find them' yourself.
Teach these bars, join them and then gradually string it all
together. Another good tune to begin with is 'Hot Cross
Buns*. The mother plays * Hot Cross * and the child comes in
each time with * Buns'. It is worth teaching children certain
easy tunes, even if they are not so well known, so that when
they are ready to learn the piano the tunes are already
familiar. Some German and French folk-songs are splendid.
There are a number of especially suitable ones that have been
well tried out on generations of beginners, in my book The
Band Book. They are, of course, in keys suited to early
efforts on stringed instruments, but they are easily trans-
posed into C. If the whole of a tune is not very easy,
such as 'Fr&re Jacques', the parent can always play the
'Sonnez les Marines' bars, the child joining in again with
The adult learner
IT is quite possible to learn to play the piano very well in-
deed, even starting after schooldays. Many people, finding
* ... the merrier we'll be!'
52 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
themselves with the time and a piano discover they are able
to take it up. Quite a number of people have become splendid
players, starting at over thirty. There are some good tutors
if no teacher is available.
THE loud or sustaining pedal may be likened to vibrato on the
violin: its correct use makes just all the difference to the music.
It has been said to be the 'soul of the piano'. There is an old-
fashioned school of thought which holds that the pedal must
never be used until a pupil has been learning for so many
terms or years. I feel it should be taught as soon as possible,
even at the first lesson for any beginner over about ten, and
gradually introduced into pieces. A good way is for the
teacher to play a series of chords in the lower register, and
for the child to start using the pedal to each chord, counting
*one, up-down', 'two, up-down', 'three, up-down', etc.,
until pedalling off the beat becomes automatic. Pedalling on
the beat must be taught too, as some very good pianists
never use it at all. The pedals can be raised by having
wooden blocks put on them, or better still sections of
rubber - a fiddly job, but well worth while for a young
The reading desk
THERE is one snag I have never been able to get around -
perhaps someone will write in with a solution and that is
what to do for young pianists when the only available piano is
a large grand, the reading desk of which is set a long way
back, and which is also so high that the child has the greatest
difficulty in seeing the music. The only answer I have found
so far is to remove the let-down cover on the keys, and to put
an ordinary folding reading-desk, or one made of solid card-
board, under the lid. This is very awkward and clumsy.
I wonder if there is a simpler answer?
THE PIANO 53
Duets and two piano duets
DUET playing on one piano, or better still two pianos, is
very enjoyable. There is plenty of music, such as arrange-
ments of Mozart piano concertos, operas, Gilbert and
Sullivan, etc., to be found in good music libraries, and which
can often be hired, and of course plenty of music has been
specially written for two pianos. Duets are particularly suc-
cessful in families who seem to play naturally together; they
don't need to discuss repeats or rallmtandos and other ex-
pression marks; they just slow down at the same speed! If
you can improvise and play from memory, and you can
find a kindred spirit who has the same ideas, there is nothing
so delightful as a good old rattle on two pianos. And there is
no better way to teach the piano. If it is humanly possible, do
get hold of a second piano, especially if you have a really
musical child and can coach him - or get the teacher to come
to the house, because even the most reluctant pupil can be
persuaded to play each hand separately and simply must
read and keep up to time with the second piano. Put up with
the look of the room for a time, it is well worth it! Every-
thing should be done to encourage him to learn to play really
confidently and musically, and all the talking is as nothing
compared with a demonstration. Besides, it is such great fun
and so much more interesting for both pupil and teacher.
Playing for dancing
ONE of the most delightful uses of a musical gift is playing
for dancing. You must really love dancing yourself, and feel
the rhythm and beat of the music. I suppose there are really
good dance-music players who play from the music, but I
haven't met one. The pianist with her nose buried in the
printed copy can't be enjoying the dance like the person who
is actually watching. I have never been able to decide which I
love best - dancing myself, or getting the others to dance,
but now, as I am too out of breath to do anything but the
54 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
slowest strathspeys, I can still be part of the fun, playing for
Only a pianist can stop dead when someone has gone wrong,
and can scoop them back into the dance by judiciously repeat-
ing a phrase, so much easier than finding the right place when
re-starting a record. But she must know the dance, and perhaps
the dancers, and of course the tune backwards and inside out.
As these tunes have to be repeated over and over again, you
should be able to play them in various keys and with different
harmonisations. This is great fun, and one of the gifts not
always given to highly professional pianists. It is quite a
special, almost a magical, gift and if you have it you must
make use of it. Study and practise hard. Ideas from jazz
pianists are immensely valuable. They have different ideas
of pedalling, some of which can brighten up the music so
much that people simply have to dance. Remember not to
play too fast. A metronome is essential until you have decided
the right tempo. Small children dance more slowly than
highly skilled adults.
To quote from the excellent preface to the Pianists' Folk
Dance Book by Michael Bell, which should be read by all
intending pianists, 'A typical reel should suggest "oom,
char-oom char-oom" rather than "oom-char oaTrc-char'Y
This is very important. Think of this while playing "Cock o'
the North ' for example.
You should have a good repertoire of the enchanting
traditional music of Britain, so that you can play for all the
various dance rhythms - reels, strathspeys, jigs and country
dances, tunes which are, perhaps, amongst the most generally
beloved of all our national music. They have such splendid
names, recording some historical event, a family joke, or a
famous dancer such as the * Seven Men of Moidart', 'Jenny's
Bawbee 9 and The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh'.
Listen to famous bands on the wireless and television, and
practise so that you can play the piano (any piano, by the
way!) for hours on end.
THE PIANO 55
Playing far ballroom dancing
PLAYING for ballroom dancing, too, can be learnt from an
expert; two pianos are ideal for this. Playing for dancing
classes, Music and Movement and Keep Fit - and above all
accompanying, are excellent sidelines for the competent
player who is not of concert rank.
Even if you can't call yourself a pianist you can probably be
a most useful person if you can help out at children's parties
for musical bumps, 'Nuts in May' and 'Oranges and
Lemons*. It's so much more fun with music. You may not be
able to manage the Moonlight Sonata, but you may never
be asked for it, and if you can play 'The Gay Gordons', the
* Palais Glide' and 'Sir Roger' for twenty minutes on end,
you'll be in enormous demand. You can keep it dark that
this is the full extent of your repertoire!
IF you are a good reader, why not have some lessons on the
organ, and so be able to play for a service in an emergency?
To lead congregational singing is very inspiring. The point-
ing of the psalms may seem confusing at first, but is easier if
you are able to play the chant from memory; you should
learn a few well-known ones by heart. Some of your old
'pieces' learnt years ago at school will come in for volun-
taries, though there are suggestions in the list on p. 166. Do
keep a copy of the two wedding marches handy - they are so
ANY young players who are really musical and sympathetic
should be taught to accompany other people. It needs a lot of
practice. You must be able to read the solo part at the same
time as your own accompaniment, and keep more than one
eye on the player or singer. You must be prepared to skip a
bar - or add a few extra if need be - and go on playing even
if there is a page missing in your part, or the music falls off
56 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
the desk. After all this, it is the soloist who gets the applause,
and you'll be lucky if you can get in just a small bow.
All the same it is very thrilling, especially if you get a
chance of playing for a famous artist. It's just like playing
tennis with an expert, you didn't know you were so good -
they lead and you follow and yet you feel you're doing it all
yourself. Good accompanists are rare. There are many
superb players and singers who wander miles away from the
written music, and why not ? But they do need someone who
will follow them, not just play blindly on. It is possible to
make a competitor win or lose a competition by your accom-
panying. Learn to keep them company and you'll be in great
demand to help and encourage nervous people on to the plat-
form, or your choir into the finals. This is an especially sensible
study for the not too brilliant solo pianist. You'll have to take
some lessons on a fiddle and learn about the bowing and other
snags, and also really understand wind instruments and breath-
ing in singing if you are thinking about being a serious accom-
panist but they always make a good living. At least a term
on an instrument in each family would be very worth while.
How to keep up the pupil's interest
EVEN the most gifted child is bound to find practising a bore
from time to time. Teachers must try to introduce variety
into the music lessons, and find practical uses for music,
such as playing for assembly, community singing, dancing
class or gym. There should be plenty of small informal con-
certs and other landmarks. Music exams in the early stages
mean working far too long on one set of pieces. I can't really
see much point in spending so much money and time in
order to have your name in the paper! But perhaps they do
encourage young learners, though I should have thought a
chance to play at a small concert for parents, with tea and
buns afterwards, would have taken less time, and been less
expensive and more fun, besides giving the mothers a chance
to talk to the teacher.
THE PIANO 57
Noise of practising
IN many houses the piano is necessarily kept in the only
sitting-room, so teachers must aim at teaching touch and
dynamics from the very beginning. In this way, even the
very first efforts are as pleasing as possible. The problem of
what to do about flat dwellers seems insoluble. There may
be no other way but to confer with the neighbours and ask
when the least inconvenient times to practise would be,
though there are ways of deadening the sound, such as
putting the piano on rubber feet, surrounding it with special
sound-absorbing material and taking care not to put it
against a party wall, etc. But the obvious answer is that
all blocks of flats should have a few sound-proof cubicles in
the basement which could be hired by the tenants at certain
times, and where any amount of noise could be enjoyed,
where young people could play the bagpipes or the piano
accordion to their hearts' content, and really hard-working
people could study in peace and quiet, away from television,
unco-operative parents and young children. This idea seems
obvious, so let us hope this book will reach the people con-
cerned, and we shall soon have sound-proof rooms in all new
Buying a piano
IF ever there was a need for expert advice it is when buying a
piano - and advice from someone who is not influenced by
the condition of the case, which is all that apparently sells
pianos in newspaper advertisements. A good piano tuner is
the best person to ask; he'll know what to look for. Generally
speaking, a good old piano of a well-known make is to be pre-
ferred to a modern, brand-new piano. A grand piano is
sometimes only grand in appearance. A good over-strung
upright piano will have a better tone than a cheap baby grand.
Cases can often be restored by the new owner himself if he is
of the 'do-it-yourself persuasion. The snag is that a really
ancient piano may have been built to a much lower pitch, or
58 WHAT CAN I FLAY?
sometimes a much higher one. The tuner may advise re-
tuning them to their original pitch, otherwise they may go
out of tune very quickly. This would not matter to a begin-
ner, unless he had an unusually good ear, or had 'absolute
pitch* (see p. 148), or unless he wanted to play with other
instruments. If you can find a real old bargain you should not
be too bothered, as ears can be re-trained; the great thing to
do is to be sure to get hold of a piano and learn to play \
Pianos should be tuned twice a year, and cleaned inside
and out, and some moth-proofing powder should be sprinkled
over the pads by the tuner. If you can keep an electric heater
in the piano (there are special ones made) it will not suffer
from being kept in an unheated room, or from not being
played on very often. These heaters are specially valuable in
The cost of a piano
UPRIGHT pianos cost from five to thirty pounds for a poor
one, or from sixty to two hundred and fifty for a good one.
Second-hand grands cost upwards of a hundred and fifty
pounds and new grands up to seven hundred and fifty.
How to fit a piano into a modern flat
I HAVE heard of cases where young people, though real
musicians, can't bear to spoil the look of the really enchant-
ing flat they have so excitingly decorated, and have left the
piano with Mother. There never seems a right time to bring
it over, and they gradually learn to do without it. Such an
awful pity. With a little ingenuity even the most desperate
piano can be fitted into an attractive room, be it all fancy
wallpapers and antiques, or the last word in contemporary
If you really want the piano to fade away into the back-
ground until you need it, take a strong line and cover it com-
pletely with stick-on plastic film, then wallpaper over the film
or even distemper it! Covered with a gay rug, a cashmere
THE PIANO 59
shawl, or even a tiger skin, it can become quite a feature.
Boxed In with removable hardboard panels it can make a
splendid room divider, especially when surrounded by
ladder-type shelving (old play-pens from the local junk
shop). This makes extra storage room for a projector, music,
even skis and boots and other gear and open shelves for the
inevitable trailing plants, stuffed birds and other treasure-
trove. Don't be beaten by its rather unpromising Victorian
exterior! The grand that you get landed with can be some-
thing of a problem, but do remember that if you sell it you
may get twenty-five pounds, and when you want to buy
another one you may have to pay five hundred, so It is well
worth while making it fit in somewhere. Again, plastic film Is
useful, since it does make a really scratch-proof surface,
especially if you use two layers, the first direct on to the wood
so that you can peel it off easily, the second with the backing
paper left on, pasted on to the plastic film. Alternatively, fit
a ' Formica' top. Grand pianos are immensely strong, and
will even make an emergency bunk if necessary, with a
rubber mattress. Don't let it go during the years when ready
cash and space seem so precious. The baby in the pram may
be demanding a piano in ten years' time. If you really 'can't
take it with you' do what we have done with a veteran
Broadwood, built about 1840, and bought for five pounds.
Advertise it in the local paper and lend it to a church hall for
During the war, when we all moved round so much, I did
find that if I took our own lampshades, cushion-covers, one
good picture, and the old schoolroom piano, any furnished
rooms could be made to feel like home!
The violin or fiddle
THE VIOLIN is the best known of the string family, and is
possibly the most beautiful of all musical instruments.
Although it is the most difficult to play, it redeems all the
time spent on learning it, because no other instrument
allows of such individual playing. A fiddle player need never
be lonely; he has a companion for all his leisure hours. With
reasonable practice he will go on improving all his life.
The violin has a wide compass, from G below middle C up
to three or more octaves. There are dozens of ways of pro-
ducing one note, the fingering as well as the bowing varying
the tone quality. The player is always discovering new
effects. As well as being the finest solo instrument, the violin
takes part in every kind of orchestra and dance-band, and in
There are innumerable competent pianists, but never too
Learning the fiddle
As I have said more fully on p. 28, a child can be introduced
to the violin when very young, if you can get hold of a very
small instrument, by being taught to play on the open strings,
in time to the music, and holding the body of the instrument
with the left hand, as in the third position. Thus, when he is
ready for serious lessons, at, say, about nine and a half years
old, he will already be familiar with the idea of playing.
Should the parents want the child to make music his life's
THE VIOLIN OR FIDDLE 6l
work, he should begin rather earlier, but then he will prob-
ably have someone to help him at home.
If there is no one able to accompany the child, see if you
can get hold of a tape-recorder, and get someone to record
some good plain chords and a cheerful tune to which he can
play good, long, strong, bold notes on the open strings. The
scales of A and D should at first always be played with two
notes to each degree of the scale. (If the first note is a bit out
of tune there is always hope for the second!) Parents who
have a copy of my book of music for young players, The
Band Book (O.U.P. 5$.), will find that the piece * St. Patrick's
Day' makes a splendid accompaniment for open string
practice, and * The Bells of Vendome * for the first two fingers.
On a tape-recorder the teacher can even record useful re-
minders, such as 'Bend your wrist', 'Hold it up', etc. The
accompaniments give plenty of confidence, for, the first
scratchy notes being partly submerged, the young players
feel that they are really playing and it's all 'super fun*.
Again, if you have no piano, it is best to buy a mouth-
organ or a good English recorder in the key of D and learn
to tune from one of them. They are easier to tune from than a
tuning-fork, which is expensive and easily lost.
STARTING to learn the violin after you are quite grown tip has
many advantages. You really want to learn and are not just
being 'made to do music'. You can read the musical nota-
tion, or will soon learn, and you probably play the piano a
little, sing and can concentrate for longer. Of course your
fingers won't be so supple and you'll mind the out-of-tune
notes more. You'll need a friendly accompanist just as much,
but you can work the tape-recorder yourself and record
your progress, which is very useful and helpful. A sym-
pathetic teacher will allow you to have 'props' such as stamp-
paper frets on the fingerboard of the cello, and elastoplast on
the neck, for your thumb position, so that the correct place
62 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
for each finger soon becomes a habit; you don't need to
experiment and you'll soon make headway. You will have to
understand that you may never achieve a first-class technique,
but with hard work you will be able to play with an orchestra,
taking a simple part, and that is immensely rewarding.
An adult beginner, and certainly an intelligent musical
child, should be allowed to study vibrato almost at once, so
that as soon as his technique is safe enough he will have it 'in
stock' and can make use of it where needed. It makes all the
difference to tone production. I also insist on dynamics from
the very first. This is so much more important on a stringed
instrument than on anything else, as of course forte passages
are bowed differently from pianissimo.
Buying a violin
A GOOD student's model can be bought from four pounds
upwards. A cheap, but correctly fitted violin with tested
strings of good quality and a comfortable chin rest is much
easier to play than a really good violin with a badly fitted
bridge and poor strings. So many children are expected to
play on impossible violins. The fitting should be done by an
expert, not left to the music-shop assistant or the teacher.
The young violinist should always have a spare fitted bridge
in his case. Pads are nearly always necessary, and for very-
youthful players can be held in place with a rubber band, or
put inside the jacket. Many teachers recommend a shoulder
rest, of which there are several models available, and though
they are expensive, costing from two pounds, they are well
worth while, since the fiddle rests securely on the shoulder,
freeing the left arm from any effort needed to hold it up.
A teacher would recommend the best model after a child
has had a few terms' lessons.
Strings and bows
ONE of the snags of learning a stringed instrument is the
THE VIOLIN OR FIDDLE 63
replacement of the strings. A very young player can make a
start without an E string (usually the most easily broken),
Wire E's should never be used by the very small players,
nor by an older pupil until he is really careful and under-
stands how to tune them. Nylon and metal can be obtained
and are splendid. They last for months and do not go out of
tune nearly so easily.
Except in the case of a very young violinist expense should
not be spared in the choice of a bow. Bows should be re-
haired once a year and kept well resined and dean.
Choosing and looking after a violin
THERE are several sizes of violin for children. A child should
not have one that is too big. The smaller violins cost the same
as cheap, full-sized ones. The instrument must be kept warm,
clean and in perfect order. Care and affection for tie violin
should be part of the training - sometimes an old violin is
seen to be very dusty and dirty inside. The best way to clean
it is to put in a spoonful of rice.
If there is already a violin in the family it should be taken
to a reliable firm and valued and thoroughly overhauled
before being played. It is advisable to keep any very valuable
instrument at home, and to invest in another cheaper one for
school use. An old violin is very easily broken.
Violins get out of order in damp climates; however, there
is a special glue which is used for instruments to be taken
abroad. They should be kept in strong wooden boxes inside
Fiddle players should never chase about on bicycles,
carrying a violin-case in their hands. I have heard there are
some excellent canvas cases made to carry instruments on
your back, but have not been able to run them to earth. No
doubt they will soon be for sale in all music shops as the
fashion for scooters grows, but an ordinary, large rucksack
is very useful.
64 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Music for the violin
BESIDES the great wealth of solo and orchestral music for the
violin, there is plenty of music of all kinds that can be
played by very modest performers. Many classical sonatas
are fairly simple and much of the music for string orchestras
is quite elementary, apart from which there are hundreds of
collections of pieces for every grade - traditional tunes, reels
and dances and popular music of every kind. Players unable
to tackle concertos need not despair. They should aim at
playing the music they can play, just as musically as possible.
Beethoven. Violin Concerto in D. Op. 61. 33 CX 1194.
Mozart. Sonatas for Violin and Piano. K. 481 and 296.
The viola, cello, and doiible bass
THE VIOLA is the tenor of the violin family. It is bigger
than the violin, and is tuned A I> G C* It is an essential
instrument in the orchestra, and has a slightly more reedy
tone than the violin. The music for the viola is written in the
alto and treble clefs.
When to learn the viola
ANYONE with no previous knowledge of a stringed instrument,
especially anyone under fourteen, is recommended by most
teachers to spend a few terms on the violin since it is much
lighter to hold, and until the arms are accustomed to the
position, the smaller instrument is an advantage. But it is
perfectly possible to learn the viola straightaway, and most
grown-up players would find it preferable.
