Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

I’ve been at my sons toy one-row button accordian & am starting to take to it a bit. It’s a toy & it sounds like one, but I’m building up some basics that can be learned on anything. I play a few instruments, some better than others, and I’ve noticed that I’ve started usually started my new paths on toy or homemade instruments. I’ve heard many people say that if you don’t have a top of the line instrument it will only frustrate you & lead to discouragement. I do not agree, I find these lesser quality instruments have some advantages in the begining stages.
a) Price, why make a huge investment on an instrument that you don’t yet know how to play.
b) It’s a piece of crap, you’ll learn how to jump the extra hurdles - so when you upgrade, you’ll appreciate it that much more.
c) You may make mistakes in taking care of the instrument which can mess it up - better done on a cheap entry level instrument than an expensive one.

Now I know the nay-sayers will just rip this apart, but that’s the nature of the mustardboard. They are entitled to their thoughts.

Anyway, I agree that once you start to get the basics down & can get out 10 or so tunes - if you’re serious you should move on to at least a student model. Which leads down the road to something better.

there is an exception, pipes & flutes (esp ebay things) - if wind instruments have a leak they are unplayable. But I’ve heard David Dayes pennychanter is pretty solid (esp the reeds) & anyone can hack together a PVC flute from $5 worth of pipe & a wine cork.

anyway, has anyone else started out in this way? If so how’d it work out for you?

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

I guess it would be the same as my first fiddle.

It was a $35.00 brand new over the internet purchase. Not advertised as a toy but should have been one. It was a little hard to play becasue the nut was too high thus raising the strings and it sounded harsh as could be but it really made me want to learn the fiddle.

I soon had an old fiddle that had been in the family repaired and properly set up. Playing that was a dream compared to the cheap-o one.

I guess as long as the "toy" is a reasonable replica of the real thing you could get an idea of what the real instrument is all about or at least have some fun with it.

If it’s music……..go for it.

Mary

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

I had a two octave non-chromatic melodica when I was a kid. Sounded more or less like a proper melodica, but there were no half steps, so you could only play in one key. Still, with two octaves, you could play tunes fairly well. Went a long way toward developing my ear, and was a lot of fun.

Posted by .

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

I can’t see anything wrong with toy instruments, so long as they are in tune. I must have thrown away a dozen toy glockenspiels the minute they were given

Posted .

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

Toy instruments are fine as long as they aren’t video game controllers made to look like instruments.

I pity all the kids putting their time into mastering Guitar Hero instead of, like, actually learning to play the guitar.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

There a fellow down here in my neck of the planet. He buys these toy boxes in bulk and replaces the reeds, or something. Obviously I don’t know enough about box construction to explain properly, but he revamps them and resells them. They sound pretty slick, he makes them into D/G jobbies for "the music". Pretty cool.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

…and listen, as it’s been said before (not by I) "It’s peasant music". I doubt the vast majority of impoverished generations past had vast resources to play top of the line instruments with.

It’s about heart and passion. Give it to the music, you’ll be rewarded, and enjoy.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

I myself started on a Roy Rogers plastic cowboy guitar, with four nylon strings, tuned like the top four of a real guitar. And when I got frustrated with the challenge, there was a crank on the side, and a music box inside that played "Happy trails to you, until we meet again…."

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

There’s a professional musician (a Japanese lady, I think) who has made a career out of playing toy pianos on the concert platform.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

Al, pretty funny. So I guess it’s more common than not to start goofing with a toy to ‘get your legs’

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

Hey Al,

You must be my vintage. I had one too.

Do you still have it?

Mary

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

Screetch, don’t automatically discount things like Guitar Hero (which I find very fun and addictive!) It is teaching you some physical dexterity for your fingers, some mental capacity for separating your right from your left side, and giving you an interest in music at the same time. Consider it a "starter drug" maybe… And in a lot of ways, it is much more intensive training for the real thing than a plastic toy guitar…

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

You barmy luncheon meat, you…

I started on flute the same way - too poor to buy one, I made my own first of PVC then bamboo…I’ve even sold a few bamboo flutes that turned out well to a local folk shop. I also once risked one of those mid-east made flutes that never, ever played any real notes…I was much better off with my own home made instruments.

I’ve also played with one of those toy accordions, and if I wasn’t so daft on the flute and in obvious need of practice, I’d be tempted to get a real accordion.

So I’m all for those cheap, toy instruments…often a great way to find out if you enjoy the basics of such an instrument.

Eric

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

The toy accordions are often not bad. They are usually short of air. I opened one up and taped over one bank of reeds. This makes it more playable. You really can get an idea of whether to go for the real thing or not. But..beware. Many own no accordions, few own only one!

Dan

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

I agree, it’s good enough for basic things, it’s very short on air, making some tunes impossible to play. but good enough for kicks.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

I pulled it apart & taped up one of the sets of reeds & it made a huge difference in the amount of air - it’s also a bit quieter. Any advice on quieting down the loud paper bellows?

