18 months ago I bought a melodeon. This was no rash purchase; it was going to happen some day and I was having a particularly good week and the time felt right, even though I knew it would be some time before I got round to learning to play the thing. So it remains.
I played the piano as a pre-teen. I can read music. But that was all 40 years ago and more. Anyone out there paying any notice to my posts will know that I have recently taken to singing like the proverbial duck to water, but truth be told, I’m a lover of instrumentals at heart. Where I really want to be is in amongst the musicians in a session.
I was at several such sessions over the Easter weekend – fiddlers, guitarists, box players attentive to each other’s chords and progressions, learning from each other, bouncing off each other. I see the fingers feeling their way over frets and keys, familiar with shapes and patterns. I imagine that these old hands know how to translate with facility the note they hear in their head through their digits to expression in sound. I’m sure that those who have been doing this kind of things for years will say they are always learning, but I see the skill, the craft, the instinct that can only come from hard practice and years of experience.
Why the melodeon? Partly precisely because I would be starting from scratch. I can understand the principles of changing notes depending on shortening a string, or the length of tube you’re blowing through; keyboards I get and have done since childhood. But the ranks of buttons at each side of a squeeze box leave me mystified. I watch the greats, trying but failing to make out a connection between what I see and what I hear, and loving what I hear. That mystery is what appeals to me.
But what chance have I got? I’m in my mid fifties now and I long to be jamming with people who have been getting to know their instrument as long as I have been breathing. Is it credible at my age to acquire that kind of nous, that feel, to really understand what your instrument can do?
Does anyone have experience of taking up an instrument late in life?