Not the Sound of Music

While I initially feared the sound of a dying cat clawing its way up a blackboard, I was relieved at the sound of a more tolerable low, moaning whistle. My son brought home a soprano recorder from school last week. He needs to learn songs as part of a music grade.

Knowing my son, he will diligently practice. Already I’ve heard the choppy notes of “Hot Cross Buns” early in the morning, after school, and before his bedtime stories, but I have to give my son credit for making the effort without any prompting from me.

My son playing a recorder

"Hot cross buns, hot cross buns. One a penny..."

I fear the reason is because anytime my kids get a whistle, kazoo, or flutophone, I firmly instruct them not to blow that thing in the house or anywhere within earshot of me. The sound pierces my ears, and it doesn’t take long for a headache to sink in when my kid’s musical attempt sounds like a torture device stuck on repeat. For years I have confiscated these things at any sign of abuse, meaning one shrill note too many, and stored them high atop our refrigerator with other illegal toys. Having a noisemaker with permission from school means my son can basically huff and puff on it whenever he pleases, all in the name of pass or fail. It’s like they’ve given him their blessing to taunt me.

Well thank you, school system. Thank you for bursts of unhinged melody, constant squeaks, and boring repetition. Two more years of this, I might add.

The bright side? It could have been drums.



Filed under Boy Stories

31 responses to “Not the Sound of Music

  1. School music programs are notorious for picking the exact instrument a student is least likely to actually have potential to play. They dont stop there, instructors then praise them ridiculously to make them believe they have talent and practice even more ! Good luck !

    • Harmonicas don’t sound bad. Why not teach them those? Really, I understand the reasoning, and I never learned to play an instrument. My son is excited. But I don’t see this going anywhere. In two years, I’ll have TWO kids practicing!

  2. K. Eley

    I agree. They should teach children to play instruments that they can play for years to come. What’s wrong with a guitar or a keyboard? My daughter has one of these recorders. She plays it loudly and proudly as she walks home from school. I’m sure it has people looking out of their windows to see what all the noise is about!

    • Oh, maybe he’s not playing it loudly yet! A guitar or piano would be great, but a recorder is cheap. I have friends whose kids learn violin at school (public). I can’t imagine the screeching that goes on and it takes dedication, but imagine if they stick with it.

  3. Jim Cantwell

    We too went through the recorder, and the flute. Music is such a good thing for children to learn, and not in the sense of becoming some big recording icon, but in the sense that it instills passion, and a high level of self-worth from the achievement itself. It is passion that drives us.
    Great post as always, Karen.

    • I know, I know. You’re right. I tell him he’s working hard. But I’m allowed to hate the squawks and monotony, right? What I really hope is that he doesn’t graduate to something much worse.

      Thanks for commenting.

  4. Jim Cantwell

    I should tell you, more like admit, when the recorder and flute came out I went outside or to the store, I know your pain but it is part of the process, I know when I learned guitar that must have been torture to my parents haha

  5. ohpapa

    Good to hear he is dedicated to practicing already! Though it is easy to say that out of earshot! Hopefully he will be playing soothing melodies sooner rather than later.

  6. We get that joy next year. I am so looking forward to it. (Notice the sarcasm). I wish they would at least teach them songs that sound decent. After a year at the recorder they get to pick an instrument. Something of the brass/wind family or percussion. I am thinking I get the joy of a trumpet or something. I will say though, my friend who went to the same elementary as my sons go, played the trombone. He grew up to play it in the Notre Dame Marching Band so not a bad thing.

    • I won’t hold my breath. My husband got his trumpet out once and gave us all an ear-splitting rendition of something absolutely horrid. “Just needs a tune-up,” he said. Him or the trumpet? My kids thought it was great.

  7. Those things are pure torture. Even when played absolutely correctly, they sound miserable. I’m not looking forward to that.

  8. Lisa

    drums – exactly what I was thinking. I guess a trumpet or tuba would be awful too. Mine like to bang on my old keyboard which isn’t that bad until they turn on the rhythms.

    • Anything can get on your nerves when done constantly enough. Truthfully, I’m not a musical person anyway. But that also means I had nothing to pass on to my kids!

  9. That is great that he is practicing without having to be told to do it! If all homework was so easily completed.
    In a moment of insanity last summer we bought a kid sized drum set off Craig’s List (it was a great deal, how could I pass it up?!?) It lives in the upstairs of our detached garage where it can not be heard from inside our house. When the year of recorders strikes our house, I will send the boys off to practice Hot Cross Buns up in our garage. Who knows, maybe they will start a grunge garage band called Shoes On The Wrong Feet. 🙂

    • Don’t even mention garage bands. Shudder. And I don’t want to curse myself, but he does his homework every day without asking too. Give them a little independence and they can surprise you! We’ve come a long way.

  10. I know from which you speak. Claire did the recorder and then a year of the violin. Am I a bad mom for encouraging her in art and not music? Sandy

  11. I think you need Wonderbutt to howl alongside him in order to appreciate the full effect.

  12. Pingback: Versatile Blogger Award!!! « I have kids?! When did that happen?

  13. I don’t know…I’d take the drums over a squeaky 1st year clarinet, but I haven’t heard the recorder for a century and a half. My husband was just talking about this experience of learning the recorder (we didn’t do it in my school) — he felt he was the only one in the class who couldn’t do it correctly and it traumatized him. He’s tone deaf so that might have had something to do with it.

    • I really just can’t take anything, I think. I get so many headaches that anything like that hurts my head. Drums are absolutely not ever allowed in my house. The harp, there’s a tolerable instrument, right? Gigantic but tolerable.

      • Yes, a harp would be much better on the ears! But at some point it would likely be used as a weapon against a sibling. Although what isn’t.

  14. I notice that grandparents are always the ones that buy kids a drum set. Not sure why this is, but I have my theories. Vicky from

  15. My sister was learning the flute, my brother (tone deaf) the violin, and me the clarinet all at the same time, in separate rooms of the house. We all learned piano first, and we ALL sucked at our instrument choices. My mom still cringes when we talk about it.

    My kids all want to play my bassoon. (This scares me…it wasn’t cheap. I bought THAT instead of car when I graduated.) I tell them first to get decent playing their great-grandfather’s piano, learn to read music, understand chords, and then we’ll talk. That usually shuts them up.

    PS — you’re not showing up in my Blog Read. I may have to unfollow and re-follow to get it to work. Sorry I’m late. I love your posts. Wouldn’t miss them.

    • Three at once sounds like a nightmare! And it sounds like you know what you’re doing, making them understand music first before tackling something else.

      Thanks for letting me know about my posts in your blog read. I recently switched to a .com and though everything is supposed to be redirected, I wondered if it would affect any followers. Now I have no clue! I’m glad you tracked me down.

      • I did the unfollow/refollow thing. Let’s see if your future posts wind up in my feed like I like. It’ll still come to my inbox too, but I don’t get to those as quickly. It’s a bit like scooping water out of a sinking boat with a Dixie Cup.

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