Musical instruments
Do you play a musical instrument? Did you take any classes on musical instruments in school? Which musical instrument do you like? What instrument would you like to play? How easy would it be to learn to play a musical instrument without a teacher?
  • To coordinate (verb) - to make various, separate things work together.
  • Ukulele (noun) - a small guitar or banjo with four strings.
  • Recorder (noun) - a musical instrument consisting of a wooden or plastic tube that you blow down while covering holes with your fingers.
  • Flute (noun) - a tube-shaped musical instrument with a hole that you blow across at one end while holding the tube out horizontally to one side.
  • Encounter (noun) - a meeting, especially one that happens by chance.
  • Percussion (noun) - musical instruments that you play by hitting them with your hand or an object such as a stick
  • Complex (adj.) - difficult to understand or find an answer to because of having many different parts.
  • To go out (of) the window (idiom) - if a quality, principle, or idea goes out of the window, it does not exist any more.
  • Next to - almost.
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Questions and Answers
M: Do you play a musical instrument?

R: I'm afraid not, I actually really struggle to coordinate my hands and feet. So playing something like the piano or the ukulele would be a real challenge for me.

M: Did you take any classes on musical instruments in school?

R: We used to have recorder lessons in school. In primary school that is. Recorder is like a woodwind instrument. It looks like a flute, but you don't play it from the side, you play it from the front with your fingers. And then later on in high school, I had sort of passing encounters with the drums and various guitars, but that's about it, really.

M: Which musical instrument do you like?

R: I quite like the bass guitar and the flute, actually. I'm not sure if you would ever or how you would ever get them in combination. But I like those two in particular. Ooh, and I like the drums. Well, any percussion instrument, really. I just like the idea of establishing the beat. That's quite good for me.

M: What instrument would you like to play?

R: I used to really want to learn how to play the flutes. But it was, well, it was far too complex for me, basically. And I had other things going on at the time. So I think I'd settle for playing things like the guitar or the drums right now. Like I say, I had isolated encounters with them in high school, but that all went completely out the window. Well, essentially after high school because just other things were happening.

M: How easy would it be to learn to play a musical instrument without a teacher?

R: Well, for me? Next to impossible. I really need the support for things like this. However, some people are really good at just, well, picking up an instrument and playing along with their peers, or just by messing around with them. That's quite impressive.
M: So first of all, musical instruments. Dear listener, and we play a musical instrument. Rory told us that I really struggle to coordinate my hands and feet. So when you coordinate your hands, so when you play, you have to coordinate, you know, hands and then you change things here, you coordinate this hand with this hand. So coordination. Okay?

R: You have to move them together effectively. But I can't do that. And I think with a piano that's particularly important. What do you... I mean, you need your feet to play the piano. But what do you need them for? Maria, do you know? Like you press the steps but I don't know what they do.

M: The steps? Oh, I have no idea. So if you play the piano, could you please tell us what you do with your feet while you play the piano, okay? And we say like play the piano. Right? So play the guitar. So play the ukulele. What about drums?

R: Play the drums. Or, well, bang the drums. Yeah, it's important that it's the, though. And I think it's because it's a specific instrument that we have. We don't usually say I know how to play a ukulele, for example.

M: And when do you use a? Like I want to learn to play a guitar?

R: No, no, the most common collocation... Well, it's grammar. So it's colligation. The most common collocation is the, and the instrument. And I'm sure it's because it's a specific kind of instrument. We don't usually have a for one of many. And that would be like I don't want to play or I need to know how to play one of many ukuleles. And that doesn't sound right, we want to talk about the instrument as a whole, the concept.

M: You can also say a couple of words about chords. So we play chords, okay? And these are called chords, right?

R: And the chords is also a term for the musical notation as well, right? You see the chords in a line and it tells you where to put your fingers to play the notes.

M: Right, and we change chords. And also you can say like I struggle to stretch my fingers because like to play chords, you need to sometimes, you know, do this. And this freaking... Like physically I can't do certain things. And it's like, you know, like on YouTube, they're sitting there nicely with a guitar. Like, oh, you want to learn to play the guitar. And then at home. You're just sitting there like, I have to do what? This finger goes where? And it's kind of like... occurred. The dinosaur. So yeah, it's difficult to stretch my fingers or sometimes your fingers have to be stretched in an unnatural way.

R: They even have to be positioned in an unnatural way.

M: In school, we used to play something or I used to have classes. And Rory mentioned another musical instrument, which is a recorder. A record is a type of a flute.

R: Yeah. Well, I don't know, if it's a type of flute. It's definitely a type of woodwind instrument, which means that the movement of the wind is how the sound is produced, is a really simple explanation, because I have at least two friends who are into music and musical theatre. And I was talking to them about this yesterday. And I think my really simple explanations made their heads explode. So, Hagen Francis, I'm very sorry. But thank you very much for all of your advice and help.
M: Or you can say like, I didn't used to have any classes or music, or we just had music, or you had music theory. You learned things about notes, and I don't know, what they... What do they do?

R: Well, music theory... Oh, no. Again, I'm going to apologize for oversimplifying things. Music theory is about the underlying principles behind how to create musical pieces and how to understand them. Musical notes and notation is the representation of the writing in this particular pattern. Because music has its own written system and code, it's like its own language.

M: You can also say I had isolated encounters with guitars or with drums or with ukuleles. Like isolated? Isolate, they're not together. They're isolated. Encounters? Like meetings. So I can say that sometimes we had classes in music, and we played the drums. Or to be super cool and full of awesome you say we had isolated encounters with drums.

