My musical adventures
by Simon Ager
Music has always been an important part of my life and
I come from quite a musical family: my mother plays
the piano and sings in choirs, and has played the clarinet
and guitar. My brother plays the trumpet and ukulele,
and used to play the piano and trombone, and my sister
used to play the piano, cello and recorders.
My musical adventures started at primary school
when we all learnt the recorder. I don't remember
much about this, but at the time I think that I
wasn't all that keen on it.
From the age of 7 to 12 I had piano lessons and
learnt how to read music. I enjoyed playing tunes
that I knew - things like themes from films and
television programmes, but wasn't quite so keen on
other things. I passed grade 1 then failed grade 2
and gave up the piano.
Clarinet, saxophone and bass clarinet
After giving up the piano I starting playing the
clarinet. My mum had played for a while when she was
at school and her clarinet had been sitting around in
a drawer since then. I found it one day and decided
to have go. I spent that summer trying to teach myself
how to play, then my mum arranged lessons when school
I had clarinet lessons until the age of 18, when I
left school, and played in wind bands, big bands and
and an orchestra. I also started playing the tenor
saxophone in a number of groups, and for a while I
had a bass clarinet, which I borrowed from the music
school I went to on Saturday mornings and was great fun
I passed grades 3, 4 and 6 on the clarinet and enjoyed
playing it, especially in the groups. I continued
playing during my gap year after finishing schoool and during
my first year of university, though by then I wasn't having
lessons and didn't play as regularly. During my second
year at university I was in Taiwan, Japan and China and
didn't take any instruments with me and got out of the habit
of playing regularly. During my third and fourth years I was
busy studying and unfortunately didn't have much time for music.
Tin whistle and harmonica
While I was at school I also started playing the tin
whistle and got interested in Irish and Scottish music
and Irish and Scottish Gaelic songs and languages. I also
dabbled briefly with playing the harmonica while at university,
though didn't get very far with it.
Long hiatus, then starting again
For many years after university I didn't play any instruments
at all, though I did listen to a lot of music and sang to myself
a fair bit. Then my musical activities started again in 2006 inspired
by my visits to Ireland, where I've been going every summer
since 2004 to study Irish language and songs. I started with
the tin whistle, then got a low whistle, which I thought might
disturb my neighbours less, and played folk tunes from Ireland,
Scotland, Wales, England and elsewhere.
In September 2007 I started playing the guitar, at first a steel
string acoustic, and later I got a classical guitar. I had lessons
until I left Brighton in July 2008, and have continued to play
ever since. At first I learnt basic chords and strumming patterns,
then decided to learn classical style. I also taught myself to
play the melodies of folk tunes.
Many more instruments
After moving to Bangor in 2008 I started playing recorders -
descant, treble and tenor, and in 2010 I got myself a mandolin.
In 2011 a ukulele found it's way into my home, and in 2012 I
acquired a bouzouki, a bodhrán, bass and sopranino recorders and
a piano. A family of ocarinas can also be found in various
parts of my house.
In 2013 I acquired a melodica, an electro-acoustic
tenor ukuele, a cavaquinho - a Portuguese instrument about
the size of a soprano ukulele with steel strings, and a xaphoon
or pocket sax. I also bought a small lever harp, which was on
special offer and I couldn't resist, but returned it after
realising that it wasn't a very good one and wouldn't stay
In January 2014 I treated myself to a electro-acoustic
soprano ukulele, and decided to sell some of my other instruments
- my clarinet, which I haven't played much for years, my bouzouki
and xaphoon, which I rarely play, and my bodhrán, which
I play, but plan to get a better one.
In April 2014 I bought a small lever harp, which is much
better than the one I bought in 2013 - it sounds good and
stays in tune, however I am already finding that 20 strings
just aren't enough for the tunes I want to play, and am
looking for a larger harp.
What do I currently play?
I play the ukulele in the Bangor Ukulele Society, where
we play all sorts of songs - pop, rock, blues, folk, etc. There
are few videos of us on YouTube. I have
a music session at my house once a week where we play
mainly folk tunes from all over Europe, plus some blue grass
and old time tunes, and even some classical pieces, and I play
mainly whistles, recorders, guitar and mandolin. I also play
all my recorders in a recorder group, and regularly play the
mandolin and whistles in another folk music session.
I aim to play at least some of my instruments every day,
and keep a few of them in my study and often pick them up to play a
tune or two while working.
These are the instruments I currently own.
Cavaquinho - Portuguese cavaquinho from FolkReps
Flute - Tony Dixon one-piece flute in D
- Guitars - Vintage V300 steel string acoustic guitar; Admira Sombra classical guitar
Harmonicas - harmonica in C by Hohner; harmonica in D by Lee Oskar
Harp - Pedran Bach 20-string lap harp by Pedran Harps
- Mandolin - Ozark flatback mandolin
Melodica from Gear4Music
Ocarinas - alto, tenor and bass ocarinas by John Langley
- Piano - Danemann upright piano
Recorders - sopranino, descant, alto and treble recorders by Recorder Workshop; bass recorder by Thomann
- Ukuleles - Mahalo soprano ukulele; Stagg electro-acoustic soprano ukulele; Laka/Vintage electro-acoustic tenor ukulele
Whistles - high D whistles by Feadog and Michael Burke, high D/C/Bb whistles by Susato, low D whistles by Tony Dixon and Brian Howard
The exams referred to here are run by the Associated
Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM). Grade 1 is
the easiest one, and grade 8 the hardest. There are insturmental
exams for a variety of instruments for classical music and
jazz, and also for singing and music theory, as well as
diplomas in muscial performance, direction and teaching.
To take practical exams of grade 5 and above you have
to do grade 5 theory as well, which I did before taking
grade 6 on the clarinet.
About this site |
Omniglot - a potted history |
About me |
My language learning adventures |
My singing adventures |
My songs |
My musical adventures |
My juggling adventures