Apart from the weight, the stretch is substantially greater.
It is, therefore, not a suitable instrument for a very young
player under about twelve, or for anyone with a small hand,
although it is wonderful what can be achieved with practice,
A violinist would be able to change to the viola very easily.
The alto clef is not at all difficult. The fingering can be
written in at the beginning of each line until the player is
familiar with reading in that clef.
Buying a viola
PROVIDED it has been fitted by an expert, and has really good
strings, an inexpensive viola is often quite satisfactory.
A school viola costs from six pounds fifteen shillings new,
66 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
but a good second-hand one can often be bought for five
pounds. A fairly heavy violin bow is used. Good viola tone
depends largely on good bowing, which is impossible with a
Violas vary in size, but an undersize viola cannot be recom-
mended. The small models do not produce the true viola
When buying new instruments for a school orchestra it is
worth buying two identical violas, if that is possible, because
these instruments vary a great deal, and if there are only a
few, it is very important that they should match in tone quality.
The advantages of learning the viola
THOUGH the technique of the viola is the same as the violin
the viola parts are on the whole simpler than the first and
second violin parts, except in modern chamber music. And
in much orchestral music the viola part is really very easy,
since the high positions are not much employed. So in fact as
soon as you are familiar with the two clefs, and can play in
tune with certainty - this is more difficult for the instruments
which play an inner part - you can become a useful member
of an orchestra. The viola is one of the rarer instruments
amongst amateurs and players are always in demand. Many
people have realised a life's ambition to play in an orchestra,
after being made to learn the viola by their grandchildren
in order to complete the family quartet. People with a real
feeling for harmony will get special interest and pleasure
from playing an inside part.
The viola, therefore, is an excellent second instrument for
a pianist who wants to take part in orchestral music, or for
anyone who has not a great deal of time for practice.
As well as being an orchestral instrument the viola can be a
very beautiful solo instrument. Where the tenor part in a
choir is rather weak, a viola can be most useful. It blends
especially well with the organ or harmonium, and can be
used to lead the singing where there is no choir.
THE VIOLA, CELLO AND DOUBLE BASS 67
Mmicfor the viola
THERE is not a great deal of solo viola music, but a number
of modern composers have written for it. A keen player will
soon learn to read in the treble def. A good deal of classical
violin and cello music can be played on the viola.
Bach. Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat. LXT 5512.
As well as forming the bass of the string family, the cello is
a fine solo instrument. It is possible to play every shade of
tone from fortissimo to pianissimo, as well as to produce per-
cussion effects. It is most versatile and sympathetic, and
always a favourite solo instrument. The cello is tuned
A D G C below middle C.
There is endless music for the cello, and a part in every
orchestra or band. Where there are several cellos, and other
instruments are missing, it can help out other parts, repro-
ducing easily the tone quality of other instruments.
The cello is not so scratchy as a violin, and the elementary
technique is easier to acquire, so that playing in the orchestra
is often attained quite soon. Most school orchestra cello parts
are very simple, and can be played after a term's lessons.
The cello is a great addition to a small group of players, and
can often play off a piano part.
Cellos are made in several small sizes, suitable for young
players with a very small stretch. A strong boy or girl with
the right personality can begin to play at eight years old.
(See p. 28.)
Learning the cello
IT is essential to keep the fingers down when playing the
cello. Therefore a child should not be given a full-size
instrument until he can stretch the extended positions com-
fortably. The increase of tone is of no use to him if he cannot
68 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
play in tune. Some grown-up players who did not begin
while their hands were supple may find that they can play
better on a good three-quarter instrument, rather than
guessing and * hopping ' on a full-size cello.
As with the violin, encouragement and help with practis-
ing is a real necessity for a young player.
To become a first-class soloist on the cello requires the
same amount of time and trouble as to become a first-class
violinist. But for the ordinary player the cello is certainly
easier, and progress quicker. A young player, who feels he
will not have much time for music once schooldays are over,
is strongly advised to take up the cello. He will be able to get
much more into the time, and will probably be able to play
in the school band after a term's lessons, or as soon as he can
play in tune with any certainty.
The cello is an excellent instrument for a conductor, or
for anyone who wants to have experience of playing in an
orchestra. And to anyone with a real sense of harmony, there
is something very fascinating about playing the foundation
of the chord. The cello player, as well as having strong and
supple hands, must have the right personality. The cello is
not a timid instrument.
All young players should get hold of a postcard size repro-
duction of Augustus John's magnificent portrait of Madame
Suggia in the Tate Gallery, and put it up where they can see
it when they are practising.
Buying a cello
PROVIDED it has been fitted by an expert, even a cheap cello
can have an excellent tone. A new cello can be bought from
twenty-five pounds or for less second-hand. A cello case
costs from three pounds. It is best to buy one that has a
music-case attached. A wooden case costs more, but it is not
always needed, and it is heavy. The strings cost from four
and tenpence a set, but with care do not need to be replaced
very often. A bow costs from forty-five shillings and
THE VIOLA, CELLO AND DOUBLE BASS 69
expense should not be spared; the best possible should be
A cello stands about five feet high. It is not really very
difficult to carry about, and wiE go in the back of a car
Music for the cello
THERE is abundant music of all sorts for the cello, both
orchestral and solo, and once the player has learnt to read
from the treble clef there is a lot of violin music which can be
There is a great deal of classical chamber music, and string
orchestra music, that can be played by cellists of the most
modest ability, as well as numerous trios and arrangements,
which are useful for the adult learner.
'The Cellist's Hour*, pieces played by Pierre Foumier
and Gerald Moore. 33 CX 1606.
The double bass
THE double bass is the largest of the string family, and also
the biggest orchestral musical instrument. It adds sonority
and depth to the ensemble, and is generally used to supply
the foundation of the harmony; it rarely plays anything in
the nature of a theme. Owing to its great size, the thickness
of its strings, etc., the bass is rather slow to speak, and is
happiest playing good, strong, solid notes rather than quick
scale passages. It is not really a solo instrument, though
naturally it is quite possible to play tunes on it. Plantation
songs can be very effective when played on the bass with
The bass is capable of nearly all the effects of a cello, but
they are rarely made use of. It can make every kind of sound
from a low growl to a rasping, rough, reedy note. Pizzicato
On the double bass is especially effective and is frequently
70 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
employed* In dance-bands it is nearly always used as a per-
The double bass in tte modern orchestra has four strings,
tuned to G A D E, two octaves below middle C. The music
is written in the bass clef, and the actual sound is an octave
below the note written.
The double bass, though not always considered essential
in an orchestra, has the effect of improving the tone of all the
other instruments when it can be included. This is especially
true of amateur orchestras. Conductors should spare no pains
to add a good bass to the ensemble.
Learning the bass
PROVIDED the player is the right type, the bass is certainly the
easiest of the stringed instruments to master, and a player
might well be included in the orchestra after a week or two's
lessons. Pieces of cellotape on the neck of the bass, which
can be felt by the thumb, are a useful short cut to playing in
tune, as it is almost impossible for the player to hear himself
playing at first, amidst the clamour of the orchestra. These,
and even frets on the fingerboard, will help to give him con-
fidence, which is important for the player of such a bold and
Most teachers would advise a term on the cello before
tackling the bass. The cello can be strung and fingered in the
same way as the bass, and the orchestral parts studied on the
smaller instrument. Where it is impossible to practise the
bass, for the reason perhaps that it cannot be taken home, the
learner will find this is a very good plan; after having
practised the notes and the bowing of his part, only a short
amount of practice on the larger instrument will be neces-
sary. There are practice basses made that do not take up so
much room, but these are disheartening instruments and are
not to be recommended.
As the bass stands some six feet high the player needs to be
at least five feet four inches in height, and fairly strong, with
THE VIOLA, CELLO AND DOUBLE BASS Jl
big hands. On the whole the bass is much more suited to
men, though girls often manage to pky it very well. Good
bowing requires a certain amount of power.
The bass is a fine instrument for the pianist who wants to
play in an orchestra. It is also an excellent instrument to sug-
gest to anyone whose daily occupation includes rough work,
and whose hands are not suited to an instrument requiring
delicate fingers. Again, the bass is the ideal instrument for
the player who says that he has ao use for classical music.
He can be persuaded to learn so as to play in a dance-band.
When once he can play he can choose again which music he
likes best. He is very likely to enjoy playing both!
There is a part for the double bass in all classical sym-
phonies, as well as in most classical string music, and in some
chamber music. It is extremely simple to write a double-bass
part to most school band music. A bass player should be
encouraged to learn to put in a simple part by ear, playing
pizzicato, and where the player is very inexperienced (see
notes) the strings can even be tuned up a semi-tone for music
that is written in flat keys.
A cellist would find he was able to play simple music on the
bass after a few hours' practice, and where there are two
school orchestras, it is quite usual for some of the older cello
players to play the double bass with the younger section.
Buying a bass
MOST orchestral societies possess a double bass which is
lent to the player. New, they cost from forty-seven pounds
or more, but a second-hand bass can often be bought from
twenty-five pounds. They are objects of which people tire;
and if you are lucky you may come in for a real bargain.
Generally, a second-hand bass is to be recommended, so long
as it has been well looked after, and is well fitted. A bow costs
about three pounds ten and a set of strings about two pounds
fifteen, but they last a very long time if treated with care. A
case of canvas costs about five pounds but basses are not
72 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
very particular, and are quite all right without a case in a safe,
dry place. Polythene or plastic can be wrapped round the
The old-fashioned bass
THE old-fashioned bass had three strings, but unless that is
the only one available, it is not to be recommended, since the
fingering has to be largely re-learnt; all the same, these old
basses can give good service. The alteration of fingering
necessary for a four-stringed model would not be difficult for
a keen player. These instruments can often be bought for a
song at sales, etc. They are a good deal smaller, which is a
usefiil consideration. It is sometimes worth having a three-
string converted to a four-string instrument. This might
come to more than the instrument cost, but would be worth
while all the same.
Storing the bass
STORING the bass often seems an insoluble problem because
if it is kept in a big room used for other purposes it will be
sure to have some adventures. A good way is to rig up a
tackle with loops round the waist, tail-pin, and neck of the
bass, and to haul it up into the roof.. The 'halyard' can
always be kept padlocked. It is a pity that many small
orchestras try to get along without a bass, because of the
trouble of storing it. Once an instrument has been secured,
players or willing learners appear like magic. A bass can be
carried quite well in a car with a sunshine roof, a roof-rack,
or a large boot. If it has no case it can wear a rug or coat when
travelling; a plastic mac', or even oilskins are excellent,
including the sou'wester.
Dittersdorf. Sinfonia Concertante. PMC 1078.
(Contributed by Mr. Jack Duarte)
IN THE first edition of this book (1944) the chapter on the
guitar said: c . . . is not often met with nowadays except in a
dance-band.' Now, in 1959, the guitar is almost a way of life,
and music shops have only recently been able to supply
enough guitars to meet the demand.
The guitar is a friendly and sociable instrument, and
guitarists are the most gregarious of musicians; the guitarist
in a strange town thinks first of any local guitarist he may
have heard of - and knows that he will be welcome if he calls
Spanish and plectrum guitars
ALTHOUGH all guitars have six strings and a fretted finger-
board, they are of two distinct kinds. The classical guitar,
sometimes called the Spanish or concert guitar, is musically
the most rewarding and the most expressive; it has a body
with flat back and front, a round sound-hole, and six strings
of nylon (the thickest three being wound with wire) which
are fixed directly to a bridge glued to the front of the body,
and which are struck with the fingers of the right hand. The
guitar used in jazz, dance music, and much light music, is
called the plectrum guitar, since its steel strings are struck
with a tortoiseshell or celluloid plectrum held in the right
hand. It is easily distinguished from the classical guitar,
having a body shaped rather like that of a violoncello -
with curved back and front, and two * f-shaped ' sound holes ;
74 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
its bridge merely carries the strings on their way to the end
of the guitar where they are anchored to a hinged tailpiece.
Unfortunately there are many cheap and nasty instruments
on the market which are unsuitable, either as instruments on
which to learn, or as investments! The inexperienced would-
be learner should first consult a teacher before buying a
guitar; most music shops are woefully ignorant of how to
judge guitars, and know little more than their price. Only
buy without advice if there is no one to help you - and even
this need never happen as you can always write for advice to
the editor of the B.M.G. Magazine (20 Earlham Street,
London, W.C.) or to his guitar contributors, Jack Duarte and
Learning the guitar
THE guitar can give you as much music as you are prepared
to work for; it is not an easy instrument to play properly
(no instrument is) but it is quite easy to learn a few chords
with which to accompany singing. Once you have a guitar,
however, you are not likely to be satisfied for long with what
real players call * the three-chord trick \ and you will want to
play more of the wonderful treasury of music that exists
for the guitar. For this reason you should not try to start
*in the middle' by learning those few chords, but should
begin right away with a good teacher -very few people
indeed ever start to learn properly and give up !
IF you live in or near London, you should certainly learn
at the Spanish Guitar Centre in Cranbourn Street (classical
guitar only) or the Central School of Dance Music in Wardour
Street (for the plectrum guitar) ; both Schools can advise on
and supply good instruments (you can begin safely on one
which costs as little as about twelve to fifteen pounds if
you take advice, but do not trust anything that costs less -
THE GUITAR 75
you have been warned!). The Spanish Guitar Goitre even
lends you an instrument free of charge until you have made
up your mind whether to go on learning or not.
Many L.C.C. and rural schools include guitar classes
(mostly as evening classes) which, though very reliable, are
not as thorough as those given by the two Schools men-
tioned above. There are good teachers in other parts of the
country, and advice about these can be got by writing to the
London Guitar Society (154 Norton Way, London, N.I4)
or by studying the 'Teachers' column in the B.M.G.
Magazine; as advertisements are not selective it is best to
write for advice.
Class tuition is as effective as lessons from a private teacher,
if it is well conducted. Not only is it much cheaper, it also
opens up contact with others who are interested in the
guitar. Whatever you do, do not try to teach yourself from a
book if it is humanly possible to find a teacher - he sees
mistakes you cannot see, and you can develop more bad and
cramping habits in a few weeks than a teacher can get rid
of in a year.
The advantages of learning the guitar
THE attractions of the guitar are innumerable - it is the only
instrument (apart from the piano and other keyboard in-
struments) that is entirely self-supporting, and needs no
accompaniment; it is the only instrument of that kind, other
than the more limited piano accordion, that can be carried
easily and kept under the bed. It is a quiet instrument com-
pared with most others, and it offends nobody even when
you are learning; the frets ensure that, if it is properly
tuned to begin with, all the notes are dead in tune, and there
is none of the torturing agony of *out-of-tuneness' with a
beginner; as it is so quiet it is ideal for playing in a flat, or
in the next room to the television; you can successfully play
any kind of music on the guitar, though the plectrum guitar
is best suited to the lighter kinds of music, and the classical
76 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
guitar Is most at home with everything from Spanish folk-
music (Flamenco) to Bach, and medieval lute music - with
most things in between. Added to this there is the feeling,
not paralleled by any other instrument, of belonging to a
large friendly family, for that is what guitar players are; you
can meet and play with them, write to them, read the various
magazines that are published for guitarists, and belong to the
numerous guitar societies and clubs that exist in many parts
of the country. Above all there are many good gramophone
records of fine guitar playing, and concerts of guitar music
(there is even an annual Guitar Festival in London); we
have in England two classical guitarists who are amongst the
verj best in the world- John Williams and Julian Bream;
Andres Segovia (the greatest guitarist in history) visits this
country once a year and plays in many cities.
Do not let it deter you that you cannot read music; music
is easily learned. In playing solo, in duets, in combination
with other instruments, or in accompanying the voice, the
guitar has boundless possibilities - so much so that few
people (including artists well known to the public) ever make
use of more than a tiny .fraction of them. If you think that
the guitar is just something to strum around the camp-fire,
under a balcony, or in a skiffle-group, then you have no idea
what you are missing! The guitar has an astonishing variety
of tone-colours, especially the classical guitar in the hands of
a real artist.
Whatever kind of music you want, the guitar can give it to
you, and it will, at the same tin^e, give you a lifetime of
pleasure such as few instruments can. You can even bask in
the mildly snobbish pleasure of reflecting that the guitar, type
of instrument is one of the very oldest in the world - but
never has it been so widely popular as it is today, when it
has 'struck a chord* of sympathy in so many people who re-
act against the growth of 'canned* and ready-made enter-
tainment and wish to create something real and beautiful
themselves, no matter how humbly.
THE GUITAR 77
Bach. Chaconne (Segovia). AXTL 1069.
Spanish music played by Laurindo Almeida. P. %73-
Pete Seeger's Guitar Guide (with instruction booklet).
iz T 20.
Other stringed instruments
THE UKELELE, a small and simple instrument of the
guitar pattern, has four strings, tuned to the key of the music
to be played; in the key of D they would be tuned A D F
sharp and B. It has a long fingerboard and usually a fretted
neck. The strings are generally of gut, though some dance-
band instruments have metal strings.
The music for the ukelele is written in special notation
called tablature, which is found printed above some dance
music and popular songs. It is not necessary to be able to
read ordinary music to follow it. But instead of blindly
following the tablature it is much better to know what chord
you are playing, so work through the chords on p. 143 in
Chapter 21, tuning your ukelele into the key of C.
The ukelele is quite easy to learn, and a player with a good
ear could master the most important chords in an hour or so.
A musical player, with an idea of harmonising, could soon
learn to accompany songs and play from piano accompani-
The main characteristic is the percussion effect. It is more
suitable for dance music than accompanying voices, though
as it is so easily carried about, it is especially suitable to take
on a walking holiday.
The ukelele costs from a pound to five pounds. There are
several good tutors available, and these can be supplied by any
George Formby. 'The Ukelele Man No. i. ' SEG 7550.
OTHER STRINGED INSTRUMENTS 79
THOUGH the banjo is a member of the guitar family the
sound-board is of parchment, stretched over a metal hoop,
and resembles a drum. There are usually five gut strings,
which are tuned to A below middle C, E above, G sharp,
B and E, the lowest string being the melody string on which
the tune is played, the other strings being used for the
accompanying chords. The fingerboard is fretted.
The banjo is sometimes played with a plectrum of tortoise-
One usually associates the banjo with the coloured people
of America, and from them it came to be used in dance-bands
everywhere. It is not very much used in these days, its place
having been taken even in dance-bands by the guitar. There
are several different-sized banjos in use.
It is not very difficult to play, though not so easy as the
ukelele. (See p. 78.) It is more limited in expression than the
guitar, and has rather a dry tone.
An old banjo is often found in the attic, or can be bought in
second-hand shops for a few shillings. A good, new banjo
might cost from ten to twenty-five pounds.
Pete Seeger's Banjo Guide. 10 T 23.
THE mandolin, with its pear-shaped body, is a survivor of
the lute family. The most usual instrument has eight strings,
tuned in pairs to the same notes as a violin. The fingering is
the same as for a violin, and the player is helped by frets on
the fingerboard. It is played with a plectrum made of tortoise-
shell. The range is three octaves.
The tone of the mandolin is thinner and more metallic than
the guitar, and it is chiefly used as a melodic instrument. A
characteristic of mandolin playing is the tremolo effect.
A mandolin can be bought new from four pounds up-
wards, but can often be picked up very cheaply second-hand.
80 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Vivaldi. Concerto for two Mandolins and Strings. ALP
THE balalaika is as cliaracteristically Russian as the bagpipes
It is a three-stringed instrument of the lute family. The
strings can be plucked with the fingers, or struck with a
plectrum. It is a charming instrument and really quite easy
to play, and it seems a pity that some of the people who are so
often seen on the stage carelessly strumming the strings do
not learn to play it. A person with some knowledge of music
should be able to master the principal chords in a few hours.
