My name is Elgar the Elephant. I decided recently that I wanted to learn to play a musical instrument, but wasn’t sure what. So I was invited by the Solo Clarinet Lady along to some AD Band rehearsals and concerts to help me choose. She’s a very important member of the band, because she has lots of the solo parts (obviously) but she also sits right at the front and leads the group. I thought that sounded like a cool job, but she said that I’d have to start at the bottom and work my way up before I even remotely stood a chance in getting her job!
The Solo Clarinet Lady introduced me to some of the instruments she had at home.
First up, she showed me her instrument- the clarinet. It looks a bit like a snake charming instrument to me and has lots of buttons (she said they’re called keys) on it. She said that she uses them all for different things, but I think they’re just there for showing off and impressing other people.
Next we had a look at the violin. I wasn’t sure how to hold the stick thing, which is called a bow apparently. And my trunk kept getting in the way of the strings. I didn’t like this one much, it sounds like cats wailing, but Solo Clarinet Lady said that’s just because I wasn’t very good at playing it yet! I think I’ll stick to the clarinet!
This one is a saxophone and is from the same woodwind ‘family’ as the clarinet, because they both use a wooden reed to make a sound and you blow down them as a way of playing them. She said lots of people think the saxophone is part of the brass family because it looks like it’s made out metal (or brass), but that’s wrong, it’s part of the woodwind family.
I asked her why the instruments were so small- surely she didn’t play such tiny instruments! She said these ones were ‘my size’. I thought this was a bit rude, because I’m not *that* small. So then she got a didgeridoo out:
I thought she was joking. How is this long tube an instrument?! She said it comes from Australia and is used in their traditional music. I couldn’t make a sound out of it!
Once she’d stopped laughing at me, she showed me her clarinet.
It’s like a jigsaw puzzle! And it’s much bigger than the one I was playing. We set off for the band rehearsal where I got to meet everyone for the first time.
There wasn’t anyone standing at this music stand, so I decided this one was probably meant for me. Apparently not! This is for the conductor, who stands at the front and waves a stick around, telling everyone when to play. I thought I’d give it a go, but the Solo Clarinet lady said I didn’t want to come across as too bossy at my first rehearsal and gave me some jobs to do in the cupboard!
You’re not supposed to photocopy music, it says so all over the top – ‘do not photocopy’-, but the Solo Clarinet Lady said some of the trumpets aren’t very good at playing and need the extra practice, so they wanted to take it home. Once I’d worked out how to make it work, I had a lot of fun playing with the photocopier! I wanted to take photocopier selfies, but I got caught before I had the chance.
Then I got put on tea making duties…
…apparently musicians drink a lot of tea and coffee.
Because it was the break and people were chatting, Solo Clarinet Lady said I could try some of the bigger instruments that were in the band.
This one is a French Horn. I quite liked this one. Plus it had a handy seat in the big bit at the bottom!
Then I tried a real saxophone. I told the owner that I knew that it was part of the woodwind family and she was very impressed.
I couldn’t reach the buttons (I mean keys) though. Which meant that this even bigger saxophone wouldn’t be any good for me!
I saw some other shiny instruments opposite, which are the flutes. So I tried playing one.
Me and this instrument do not get on… It looks a bit like a pea shooter, where you blow down it and can fire missiles at people out of the other end. I couldn’t make a sound out of it!
And I had the same problem with the saxophone in reaching the keys (see, I got the word right this time.) So no, flute isn’t my instrument either. The Solo Clarinet Lady said that flute is a bit like saxophone- it’s part of the woodwind family too, even though it’s made out of metal. Who makes up these rules?! She said it used to be made out of wood in olden times.
The last instrument in the woodwind section that I tried is the oboe. See how it has a reed at the top, meaning it’s a woodwind instrument?
I didn’t like the sound though. It sounded like an angry goose when I was trying to play it! Apparently it’s actually a really beautiful instrument. I’m not convinced. So I moved onto the instruments from the brass family.
