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Did You Choose Your Instrument...

Or Did Your Instrument Choose You?


by Dendy Jarrett


For most from my generation, the Beatles were the catalyst that launched a new era of music awareness. Garage and basement bands formed overnight. Music manufacturers worked around the clock to meet the demand, and new music was everywhere.


But that was a long time ago, and not everyone chose their instrument after seeing the Beatles anyway. Did you choose your instrument for a specific reason? Or were you drawn to a specific instrument like a Star Wars tractor beam? Did you choose your instrument…or did your instrument choose you?

For me, it wasn’t about the Beatles—but at the risk of great personal embarrassment, I'll tell you what it was. It was the Lawrence Welk Show.

There, I said it.  And if you don't know who Lawrence Welk was, please don't look him up on Wikipedia or you'll think I'm somewhere beyond uncool.

But before you pass judgment, let me explain.  My family would visit my grandparents on the weekend, and before we would leave for the two-hour drive home, we’d watch the Lawrence Welk show because they had a color TV (what a concept!). I couldn’t take my eyes off the drummer. I couldn’t stop tapping out the rhythms on the braided rug. I was mesmerized. Watching those shows convinced me that being a drummer was what I was meant to be, but it wasn’t because it was cool, or I loved the sparkle finishes of the drums or the ability to lead the band with the groove. It was the drums calling me.


In the fourth grade, we had the option to try out for band. The band director assessed my abilities and said I would be better-suited for trumpet because of my embouchure. But drums had already chosen me...the trumpet never stood a chance.


For everyone, the instrument choice may have been for myriad reasons. Craig Anderton started playing guitar because he loved the song Greensleeves, and realized by learning guitar he could hear it "on demand" whenever he wanted. And it's not the first time an 8-year-old's dream turned into a career.


In my Why Choose Music? article, I asked why you chose music, and much in the same way, I encourage you to contemplate why you chose the instrument you did. Sometimes it's good to get back to the root reason you play guitar, bass, oboe, kazoo, GarageBand—whatever your instrument may be.


Life sometimes gets in the way of playing as often as we want, but if the instrument called to you, then you can’t escape it. It’s in your DNA and it (like any muscle) needs to be exercised. Playing your instrument can open your creative mind to better solve other issues in your life and be great therapy (that's way more effective and less expensive than a therapist).


I’ve seen young musicians who were playing jazz at age 14 as if they'd been playing jazz for sixty years. I was never that gifted, but when I sat down behind a kit for the first time...I was home. I felt like I'd been there before.


So, did you just know you were pre-wired to be, say, a keyboard player? For some playing comes easily and for others, even if the instrument called to them, they still had to work at it. But as to the instrument choice, there was no doubt.


At Harmony Central, our mission is to inspire people to make better music. We may never experience a “Beatles”-like explosion again, but anyone who loves music can pass the torch to inspire a new generation of music makers. If you know someone who always felt the call of the acoustic guitar but never picked one up, give them an encouraging word. If a child expresses the desire to play trumpet, support that impulse: the instrument calling them. But most importantly, if you were called to play an instrument but haven't been playing as much as you should lately, listen to that call...and get back to making music. You won't regret it.




Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.


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Vito Tuxedo  |  April 11, 2016 at 1:51 pm
The instruments have always chosen me. The sound of the snare drum on the TV show "Combat" got me into drums. The sounds of The Ventures and McGuinn's 12-string on "Mr. Tambourine Man" got me into guitar. The sound of Jaco's P-bass neck (with the frets ripped out) on a J-bass body got me into fretless bass. The sound of Steve Kujala's flute on Checkfield's "Distant Thunder" got me into Native American flute. It's always the sound that calls me.
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