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

Is there anyone here ancient enough to remember Rolf Harris and his Stylophone?

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

… apart from me, that is 🙂

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

I’ve been looking for a quick and easy way to change my toy accordion from the key of C to the key of D.
Seems like you might be able to file down a couple of reeds a bit to make them sharp.

I’d be interested to hear more about the accordion "remodeler" that SWFL Fiddler was talking about. Does he have a website or anything?

I thought the toy accordions were just a fun thing to have at partys. Then at band practice our accordion player (who plays a 1950’s Paolo Soprani C#/D) picked it up and played some amazing tunes on it. I thought, "wow, that little piece of crap that’s been sitting on my shelf for years can actually make music like that?!"

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

if you want to file down the reeds, i’d like to point out that you do not change the length. you change the mass, and distribution of it. i forget which is which… but if you lay it flat, and then scratch the reed it at the base, it will change pitch in one direction, if you scratch it near the tip, it will go the other. if you do not want to mess it up, but a cheap harmonica (5 bucks) and try it out; it will work the same. or if you pm me i can give you the email of a friend of mine who repairs antique concertinas, and he could tell you how to do it. or heck—you could send it to him! he’d do it easy.

Posted by .

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

I’ve been playing guitar off and on for about forty years. About six months ago I got an advert in my email from an online instrument seller advertising a Rogue mandolin for $50 US. I thought what the heck. I would try it and if I didn’t like it, it would be a great toy for my grand-daughter. Six monhs later I own two real mandolins and an octave. I did the same with a $15 fiddle some years ago as well. I think its a great way to find out if something is going to hold your interest. BTW the Rogue mandolin is now in the hands of a nephew. We bought the grand-daughter a real mandolin a few weeks ago.

Posted by .

Stylophone…

Lazyhound…
I have one of the new issue Stylophones for a few months. They were re-launched last year. It looks like the 60/ 70’s thing but now has three voices (including a good bass), a tuning knob and two jack outs (one is "MP3" whatever that is supposed to do!).
You can get them on-line for about nineteen quid. just do a quick Google.
I’ve taken it to my local sesh and tried it out! It proved very popular and nearly everyone wanted to have a go!
I’ve also used it in the studio on non-trad stuff and we used it to mock up a hornsection though it was a bit more crumhorn in quality than sax. Its reediness can sound quite pipey buried in the mix. But it’s a fun bit of kit!!!

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

Toy instruments are brilliant for taking out on hikes if you’re into that sort of thing. You wouldn’t drag your delicate, prized posession up a mountain, but a cheap one can definitely take a bit more abuse.

I’ve been tempted to get a David Daye chanter or an uilleann Pipeworks of Boston one (they’re delrin and approximately the same price). You could wad a practice set up into a backpack and take it with you on hiking/rafting/kayaking, whatever adventures.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

To follow on from daiv… Scraping mass away from the tip of a reed raises the tone, and from the base lowers it. There is a lot of info online about doing this sort of thing to harmonicas — a quick bit of Googling for "harmonica retuning" or something should help.

Now, I don’t know about the specifics of these toy accordeons, but if the reeds are anything like harmonica reeds, raising them all a tone (to get to the more useful key of D) should be possible but is likely to take quite a lot of work. I’m tempted to get one to give it a try though, just for kicks.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

…of course, you could just sharpen the F’s, but you’d end up with a slightly odd layout for a D box.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

…D’oh, that would be a G box. Must pay more attention.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

Unfortunately, the last time I saw my Roy Rogers guitar, it was in pieces, on its way to the trash. When you grow up with four brothers, very few toys ever make it out of the house intact…. 😉

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

As long as a toy instrument is sufficiently playable, I think they can be great for testing your affinity for the instrument. Unfortunately, in some cases, they are so horribly constructed as to be discouraging. Before the introduction of modern computer-controlled manufacturing methods, toy guitars could be real monsters, practically impossible to set up for comfortable playing without spending more than the thing cost to buy.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

"Is there anyone here ancient enough to remember Rolf Harris and his Stylophone?"

If it makes you feel better, lazyhound, I remember him performing with nothing but the wobbleboard and an unending string of dubious jokes. He stopped in Vancouver on his way to UK. The rest is history. Tie me kangaroo down, sport.

A few years ago, there seemed to be a niche for orchestras recording serious music with toys.
I used to line up to not buy them.

Re: Fun with toy instruments… gateway to the real thing or evil bad-habit former?

The toy thing—-It’s a good thing. He’s only a child and the pride he can feel in mastering a few simple toons could be a milestone. And the time spent together with him will long be remembered and cherished by both of you. The hard thing is to know whether to continue to nurture it or let it go. He will tell you.

Posted by .