Other harebrained ideas

reed pipe tests Krummhorn. Reed pipes aren’t much harder to make than flute pipes. The reed here is a slice of plastic cut from a supermarket container that originally held cherry tomatoes. No one would say that the sound is really like a krummhorn — more a cross between a bagpipe and a duck with a head cold — but you can tune the thing by boring holes in the pipe, so it is a musical instrument. Technically.

clarinet, flute Real musical instruments. A couple weeks ago, I took the car to the dealer for scheduled maintenance. Sitting in the waiting room, I surfed the Net, and there I ran across the Goodwill website. It seems that Goodwill auctions off some of the better items that are donated. The site is a bit like Ebay, except that the only sellers are the various Goodwill organizations around the country. There’s always a bunch of musical instruments being auctioned here.

For a lark, I entered a bid on a no-name clarinet, not to exceed $25. That evening, I learned that mine was the winning bid, at $9 (plus $11 for shipping). A week later, UPS delivered it. Now, Goodwill carefully warns bidders that these instruments are untested and without any guarantee of any sort. So I was astonished to find that the instrument was in playable condition — or it would be, if I knew how to play a clarinet.

Fortunately, you can find clarinet lessons on the Net. Unfortunately, the first lesson was that I needed to buy some reeds, which cost more than I’d paid for the instrument. Since then, I’ve gotten a few squawks, but I usually run out of breath before I can get it to play more than two or three notes.

Since the clarinet was a positive experience, I bid on a Gemeinhardt flute, but my limit was still $25 and I was quickly out-bid. (I think it went for about $40.) Then I bid on a flute by Hisonic, whoever that is, and won that auction for $24 (plus another $11 for shipping, of course). A week later I was again amazed to discover that the instrument was in very nice condition: no bent rods or missing springs, all pads intact, all joints snug. I didn’t even have to shine up the silver; the previous owner had taken good care of it.

From time to time, I’m tempted to bid on another instrument: a fiddle or a french horn, perhaps. One’s as likely as another, since I can’t play any of ’em. Each time, sanity has asserted itself before I actually enter a bid. But the slippery slope is there, waiting for me.