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May 23, 2009

Choosing a Musical Instrument

My daughter is just getting to the point in school where she will need to choose a musical instrument. (Not being so musically inclined myself, I've many times considering signing her up for private instruction as well). So it got me thinking about women in the music industry... more importantly how we care so much about the Beyonces and the Britneys and not enough about the Kathleen Hannas or the Claire Dalys.

My daughter's first choice was going to be the drums. Ah, youth. The drums are always everyone's first choice... but unfortunately a band only needs so many drummers and more often than not they end up being male. I don't know if this is true to all schools or unique to the one that I went to, but I don't recall a single female drummer in our marching band. I don't know if it comes from the generalization that men are stronger and therefore "better equipped" to lug big drums around a field or if it was just coincidence. Either it way, it pretty much stinks and part of me would love to push her into percussion for that reason alone. I definitely think it'd be sweet to raise the next Sheila E or Gina Shock.

I'd also love to see her play something like the saxophone or trumpet. Why? Not only would they take up a lot less room than drum set, but knowing how to play a jazz instrument could be pretty damn cool, inside or outside the school band. Especially considering that when you think about women in jazz, you almost always think of singers only. There are so many female jazz musicians that often go overlooked, but totally kick ass... like Ingrid Jensen or Ingrid Laubrock (apparently women named Ingrid are especially good at jazz).

It's really too bad that the school doesn't offer lessons in guitar or sitar or djembe. That would be awesome!

I don't know what instrument my daughter will actually end up choosing. Even if it's something that feels stereotypically female, like the flute (no offense to any flutists out there) I will be happy, but I can't deny that I'd love to see her kicking butt in a male-dominated area of music. Who are some of your favorite women breaking ground in music?

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Rob F said...

I wouldn't say that the flute is stereotypically female, as I played it in elementary school band, where only one girl played it. Based on my school band experiences, if any instrument was stereotypically female, it was the clarinet, as all five were girls. Everything else except the trumpets were pretty much even.

Apparently the saxophone is really easy to finger since it comes close to the ideal of "press one more key, move one half-tone."

Anonymous said...

I've known only female flutists (flautists? lol) and it seems like such a more 'delicate' instrument than others. Clarinet I'd put in the same category. Obviously, I don't think it's actually a feminine instrument, but some of the other instruments were much more male dominated and still are.

Des said...

This is a random thought, but you should make sure your daughter looks at the bassoon and oboe before she makes a choice. A lot of people forget them since their not as popular but they're both really interesting. Band directors love it when someone chooses them.
Also, if she picks any woodwind she can still do the sax in jazz band. Most of my schools jazz band's saxophone section was made of people who played the clarinet and flute in concert band. Either way, kudos on getting your kid interested in music. I'm still thankful my mom got me in band, it was fun and I met most of my oldest friends through it.

Anonymous said...

Let her play the drums if she wants to. Seriously, I can't think of an instrument with less female involvement. Buy her a drum kit, then buy her some old thrash metal (or Blackguard, they've got a female drummer). The school might not pick her for marching band, but by the time thats a concern she'll be too busy with everyone she knows begging her to play to care. Good drummers are hard to find and I don't know many who aren't in three bands at any given time.

Besides, everyone knows pissing off the neighbors in the garage is infinitely more rewarding than having your parents clap politely during half time.

Elizabeth said...

I played the drums all through middle and high school and loved it. I chose them really because I wanted to be more like my older brother, and ended up being the only girl paying most years. My senior year of high school, a freshman girl played with us. If she does play, make sure she gets to play something other than the cymbals or the keyboard instruments. I marched tenors during football season, but seemed to be automatically put on keyboard instruments (marimba, xylonphone, etc) when concert season came around. Yay girl drummers! And if she is really into marching bands, check out your local drum corps. That's what really got me into marching! Good luck!