I didn’t like the Euphonium either. I asked the man why he had a towel thing on his leg and he said it was to stop all the spit from getting on his shorts. Nope, I’m not playing an instrument which slobbers on me!
This trombone looked quite fun…
… I couldn’t manage to play it though. So we did a team effort to play it! Trombone could be a possibility…
Then I tried a trumpet. I liked the idea of a trumpet because I can make trumpet-like noises with my trunk!
It was pretty hard work though. And loud! And I couldn’t reach the keys.
At least there weren’t as many fiddly ones to worry about as the woodwind family. They did have a lot of these things though…
They’re mutes apparently, which muffle and change the sound depending on what style you want. So the trumpets don’t have as many keys, but they have a lot more accessories to play with. I didn’t like the idea, it seemed too confusing, so trumpet is not my instrument either.
The last section of the band is the percussion section. The Solo Clarinet Lady said that basically you just hit something really loud when everyone else stops playing. I can do that! I’m good at making a noise!
I tried the drum kit first…
…but you have to use both your hands and feet and I’m not that coordinated. Next I tried the glockenspiel…
… I quite liked the sound this one made! Then I tried the timpani…
… this is my favourite so far! You do lots of drum rolls on them and sound very big and important.
I think I’ve found my instrument! It’s percussion! The Solo Clarinet Lady said that I wasn’t allowed to just play timpani, I had to be able to follow 3 parts at the same time and do lots of running around. Running? Apparently it’s because the music just randomly changes instrument part way through, so you have to pay attention and make sure you have the right one!
We had a concert coming up, which I’d been invited to play at, so the Solo Clarinet Lady said I had to practise every day in between. Every day?! I thought I sounded good enough already!
I wasn’t very good at keeping in time, so she used a metronome to help me. The metal spike thing moves from side to side and makes a ticking sound which you have to play along with. I kept getting distracted by the movement though so she got an electronic one out, which does the same job.
Then we got ready for the outdoor concert at a stately home, Himley Hall.
We had a good audience despite the rain.
Here’s me and the band! Don’t worry, I’m not conducting, I was just wanting a good photo. Although, thinking about it, I hadn’t seen the conductor yet, I think he might be avoiding me!
I wasn’t allowed to play this time because I didn’t have the right clothes. Apparently I need a bow tie. Pah! So I watched instead.
I also was given the very important job of looking after the First Aid Kit.
Thankfully no one needed it, I wouldn’t have known what to do otherwise! The Solo Clarinet Lady asked me to pack her clarinet away…
… and then we went home, where she insisted I did more practice! She said I’d like this piece though and pointed to the name at the top. It was written by a man with the same name as me, Elgar!
I was ready for my next concert, I had my bow tie and I’d practised. Surely they’d let me play this time?!
It was a proms concert, where people celebrate all things British. So I also had some flags to take on stage.
The Solo Clarinet Lady was busy getting ready and asked me to set up her clarinet for her. Easy Peasy.
Until I got to the reeds. Which one did she want and how on earth was I supposed to attach it?!
I worked it out eventually.
The Solo Clarinet Lady showed me a new instrument, the piano. She said it sometimes appeared in bands, even though it’s not woodwind or brass. I swear people make the rules up as they go along when deciding who plays in what group!
I said no thank you, I’d found my instrument- the drums in the percussion! I finally tracked down Trevor the Conductor and asked if I was allowed to play.
He said yes! Hooray! As long as I watched him and didn’t play in the quiet bits. Hang on, that’s not what Solo Clarinet Lady said!
I went to get my music from the box.
2 people lift? I think I can manage, I’m a strong elephant!
I made my way to the back to get into position…
… and played in my very first concert! I obviously didn’t make any mistakes. I thought I performed brilliantly! The Solo Clarinet Lady said she was very proud of me.
I really enjoyed my time with the Solo Clarinet Lady and the AD Concert Band. Thank you very much for introducing me to all the different instruments and helping me find my new instrument to play- the drums. The best part was the concert at the end, playing with everyone else, but it was great fun trying out all the different instruments. I’m looking forward to showing my new skills off to my new friend, and carrying on my adventures!