It is generally used as an accompanying instrument, but
balalaikas are made in various sizes corresponding to violins,
violas, and cellos, and these combine to form orchestras.
The best way to get hold of a balalaika would be through a
dealer in second-hand instruments, such as Mr. Morley,
39 Old Brompton Road, London, S.W.y.
Wolgalied from Der Zarewitsch. 45-71122.
Russian Song Recital. Collet D 1996.
THERE are several instruments that have not been included,
because they still count as specialists' instruments, though the
playing of them has lately become very popular. They are
not within the scope of this book, and in any case it is doubt-
ful whether anyone would start to learn music on one of
them, as they are still fairly inaccessible. It would be best to
take up the lute after a few years' work on the classical
The flute, piccolo and clarinet
THE FLUTE is the treble of the woodwind family. It con-
sists of a tube, about two feet long, of wood, ebonite or metal,
stopped at one end, with a series of holes which are covered
by the fingers of both hands. It has no reed or mouthpiece.
The sound is produced by blowing across the mouth-hole
near one end. The fingers do not cover the holes directly,
but rest on metal plates fitted with pads.
The natural scale of the flute is D, but it is not a trans-
posing instrument. Its range is three octaves from middle C.
The flute and other woodwind instruments can be tuned to
within a quarter of a tone by pulling out the head joint.
The tone of the flute is beautifully pure and mellow when
properly played, the lower notes being rich and full, while the
high register is clear and brilliant. It has great carrying
power in the hands of a good player. It is capable of great
agility in the manner in which it can jump intervals and play
scales and arpeggios at almost incredible speed, largely
owing to the comparative simplicity of the fingering and the
fact that the flute over-blows at the octave.
The flute is both a solo and an orchestral instrument, com-
bining especially well with other woodwind, voices and
strings. In the orchestra it is scored for the highest pitched
wing part, though it is often used to decorate or outline the
theme played by the strings.
Learning the flute
To play the flute it must be possible to stretch the distance
between the holes with ease. Twelve years is about the right
82 WHAT CAN I PLAY ?
age to start, but the flute can be taken up at any later age.
A young beginner is advised to get a penny whistle, or simple
recorder, and learn to play tunes on it while he is learning to
get a good tone on the flute. Some people take a little time to
make any sort of sound on the flute. The great thing to con-
centrate on at first is tone production, because however agile
you may become with your fingers, a fuzzy tone will spoil
everything. It is just a matter of practice, though some
people naturally find it easier than others. Once a good tone
has been acquired, it is easy to maintain, provided you keep
your lip in training.
The flute is one of the easiest instruments to learn, though
really first-class amateurs are rare. A keen and musical boy or
girl of fourteen with some knowledge of music, should be
able to play simple solos at the end of the first term, and in
the school orchestra after a year. Progress is quick after good
tone production has been mastered, but a good ear, a sense of
rhythm and of melodic line and a real sense of phrasing are
necessary to make an interesting soloist.
Regularity of practice is important. A few minutes every
day is advisable after lessons have been given up.
Buying a Flute
No one can play very well on an old open-holed flute, as on
these instruments, or eight-keyed flutes as they are called,
the holes are actually closed by the tips of the fingers them-
selves. If a player started with this type and afterwards
decided to change, it would mean re-learning a whole system
The best-known type of modern flute is the Boehm,
which is really necessary for advanced playing, (See p. 147.)
A new eight-keyed flute costs from twelve pounds and a
Boehm from twenty-four pounds. Good second-hand flutes
are usually available and cost from eighteen pounds. Expert
advice is necessary when buying any wind instrument.
It is essential that all woodwind instruments should be
THE FLUTE, PICCOLO AND CLARINET 83
*low pitch'. (See p. 149.) Bargains are usually found to be the
old 'high pitch*. A flute measures twenty-three 2nd three-
quarter inches from the centre of the embouchure or mouth-
hole to the foot.
Metal flutes are lighter to hold and require less breath, but
they lack the range of tone-colour of the wooden instruments,
and do not blend so well with the other woodwind instru-
Reconditioning a second-hand flute might cost about six
The advantages of playing the flute
APART from the fact that the flute is an orchestral as well as
a solo instrument, it is a very practical one. It is easy and
light to carry about; it can be taken to pieces and fitted into
quite a small case; it has nothing to go wrong, and, with
ordinary care, should need no repairs. It should, however, be
taken to a reliable firm every two years to be re-corked and
re-padded. All wind instruments must be dried after being
A flute can be added to almost any combination of instru-
ments and is useful for augmenting the melody line if there
is no flute part.
The flute can be played out of doors, and sounds specially
well. It can be played from song-books and violin music.
Bach. Suite No. 2 in B minor. ACL 29.
Grieg. Peer Gynt Suite. Morning. ALP 1530.
THE piccolo is a small flute which plays an octave higher in
pitch than the flute. It is fingered in the same way as the con-
cert flute. The tone is shrill and penetrating, and it is used in
orchestral music for some special effect. Besides its use in
the orchestra the piccolo is a solo instrument. There are many
enchanting solo pieces for the piccolo, gay and sparkling; they
84 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
often supply the most popular turn at a concert. A flautist
should always get hold of a piccolo and make himself master
of it, because as apart from its orchestral use, the instrument
is so tiny that it will go into a pocket, and so can accompany
its owner up mountains, and to places where a flute might be
A good piccolo costs from about twenty pounds though
second-hand ones can often be picked up quite cheaply. An
orchestral player should see that his piccolo has the same
system of fingering as his flute.
THE clarinet consists of a wooden pipe, usually made of
African blackwood, about two feet six inches long, with a
single reed clipped to the back of the mouthpiece. It has a
range of over three octaves.
Though the clarinet is often associated with the brassy
brilliance of the dance-band, its own true tone has a rich and
mellow sweetness, with much variety between the three
registers, and is capable of most lovely inflexions. The com-
bination of these qualities makes it indispensable to the
modern orchestra, and gives it many opportunities as a solo
Learning the clarinet
THE clarinet is not relatively very hard to learn, though it
takes some time to produce a good, clear tone. The con-
formation of the lips and teeth have something to do with it,
and it is easier for some people than for others. The fingering
is fairly simple, particularly on the lower register. It is a very
suitable instrument for ladies, provided their hands are large
enough to cover the holes comfortably.
A young player, with no previous experience of a wind
instrument, would be well advised to experiment with a really
simple instrument, such as the recorder, before embarking
on the more complicated but essentially similar clarinet.
THE FLUTE, PICCOLO AND CLARINET 85
A boy or girl of twelve with some knowledge of music
should be able to play simple tunes very soon, and part
in the school orchestra after two terms. It would not be ad-
visable to start learning before the age of twelve, and It is
almost an advantage to begin later. Many of the most suc-
cessful players have begun after school
For people going abroad to lonely places, the clarinet is an
invaluable companion. It is one of the instruments that it
would be just possible to learn from a tutor, after a few pre-
liminary lessons on breath control, which is the secret of
good tone production, and not in the least exhausting when
tackled in the right way.
Buying a clarinet
AN orchestral player needs two instruments, one in A and
one in B flat, as the clarinet is a transposing instrument.
(See p. 147.) There are two systems of fingering in general
use, the Albert or simple fingering (now only available
second-hand) which (as its name implies) is simpler and more
direct in construction, and costs from twelve pounds and the
Boehm, which is more elaborate, and has extra keys to
facilitate certain fingerings. It is the type which is generally
adopted by professionals in England. (See p. 147.) These in-
struments cost from eighteen pounds.
A second-hand clarinet, provided it has been disinfected
and put into good working order, is to be recommended for a
beginner, and a pair can often be bought very cheaply through
a teacher. It is always best to buy a pair, so that one mouth-
piece can be used on both. The advice of the expert should
always be taken when buying wind instruments. In second-
hand instruments, it is important to make sure the clarinet is
low pitch. (See. p. 149.)
In schools, where beginners do not always possess their
own instruments, it is quite possible for each player to pos-
sess his own mouthpiece, though this is not recommended.
These cost from fifteen shillings.
86 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
It is possible to buy an ebonite or metal clarinet, which is
not affected by extremes of climate.
The advantages of playing the clarinet
As well as being an orchestral instrument, the clarinet can
well be added to any combination. Anyone who can play by
ear will always be in demand to play for dancing when the
band is at supper, or to lead singing, and it can always be
added to a family string orchestra. The clarinet is quite
portable; a case carrying a pair of instruments weighs about
seven pounds. It can be played out of doors.
On account of its great possibilities of technique and tone-
colour there is a large repertoire for the clarinet. It will
always find a place in classical chamber music, either in wind
quartets, or with strings. It is a great favourite with modern
You can add a clarinet to a string orchestra by playing
the viola part on the B flat clarinet, and where the viola part
goes out of range, the notes can be raised an octave.
Upkeep of the clarinet
THERE is not very much to go wrong with the clarinet, pro-
vided it is well looked after and dried after being played.
The re-padding necessary after every two years or so can be
done by the player himself, if he is handy, and costs about
twelve shillings. The reeds cost about eleven shillings per
dozen, and a reed will stand about three weeks of fairly
constant playing. A reed should be discarded as soon as it is
at all soft. There is a great deal to learn about humouring the
reed, the maladjustment of which accounts for the weird
sounds sometimes made by inexperienced players. Some
players like to make their own reeds.
IT is possible to get a clarinet in C which does away with the
transposing difficulty, since it can be played from ordinary
THE FLUTE, PICCOLO AND CLARINET 87
violin and piano music. It is sometimes seen in dance-bands,
and is an asset for a player who really wants to be useful,
although transposing is not really difficult.
There are clarinets in E flat, which have a shrill tone, and
clarinets in E flat one octave below, used in military bands.
Music for the clarinet
THERE is a part for the clarinet in most classical and modem
orchestral music, and in a great deal of chamber music.
Some solo music and arrangements, chiefly by modem
composers, have been written for it.
Mozart. Clarinet Quintet in A, K. 581. AXTL 1007.
The oboe, cor anglais, saxophone
THE OBOE is a double-reed instrument. It cannot be said
to take any special part in the harmony, but to be used rather
as an occasional solo instrument.
The natural scale is D, but the oboe is not a transposing
instrument. The compass is two and a half octaves from B
flat below C. A in the first register is used in the orchestra
as the standard of tuning.
The oboe has a tone-quality that cannot be reproduced by
any other instrument. There are two schools of oboe-playing;
those who obtain a reedy, rathernasal sound, and those who play
with a round hollow tone like that of the flute. The tone-
colour of the instrument is very valuable in orchestral
music . It has a penetrating tone, and one oboe can come
through a large orchestra.
Learning the oboe
THE oboe is generally thought to be an unhealthy in-
strument, owing to the fact that the aperture through which
the wind passes is extremely small. This means that the player
is almost holding his breath, but so long as he does not play
for too long at a time, makes sure of doing some deep-
breathing exercises during the bars of silence frequent in all
oboe parts, and provided he has been taught proper breath
control from the beginning, there should not be any ill
OBOE, COR ANGLAIS, SAXOPHONE, BASSOON 89
A few weeks on the recorder or penny wMstle are to be
recommended for a beginner on the oboe. Good tone on the
oboe and the humouring of the reed are extremely difficult
at first, and correct breathing, which is essential, is not very
easy to acquire.
A boy or girl of eleven can start to play, as the finger-holes
of the oboe are closer together than those of the flute or
clarinet. The acquisition of a good finger technique is of first
importance, and it is advisable to start at an early age, but
there are several excellent players, chiefly women, who have
begun much later in life.
If a child starts the oboe at school, regular practice of at
least fifteen minutes, but not more than half an hour, is
sufficient, since it is an exhausting instrument for the
beginner. Frequent rests should be taken, and the reed
At first the lips and face muscles get tired, which is only
natural; these muscles must be trained like any others.
Constant practice is necessary to keep the muscles in perfect
condition. It is quite untrue that, as is sometimes suggested,
playing this or any other wind instrument radically alters the
A young beginner should be able to join his school
orchestra after from, one term to one year, according to
Buying an Oboe
THE best instruments cost from about a hundred and twenty
pounds, though oboes with a simpler mechanism can be had
from fifty pounds. Second-hand instruments can be bought
from thirty pounds and are to be recommended for the
beginner, so long as they have been taken down and disin-
fected, and re-padded by a reliable firm. Low pitch is
important. (See p. 149.)
The complicated mechanism of the oboe is very delicate,
and should not be tampered with, because to turn one of the
90 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
many little screws may throw the whole instrument out of
The oboe cannot be recommended for taking abroad, as
the wood cracks very easily in the heat, and, though metal
oboes have been made, they are not very satisfactory.
The reeds for the oboe cost about eight shillings each, and
stand about four weeks of steady playing.
Handel Concerto Grosso in B flat. Op. 3-3. AP 13044.
Mozart. Oboe Quartet in F, K. 370. ABE 10012.
The car anglais
THIS is a large oboe, a transposing instrument, playing a
fifth lower than the oboe. It is very beautiful, often found
taking a solo part, playing a melancholy melody. Many of the
obbligato parts to arias in the big choral works by the classical
composers are scored for the cor anglais.
A player would learn the oboe first, and, when he has
mastered it, transfer to the larger instrument.
Dvorak. Symphony No. 9 in E minor, OP. 95. (New
World.) Second movement. LPV 364.
ALTHOUGH the saxophone is classed as a woodwind instru-
ment it is actually made of brass. It has a single reed, like a
clarinet, but the fingering is more like that of the oboe, as it
overblows at the octave.
It has much more volume than the clarinet, though the
tone is rougher and harder; but in the hands of an expert
player it can be most expressive and sympathetic, and is said
to resemble the human voice more than any other instru-
The saxophone is a transposing instrument. There are
OBOE, COR ANGLAIS, SAXOPHONE, BASSOON gi
several sizes which are pitched in different keys, the alto sax
being the most popular member of the family, both in con-
cert and dance orchestras. The tenor sax is pitched a fourth
below the alto. The baritone sax is much larger and neces-
sitates the use of a stand, and the bass sax (which is chiefly
used in small bands instead of a double bass to provide
harmonic and rhythmic foundation) is the largest member of
the family, and is pitched a fourth below the baritone, and an
octave below the tenor. The smallest member, and therefore
the highest pitched, is the soprano sax; it is different from
the other members of the family in that it is straight instead
of curved. Its place in dance-bands has now been largely
taken by the clarinet, which has a much better tone. The C
melody sax is not often used in bands, but is useful, as it is
not a transposing instrument and can play from violin and
piano music. The saxophone is used in military bands and
symphony orchestras, as well as in dance-bands. The alto
sax is often used as a solo instrument in orchestral music,
and is the most used in dance orchestras today.
Learning the saxophone
THE saxophone is easier to play than the clarinet, and a
musical boy or girl of twelve should be able to play quite
competently after a year's lessons, though, of course,
thorough mastery of the sax and of the various members of
the family required for a dance-band player takes several
years of constant practice.
Though the alto sax is the most usual instrument, a player
will be expected to 'double' on the clarinet, and also the
baritone, if he wishes to get a really good job, and the more
instruments he is able to play the better. The highest-paid
players are all able to play the tenor, alto, baritone, and
clarinet, as well as the fiddle.
For those who wish to play the sax as a hobby, the C
melody is to be recommended, as a special part is not
92 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
There are a few lady players who are proficient on the sax
This instrument does not require a very large stretch.
Buying a saxophone
IT would not be possible to buy a really good saxophone
under about sixty pounds, but instruments that are useful
enough for many people can be bought from twenty-five
pounds. Many dealers sell them on the Instalment plan.
Second-hand instruments can often be bought for a few
pounds, and are usually quite satisfactory. It is important
with all wind instruments to have the advice of an expert,
and to make sure the sax is 'low pitch'. (See p. 149.)
It is important to see that all second-hand instruments
have been taken down and disinfected and put in good
The reeds are bought separately and cost about fifteen
shillings per dozen; a reed lasts about a month of constant
playing. With second-hand saxophones see that the case
contains the necessary extras, such as a pot of grease, the
sling, a wiper, and a cover for the mouthpiece.
The saxophone is a very accessible instrument. It is easy
to buy one, and easy to get a good teacher.
The advantages of playing the saxophone
THE saxophone is one of the most useful melodic instru-
ments, as it makes a good deal of sound, and comes through
well. Apart from its use in dance-bands it can be added to
various combinations of instruments, and used to lead out-
door singing, etc.
Once he has mastered one of the family, the player will
have little difficulty in changing over to one of the other
As the saxophone is not essentially a solo instrument, the
player should take every opportunity of playing in a band.
Good team playing is ai-iinportant, and needs special
OBOE, COR ANGLAIS, SAXOPHONE* BASSOOK 93
The breathing on the sax takes some practice. It is
advisable to have lessons from a competent teacher. It is
Important to leam the right posture, as otherwise playing
can be very tiring.
One of the advantages of the saxophone is that it can be
played in a very easy position; both the arms held com-
fortably at the sides, which is not usually the case with wind
The saxophone is a very portable instrument, and does not
easily get out of order if it is looked after properly. It would
be quite suitable to take out to a remote country.
Music for the saxophone
APART from the classical and modern orchestral music,
there is a great deal of popular music for the saxophone
which can be seen at any music shop.
Glazunov. Saxophone Quartet. LXT 5188.
THE bassoon is the bass of the woodwind family. It is played
with a double reed which is inserted, not into the end of the
tube as in the oboe, but placed on the end of a crook. The
tube is so long that it is doubled back on itself for con-
The range of the bassoon is three octaves from B flat, one
tone below the lowest string of the cello, up to about
two above middle C.
'The wedding guest here beat his breast, for he heard the
loud bassoon,' as the Ancient Mariner related, certainly
shows what an impression the instrument can make. It may
have been sounded by an inexpert player, or it may have
been the resonant low notes, or the sharp attack of the
staccato notes that so often strike people as comic.
94 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
The tonal quality of the bassoon is quite unlike any other
instrument. It is very versatile, and in the orchestra is used
to strengthen the fundamental harmony, as well as for
effective melodic passages. The player can sustain long notes
in the upper register in the same way as on the horn, but
quick-scale passages are equally practical.
Learning the bassoon
THE first steps in learning the bassoon are fairly simple, and
young players will find that they can often be included in the
school orchestra, playing a simple part, as soon as they can
play the natural scale of the instrument, and the well-known
*Lucy Long', but the bassoon is a difficult instrument to
master. It is generally thought to be more difficult to play
than the oboe, on account of its weight and size, and because
it requires more wind. The fingering is much the same.
It can sometimes be played by ladies, but they must have
large hands, as well as nimble fingers, because the holes are
spaced fairly wide apart.
Sixteen would seem about the earliest age to begin the
bassoon, and a slight knowledge of one of the simpler wind
instruments would be an advantage.
The bassoon is one of the instruments which can quite
well be taken up by a grown-up learner. It is another
excellent instrument for a pianist with an ambition to play in
It is essential to have a teacher, for at least a year, to
acquire a proper method. Though it is possible for
musical players with some experience of another instrument
to be able to take part in chamber music after six months'
work, it would hardly be possible to master the bassoon
without some years of constant study.
Practice on the bassoon should not be for too long at a
time. Twenty minutes or less is enough at the beginning. At
first the bassoon is noisy and rough, and its being played is
not appreciated by the neighbours, but it can be practised
OBOE, COR ANGLAIS, SAXOPHONE, BASSOON 95
with, a cloth tied over the bell end, which does something to
mute the sound.
