Home Grown Music

Many of us who love camping and RV’ing are musicians, and to us, that is a part of our entertainment, even if we only entertain ourselves. But let’s face it, a piano just doesn’t fit well into a minivan camper conversion!  We have to learn to think small in order to meet the needs of traveling light, and the smallest, lightest instrument that I can think of with a full range of sounds is a harmonica. The biggest drawback with them is to learn to breathe in and out to be able to play them. They are a diatonic instrument, which means you get a different note when breathing out or breathing in. Learning to breathe in time to the music is a lot harder than it looks!

The other drawback is that they are tuned to the main keys found in most music, so you won’t be able to play them with other musicians unless your harmonica is in the right key that they are playing.  This is why professional players buy harmonicas in sets, with each one tuned to a different key. But if you are playing for your own enjoyment, and alone, then almost any key will do. And if you’ve never tried one before, a book to get you started is a great place to begin. As always, if you don’t see what you want, do a search for it.

A normal guitar is a popular instrument, but there are drawbacks with that, too. Space is the first consideration, but also, like any vehicle, your minivan camper conversion could go through many extremes of temperatures when traveling, from sitting in the hot sun to extremely humid or even cold conditions. Those kinds of temperature changes are not good for wooden-bodied instruments. They can warp, crack or go out of tune very easily.

But if space is the only consideration, and you happen to be a guitar player, there are smaller “back packer” guitars available that take up less space. There is even a small electric guitar available, but of course, the amplifier also takes up space. I found these two items with just a search for “backpacker guitar”. There are thousands of variations and accessories for instruments like this, so if in doubt… search!

Even if you don’t know how to play an instrument, retiring, or just getting out and finding your freedom is a good reason to learn something new, whether it be music, a language or a new skill that can help you enjoy life more. Learning and progress doesn’t come without a little effort, but you will be proud of what you learn and no one can ever take any kind of education away from you.

Another good choice of a small instrument is an autoharp, for a full rich sound that can be played alone or with other instruments. But again, if it is made of wood (which most good ones are) the temperature extremes could cause problems. And there are a lot more strings to tune if it gets off key!

Small wind instruments like the melodica are nice and compact, and easy to play. They don’t usually go out of tune, but they are typically a one-handed instrument, so may not provide the full rich sound of a two-handed keyboard. Although you can get multiple notes to form chords, they are still limited, and best used as an accompaniment to other instruments. We had a chance to hear Bob Ralston (from the Lawrence Welk Show) live at a performance one time, where he used a melodica with “canned” background music for the theme from “The Thornbirds”, and it sounded beautiful. Those who have any kind of keyboard training on any other instrument will find this very easy to learn, and if you need background music, play along with some songs on the radio. You’ll be surprised at how good it can sound! And if you want to see what else Amazon has, just do a search for “melodica”.

We even came across a pocket saxophone in our searches for instruments, but I have no idea what it sounds like.

One instrument that we can recommend for use in a minivan camper conversion is one that we own, and that is a Suzuki Q-Chord.  It’s sort of like an electronic guitar, but instead of strings, it has brass strips on it. When you strum across the brass strips, they produce a series of notes that are pre-tuned to whatever chords you are playing with the bass buttons. There is also an electronic rhythm section, and various accompaniments to suit your tastes. It has it’s own amplifier and works from internal batteries or you can use a power adapter with it.

The interesting thing is they used to have a forerunner to this one called an Omni-Chord. We owned one of those, too, but sold it when this new one came out. Why? Because this new one also has plug-in cartridges with pre-recorded music on them that you can play along with!  Each cartridge has several different songs in specific music genres on it, and when you use them, they automatically provide the bass accompaniment, so all you have to do is strum along to make good music!  It can’t be any simpler for budding musicians to make decent music even if they’ve never had any training!

And you can get a hard case to carry it in to protect it while traveling, so it is the closest thing to being an ideal traveling instrument as we have found! If you want to hear what it can do, we found several videos on YouTube by folks demonstrating it, so have a look and enjoy! If you do a search on YouTube, you will find many other videos on the Suzuki Q-Chord!

We’re going to present a couple of those videos to you on the next page, and then offer the instrument and accessories to you, but because there are so many, it deserves a page of its own, or it will take too long to load on the screen. So click here, and be amazed!

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