That’s why it’s important for cycling pianists to find another instrument to accompany them on their adventures. I auditioned five:
Kalimba: A sweet sound and rugged as can be – steel tines on a wood box. It only measures around 4x6x1 inches and weighs nothing. I bought the Treble version with a built in pick-up mic from Paul Tracey. This is a wonderfully companionable instrument, but I just can’t get into it. No matter what I try, I can’t find a style or tuning that really feels expressive to me. Also, I’m not sure that I like the hand position when you play it. It kind-of looks like you are thumb-typing on your Blackberry. Is this cool? I dunno.
Ukulele: Officially back in style for today’s crooners, the Uke can be very inexpensive. We got one for $twenty-five at Buckdancer’s Choice. They are a little large and fragile, however. I’m not sure how long they will last in your pannier. Or strapped under the saddle.
Melodica: A natural extension of the piano keyboard, these things are great fun. Expressive and intuitive. Honer makes a student version that cost $50 back in 2007 or so. The sinking dollar may have changed that. It comes with a case that measures around 12x6x2. The only problem- no matter how many hipster bands use them, I can’t stop thinking about The Hooters.
Casio SK-1: The world’s first accessible sampler, this thing was everywhere circa 1982. Now, thanks to Comrade Circuit Bender, they are really difficult to get. I got lucky on ebay and landed one for $forty. Now, I’m afraid to break it. But really, any small table-hooter will do the trick. Personally, I can’t get into playing synthesisers outdoors. It just feels wrong. Maybe I’m too old..
So, I am getting serious about my Harmonica again. A favorite of hobos and superstars, this humble instrument packs a ton of emotion into a steel box the size of a stick of gum. It’s comfortable at a campfire or in a bar-room. Famously thrifty, for $thirty you can get a very good instrument and you will be picking out diatonic tunes instantly. More money or more practice (your pick!) and you can bring additional musical keys into reach.
More Harmonica madness to follow…