Buying a bassoon
THERE are various makes of bassoon with various fingerings.
The two chief systems are the French and the German.
Most professional players use the German system, but the
French system is perfectly adequate for a beginner.
They are generally made of maple or rosewood, and of
ebonite for variable climates.
A good new German bassoon costs about three hundred
pounds although a second-hand one can often be obtained
for as little as fifty. Expert advice is necessary when buying
any woodwind instrument.
Reeds cost from five to fifteen shillings each, and last
several months of steady playing, with care. All reeds
should be discarded as soon as worn out, as otherwise the
tone is quite spoilt.
Bassoons need re-padding and adjusting, and generally
renovating annually if constantly played. This costs about
seven pounds ten.
The advantages of playing the bassoon
THE bassoon is still one of the rarer instruments amongst
amateur musicians. A player who was fairly expert would
find himself continually in demand, and welcome in most
amateur orchestras. Its extensive range means that it can be
used to supplement missing instruments, and where there is
no bassoon part it can play with the double basses.
Beyond orchestral music there is plenty of chamber music
and some solo music and arrangements. There is also some
very delightful eighteenth-century music.
The double bassoon
THIS is the double bass of the woodwind family. Its range is
g6 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
roughly an octave below the bassoon, though the music is
written an octave above pitch.
It is a rather cumbersome instrument, and not very often
employed in orchestral music, although there are parts for it
in most of the Handel oratorios.
Though the double bassoon is really a specialist instru-
ment, a player with large hands would be advised to take it
up, because double bassoon players are rare. The fingering is
only slightly different, the main difference being in the much
Where there is no part for the double bassoon, a player
would play with the double basses.
Mozart. Bassoon Concerto in B flat, K 191. DLP 1153.
WITH THE exception of the trombone, all brass instru-
ments have the same mechanism. The variations of tone-
quality and register all depend on the length of the tube and
the shape of the bell and mouthpiece.
When you take up a brass instrument and blow into it,
the sounds if you are lucky enough to get any at all will
be the * natural harmonics' of the instrument, sounding like
a bugle call - soh, doh, me, soh. The missing notes in the
scale are obtained by (a) altering the lip pressure, and (b)
pushing down valves with the fingers of the left hand. These
three pistons switch on extra lengths of tube, and lower
the pitch one semitone, two semitones, or three semitones
respectively; thus every note of the chromatic scale can be
I remember borrowing a cornet for the Christmas holidays
some years ago. When a friend had shown us the scale, a ver-
sion of 'Good King Wenceslas' could be recognised quite
A popular fallacy is that brass instruments require a great
deal of puff. This is not so at all, but a player has to learn to
breathe the right way, just as in singing. In fact, if no brass
teacher is available, a singing teacher would be able to teach
the correct breathing. Girls seem to find it more difficult than
boys at first. You must learn to fill the whole instrument with
air, and not just the mouthpiece. The lips must be corn-
pressed as if you were going to spit.
Here is the scale C. o}io}20.
WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Note that as the cornet is a transposing instrument the
note actually produced will be B flat. (See p. 147.) The player
must just blow away till he gets doh, and then experiment
till the other notes of the scale come into tune. It is best
to choose a lonely spot for your first efforts on a brass
The arrow indicates the direction of the wind when the
Calves have been depressed. In the diagram, valve A is in use.
THEcoriiet is a brass valve instrument with a cupped mouth-
piece. It plays the treble part in a brass band. It is a trans-
posing instrument. Cornets are usually in B flat.
BRASS INSTRUMENTS 99
Learning the cornet
THOUGH the cornet is the simplest brass instrument to play,
good, pure, vocal tone Is not easy to produce, and takes a lot
of practice. This instrument has been much misused, but can
be made to emit a beautiful sound. Soft tone should be
cultivated. The cornet can be played by people who have
not got the good ear which is a necessity for the instruments
which have no ready-made notes. Players must have lips
and teeth which are suited to the playing of wind Instru-
Practice on the cornet should be spasmodic at first, as the
muscles need some training. Brass instruments are especially
suitable for players whose daily occupation constitutes a
serious handicap to the delicate use of the fingertips and also
for players who have not the full use of a hand, owing to some
accident to a finger, or to real muscular stiffness. They can
be held in either hand.
Quite young boys and girls are able to play the cornet, as,
contrary to general belief, brass instruments do not demand
a very great deal of strength.
The advantages of playing the cornet
THE cornet is the easiest brass instrument to play. The
principle can be mastered in an hour or so, though good tone-
production takes time to acquire. Conductors will find it a
great advantage to become familiar with one member of the
brass family, and the cornet is the instrument recommended
for this purpose.
A cornet player can reinforce the piano for out-of-doors
singing at a camp service, and it can be used for inarching
where there is no band.
A simple brass quartet is quite practical in many schools,
and a player who has mastered the cornet will be able to
change over to another member of the brass family, because
the fingering is common to all of them, the mechanism being
ICO WHAT CAN I PLAY?
the same. The only difference Is in the 'feel', and in the
different pitch of the note produced.
In the playing of brass instruments, it is 'lip pressure' that
controls pitch, and wind pressure or volume that controls
power. The lips set, when trained, just like the vocal chords.
The cornet is light to carry; it has nothing to go out of
order, and no upkeep expenses.
Brass bands are perhaps the easiest to find of any musical
group, and a good player is sure of a welcome in every
Music of the cornet
THE cornet is a solo as well as a band instrument. It can play
the melody line in various combinations of instruments, and
is effective with a piano or strings, but unless the player can
play from ear, he will have to write out his part.
A great deal of very poor music is played by brass in-
strumentalists, which is a pity, because there is plenty of
good music available.
Cornet Carillon. Massed Brass Bands. LF 1262.
THE trumpet was the earliest of the brass instruments to be
used in a full orchestra. It plays the treble part. The natural
scale is usually B flat, and it is a transposing instrument. It is
included in symphony orchestras, dance-bands and military
A trumpeter needs to have the right temperament. It is not
for naturally retiring people. There are no half measures with
a brass instrument. After perhaps a hundred bars rest, the
player has to take his courage in both hands and blow a call
good and loud, when, after all, he may have only counted
The triumphal note is sounded by the trumpets. They add
immeasurably to the dramatic effect; but as well as 'the
BRASS INSTRUMENTS 101
trumpet's martial sound* they can sustain a haunting
melody line. The trumpet Is a versatile instrument,
There is nothing that can go wrong with the trumpet, and
there are no upkeep expenses. A trumpet would be a splendid
instrument to take to the wide-open spaces.
There are usually a good many second-hand instruments
to be found at Boosey & Hawkes, or Bessoms, Stanhope
Place, Marble Arch, London, though they sometimes reach
second-hand shops and can then be had very cheaply. A new
trumpet costs from sixteen pounds.
Be certain to make sure your instrument is 'low pitch *.
(See p. 149.)
Surprising as it may seem, quite young children can play
brass instruments. Anyone over eight years of age could start
having lessons; and properly played, it demands no more
exertion than singing, though it is important that practising
should be staggered at first. It should be possible to play in a
school band after a term's lessons.
Haydn. Trumpet Concerto in E flat. SCD 2005.
Handel. Messiah ('The Trumpet shall Sound'). SEL 1518.
THE trombone is a brass instrument differing from all the
rest of the family, as instead of employing valves to lengthen
the tube, extra length is obtained by means of an extensible
slide. When the slide is right in, and the tube as short as
possible, the instrument plays its open harmonics, When the
slide is extended by one position, another set of open har-
monics are obtained, and so on, for each position. There are
A trombone player must be much more of a musician than,
the other brass players; a good ear is absolutely essential.
The trombone is a vocal instrument, playing sustained
notes with great effect. It is often heard in the orchestra in
WHAT CAN 1 PLAY?
harmony passages with other members of its family. It has a
great range of tone. It Is not a transposing instrument. The
music is usually written in the tenor or bass clef.
Trombones are made in various keys, but the tenor, or
trombone in B flat, is the instrument most commonly used.
Twelve would be young enough to start learning the trom-
bone, as it is fairly heavy to hold. Players should be able to
join their school band after two terms' work.
The French horn
THE French horn has a most important place in every
orchestra or band, because of its exceptionally beautiful and
adaptable tone, which is equally effective in combination
with brass, woodwind, or strings. In classical works for
symphony orchestras, large or small, there are nearly always
parts for from four to eight horns.
Good horn players are rare, as it is the most difficult of
all the brass instruments to play. The beginner soon gets
safe in the middle twelve notes of the horn's large range, but
the extremes need a great deal of hard practice, a good ear,
good control of breath, and above all, self-confidence.
Luckily a great many horn parts in Haydn's and Mozart's
symphonies are written in the middle of the horn's compass,
and many modern composers are kind; so the ordinary horn
player can have a great deal of fun without being in any way
The horn is most effective as a solo instrument in an
orchestra. Great variety of tone can be obtained by altering
the position of the right hand in the bell, and by muting it the
player can get every gradation of tone between pianissimo
and fortissimo and any type of phrasing. The horn sounds
cumbersome in quick passages, as it is essentially a vocal
instrument. It is ideal for holding long harmony notes, and
BRASS INSTRUMENTS 103
provides a nice, warm padding of sound in the middle
register of the orchestra.
Away from the orchestra the horn has disadvantages as a
solo instrument. Long solo passages are tiring; bubbles
frequently form in the tubes and ruin the sound unless the
horn is emptied at once.
The instrument is tuned by adjusting the valves, and once
the player has been shown how to do it, it is easy.
There is nothing much to go wrong with the horn, but a
bottle of lubricating oil should be kept to prevent the valves
becoming sticky. The habit of spitting on the valves rusts
Learning the French horn
IT is not a necessity to have a previous knowledge of another
instrument before taking up the horn, but it is an advantage.
It would not be possible to learn the horn before the age of
twelve, as it is so heavy and so difficult to play; a slight
knowledge of the trumpet or bugle would make the beginning
stages much more simple.
If a boy starts learning at fourteen, he should be able to
play in an orchestra or band in six months, provided the
parts are easy. It is suitable only for strong lady players; a
man nearly always has a better tone.
The amount of practice required depends very much on
the player's control of breath and patience in the early stages.
Strong muscles have to be formed round the lips and jaw,
and that takes some time. Half an hour a day should be
enough for the first few months, and, if the player tires
quickly, two periods of a quarter of an hour are better.
Buying a French horn
THE advice of an expert should always be sought when buy-
ing a new or second-hand horn, as very many instruments
have serious flaws, which the beginner would not notice.
Second-hand horns are often very good, and a satisfactory
IO4 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
one can be bought for from thirty to fifty pounds, while an
excellent one can be bought at between sixty and seventy
On top of this expense, a case of some sort must be bought.
The hard leather cases cost about fifteen pounds and protect
the horn from dents, but are, however, very heavy. A green
baize case, with a canvas covering, costs four pounds ten and
is excellent, provided the player is careful to avoid bumps.
But many schools and some amateur orchestras own the
more costly instniments, which are loaned to the players,
Mozart. Horn Concertos. 33 CX 1140.
Beethoven. Horn Sonata in F. Op. 17. SEE 3514.
THE bugle is a treble instrument of brass or copper. It differs
from the trumpet in the shape of the bell, and has no valves.
It is the signal horn of the infantry. The regulation bugle
of the British Army is in B flat, and is treated as a transposing
instrument, the calls being written in C.
It is used by the Royal Artillery and the Infantry.
They cost about nine pounds new, or two pounds second-
Other brass instruments
THE euphonium, baritone, bombardon, saxhorns, fliigel
horn, circular bass, etc., are all variations of the same
mechanism, and can generally be played by the same players.
These instruments nearly always belong to the band, and
are lent to the players. It is usual to start on one of the simpler
instruments, and take up one of these when some proficiency
has been gained.
The flugel horn is an excellent instrument to own. It can.
be said to be the viola of the brass section* It is an easy
instrument to play, light to carry about, and combines very
well with a comet.
THE BAGPIPES are the national instrument of Scotland. In
England, pipe music is sometimes said to be harsh and un-
musical. Possibly, those who say they are not moved by the
lilt of the pipes have not had the chance to hear the massed
Pipe Bands at the Edinburgh Festival, or a lone piper playing
across the water on a summer evening.
The fascination of the pipes is felt by many people to
whom they are not the traditional instrument; possibly
this is a relic of the time when they were known all over
The Highland pipes consist of a sheepskin bag, which is
the reservoir of air, a blowpipe, three drone pipes, and the
chanter, which plays the melody. AH the drone pipes are
fitted with a single-tongued beating reed; the chanter has a
The pipes have a peculiar scale, which is most nearly that
of A major, but the music is now written conventionally in C.
The drones are -tuned A, E and A: they provide a simple
The reedy tone is harsh and penetrating, and sounds best
out of doors. The pipes carry well, and can be heard for a
great distance in still weather.
The pipes are both a solo instrument and a band instru-
ment. There are numerous regimental bands, as well as
school and club bands. A really good piper is a joy to listen
to, and a good player will always be sure of an enthusiastic
IO6 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Learning the pipes
THE best age to start learning is about twelve, though many
players start much earlier if they come from a piping family.
A young player should be able to j oin his school band after about
a year's work. In a pipe band the beginners can play with the
drones sounding alone, i.e. the chanter reed is stopped and
the player goes through the fingering of the tune, though no
sound is made. This teaches fingering and breath control.
Learners should have a knowledge of musical notation.
A pipe player must have strong and supple fingers, as the
main difficulty is the fingering. Grace-notes, trills and
* warblers' give pipe playing its special character. Breath con-
trol comes with practice. A player must also have a really
good memory for tunes, because a piper plays entirely from
It would be quite possible to take up the pipes at any age,
provided the fingers were supple enough to play the inter-
mediate notes. There are small sets made for lady pipers, but
the bagpipes seem a man's instrument.
Though the full-size pipes make a very great deal of noise,
which makes practice a difficulty for some people, it is
possible for a learner to do all the necessary finger practice
on a chanter alone, which cannot be heard outside the room.
There is also an instrument known as a l goose* which has a
blowpipe, a bag and a chanter, but no drones. At first the
practice should be for short periods with frequent rests.
As the style in bagpipe playing is very important, a young
player should take every opportunity to hear good performers,
and for this, good gramophone records are excellent. Simple
tunes can be learnt in this way, and a good style should
become a habit.
The pipes could be learnt from a tutor, but a few months*
lessons from a teacher are advisable. They are suitable for all
climates, though some difficulty may be found at high
'Come o j er the stream, Charlie'
108 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
The pipes can be carried easily under the arm, and packed
Into a small box about two feet long.
Buying a set of pipes
A SET of pipes might cost anything from twenty-five pounds
upwards; the more expensive and the heirloom sets have
fittings of Ivory and silver, and are very beautiful. The bag
Is covered with tartan cloth.
There are no upkeep expenses beyond replacing the reeds,
which last sk months or so. The sheepskin bag has to be kept
supple and in good condition, for which there are various
preparations, though treacle is often used, and occasionally
whisky. And this, if poured down the piper instead, has a
great effect on the tone and character of the music!
Music for the pipes
THERE Is a great deal of fine traditional and specially com-
posed music for the pipes, divided Into marches, slow and
quick, the laments such as 'The Flowers of the Forest'; to
some people the most moving of all pipe music.
A good deal of popular music can be played on the pipes
within the limitations of the scale. The pipes are, of course,
ideal for accompanying Highland dancing, reels, strath-
speys, and Scottish country dancing. You can see the young
people waltzing to 'Come o'er the stream, Charlie* on the
frozen loch in the picture on p. 107.
Highland Bagpipes. Seumas MacNeill. ABL 510.
The Northumbrian pipes
UP to about 1920 there were only a very few players of the
Northumbrian small pipes. Since then much effort has been
made to revive the playing of both the small and half-long
pipes, and there are now from 150 to 200 players, mostly in
THE PIPES 109
The small pipes are intended for indoor playing,
have a peculiarly pleasant and gentle tone, quiet and
in effect, very unlike the skirl of the Highland pipes. The
half-long, or gathering pipes, are for outdoor playing.
The air is provided by a pair of bellows, which is held
under the right elbow. There is a bag which is the reservoir
of air, four drones and an eight-hole chanter pipe, giving
the notes of the diatonic scale of G. The most usual chanter
is provided with seven metal keys, giving a number of
notes, while more elaborate chanters are occasionally met
with, giving the complete chromatic scale. The drones cm
be adjusted, making it possible to play in several nearly
related keys. There are thus fewer limitations than on the
The drones are fitted with single-tongued beating reeds,
and the chanter with a double reed similar to that of the
oboe. The main characteristic is that the chanter is per-
manently closed at the lower end, so that when all the finger-
holes are covered, no sound can be emitted. This produces
a complete break of sound between any two notes* This
staccato playing is very effective.
For playing solos the small pipes are very charming, but
they can also be used with great effect in company with other
pipes, or with the fiddle.
Learning the Northumbrian pipes
THE pipes are not very easy to play, and need several months
of fairly constant practice before a fair standard of pro-
ficiency is gained. It is much the best to take lessons from
one of the really good players available. Players have been
known to start at seven years old, but the pipes can be taken
up at any age.
Buying a set of Northumbrian pipes
MOST of the best sets of pipes were made during the nine-
teenth century. The cost of one of these would be from
HO WHAT CAN I PLAY?
about thirty-five pounds. They vary greatly in tone and pitch,
and are usually as much as one full tone below concert pitch.
Other sets are usually made to special order by various
individual players in the north.
Anyone who comes across a set of pipes, or who wishes to
procure a set and learn to play, should write to the
Northumbrian Pipers' Society, which can give them all the
information they require, and put them in touch with a
teacher. The Hon. Secretary is Mrs. W. J. McMitchell, 64
Polwarth Road, Brunton Park, Newcastle 3. Branch secre-
taries are Mr. George Mitchell, 5 West Parade, Alnwick,
and Mrs, P. Pdfer, Holmewood, Bellingham, Hexham.
The Society has some interesting publications, including a
simple but useful tutor for the small pipes, and various tune-
books of the delightful traditional music of the north.
FROM earliest times some kind of musical instrument on the
simple ffute--bec plan has been made of some material that
was at hand, reed, bamboo or any other tubular plant.
During the last twenty-five years a group of people known as
'The Pipers' Guild' have developed the art of making and
playing pipes. They have taken the simple traditional pipe
as a model, but by experiment, have found the most success-
ful measurements - length, width, bore, size of hole, etc.,
and with various devices have enlarged the capabilities to
conform to more modern musical needs. They have designed
treble, alto, tenor, and bass pipes, that can be used to play
in consort. The instruments are made by hand, with simple
tools, but to very exact measurements, needing precise and
careful work. The Guild believes that the actual making of
his own pipe by the player adds enormously to its value.
Members of 'The Pipers' Guild* must have made their own
instrument. They have evolved excellent methods of teaching
pipe making and playing; they publish several handbooks
and run summer schools in various parts of Britain.
THE PIPES III
The movement has now spread to other countries and has
become an international organisation with eight affiliated
Guilds abroad. Evening classes are held at Goldsmith's
College, London, also at Mary Wood House, Tavlstock Place,
W.C.I. All particulars are obtainable from Mrs. Stillwell,
4 Oakway, Raynes Park, S.W.2O, The founder Is Miss
There is quite a lot of music specially composed and
arranged for pipes. Messrs. Cramer are the official pub-
lishers of Guild pipe music, and all materials and tools can be
obtained from Dryads of Leicester.
