In school, or in general as children, most of us are encouraged at some point to learn a musical instrument, or to sing. Not surprisingly, what musical instrument you choose to learn depends a great deal on the kind of music you have around you. Most of us in India would be familiar with our local instruments such as tabla, sitar, and others. Let us take a quick look at instruments that are popular in the West, but not perhaps not too well known to us.
Cello: A cello (pronounced chel-oh) looks similar to a violin, although it is a lot bigger. Unlike with the violin, when playing the cello the performer is seated, and the cello is comfortably supported on the floor. This instrument is popular in orchestral music rather than pop music, so learning to play cello would be considered a ‘nerdy’ choice by some people. In typical school kid perception, the cool instruments would still be guitar, drums and the keyboard. To get a sense of the kind of compelling music the cello can produce, I would recommend listening to a solo cello piece.
Clarinet: This is a wind instrument, similar to our shehnai, with the mouth piece at one end and a flaring bell at the other. Clarinets are typically dark in color with metal holes and finishing. The clarinet family is actually a very large one, with different kinds used for various pitches and sound ranges. Like the cello, this is also not common in popular music. At one time, the clarinet was an important part of Jazz music, but it was eventually replaced by the saxophone.
Today, the clarinet is regaining a lot of its popularity and is used in contemporary jazz music.
Saxophone: Often shortened to ‘sax’, the saxophone is also a wind instrument. While the Clarinet is a straight tube, the saxophone has a U-bend and a bigger bell at the end. The saxophone was designed to produce a stronger sound, and is an extremely versatile instrument. Today, the sax sound has become synonymous with Jazz. The saxophone has also found an increase in popularity in our very own Bollywood music or late.