Friday, March 16, 2012


I may very well have bitten off more than I can chew with adding music to the spring play for the homeschoolers.

I have three kids who play trumpet, trombone and saxophone, respectively, so I thought I'd put them together for a little Dixieland-style interlude in one song. Fun, yes? So, I gave the trumpet the melody, wrote a bass line for the trombone, and was kind of hoping my sax-man could improvise. We got together yesterday to try to piece something together.

I quickly realized something was wrong -- they didn't even sound like they were playing in the same key. So I asked them to each play a G . . . and they all played different notes. What the heck . . . ? So I grabbed another kid's guitar and plunked around with each kid playing his own G alone. Turns out a G on the trombone is an F on the trumpet and a B-flat on the saxophone. What the heck . . . ?!?

At home, I queried my trumpet-playing husband about this phenomenon. "Oh, yeah," he said, "The trumpet is a B-flat instrument." As in, "Duh".

No! This is not a "Duh". This is a "What kind of idiot came up with this?" A G is a different sound on different instruments? Why?? It's just a name given to a specific tone -- why would you give the same tone different names? That's like giving a banana each to three different kids, and telling one, "That's yellow," telling the second, "That's red," and telling the third, "That's blue." What good could this accomplish in the world? How does this promote communication and mutual understanding?

I assume there's a reason for this bizarre business, but I can't begin to imagine what it is. A G should be a G should be a G. A G should be a universal constant. But apparently it is not. Apparently, it is only a G relative to its producer. And my world is now that much more complicated.

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