Pipes, or the materials to make them, would mate an
excellent present to send to anyone who has to be laid up for
some time. Send music too - and the list of tunes from the
back of this book. On p. 1 62 there Is a list of tunes - all in one
THERE are other members of the bagpipe family found all
over the world. They vary greatly, some are hand-blown,
others mouth-blown, some have keys giving a rough har-
mony. There are descriptions of them in all technical books
on instruments. Everyone who comes from the country
where they are the traditional instrument will have a special
interest in learning to play them; but a fuller dissertation
would be out of place here.
CHAPTER I 6
Other wind instruments
THE RECORDER is a very simple instrument. It was very
popular in England from the sixteenth century until about
the end of the eighteenth century, when it fell out of fashion.
It was revived again in about 1925.
Recorders are of two main kinds ; those made on the plan
of the old English instrument, and the much more limited
German recorder, which is really a wooden tin whistle.
English recorders are made from cherrywood, bakelite,
etc., and have a range of about one-and-a-half octaves. They
are made in four sizes, allowing part-music to be played.
The recorder has a sweet, quiet tone, a little more reedy in
quality than the flute. It blends well with other instruments
and voices, and can take the place of a flute in much of the
simpler classical music.
Learning the recorder
THE recorder is an excellent instrument for a young player to
take up before he is old enough to learn one of the more com-
plicated woodwind instruments. Make sure, by the way, that
a child plays with his right hand at the bottom; otherwise
he'll never transfer easily to the flute or oboe. Left-handed
children may want to try the other way. A child of ten should
be able to play a simple tune in the natural scale of the in-
strument after a few days' practice. The cross-fingering
necessary to get the notes of the chromatic scale is com-
plicated, but quite easily mastered with a little trouble and
OTHER WIND INSTR0MEHTS 113
The recorder Is one of the instruments that can be
abroad to lonely places, as it is not affected by climate,
can be played out of doors. It is possible to learn to play it
from a book, though a few lessons from a flute player would
be very useful. To become a serious recorder player, and to
be able to play and read in any key, needs some years of work,
although the tone-production is easy.
Buying a recorder
FOR anyone who has got through the penny whistle stage of
playing, the purchase of a properly made recorder is recom-
mended. The small, cheap recorders, though good value for
the money (about two to five shillings) limit the player to the
related keys of the instrument; and it is almost impossible to
play in tune in the distant keys. The real recorders, made in
the English tradition, are proper musical instruments and
any note can be played on them, though, of course, the
related keys will be more satisfactory. Most early music,
which is specially suited to the recorder, is written with a key
signature of not more than three sharps or three flats.
Recorders cost from ten shillings. There are various makes
available. Do make quite sure when buying a recorder that it
is made to standard English pitch. A few cheap foreign
instruments cannot be played with a piano or other instruments ;
this is very disappointing. Tutors and lists of music suitable
for the recorder can be seen at any large music shop.
Carl Dolmetsch. Recital. LXT 2943.
THE fife is a small flute, between the flute and piccolo in
pitch, generally in the key of B flat, though fifes in other keys
are used in military bands. It has a very shrill tone, and is
usually accompanied by drums.
It is easy to play once the making of a sideblown noise has
WHAT CAN I FLAY?
been mastered, as the fingering Is much the same as for a
penny whistle. A musical boy of about twelve should master
it in a few days.
A drum and fife band is the simplest and most effective
band for a school or Boy Scout Troop. It is inexpensive to
equip, and will be able to play in public after a very short
There is plenty of military band music published for fifes
of various pitches.
A B flat fife costs about thirty-five shillings and second-
hand about fifteen, but many schools lend instruments to
The Swanee whistle
THIS small instrument consists of a tube of metal or ebonite
with a whistle at one end. The tube is made longer or
shorter, and the resulting note higher or lower, by moving a
piston rod up and down inside. The range is about two
octaves. This cheap little instrument was once very popular.
I hope to see it come into fashion again.
It is among the very simplest instruments, and can be
given to quite small children, who can soon learn to play
them. There is nothing to go wrong with the whistle, pro-
vided it is oiled occasionally, and in the hands of a musical
player it can make an excellent effect. The advantage of the
swanee whistle over a penny whistle is that as the actual note
is home-made it can be tuned to any other instrument or
voice, mouth-organ, or band. They used to cost from a
Slow melodic music can be played on them, and they are
ideal instruments for carrying in a rucksack.
The penny wMstle
THIS small and cheap and simple instrument is the ideal
introduction to music for everyone.
When buying a penny whistle for a small player, it is
OTHER WIND INSTRUMENTS 115
Important to see that the holes are not spaced too far apart,
and also that they are not too large to be completely
with the fingers. The whistle, of plastic, is generally the
satisfactory. As it is so cheap it is possible to own a set of
instruments in various keys to suit the music being played*
A few foreign-made penny whistles and recorders are not
made to the standard pitch. Beware of these. Insist on trying
them with a piano in the music shop before you buy one.
The left hand must always be uppermost. Left-handed
children will try to play the other way. Unless they are made
to play correctly from the start they will find It very con-
fusing when they want to transfer to a more serious instru-
ment, such as the recorder or flute, or any other woodwind
A really proficient performer on the penny whistle can be a
real delight, owing to the speed at which tunes can be played,
and even a very small child can soon learn to play simple
tunes. At first the tunes should begin on the keynote. All
but the first two holes can be covered with stamp paper^
and gradually uncovered one by one.
For older players a really good penny whistle made of
metal piping is the best, because these get a very good tone,
and on some of them a range of two octaves is possible.
'Something New from Africa.' LK 4291.
The pipes of Pan
THIS is a small instrument, which consists of pipes of
different lengths, tuned to play a major scale. It is held in
front of the mouth and moved backwards and forwards,
according to the note required.
The pan-pipes cannot be regarded as a real instrument,
but they have the unique advantage that it is possible to play
them without using the hands at all. There is, or was in 1952,
a street-player (who incidentally comes into the musician
Il6 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
class) to be heard round about Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.
He plays the pan-pipes hung round his neck, and with his
hands he beats a drum. It is a truly delightful sound. I have
Included a description of this little instrument because I feel
It should have a place in work amongst disabled people, as it
on be played lying down in bed, without the use of the
I believe the Edinburgh player makes his own instruments,
but plastic models are to be found in the larger music shops.
THE ACCORDION is a free-reed instrument. The right
plays the melody on a keyboard just like a small piano, and the
left hand plays the accompanying chords with a set of buttons.
It seems a great pity more people don't take up the accor-
dion. It is the greatest fun to play, providing the liveliest Mid
gayest music, and soon engenders the party spirit. It is very
easy and though perhaps it is not very ladylike, and rather
heavy to carry, many women manage to- play it very well in-
deed. It is equally at home on the lower deck and in the front
Learning the accordion
IN countries where the accordion might perhaps be called the
national instrument, such as Switzerland and Italy, quite
young children manage to play really well as soon as they can
hold the instrument, but it can be taken up at any age. The
more serious kind of musicians seem to find it rather difficult
to learn, but people who are content to pull it in and out and
hope for the best, seem to learn very quickly. (See p. 16,
chords.) It is fairly easy to find a teacher through your local
music shop, though it could be learnt from a tutor, once
someone has shown you the general idea. The big snag of the
accordion is that it is quite definitely one of the instruments
that is more fun to play than to listen tol at least in the early
stages, and it is rather difficult to find anywhere secluded
enough to practise, since there is no way of muting the
Il8 WHAT CAN I PLAT?
accordion. It is an extremely penetrating instrument, and
not always appreciated by parents. However, there are wood-
sheds and attics and wide-open spaces, and as it is such a
rewarding instrument, the learners must persist, particularly
since on the whole it does not take very long to become
fairly proficient, provided the player has a keen sense of
rhythm. The accordion can add enormously to the fun of a
scout camp, and can be added to any group of instruments to
make a cheerful noise, or can be played for dancing. It is one
of the very best instruments to take to sea, or abroad, because
there is very little to go wrong with it. Nevertheless it is wise
for anyone of the do-it-yourself type to get a few tips about
the mechanism of the instrument from an expert, small
adjustments being sometimes necessary, though simple to
do, once you have been shown how.
The accordion should have a good, strong box, or at least a
damp-proof plastic bag. It will put up with a hard life, and is
just the thing to take to 'Darkest Africa'.
It is no good having an accordion which is too big and
heavy to learn on. I should suggest a forty bass as a start.
When once you have exhausted the possibilities of the small
one, you can always work up to an imposing 120 bass chrom-
ium and mother-of-pearl affair, provided your family will let
you! A forty bass with a good variety of chords, but a small
compass, is the best to start on.
There is plenty of music written and arranged specially for
the accordion, and once you have mastered the chords you
can play off ordinary piano music. New accordions cost any-
thing from twenty to two hundred pounds, but can often be
picked up very cheaply second-hand.
The English concertina
THE concertina is a free-reed instrument. The same note is
produced whether the bellows are pressed in or pulled out.
It has a range of three chromatic octaves, from G below
middle C. It has a very penetrating sound, and, as the studs
life on the ocean wave*
120 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
or buttons are very close together and the instrument does
not need to be pulled in and out between each note, very
quick tunes can be played on it. Two or more can play In
parts. It is really a melodic instrument, though It is possible
to play chords on it. In the hands of a skilled player - such
as can be heard at the Folk Dance Festival} it makes the most
lively and delicious music. The concertina was much in
fashion as a drawing-room Instrument in the eighties (see
old copies of Pmch) and Starkey played one in Peter Pan.
A player must be good at memorising tunes and must have
neat fingers. There is a distinct gap after each note before
the next one speaks, which gives concertina music a char-
acter of its own. Since It is easy to play very fast on a con-
certina, the Instrument Is specially suitable for country
dances, reels and Jigs.
The concertina can be played after a few weeks 1 practice.
Concertinas cost from thirteen pounds ten, though a
second-hand one can be bought for from five pounds. There
is only a limited demand for them, and they are chiefly used
by the Salvation Army or for accompanying country dancing.
There is quite a lot of music for the concertina* There are
even concertos and quartet music, but most players play by
ear, or from memory.
TBOT BOOK: By Wheatstone.
The German concertina
THE German concertina Is like the mouth-orga^ in that the
pressing in and pulling out produce alternate notes. It will
play in two keys only, but it is much cheaper.
A VERY large concertina.
The mouth-organ or harmonica
THE mouth-organ is a small and simple free-reed instrument.
It was invented about 1830, and has become very popular,
ACCORDION AND MOUTH-ORGAN FAMILIES 121
owing to its cheapness and comparative simplicity. It Is
played by being placed against the lips and moved from side
to side. The alternate notes of the scale are produced by
blowing or drawing in the breath. A simple harmony results,
as more than one note is sounded, but more skilled players
cover the unwanted notes with the tongue so as to play the
melody notes only, unless a chord is required. The scale
goes: breathe out, in; out, in; out, in; in, out
Mouth-organs are of different sizes and made in various
keys. The chromatic harmonicas have a device at the side
which raises the key of the instrument by one semitone,
thus enabling a chromatic scale and therefore any melody, as
well as trills and turns to be played. This arrangement has
more than doubled the scope of the instrument.
A mouth-organ can be bought for five shillings up to a
pound, and a chromatic mouth-organ from, thirty shillings*
These last are recommended for anyone who is really wanting
an instrument and not a toy.
The special quality of the mouth-orgaa is the speed at
which a tune can be played on it by quite an ordinary player.
Well played, the music has great snap and gaiety, and vdE
always be welcome on board ship for dancingandsinging. Span-
ish music, traditional tunes, and popular music are especially
effective played on the mouth-organ. It is portable* and
there is nothing to go out of order.
If it is to be used to accompany singing, an instrument in
the key of D is to be recommended.
Quite young children can play the mouth-organ when once
the scale has been explained to than. Boys of nine can play
really well. It makes an excellent first instrument, and can be
added to a school percussion band. In America there are
hundreds of school harmonica bands.
Requirements for a player are a really good ear and sense of
rhythm. Many people seem to have a natural gift for the
mouth-organ, and these, with some practice, soon make good
performers and find friends wherever they go.
122 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Arthur Benjamin. Harmonica Concerto. 33 S 1023.
Larry Adler on CCL 30125.
THIS is a small, very simple, melodic instrument, made on the
same principle as the mouth-organ. It has a piano keyboard,
and is blown in the same way as a whistle, but as the notes
are ready made, it is not possible to play out of tune - quite a
point! It has a range of two octaves. In tone, it is between a
motith-orgaa and a piano accordion. Though only a very
simple instrument it is really excellent as an introduction to
musk for people who have never played before, because any-
one who is at all musical, and who has a good ear, can master
it very quickly. It can be combined with other melodicas,
mouth-organs, and piano accordions, guitars and virtually
any other instrument; and as the tone can be varied with the
amount of breath, It is possible to play very expressively on
It is not as good as a mouth-organ for playing at high
speed, though I expect this would corne with practice. It is
certainly much easier than a recorder. It would be an excel-
lent instrument to lead the singing at a camp-fire, and could
take the oboe or clarinet part in a school orchestra where
these instruments were missing. It would be ideal to give to
anyone in bed. After a child had mastered the melodica he
would be very likely to want to learn one of the serious wind
instruments in this book. The price at three pounds seems
rather high for what is really only a simple instrument, and
being partly of plastic, might rather easily get broken, so it
should not be given to very young people, but I expect if
these instruments become popular a cheaper model will be
produced. They can be obtained at present from Messrs.
The harp family
THE MODERN harp consists of a series of strings stretched
over a metal frame, like the inside of a piano, but with this
difference; the notes are those of the major scale of C flat.
By means of the pedals (there are seven of them) each string
can be altered in pitch by tightening, thus making it one
semitone or one tone higher. In this way the harp can be
played in any key; and accidentals out of the key are possible.
The harp is played by sweeping the fingers of both hands
over the strings and individual notes can be plucked to play
The harp is an orchestral instrument. Parts are included
for it in a great deal of orchestral music after the romantic
period, and there is chamber music written for it by the
earlier composers. It can accompany singing and woodwind
instruments with great effect. A great deal of music can be
played on it. Apart from the necessity of replacing strings
there is little to go wrong.
Harpists are fairly rare amongst professional musicians,
and a teacher would be difficult to procure outside the big
Learning the harp
A HARP player would need quite a good grounding in music
before tackling the instrument. A knowledge of the piano is
essential, and as well as musical notation a practical know-
ledge of harmony is an advantage.
One of the main difficulties is tuning the instrument,
124 WHAT CAN I PLAY ?
which takes a long time, even for the expert. The harpist is
often seen during the Interval in a concert sitting alone at her
harp, while the other musicians are presumably enjoying a
nice cup of tea!
A thorough mastery of the harp would demand years of
constant study, as for any other serious instrument; but a
good musician would find he was able to play simple accom-
paniments in a few weeks, especially if he had the gift for
harmonising by ear. (See p. 140.) Anyone who is musical
and curious* coming across a harp for the first time, will
fed he would like to discover for himself how it is played;
though it is doubtful in these days whether there would be
general enthusiasm for an instrument with such obvious
limitations, such as there was amongst our great-grand-
A harp costs about the same as a good piano, new or
Harp Music (CJPJE, Bach, Beethoven, etc.). DGM 19114.
The Celtic harp or dor sack
THE small Celtic harp or clarsach, which has come back into
use through the revival of folk-music, is made on the pattern
of the small harp, which was the most popular instrument in
The most usual models stand about four feet high, and
have thirty-one strings tuned to a scale. To facilitate finding
the right note, the C strings are stained red and the F strings
blue. These smaE harps are not provided with the pedal
system of the concert harp, but modulations are eifected by
tuning-blades, one for each string, which raise the pitch of
the string a semitone; they are tuned by the left hand. The
harp can be tuned to any key,
Simple music written in staff notation can be played, or
the instrument can be played by ear.
THE HARP FAMILY 125
These harps are still rather rare, but there Is to be a
new interest in them, owing to television. They are for
accompanying folk-songs, though other music can be
on them just as effectively; in fact a good deal of the
usually played on a dance-band guitar could be played just
as well on the clarsach. It is a delightful instrument to
by the fireside, for improvising an accompaniment for a
group of singers, or for playing trios with a violin and cello,
and to play out in the garden on a summer evening; and its
scarcity value is such that as soon as you can give a
rendering of 'Over the Sea to Skye* you will be in tremen-
dous demand to play at your local social club.
The main snag of the clarsach, as in the concert harp, is the
tuning. A player needs to have a very good ear; and rather a
specially natural feeling for harmony to play the clarsach, as
much of the playing is necessarily by ear (see Chapter 21,
Harmonising), but a musical person with a knowledge of
several other instruments would find he was able to play
simple two- or three-chord accompaniments in a few hours.,
or as soon as he had memorised the strings, though it would
take some time and need regular lessons to reach a pro-
fessional standard. A teacher of the concert harp would be
able to give lessons.
Buying a clarsach
As most of the existing harps were made to order by two
makers, there are only a limited number available, but
dealers would probably be able to get hold of one quite
easily. If there was more demand, no doubt more would be
made. They cost from fourteen pounds. Anyone interested is
advised to write to the Clarsach Society, Edinburgh, for
further information. In any difficulty, write to Mr. Morley,
56 Old Brompton Road, London, S.W.?.
They are really lovely instruments, and deserve to be more
widely known. They are very decorative, and some models
are true works of art. Apart from this, the player looks very
126 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
nice playing the harp, which Is more than caa be said, with
the best -will in the world, of some of the instruments in this
Mmicfor the clarsach
PIANO accompaniments exit of song-books caa usually be
played y or the accompaniments simplified. Many of the
slower or less melodic dance movements from the seven-
teenth- and eighteenth-century composers can be played or
can be arranged as duets with a melodic instrument. Many of
tie classical violin and flute sonatas are quite easy, and other
music originally written in figured bass is playable. There
are endless possibilities for the good musician. It is a very
individual instrument, and no two people play it in quite
the same way.
THE zither consists of a sound-box, with two sets of strings
stretched over its surface. It is in the shape of a small harp.
One set of strings is tuned to a scale, and is stretched over
a fretted fingerboard and is used for playing the melody; the
other four strings provide the accompaniment.
The zither is seen in the mountain villages of the Tyrol,
and is often very effectively played. It is not so easy to play
as the auto-harp, but is much better known, especially since
the film The Third Man.
They cost from three pounds ten but can very often be
bought in second-hand shops very cheaply.
The ' Harry Lime Theme ' from the film The Third Man.
THE auto-harp is a simplified zither. There are no melody
THE HARP FAMILY 127
strings, but a slow melody can be picked out quite It
consists of a wooden sound-box with strings stretched across
it and tuned to a scale, usually G major. The larger
have C sharp and F natural added. Chords are played by
means of keys or manuals, padded with felt, which
out any ^string not required in a chord. They are pressed
down with the left hand while the right hand sweeps the
strings, either with the fingers or a plectrum. This last
a noisy and metallic sound. The kind of india-rubber sold for
typewriters makes an ideal plectrum. Without a plectrum
the fingers soon get very sore.
^ The auto-harp is the ideal instrument for accompanying
singing, and if put on a box it has considerable tone. It is not
so breakable as a ukelele or guitar and young people whose
hands would be far too small to play the guitar can soon
learn to play. At first, teach them to play 'Clementine', it is
excellent ear training to teach them to listen for the chord
With its sweet and gentle tone it makes a most un-annoy-
ing sound and is much less noisy than a mouth-organ or an
accordion in a confined space, such as the cabin of a small
sailing boat. It combines very well with recorders and mouth-
organs, and even flutes, and though it is not reckoned to be a
serious instrument, it should really be more often made use
of, for it could be added to a school percussion band, and of
course it is ideal for anyone in bed.
Models having from four to twelve chords are available.