R: But that just means it's like one lesson on the drums and nothing else. No chance for a progression, as it were. You know, but that's just a sad fact of life in a high school. You don't have, unless you're taking specific lessons, you don't have time for the sequencing to build up over time. That's a bit sad.

M: Right. And we have classes in music? Classes in musical instruments?

R: Yes. Well, it's interesting because a class in something and a class on something, hmm, what is the difference? So classes in something or classes on something, are usually interchangeable. Yes, a very small difference in meaning. A class in something would be like in the subject. So that's like a closed item. But a class on something, like a class on something specific, like a class on playing the drums, for example.

M: Oh, Rory, this is impossible. Really. Can I just say...

R: It's not impossible. There is an underlying principle. There is an underlying principle behind how we use our prepositions in English. And I am writing a course about that. But...

M: Can I say a music class? I had a music class.

R: Yeah, but if you want to learn how to use your dependent preposition stick around because the course is in the works. Trust me.

M: I never took an interest in music or I never took an interest in playing the drums. Or outside school, for example. Or I took an interest in playing the drums outside school. Then, dear listener, you should know some names for musical instruments. Rory mentioned the bass. The bass guitar.

R: Now, I think a bass guitar has only got four thick chords. Am I right?

M: Really? Oh, I don't know.

R: I think so. Yeah?

M: But it's like bass. It's with the sound.
R: Well, that's a good question, though. Is it to do with the sound? Or is it to do with the shape of the instrument? There's a fun question for you. And it's a question I won't answer because my friends' heads will explode if I talk about this in any great detail.

M: So, anyway, it's bass. Okay? But we say bass. Bass guitar, or electric guitar, dear listener. Okay? Or just bass. And we have an acoustic guitar. Alright? So without any bass. Acoustic guitar. Rory mentioned the flute. Please Google if you have no idea what we're talking about. The flute. Popular instruments are the violin, the violin, and the piano. Also, saxophone, which is lovely. And that's it pretty much.

R: That's all of the instruments. Every last one of them.

M: No, but it's the most popular. The most popular instruments. The percussion instruments are really nice. Percussion. It's about...

R: To elaborate on Maria's technical explanation. Percussion instruments create sound by striking something against something else. So the sound is created by the hitting or the impact, the kinetic energy, if you will. See? Science words. I can do that, I can't do musical instruments, I'm afraid.

M: I really want to play the flute, or I want to play the guitar. But it's complex. Or it's complicated. Yeah, and even like this, you know, it has like four strings, strings, but it's pretty tough, you know. Maybe it's the easiest instrument to play. But still. If something goes out the window...

R: So if something goes out the window, then it completely disappears. And so all of my music lessons just went out the window. And all of my musical interest went out the window, aside from listening to music after high school, because I didn't have the chance to learn how to play an instrument after that.

M: I have a gift for it. I have a gift for playing the drums, I have a gift for creating music, have a gift for something, have this ability.

R: Do you have a gift for playing the ukulele? Because I've never seen you do that before. That was amazing.

M: Well, I've been playing like for two months. Okay?

R: Why?

M: Pretty much every day, every single day, maybe sometimes twice a day.

R: Is this because you knew that we were going to talk about instruments and you were like, I'm going to play a musical instrument for this?

M: No, no, actually, I've always wanted to play an instrument. Yeah, because my father is a musician. My father can play different instruments. Actually, a Scottish one, bagpipes, he can play. But I didn't. So I've always wanted to do that. And now I'm doing it. Okay, dear listener? And this is the motivation for you to get a high score for IELTS. If I can play this, you can do pretty much anything. Okay? With my freaking fingers. And my left hand, my left hand just doesn't work. It's like half dead. Do I have fingers here? I have to do what? So it's really hard. But I can do it.
R: At least you're trying, I couldn't do that. Well, no, let's have a growth mindset. I could probably do that. But I don't have the time or the inclination.

M: Some people can pick it up. For example, I just take an instrument and kind of like... I just start playing, without learning anything, I'm natural. So I can pick it up just by watching some videos on YouTube.

R: Well, or just through experiencing something. It's not about the explicit teaching, it's just about the experience and then trying out and failing and then trying again.

M: Or you can play with your peers, with your friends, people of the same age as you. Play with your peers, or mess around with them. So mess around like yeah, let's do this. And let's do that. And then let's play like this. You mess around.

R: Although I should say, my referencing was not really good there, because I said you could play with your peers or just by messing around with them. And of course, I meant by messing around with the instruments not your peers, but that's not super clear. So make sure that when you do that you're much clearer than I am when you're talking.

M: Right, with a teacher or without a teacher. So Rory told us next to impossible and I actually agree. Right? Because I have a teacher and when you start from zero... I started with zero knowledge about music... Like there is this posture. First of all. The position of your body, like how to hold an instrument. Accurately, correctly, right? How to like change chords. So how to finger chords? So we finger chords, right? We change chords. Finger position. How to tune it. Yeah? Like tune. Tune the guitar or any instrument. So we do need a teacher besides you. Okay? Yeah.

R: Or at least someone with a great deal of patience.

M: And I've created another song, Rory. I have created. Check it out. Can't buy band nine. Can't buy band nine. Okay? So are you into Beatles? No? Can't buy band nine.

R: Oh, dear. I don't know the... Is it "Can't buy me love"?

M: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

R: Okay. I was thinking how phenomenally ignorant am I going to look if I don't know a Beatles song since it comes from what is ostensibly the same country as I do.

M: Right. Dear listener, thank you very much for watching, and for listening! Bye!

R: Bye!
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