When buying one, do be sure that you get one that has at
least eight chords on it, two of which should be the dominant
seventh and the tonic of the next related key, because so
much English folk and traditional music goes into the related
key half-way through, e.g. ' Oh where and oh where has my
Highland Laddie gone*.
The keys are arranged so that the most useful chords (see
p. 143) lie easily under the hand; in this way their position
is memorised very quickly.
328 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Ttmng the auto-harp
THE real difficulty about the auto-harp, and It really is a
bother, is that it takes so long to tune. If you have bought a
new one, and It Is hopelessly out of tune, I would really
suggest that you should take it to your piano tuner. He will
do It very quickly and easily, and will show you how to tune
It In fifths and fourths, like a real harp, not to the piano. This
Is difficult to explain here, but If it is tuned enharmonically
the instrument will have a wonderful ring and tone. This is
why it is such a delightful instrument.
It Is much easier to tune your auto-harp if you take a tin of
quick- drying paint, and mark the top of each of the metal
pins which hold the strings of the common chord, I.e. G
major chord i. In this way you will be able to find which
string you are tuning quite easily. Tune the strings roughly
at first. Then leave the instrument to settle, and re-tune.
Don't forget you can press the strings either side of the
bridge to get a small alteration without making use of the
key. Keep the key tied to the Instrument. They are a nuisance
to replace. Never leave the auto-harp in the sun, or in a very
warm place. Try to keep it in an even temperature; then it is
likely to stay in tune.
A piano tuner is really the person to repair it, as he wUl be
able to supply the right weight and type of string. Perhaps if
there Is more demand for these splendid little instruments
they will become cheaper and more available. I certainly
hope they will.
Learning the auto-harp
HAVING got hold of an auto-harp, the first thing to do is to
replace the names and numbers on the manuals by the more
usual numbers, and the proper names of the chords. If you
do not know anything about harmony, get someone to help
you, though you should be able to find the most important
chords, as they are tible first three, working from left to right,
THE HARP FAMILY
Mark these IV, and I. I is the tonic; that is the
marked G tonic; V is the one next to the left, and IV is the
first on the left.
I hope if you read the chapter about harmonising by ear on
p. 140 that playing the auto-harp will seem quite simple,
Having once tuned the instrument, play chord I, loud and
clear. It is the chord of G. Now start to sing * Clementine * or
'The more we are together' following the numbers written
in under the words to these on p. 145. Having mastered
these two tunes, try *Swanee River* which use of
chord IV. Having mastered these tunes you will be able to
play accompaniments to hundreds of tunes. In order to
use of the other chords correctly you will just have to get
someone with a knowledge of harmony to help you.
The advantages of playing the auto-harp
A REALLY musical person with an interest in harmony cart
have endless fun trying out new chords and progressions, and
harmonising difficult tunes. I have even heard of someone
who made an additional damper and added another two
strings to play the dominant seventh of the rekted minor
Many of the effects possible on the guitar can be made use
of on the auto-harp, and like every other instrument it is
quite individual and a good touch is really important,
Where there is no band it can be used for dancing. It goes
splendidly with a mouth-organ. It is great fun to play in the
car, or in the garden, and is just the ideal introduction to
music for the whole family.
I once used my auto-harp to teach music to some patients
who were in hospital with eye injuries. I marked the most
important chords with sealing-wax. They soon learnt to
play, and were most entertained, as the instrument can be
played perfectly in the dark.
Auto-harps can be bought at most large music shops, but
are unfortunately now rather expensive. I remember my first
130 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
one cost twenty-five shillings. They cost anything from four
to twelve pounds, but can often be bought in sales, and even,
junk shops. They are wonderful for teaching harmony.
This book was not designed as a 'tutor*, but as the leaflet
sold with the auto-harp is not very easy to follow, and does
not teach harmony, I hope this chapter will suffice as a guide
to anyone coming across one of these delightful instruments,
which should really be better known.
SOME ACQUAINTANCE with the simpler percussion
instruments is becoming more general with the introduction
of percussion bands into junior schools. These are an
excellent musical education, as far as they go, since they
teach reading and rhythm, as well as orchestral sense, at a
very early age. A young player who has had the opportunity
to play in these bands will soon find himself quite at home
playing a full-size instrument in a full orchestra.
The percussion instruments used in the modern symphony
orchestra consist of the kettle-drum and side drums.
The kettle-drums or timpani
THESE drums are used in every large orchestra. Each drum
consists of a large copper bowl, standing on three legs, and a
single drumhead of fine quality calf-skin stretched across the
open end, and held in position by a hoop of metal. The head
can be tightened or slackened by means of screws or taps,
and so tuned to any note from F below the bass clef to F in
the bass clef.
The kettle-drums are alone amongst musical instruments
in combining percussion and pitch. The soft tone of the drum
matches the double basses, whereas the loud tone can domi-
nate the whole orchestra. It has a wider range of volume,
from pianissimo to fortissimo, than any other instrument.
The drum adds character and purpose to orchestral music.
It is a very fascinating instrument to play.
WHAT CAN I I>LAY?
When to learn the kettle-drums
IT Is unusual for young players to possess their own instru-
ments, so learning the drum usually only becomes possible at
school. Provided the player has strong wrists he should be
able to start to play at about ten years of age. The percussion
instruments are amongst the best instruments for an adult
player who has an interest in playing in an orchestra. The
drums can be taken up at any age, but a player of fourteen
or so will have the advantage of supple wrists, which are so
necessary for producing a good roll.
A boy with ability to read music easily, and a feeling for the
drums, would soon be able to play well enough for a school
orchestra, if the part did not necessitate re-tuning in the
middle of the piece; that takes a great deal of experience.
The side drum having been mastered, the kettle-drum could
be played after a term's work.
The intending dnimmer should, besides his good ear, be
sure that he has good sight, as the conductor and the music
are a long way away from him. A good nerve is wanted and a
sense of independence. Absolute reliability as to counting is
easier than might be imagined,
Young players will find they can practise correct beating,
and also passing from one drum to another on round tables.
The drumming makes very little noise.
Buying a kettle-drum
MOST orchestral societies or school orchestras own a set of
timpani, which are loaned to the player, but a really keen
player will like to possess his own set.
A new pair of timpani, tuaed by the ordinary handle
method, would cost a hundred and fifteen pounds or more,
but excellent timpani are to be had second-hand from thirty-
pounds per set. Sticks cost from seventeen shillings a pair.
Covers for the drums are essential, and cost from seven
pounds ten. It is advisable to cover the drumheads when left
PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS 133
unattended during intervals, since they are
Kettle-drams weigh roughly eighty pounds. They
measure about twenty-eight by twenty-five inches, A set
can be taken on a taxi quite easily, or in a car.
The mechanically tuned drum, which is used in America
and elsewhere, is gaining ground in England. This device
means that only one drum will be needed for an orchestral
part, where perhaps three to five tap-tuned drums would be
A good tutor is published by Boosey & Hawkes, in their
Simplicity Series The Kettk-dmm y by Percival Kirkby.
Eric Delaney. 'Oranges and Lemons.' N 15054,
The side drum
THE side drum has been called the * snare drum' as this
smaller drum instrument, which is of metal or wood, with
drumhead at either end, has 'snares' which are lengths of
catgut or wire stretched across the lower head.
The sticks of the side drum, are held rigid and the skin is
stretched tighter, allowing for a much quicker roll to be
The side drum is used in practically every band and
The side drum is extremely difficult to master, and a
prospective player needs to take it up as a young boy, while
his wrists are really supple. A boy of eight can be given a
small drum and can start to have lessons; in fact, it is a very
good instrument for a very young and keen player, as his
youth will be an advantage. Children can become surprisingly
good drummers quite easily with good teaching. Drum-
ming is not a thing that can be picked up on your own.
The drum can easily be put inside a car, or on the back of a
134 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Good side drums cost from twenty pounds, but a small
model, suitable for a learner, can be had for ten pounds. It is
usual to remove the snares for practising. Good second-hand
side drums are available, and cost from six pounds. Rope
tensioning is used in army side drums, but rod tensioning is
Elgar. Enigma Variations No. 7. Op. 36. CCL 3010.
The musical saw
THOUGH not a serious musical instrument, the saw can pro-
duce a beautiful tone in the hands of a good player. It is held
between the knees and bent into an * S ' curve, the handle
end being held in the left hand. It is played either with a
violin bow, or with a soft-headed drumstick on the edge of
the exact part of the saw which will produce the note. Some
experimenting will lead to discovering where the notes are to
be found. The saw can be made to sound very like the human
voice, and is a very useful turn for a serious musician, or a
player in a dance-band.
An ordinary garden saw will do quite well, though it is
possible to get a musical saw for about twenty-eight shillings.
A violin bow costs about two pounds and a stick eighteen-
Anyone with a good ear and a strong left hand can play the
saw, although it is not as easy as it looks. It would be quite
possible for a player to teach himself, though it would be
quicker to get some hints from the leader of a good dance-
The saw has about the same range as a violin, or from low
G to top C. It can be played in any weather or climate, and
needs no upkeep; there is nothing to go out of order. It is
always popular at a concert party on board ship.
The saw likes slow, possibly rather sentimental music, but
there is a great deal of this to choose from!
The organ family
THE ORGAN Is the most Impressive of all musical In-
struments, combining as It does the characteristics of the
various instruments in the orchestra with a very special
quality of its own* A really fine organ In a lofty cathedral can
be most inspiring and wonderful.
The organ is difficult to describe, because the Instruments
vary in size and quality and type to such an extent, from the
very small and simple one-manual organs found In village
churches, to the magnificent instruments found in great
cathedrals, concert halls and cinemas.
The most usual organ has two manuals or fingerboards,
and a pedal keyboard played with the feet.
There are various manuals, which are practically a small
organ in themselves, as they use a certain set of pipes. There
are stops called 'couplers', which connect two of the key-
boards, and others which give special effects, such as the
reedy quality of the oboe. This is produced by a stop bearing
that name which brings Into operation the particular set of
pipes required to make the sound.
The mechanism of the organ is extremely complicated but
very fascinating, and anyone interested should look it up in
the Oxford Companion to Music by Percy Scholes.
Learning the organ
IT is usual for an organist to have piano lessons for some time
before taking up the organ, as it is a more complicated in-
strument, but it is quite possible to start on the organ. Any-
one who is big enough to reach the pedals is old enough to
136 WHAT CAN I PLAT?
begin. Quite young children often play very well ; it is harder
than the piano in the early stages, but organs vary a great deal
in difficulty, and each organ needs rather different treatment
to get the best results. After three months, a keen student
with previous experience of piano playing should be able to
play for a simple church service, and perform easy pieces
with the pedal part,
The touch of the organ is so different from the piano that
it would be possible for a pianist to spoil his piano touch by
playing the organ, though, of course, many well-known
musicians are first-class players of both instruments.
Buying an organ
ORGANS suitable for private houses, schools, churches, etc.,
vary in price, but nowadays it is possible to instal one of the
electric organs for much less, and they have the added ad-
vantage of not requiring so much room. All the same, they are
not comparable in tone-quality with the true organ, which is
to be preferred whenever possible.
The advantages of playing the organ
THE organ is a wonderful instrument to play. As each one is
different a player will find great interest in playing on the
various organs he comes across. A good player will always
find himself welcome, either to help with a service or give a
Music of the organ
THERE is a great deal of fine classical and modern music for
the organ, as well as arrangements of orchestral works.
There is a part for the organ in most big choral works, and
there are a few classical concertos for it.
Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D minor. LW 5095.
Handel. Four Organ Concertos. APM 14085.
'. . . beside the seaside'
138 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
The harmonium and the American organ
THESE keyboard instruments are not easy to describe con-
cisely because they vary so much in size and complexity from
the small portable affairs, still sometimes seen with pierrot
troupes, to the fretwork marvels to be found in old-fashioned
front parlours. These, often decorated with pictures of
romantic-looking castles reminiscent of the canal boats, or
fairground organs, have sometimes been the salvation of a
wet seaside holiday. In damp climates a harmonium is more
dependable than a piano, and does not need regular tuning.
For a caravan, and for taking abroad where tuning and re-
pairing would be out of the question, it is excellent. It can be
carried in a car trailer, and left overnight in a leaky marquee
without coming to much harm. It is excellent for helping
out the wind parts in a school orchestra. There is a part for
the harmonium in many publications for school orchestras.
The harmonium is especially suitable for accompanying
choral singing and playing simple organ music. Slow piano
music can be played, and some of the extended chorales of
Bach sound very well on the harmonium. Both the har-
monium and the American organ can sound entirely pleasing
when well played. The familiar wheezy whine is the fault of
the player, and not the instrument.
When invited to play for a service on an unfamiliar in-
strument, be very sure to leave plenty of time for a trial run
through Handel's Largo, or some other suitable voluntary
(see p. 1 66), as the would-be organist must beware of a
certain type of harmonium which has the disconcerting
feature that the pitch is apt to drop as soon as the player
stops pedalling. This can produce a most unecclesiastical
effect. The frantic performer pedals in the most frenzied
fashion. These instruments, though genuine antiques, are
still to be met with in chapels and places where they sing.
It is well to be prepared. A number of ancient instruments
have a distressing habit of ' ciphering \ One note may elect to
THE ORGAN FAMILY 139
go on sounding, or staying open, although It has not been
played. It is best to mark these notes with stamp paper and
to make a point of missing them out happens to the
music. You may have to play an octave higher for a few bars.
Although it is not advisable to start learning music on the
harmonium as an introduction to the piano, because the
touch is so different, to do so is quite possible. And where
there is no piano, the opportunity should not be lost; at best,
however, the harmonium is a limited instrument, although
almost any harmonium is superior to a piano for church
Anyone who could play the piano would soon be able to
manage the harmonium once the pedalling had become
A new instrument might cost anything up to a hundred
pounds, but they turn up at sales, or can often be obtained
through an advertisement in a local paper*
Music for the American Organ : Useful lists from Messrs.
The Self-taught Country Organist and Choirmaster : Cole
Reading, playing by ear and
LEARNING TO read music seems to be a real bother to
many people, though there are others who don't seem
especially musical, but to whom it comes so easily that they
just do not understand why the rest of us find it so difficult!
It seems to be curiously troublesome to the people who have
an especially good ear. Perhaps they do not give the written
notes their whole attention, and are really imagining what is
coming. This may be all very well with music composed
before about 1850, but faced with a modern composition
they are completely lost. They must be persuaded to make
the effort to learn, because unless they are fluent readers they
will miss all the fun of playing with other people, however
beautiful their tone or touch.
Teaching a child
WHEN a child is learning to read music, he should first
become absolutely familiar with time, and be able to read
simple percussion band music, on a drum and on one note
of the piano. The percussion band can be excellent as a pain-
less method of learning to count. When it comes to learning
pitch, this should be taught by singing intervals and recog-
nising them, with no time to worry about at first.
How to learn
THE quickest way to learn to read well is to sing in a choir,
but another good way is to take simple orchestral music,
READING, PLAYING AND HARMONISING 141
such as the James Brown albums. The teacher plays the first
violin part and the accompaniment, and the pupil the
violin part on the piano. These parts, with no perceptible
tune, and liberally sprinkled with rests and odd tied
are excellent practice, because the reader can often tell
he is wrong. But he does have to read, and he just can't
it up; nevertheless the end result is quite pleasing.
readers on all instruments should try this, as it is not
to keep a good position on the violin, or to breathe correctly
on a wind instrument while learning to read a double dotted
They should also learn to write music how else can you
remember an enchanting new tune ? A quick scribble and you
will have a treasure for life.
Playing by ear
I DO think that part of any music lesson should be devoted to
learning to play by ear for any pupils who show the least
aptitude. So often this side of playing is entirely neglected
in the rush to pass examinations; and this invaluable and
entertaining, and fairly unusual gift is never cultivated.
Many pianists who will never reach a very high standard as
performers can learn to harmonise by ear very easily* But it
should be taught, not just picked up.
Harmonising by ear
AT first the pupil should sing the tune, or the teacher play it
in the right hand, or on another instrument, while the pupil
puts in a simple bass, using both hands, rather like chop-
sticks. When this has been mastered he can try putting tune
and accompaniment together, though this is far more
difficult to do correctly. This simple method of harmonising
can be used for any accompanying instrument, the guitar,
the ukelele, the auto-harp, and piano accordion, and of
course the piano. (See p. 143.) I hope this explanation
will be useful to anyone who is trying to learn any of these
142 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
instruments. There are plenty of books on harmony, but I
find they make It sound alarmingly difficult, whereas it
seems to come very easily to the many people who have a
good ear. A good simple accompaniment can be adapted to
almost any song, from * Clementine * upwards and downwards.
The me of chords
IT is easiest to explain the use of chords by using the piano.
The best way to begin is to get the pupil to listen to the
bass of a chord, and not only the top note. For this I make
them find C and play it with their right index finger, and G
with their left index finger. These notes are the roots of the
tonic and dominant chords - called one and five. I then play
* Clementine ' or * The More we are Together *, which can be
harmonised with these two chords only. I make them listen
and find which note 'matches' the chord I am using. In this
way they soon learn when to change the chord; in * Clemen-
tine' it is on ' tine \ People with a good ear get the idea very
quiddy, and even very young children can do this ages before
they can pky a whole chord, or even a tune. In this way they
learn to listen to the bass, and not only to the tune. I have
taught plenty of people who have never played a note of
music before, to be able to play simple accompaniments to
(no doubt!) all kinds of different tunes.
The first chord to learn is chord i - the tonic chord. The
easiest way to play this chord on the piano in the key of C is
like this: (a)
The next chord to learn is chord v - the dominant. The
easiest position is like this; (V)
READING, PLAYING AND HARMONISING 143
so that you can keep your little finger on the note which is
common to both chords.
The next chord is the sub-dominant-chord iv. It is easily
found from chord i, as both chords have C in common.
Once you know these chords it is simple to harmonise
tunes, following the numbers of the chords. Very soon you
wiU find you do not need to have the numbers of the chords -
you will hear when to use one chord or another. Don't try to
fit a chord to every word or beat of the music. At the end of
this paragraph you will find the words of some well-known
tunes, with chord numbers printed under them.
I I Y Y I
When you can play these chords very easily you must
learn them in other keys. The most useful is the key of G.
144 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
You may want to use an * improved version* of the domi-
nant chord, that is the dominant seventh, but don't use it
too much, keep it for the last but one chord in a song. If it is
used all the time the accompaniment sounds very mono-
A number of tunes modulate into another key, generally
the related key after the first eight bars. This entails making
use of the tonic and dominant chords of the next key. In the
key of C this will be the chord of G which has one sharp. (A
good example of this is the tune 'A Highland Lad' or
'Daisy, Daisy'.) It is important to learn these chords.
If you want to learn to play the guitar, you will have to
find the positions of these three chords. This also applies to
the ukelele. If you want to play the piano accordion, you will
have to find the buttons which produce these three chords.
And on the auto-harp you will find the three chords or
manuals are placed conveniently close together, so that they
are quite easy to find. You can play these numbered chords
on any accompanying instrument.
If you can find a teacher to explain these pages, it will be
much better, though it should be possible to learn how to
play accompaniments to cheerful songs on the piano if you
read carefully through these notes. Other arrangements of
the chords and add variety to a simple accompaniment.
Of course you will realise this is not the whole story, but
if you learn to use these chords you can harmonise hundreds
of tunes without breaking any very important rules of
Ohmy J&rling, ohmy darling, ohmy darling Clementine, thou
I I I V
art lost and gone for ever, oh my darling Clement.
V I V I
Way down upon the Swanee River, far far away. . .
READING, PLAYING AND HARMONISING 145
The mar e we are tocher, toget her, together, the more we are
I I V I I
together the merrier well #.
I V I
musical are you !
CAN you listen to a whole symphony on the wireless or
gramophone without fidgeting or doing something else
such as knitting ?
Play the tunes you heard in a musical the night before by
ear on the piano ?
Play a piece of music on the piano, reading it, and then play
it after five minutes, without the music - or something
Play * Drink to me only ' on more than five instruments ?
Can you explain how a trumpet works ?
Sing a second part without the music to a well-known hymn
tune, or a traditional song ?
Play for community hymn-singing by ear in several keys in
case you find F sharp is out of order?
Play an accompaniment to a hymn tune you have never heard
State the key of a piece of music heard on the wireless with
Get within a semitone if asked to pitch middle C ?
Can you read in the tenor clef?
Do you know 70 per cent of the tunes in the back of this
Can you sing the middle part of 'My Heart ever Faithful*
without the music, or the whole of 'A Wandering Min-
strel' ? and be in tune on the last note, unaccompanied ?
Would you queue two hours for seats for 'The Ring', c The
Dream of Gerontius' or the St. Matthew Passion?
Could you sit down with the score of a quartet and hear
what it sounds like?
146 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Are the children really musical?
At 7! years old can they sing endless nursery rhymes, and
several national songs - * John Peel', ' Swanee River ', etc.,
perfectly In tune ?
March in time and clap in time to the music, and repeat a
simple time pattern ?
Recognise tunes played to them ?
Pick out tunes on the piano, such as 'Now the day is over,'
'Baa Baa Black Sheep', * Little Bo Peep 5 , etc.?
Sing the top note and the bottom note of a sixth and fifth ?
Pick up a simple hymn tune by the end of the fifth verse or
Show some curiosity about how various instruments are
If they have music lessons, play something like 'The Jolly
Farmer* correctly, and up to time after two terms lessons ?
Be able to hold a part in a round with other people, such as
'Fr&re Jacques' or 'Three Blind Mice', etc. ?
Can they listen properly to a piece of music for about five
minutes when it is played to them, or on the wireless and
gramophone? (Easier for boys than girls!)
Appear to enjoy listening to music played to them ?
Do they demand to learn music ?
The Boehm system
READERS HAVE been repeatedly advised to be sure to
invest in a Boehm system woodwind instrument. This means
that the spaces and keys were so arranged by a maker called
Boehm to simplify playing. It is not very satisfactory to
change from one fingering system to another, but if anyone
should possess an old-fashioned 1 instrument, and it is not
possible to exchange it for a Boehm model, he is advised to
get on with learning to play it, as, of course, tone-produc-
tion, lip-pressure, tonguing, phrasing, etc., are just the same.
FRETS are raised lines across the fingerboard, usually on
plucked, not bowed, string instruments. The hard metal
strip produces a more resonant tone and helps to show where
the fingers should be placed, in order to find the various notes.
Frets or strips of stamp paper are useful in the early stages
of learning a stringed instrument, especially for inculcating a
good left-hand position and correcting a persistently out-of-
tune note, such as a too-sharp C natural, on the A string of
the fiddle, and again when beginning to study shifting.
A TRANSPOSING instrument is one which has its part written
out in a different key from that of the rest of the orchestra;
the clarinet in A, for example, has its part written in C when
the ordinary instruments of the orchestra have theirs written
in A. In effect, the clarinet player reads the note C in his
148 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
music and fingers C on his instrument, which, however, is so
constructed that the note comes out as A ; and so on for all the
notes of the scale.
The other transposing instruments of the orchestra are the
clarinet in B flat, the cor anglais, and the French horn.
Of course it is possible to make any instrument into a
transposing instrument provided it can be tuned, by tuning
it into a convenient key. The bass for instance is conven-
tionally tuned A D G C, but supposing the piece you want
to play is in B flat, and your double bass player has had only a
few lessons, he may be safe in the first position, but on the
other hand he may really be playing in flats. It is quite
practical for him to tune his instrument a semitone higher
for this particular piece of music, though he would have to
write out his part. You would have to arrange your pro-
gramme to give him time to tune. It is often useful where
there are very young and inexperienced violins,, though as I
have said elsewhere, it is best to keep to sharp keys on the con-
cert platform, where there are any very inexperienced players.
The reason for instruments being transposed is that their
fingering is thereby simplified. Anyone who has played a tin
whistle will readily see that if he wants to play the scale of
C he chooses a tin whistle made in the key of C. If he wants
to play in the scale of C sharp it is easiest to play it on a
whistle specially made to play it in the key of C sharp. That
is why a clarinet player has two instruments.
THIS is a curious, useful and entertaining gift, found in some
musical and some quite unmusical people, to a greater and
lesser degree. These people can state, on hearing a piece, a
chord, or even one note, its letter name. Some can even sing
a given note after having heard no music for some days.
This is rarer, but useful for avoiding disaster when singing
the National Anthem! The best exponents can tell the pitch
of hooters and other noises, and I have myself found it useful
EXPLANATORY NOTES 149
in the Channel for identifying the fog-horns of the ships near
at hand in a small powerless yacht! It is a gift that should be
looked for, and encouraged by a teacher. A good way to
practise is to 'guess what A sounds like* before opening a
fiddle-case, or touching the piano. It is usual for the same
error to be made - the note always given a third too low, for
example, which can be gradually corrected. It is an ex-
tremely useful gift for choral singing, because it simplifies
reading, provided the choir have not gone too sharp or flat,
and also for identifying music on the radio; there can be no
question which symphony it is, if the key can be stated. It is
clearly a memory gift, and as such can be trained, and should
be part of a musical education.
AT the end of the nineteenth century, the international pitch
of 435 vibrations for A was generally adopted in Britain for
Therefore, most wind instruments made prior to the year
1900 will be out of tune with a modern orchestra or bancl, or
modern piano or organ up to concert pitch. Though the
fundamental note can often be tuned exactly it will be found
that the other notes will not be exactly in tune. There is no
remedy for these old instruments, and great care must be
taken when buying a second-hand woodwind instrument to
ensure that it is low pitch. The easiest way is by measurement.
If the cost of a standard pitch instrument is prohibitive, it is
possible to make a start on one of these, and once a player
has a good technique he will find it worth while saving up
for a low pitch instrument. A high pitch flute for instance
could be quite a good buy as the most difficult part of
learning the flute is the actual making of a side blown note,
and training the lip muscles to produce a good tone. For this
any instrument would do. Such an instrument can sometimes
be picked up very cheaply, perhaps at one-eighth of the cost
of a low pitch instrument.
Schools and societies
The Rural Music Schools
IT IS not possible to master a complicated musical instru-
ment without the help of a skilful teacher. Good teachers
generally stay in the big towns and charge fees that many
people find too high. The aim of the Rural Music Schools is
to provide a centre from which qualified teachers can reach
the villages and small towns of a country district, and to
which village students and village social organisations can
come for advice and help In musical matters.
The schools hold classes in instrumental and choral
music, and students are encouraged from the beginning to
become useful members of choirs, orchestras, quartets, and
music clubs. A desire to learn and willingness to work are
the only qualifications needed for school membership.
The movement dates from 1929, when the first school was
founded in Hertfordshire, by Miss Mary Ibberson. There
are now ten county Rural Music Schools: Hertfordshire
(109, Bancroft, Hitchin); Hampshire (8 Market Place,
Romsey,); Wiltshire (24 Wingfield Road, Trowbridge);
Sussex (Watergate Lane, Lewes) ; Norfolk (22 Stracey Road,
Norwich); Bedfordshire (62 Harpur Street, Bedford);
Suffolk (8 Soane Street, Ispwich); Dorset (Whitecliff, Mill
Street, Blandford); Kent (The Music Centre Maidstone);
and Cornwall (87 Truro Road, St. Austell). These schools
between them are catering for some 13,500 students.
The address of the Rural Music Schools Association is
Little Benslow Hills, Hitchin, and inquiries may be sent to
SCHOOLS AND SOCIETIES 151
the Secretary. The Rural Music Schools Association has
affiliated groups in several parts of the country where it is
hoped to start schools later on.
Week-ends for amateur musicians and short courses are
arranged by the Association at its headquarters. Individuals
may stay in the house at other times and make use of its
excellent library, its pianos, tape-recorder and gramophone,
provided that they are willing to prepare their own meals,
Music and gramophone records in public libraries
THE editor of The Gramophone - a magazine published
monthly at 39 Ebrington Road, Kenton, Middlesex - would
have up-to-date information about which public libraries
have gramophone lending libraries.
Very few libraries publish a separate catalogue of their
music sections. It is included in the main card-catalogue,
and this is the usual method. It is worth noting that music
scores, especially obscure works, can be borrowed through
the national inter-library lending scheme by making applica-
tion to your local library. There is a large collection at the
Central Music Library, Buckingham Palace Road, S.W.I,
run by the Westminster City Council, which can be con-
tacted in this way. In effect the music collections (but not
record collections) of all public libraries are available to any
borrower through the inter-lending scheme.
Records may be borrowed from certain public libraries.
Inquire from your local librarian.
The National Federation of Music Societies,
4 St. James's Square , London, S.W.I
A NUMBER of amateur orchestras are members of the National
Federation of Music Societies, founded in 1935 'to promote
the art and practice and performance of music'; its President
(since 1954) is Dr. Reginald Jacques, C.B.E., D.Mus.
F.R.C.M. The membership of the Federation - now nearly
800 -includes music clubs presenting professional recitals
SCHOOLS AND SOCIETIES 153
traditional dances of England. There are now over twelve
thousand members and associates. As well as receiving the
magazine and journal, members are able to use the wonder-
ful library of folk-music of all lands, and attend the various
lectures, recitals and dances at headquarters. All musicians
should become members or associates of the E.F.D.S.S.,
subscriptions being 2 2$. and IDS., and help in the work of
collecting our heritage of folk-songs and dances before they
are lost for ever. We can hardly imagine that, but for the
industry of men such as Cecil Sharp, we might never have
had such treasures as 'Dabbling in the Dew' and *The
Raggle Taggle Gypsies'.
The Society publishes books, music, instruction sheets and
records, which are obtainable from the Sales Department.
Any family living within reach of London should make a
point of going to the annual Folk Dance Festival, held in the
Albert Hall in the second week of January, which makes the
perfect outing for all ages. Matinees are held every two years.
Spreading a knowledge and love of our traditional music
should be the aim of every teacher and parent.
Music in the Girl Guide Movement
THE Girl Guide Movement has a well-established tradition
of music. The junior branch, the Brownies, includes singing
games as part of its normal programme. The characteristic
music of a Guide Company is the camp-fire circle, where
folk-songs and action songs predominate. The formal in-
struments mentioned in this book - guitar, auto-harp, and
mouth-organ with recorders and pipes for teaching the tune -
are all ideal for Girl Guides. Community dancing is widely
used in Guide and Ranger branches. For individuals, the
badge system encourages achievement in all branches. A
Guider coming across a Guide who appears to have excep-
tional musical gifts should lend her this book, and see if she
can persuade her to take up some instrument, and encourage
her to have lessons, so that she can do her good turn by being
154 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
a musician. The Girl Guides Association has several first-
class musical Instruments, which can be lent to members of
the movement who are promising students and who lack a
really good instrument to learn on - six violins, a viola, and
a cello which may be borrowed for from two to four years.
The Association publishes collections of rounds and folk-
songs as pocket song-books, printed with words and melody.
These can be obtained by writing to headquarters. I do
hope that the list of tunes at the end of this book will be use-
ful to Guides, as my very first list was written in an old Guide
Diary which I kept for years. I found that we all knew hun-
dreds of tunes but that we couldn't remember them off-
hand; hence the list which, with additions, has been classified
to make it more generally useful. Guides can make their own
lists; they will find it very useful when they want to Be
The Minstrel's Test for Girl Guides
1. Play the National Anthem from memory, and a march
2. Play scales and common chord arpeggios: in major
and relative minor keys up to four sharps and flats.
Note: This clause applies to pianists; it must be
adapted for string players, but should not
exceed in difficulty Grade 4 of the Associated
Board Examinations. The object is accuracy
rather than speed.
3. Play two contrasted pieces, one by a classical com-
poser, and one by a modern composer.
4. Read simple music at sight.
Useful song-books and other
Musicianship for Students. Hugo Anson. Harmony, Counter-
point and Improvisation, Book i. Chapter 24.
Melody-making at the Piano,
Camp-fire Leadership for Scouts. John Thurman.
Sight Reading for Choir Boys. Sims. Novello. 55-.
Music in Schools. H.M. Stationery Office. Ministry of
Education Pamphlet No. 27.
Melodies and How to Harmonize Them. Duncan. IQS. 6d.
Thirty-five Nursery Rhymes, collected by Arthur Somervell.
London Bridge , and other old Singing Games. Curwen. 35. 6d.
Children's Singing Games. Sharpe. Novello. Sets i to 5. 3$.
A little Anthology of Folk Tunes for Percussion Band.
Boosey. 4$. Marches, Waltzes, Minuets, Traditional,
Classical and Modern Tunes.
The Band Book. O.U.P. M. M. Scott. (Mary Sargent.) A
collection of Traditional and Classical tunes for First Year
Players on Melodic Instruments. A second Band Book is
Music for the Dancing Class. Classical Extracts for Classical
Dancing. Boosey. 45.
March and Dance Album. Arr. Somervell. Boosey. $s.
Music and Drill Album. Arr. Jacobson. 4$. 6d.
The Clarendon Class Singing Course. 45*. each.
Twice Thirty-Three Carols. Geoffrey Shaw.
The Oxford Book of Carols. Music izs. 6d. Words 4$. 6d.
156 WHAT CAN 1 PLAY?
Selection of Collected Folk Songs. AIT. Cecil Sharp. Volumes
i and 2, 5$. 6d. and 3$.
The New National Song Book. Boosey and Hawkes, 200
tunes. i$s. 6d.
The Na^ Fellowship Song Book. Novello. 5$. 6d. and zs. 6d.
Oxford Song Book.
Clarendon Song Book.
Twice Fifty-Five Community Songs. Boosey.
Twice Fifty-Five Sociable Songs. Boosey.
National Sang Book. Boosey.
Youth's Golden Treasury of Song. xjs. 6d. and 4$.
Boosey Community Song Book. 145-. and 4$.
The Seven Seas Shanty Book. Boosey. xos. and 3$. 6d.
Songs of the Seven Seas. Boosey. 45.
The Club Song Book for Boys and Girls.
Pocket Song Book, Words and Melody. 55.
Sing Care Away. Books i, 2, 3, 4. us. 6d. each. Words 35. 6d.
Song Book for Boys. los. and 4$. 6d.
Eighteen Songs by Handel, js. 6d.
The Amateur Choir Trainer. Henry Coleman.
How to Read a Score. Gordon Jacob.
Five Minutes Weekly Sight Reading far Adults. H. Coleman.
Tunes to play sing^ musical
FINALLY, here is a list of tunes; the title - the first line -
a line from the chorus whichever seemed best to call it to
mind. There are lists of tunes for every occasion. For com-
munity singing round the piano, for musical bumps, for
songs with especially effective words, for rounds and catches,
for voluntaries on untrustworthy harmoniums for sea songs,
and so on.
I have left plenty of spaces so that each person can add to
the list. In time this becomes almost a travel diary, because
there are very few places where a musician won't be able to
pick up a good new tune. Such a list is invaluable when you
are asked to carry on during a breakdown. Perhaps the
lights will have fused - they may have run out of shillings
for the meter - the film projector may have broken down, or
the band may not have turned up! You'd love to play but
you can't think what to play. Keep the list handy, as even if
you can't play 'by the yard', so many people can. I remember
once having to play by the light of matches stuck in a ham
If you are a pianist who can play by ear or memory, take a
red biro and underline the tunes you know really well. If
unable to play by ear, make your own list, making use of the
music you can find.
If you are a singer, mark any songs you could perform
should need arise, and find the music, making sure you know
the words to some of them off by heart, especially those with
rousing choruses! Perhaps you are neither, but you enjoy
158 WHAT CAN I PLAY?
singing round the piano. Keep the list handy and give it to
the pianist who is sure to appear amongst any group of
People in the Services or in a Scout camp, or those going
on a walking or sailing holiday who can only whistle or hum,
should take the list with them.
If you have a tin whistle, recorder, mouth-organ, piano
accordion or are learning to play any more serious instru-
ment, you should make a list of tunes which are especially
effective or easy to play on your instrument. Did you know
there are dozens of wonderful tunes with only five or six
notes ? You should be able to play some of these in your first
lessons on some of the instruments in this book. Perhaps you
are able to play simple accompaniments, and you are landed
with entertaining a group of people. Do remember the old
favourites are still the most successful The list of popular
tunes is very long so I have made it alphabetical, and have
starred the ones which everyone seems to know, but con-
tributors from members of the Women's Institutes seem to
know hundreds of tunes! I haven't included many modern
ones, because it is difficult to know which will become
classics. 'Buttons and Bows' seems to have that immortal
quality, although it is only a few years old. ;
There are tunes for "musical parcels', tnd for 'musical
chairs'. On the right occasion the game can be played in the
dark with the gentlemen sitting on the chairs! Games using
music are really better recorded beforehand, as then they
can be timed and tried out, and if you have no first-class
pianist in the gathering you can find one earlier and get
him to record the tunes; and if music must be used it can be
looked out before the party begins. A good tape-recording of
some pleasant tunes is very useful on all sorts of occasions '.
If you are making a list for community singing go through
all the lists of sea songs, plantation songs and popular airs,
then make your own list for each kind of audience, and of
course your own special list. These titles are only a start,
TUNES TO SING AND MUSICAL GAMES 159
but I think there are plenty of tones for every height of
Musical Kim's Game
PUT various objects on a* tray and play 16 bars of the follow-
ing tunes, or better still make a tape-recording beforehand.
The clues can be varied according to the audience - i.e.
under ID'S, teenagers, W.I.s., Darby and Joan Clubs, etc.
The more absurd the better. Some of these were used
successfully for a children's party of 10-1 2-year-olds and
for our local Institute.
Some suggestions :
Oranges and lemons - Orange squeezers.
Bobbie Shafto - Silver buckle.
Mighty like a Rose - Watering-can rose.
Tea for Two - Dolls cups.
Lassie from Lancashire - Clogs.
Show me the Way to Go Home - Map.
I do Like to be Beside the Sea-side - Bucket and spade.
Over the Rainbow - Copy of Rainbow paper.
Doggie in the Window - Toy dog.
Only Girl in the World - Small globe.
Teddy Bears' Picnic - Toy Teddy.
Two Lovely Black Eyes - Sun-glasses.
Daisy, Daisy - Flower.
John Peel - Orange peel.
A Hundred Pipers - Toy soldier (and 100).
Charlie is my Darling- Savings stamp of Prince Charles.
All Through the Night - Night light.
Baa Baa Black Sheep - Toy.
He who would Valiant be - Cockle-shell (for pilgrim).
Hush-a-bye, Baby - Copy of The Nursery World.
Three Blind Mice - Trap, and glasses.
Drink to me Only - Wineglass.
Vicar of Bray - Prayer book.
Life on the Ocean Wave - Sea Scout cap.
l6o WHAT CAN I PLAY?
Pop Goes the Weasel - Rice and 3d.
Cockles and Mussels - Shells.
Home Sweet Home - Picture of the house.
EACH person is told the name of a tune. They must find the
person who is singing the same tune amongst a whole room
full of humming people.
EACH person is given the name of a tune which is pinned on
their backs. They have to ask each other to sing their tune
and to guess what it is. This is good for a children's party
where there are children of varying ages, as you can have one
box of easy nursery rhymes and another more difficult. It
makes a most cheerful amount of noise!
You read the story, then play the tunes. This is only a sug-
gestion, Make up your own story from the tunes in this list.
'John Peel' met 'Nellie Dean' in a 'Tavern in the Town'.
She was wearing an 'Alice Blue Gown'; he was wearing a
'Tarpaulin Jacket'. He said Til see you again'. She said
Oh no, John, no John, no*. They all said 'Hullo, Hullo,
whose your lady friend?' So they went to the 'Old Bull and
Bush' and ordered 'Cockles and Mussels '-and 'A Little
Brown Jug*. They went to 'Widdicombe Fair* on 'A
bicycle made for Two'. He said 'When we are married we'll
have Sausages for Tea'. The Service was taken by the
'Vicar of Bray' at 'Trinity Church'. The bridesmaids
were 'Two Little Girls in Blue'. Amongst the presents
were 'Grannie's old Arm-chair' and 'the Grandfather
Clock', The guests were 'Annie Laurie' and 'Clemen-
tine*, and the 'Boys of the old Brigade*. She said 'I do like
to be beside the seaside'. So they went for their honeymoon
to the 'Isle of Capri'. They came back to their 'Little Grey
Home in the West', and their first child was 'Billy Boy'.
List of Tunes
1. Tunes everyone knows. 17.
2. Number songs and count- 18.
3. Tunes which you can play
over and over again,
4. Tunes having only five or
six notes. Z2 "
5. Tunes in one octave. 2 3-
6. Tunes which can be har-
monised with two chords. 24.
7. Tunes which can be har- 25.
monised with three 2 ^
8. Tunes easily played on a
mouth-organ. 2 '
9. Tunes easily played on the
accordion. 2 9-
10. Songs with especially good 3-
11. Traditional tunes and folk-
12. Scottish tunes. ~~
13. Irish tunes.
14. Welsh tunes. 34.
15. Old English songs. 35.
1 6. Useful classical tunes. 36.
Hymns and Carols.
English country dances.
Scottish country dances
Tunes to play for the
Tunes for the Barn Dance.
Tunes for the Gallop.
Tunes for the Veleta,
Tunes for Military Two-
Tunes for the Palais Glide.
Tunes for the Quickstep.
Tunes for the Slow Fox-
Tunes for Quick Waltzes.
Tunes to play for a 'Paul
Popular Tunes old and new.
Tunes for Musical Chairs.
Your own specialities.
LIST OF TUNES 163
i. Tunes everyone Knows
Drink to me only. Swanee River.
My Bonnie lies over the ocean Clementine (chorus).
(chorus). John Brown's Body (chorus).
2. Number Songs and Counting Songs
Eliza. On the First Day of Christmas.
One man went to mow. Under the Spreading Chestnut
Ten Green Bottles. Tree.
This Old Man. John Brown's Body.
Green grow the Rushes-o.
3. Tunes which you can play over and over again, indefinitely
(Invaluable for scene-changing and breakdowns. Voluntaries
at weddings, etc.)
Largo - (Handel). Sleepers Awake - (Bach).
First Prelude - (Bach). Berenice Minuet - (Handel).
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - Christmas Oratorio (Bach).
(Bach) . Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
Air from * The Water Music ' - (Handel). (Most useful, as it
(Handel). makes plenty of noise!)
Musette - (Handel). Air on the G string - (Bach).
Sheep may Safely Graze - Brother James' Air.
4. Tunes Having only Five or Six Notes
Girls and boys come out to Twinkle Twinkle, little star.
play. Now the Day is Over.
The Cuckoo - (German folk- Bo-Peep.
song). J'ai du Bon .Tabac (French
The Birch Tree - (Russian air). tune).
LIST OF TUNES 165
This Old Man. Jingle Bells.
I know where I'm going. Rosy Apple.
Lavender's blue, diHy, diliy. The Bells of Vendome.
5. Times in One Octave
(Useful for beginners on wind instruments)
Home Sweet Home. Tarpaulin Jacket.
Little Brown Jug. The Mermaid.
Vicar of Bray. Barbara Allen.
For he's a jolly good fellow. Drink to me only.
Blue Bells of Scotland. There is a Happy Land.
The First Noel.
6. Tunes which can be Harmonised with Two Chords
Clementine. Oh dear, what can the Matter
Bobby Shafto. be?
Cockles and Mussels. The Cuckoo.
Nuts in May.
7. Tunes which can be Harmonised with Three Chords
Old Folks at home. John Peel.
Loch Lomond. Camptown Races.
The Mermaid. My old Kentucky Home.
British Grenadiers. Poor Old Joe.
8. Tunes Easily Played on a Mouth-organ
John Peel. There was a Lad was born in
LIST OF TUNES
9. Tunes Easily Played on the Accordion
My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean. Ye Banks and Braes.
10. Songs with Especially Good Words
Oh no, John (chorus).
Madam, will you Walk ?
Dashing away with the
Smoothing Iron (chorus).
Jock o* Hazeldeaa.
Soldier, will you Marry me ?
Laird o* Cockpen.
Wee Cooper o' Fife.
Green grow the Rushes-o.
ii. Traditional Tunes and Folk-songs
Drink to me Only.
Little Brown Jug.
The Keys of Canterbury.
Blow away the Morning Dew.
Dashing away with the
Searching for Lambs.
I gave my Love an Apple.
Dabbling in the Dew.
Long, Long ago.
O Willow, Willow.
Come Lassies and Lads.
My Bonny Boy.
Rendal, my Son.
O, she is too Young to be
taken from her Mammy.
Here's to the Maiden of Bash-
The Girl I left behind me.
The Cuckoo is a Pretty Bird.
The Bailiff's Daughter.
Bonnie at Morn.
Oh dear, what can the Matter
Home Sweet Home.
Vicar of Bray.
North Country Maid.
Sally in our Alley.
Blow away the Morning Dew.
Pop goes the Weasel.
Lark in the Morn.
Mowing the Barley.
LIST OF TUNES
OF John Braddleum.
On Ilkla* Moor baht 'at.
Come Landlord, fill the Flow-
We won't go Home until
Early one Morning, just as the
Sun was Rising.
The Derby Ram.
Come Lassies and Lads.
There is a Tavern in the Town.
Cockles and Mussels.
Bonny at Morn.
Whipsy, diddle de dandy dee.
Green grow the RusEes-o.
I'm Seventeen come Sunday.
Blue Bells of Scotland.
Fve been Roaming.
The Flowers in the Valley.
Lass of Richmond Hill.
Soldier, Soldier, will you
marry me ?
Water of Tyne.
Oh no, John.
12. Scottish Tunes
Wee Cooper o' Fife.
Charlie is my Darling.
Can ye Sew Cushions ?
O Auld Lang Syne.
Bonnie at Morn.
Ca' the Yowes.
The Peat Fire Flame.
Road to the Isles.
Waes me for Prince Charlie.
Flowers of the Forest.
There's nae Luck aboot the
Grows the Yarrow.
Coming through the Rye.
Cock o' the North.
The Harp that Once.
Phil the Fluter's Ball.
The Minstrel Boy.
13. Irish Tunes
Cockles and Mussels.
The Last Rose of Summer.
Star of the County Down.
LIST OF TUNES
Garden where the Praties
Rose of Tralee.
When Irish eyes are smiling.
Believe me if all those Endear-
ing Young Charms.
Come back to Erin.
My love's an Arbutus.
Meeting of the Waters.
I know where I'm Going.
St. Patrick's Day.
Mountains of Moume.
The Wearing of the Green.
14. Welsh Tunes
Men of Harlech.
All through the Night.
David of the White Rock.
Let the Hills Resound.
God Bless the Prince of Wales,
The Rising of the Lark.
Land of my Fathers.
15. Old English Songs
Oh Mistress Mine.
I Attempt from Love's Sick-
ness to Fly.
Now is the Month of Maying.
Lo, here the Gentle Lark.
Gather ye Rosebuds while ye
Where e'er you walk - (Han-
Beggar's Opera Airs.
Nymphs and Shepherds -
If Music be the Food of Love.
1 6. Useful Classical Tunes
Moment Musical - (Schubert).
Minuet - (Beethoven).
Intermezzo from 'Cavalleria
Berenice Minuet - (Handel).
Water Music - (Handel).
Peer Gynt - (Grieg).
Lullaby - (Schubert).
Lullaby - (Brahms).
LIST OF TUNES
Largo - (Handel).
Ave Maria - (Bach - Gounod).
Air on the G string - (Bach).
Prelude in G - (Chopin).
Merry Peasant - (Schumann),
17. Hymns and Carols
All people that on Earth do
He who would Valiant be.
Now the Day is Over.
God Moves in a Mysterious
Away in a Manger.
All things Bright and Beautiful.
O Come all ye Faithful.
The First Noel.
We Three kings of Orient are.
How Far is it to Bethlehem ?
The Holly and the Ivy.
Here we come a- Wassailing.
I saw Three Ships.
The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Praise the Lord, ye Heavens
Abide with me.
The Day thou Gavest.
1 8. Marches
Land of Hope and Glory.
Men of Harlech.
St. Patrick's Day.
The Dam Busters.
The Seven Dwarfs.
Blow the Man down.
My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean.
Rolling down from Rio.
LIST OF TUNES 175
Golden Vanity. Spanish Ladies.
Down among the Dead Men. Johnnie come down to Hilo.
Life on the Ocean Wave. Port of many Ships.
Fire Down Below. Coasts of High Barbary.
20. English Country Dances
Corn-rigs, Seven Steps.
Soldier's Joy. Circassian Circle.
Cumberland Reel. Portsmouth.
Durham Reel. Peascods.
Sir Roger de Coverley. Sellinger's Rouad.
If all the World were paper. Come Lassies and Lads.
Fools' Jig. The Floral Dance.
21. Scottish Country Dances and Reek
Marquess of Huntly. Corn-rigs.
Reel of Tulloch. There was a Lad was born in
The Wind that Shakes the Keel Row.
Barley. My Love she's but a Lassie yet.
Soldier's Joy. Wi' a Hundred Pipers.
Petronella. Cock o' the North.
Flowers of Edinburgh. Strip the willow.
White Cockade. Cumberland Reel.
Mrs. McLeod. Come o'er the Stream, Charlie.
Fairy Dance. Ye Banks and Braes.
Merrily Danced the Quaker's Irish Washerwoman,
LIST OF TUNES 177
TUNES FOR OLD-FASHIONED DANCES
Just a wee Deoch an 5 Doris. Nuts in May.
My love is but a Lassie yet.
Wearing of the Green.
Blue Bonnets are over the
Dear Old Robinson Crusoe.
Lass of Richmond Hill.
24. Barn Dance
And her Golden Hair was Lily of Laguna.
Hanging down her Back. Little Dolly Day-dream.
Pas de Quatre.
See me Dance the Polka. Tin Gee-gee.
Little Brown Jug. One, two, three, four, five.
A-hunting we will go.
Maid of the Mountains. Down in the Glen.
Two Lovely Black Eyes. Inspiration.
28. Military Two-step
Tea for Two. If you were the only Girl in
Daddy wouldn't buy me a the World.
Road to the Isles.
Ten Green Bottles.
LIST OF TUNES
29. Palais GUde
There's nae Luck aboot the
Coal Black Mammy.
Buttons and Bows.
I want to be Happy.
3 1 '
Stay as Sweet as you are.
32. Quick Waltzes
111 see you again.
Nights of Gladness.
Oh, oh, Antonio.
Maid of the Mountains.
He went to the Funeral, just
for the Ride.
Two Lovely Black Eyes.
Eton Boating Song.
The Skaters' Waltz.
She's a Lassie from Lancashire.
Parlez moi d* Amour.
Turn ye to me.
The Campbells are Coming.
Barren Rocks of Aden.
Wi' a Hundred Pipers.
Jock o' Hazeldean.
Eriskay Love Lilt.
Over the Sea to Skye.
When Irish Eyes are Smiling.
Believe me if all those Endear-
ing Young Charms.
My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean
IVe got a Motto.
Mighty like a Rose.
After the Ball.
Gold and Silver.
LIST OF TUNES l8l
33. Tunes to Play for a Paul Jones
Grand Chain Military Twostep.
Camptown Races. So Early in the Morning.
Nuts in May. pdka
Quick Step One, two, three, four, five.
March of the Dwarfs from Tin Gee-gee.
Snow White. Slow Fox-trot
Whispering. Somewhere over the Rainbow.
Chain Barn Dance
Life on the Ocean Wave. Pas de Quatre.
Two Lovely Black Eyes. Lily of Laguna.
Polly WoEy Doodle. Little Dolly Day-dream*
34. Tunes for Musical Chairs* etc.
St. Patrick's Day. Dashing away with the
John Peel. Smoothing Iron.
Little Brown Jug. Oh, dear what can the Matter
Pop goes the Weasel. be?
Come Lassies and Lads. Lincolnshire Poacher.
There is a Tavern in the Bobby Shafto.
Town. Life on the Ocean Wave.
Lillibullero. British Grenadiers.
35. Popular Tunes Old and New
(Starred - are all very well known)
And her Golden Hair was A Naughty little Twinkle in
Hanging down her Back. her Eye.
Around the Corner and All in an April Evening.
Under the Tree. And my Heart went Pit-a-pat.
All the Little Pansy Faces. Any Old Iron.
At Trinity Church I met my * All the Nice Girls love a Sailor.
Doom. Alice Blue Gown.
LIST OF TUNES
Ain't no Sense Sitting on the
Asleep in the Deep.
A Perfect Day.
Alexander's Ragtime Band.
Ain't she Sweet?
*After the Ball was Over.
Apr&s k Guerre Finie.
^Buttons and Bows.
Bless this House.
Bells of St. Mary's.
Be good, sweet Maid.
Burlington Bertie from Bow.
A Broken DoU.
Boiled Beef and Carrots.
Bless 'em AIL
By the Side of the Zuyder Zee.
By the Light of the Silvery
Coal Black Mammy.
Chin Chin Chinaman.
Chick Chick Chick Chick
Coming round the Mountain.
Close your Eyes.
Come Sing to me.
Come Listen to the Band,
Come on over the Garden
in the Glee.
Dreaming of a White Christ-
Down the Road away Went
^Down at the old Bull and Bush.
*Daddy wouldn't Buy me a
Down in Demarara.
Dear little Shamrock.
Dear old Pals.
Darling Mabel, I bought a
Did your Mother come from
Deep in the Heart of Texas.
Everything in our House.
Fall in and Follow me.
Give me a Little Comer.
LIST OF TUNES
Give yourself a Pat on the
Give me Five Minutes More.
Goodbye, DoHy Gray.
Grannie's old Armchair.
Get along Little Dogie.
Goodbye Dolly, I must Leave
Goodbye my Bluebell.
Has Anybody here seen Kelly ?
Here we are Again.
Honeysuckle and the Bee.
Home on the Range.
Hullo, Hullo, who's your
How much is that Doggie in
Happy Days are here Again.
Horsey, Keep your Tail up.
*Home Sweet Home.
Have you ever been Across the
Sea to Ireland ?
It's Nice to Wake up in the
If you Could only Care for me.
If you were the Only Girl in
I'm forever Blowing Bubbles.
I'll be your Sweetheart.
I'll be Loving you Always.
I wonder who's Bossing her
Fm Waiting for you, Susie.
Isle of Capri.
If you're Irish come into the
I Wouldn't Leave my Little
Wooden Hut for You.
Ill Take you Home again,
I'll walk Beside you.
I'll see you Again.
*I do like to be Beside the Sea-
Fm Leaning on a Lamp-post.
I Love a Lassie.
I want to be Happy.
Fm off to Philadelphia in the
I Like a Nice Cup of Tea.
I'm all Alone by the Tele-
I Passed by your Window.
In the Twi-twi-twilight.
In a Shady Nook.
In the Old Top Hat that
I Belong to Glasgow.
I Took my Harp to the Party.
It's only a Beautiful Picture.
Is the Old Home in the Same
Just like the Ivy on the Old
Just Because the Violets.
Just a Song at Twilight.
Just a wee Deoch an' Doris.
LIST OF TUNES
Jeannie with the Light Brown
John Brown's Body.
Keep Right on to the End of
*Keep the Home Fires Burning.
Let the Great Big World
Love will Find a Way (Maid
of the Mountains).
Little Alabama Coon.
Let's all Sing Like the Birdies
Let's all go Down the Strand.
Lily of Laguna.
Little old Lady.
Little Grey Home in the West.
Little Dolly Day-dream.
Let the Rest of the World go
Me and Jane in a Plane.
*Mighty like a Rose.
My blue Heaven.
My old Dutch.
Mrs. 'Enry 'Awkins.
Mavourneen (Come back to
My Old Man said, Follow the
Mammy's Little Baby Loves
My Girl's a Yorkshire Girl.
Meet me Tonight in Dream-
*Maid of the Mountains.
Night and Day.
*Now is the Hour.
Old Kent Road.
Oh dem Golden Slippers.
*Oh, oh, Antonio.
Old Father Thames.
Oh what a Beautiful Morning.
Oh Play to me, Gypsy.
OF Man River.
Oh Mr. Porter, what shall I
Our Lodger's such a Nice
Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny.
Ours is a Nice House, Ours is.
Pretty Polly Perkins of Pad-
LIST OF TUNES
Poor old Robinson Crusoe.
^Parlez moi <F Amour.
Pack up your Troubles.
Polly Wolly Doodle.
Peg o' my Heart.
Pedro the Fisherman.
Pretty Little Pansy Faces.
Swing me just a Little bit
Silver Threads Among the
Shine on, shine on, Harvest
Some day my Prince will
Stay as Sweet as You are.
Side by Side.
Sweet and Low.
Sunshine of your Smile.
She sat in her Hammock and
Played her Guitar.
She was a Sweet Little Dicky
Somewhere Over the Rain-
She Sells Sea Shells.
*She's a Lassie from Lan-
Singing in the Rain.
*See me Dance the Polka.
Tiptoe through the Tulips.
There was I, Waiting at tie
The Old Rustic Bridge.
The Bells are Ringing for me
and my Girl.
There's Something about a
Two o'clock in the Morning.
Two Little Girls in Blue.
*She'U be Coming Round the
Three Coins in the Fountain.
^Teddy Bears' Picnic.
Tea for Two.
^There's a Long, Long Trail.
*Two Lovely Black Eyes.
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the
Boys are Marching.
There's an Old-fashioned
Take Good Care of Yourself,
you Belong to me.
These Foolish Things.
^The Man who Broke the Bank
at Monte Carlo.
The Village Pump.
Underneath the Arches.
Under the Spreading Chest-
Up from Somerset.
There'll Always be an Eng-
Volga Boat Song.
LIST OF TU^ES
When Father Papered the
What is the Use of Loving a
When we were Very Young.
When You and I were Seven-
Won't you buy my Pretty
When I Grow too old to
Won't you Come Home, Bill
When we are Married we'll
have Sausages for Tea.
Where my Caravan has Rested.
Where did you get that Hat?
When your hair has Turned
Where will the Baby's Dimple
What'H I do?
When it's Spring-time in the
Where the River Shannon
Where do Flies go in the
We don't Want to Lose
36. Your own Specialities
Readers with suggestions for further editions are invited to write
to the author: Mrs. Frank Sargent, The Old Rectory, Bighton,
Printed in Great Britain by
Cox & Wyman, Limited
London, Fakenham and Reading
Compiled by H. Barlow
and S. Morgenstern
"To the compilers and the publishers,
Music Teacher extends its gratitude and
congratulations. This is a book which
should be acquired quickly by all who
are interested in music, and who are
not content to be mere dumb listeners."
By the same Compilers
"Should prove a boon to musicians, as
well as to "the man in the street' . . .
A well-ordered book and one of the
most informative we have come across
for a long time." Musical Opinion.