Colleen Kitchen Instruments Played
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Instruments I play


VOICE! The voice is the queen of the instruments. I sang in choirs growing up, started singing backup in bands and soon progressed to solos. I've taught voice and auditioned for NATS and sung "Rejoice O Daughter of Zion" but please don't hold that against me. I've also belted out the blues and sung bossa novas in a whispery breathy tone. There are various ways to use the voice and one doesn't preclude the other.

Piano and Keyboards: If voice is queen, piano is king! Piano is an awesome instrument, one of the most difficult, and most rewarding. A piano can be a whole band if you really know how to play it. Playing "pads" is NOT playing piano or even "keyboard." As one piano educator said, I can teach you every Taylor Swift keyboard riff in about three weeks. Of course those pad players don't want you to get a taste for real keyboard playing, because they would be out of a gig. Demand REAL piano chops! I have been playing piano since I can remember, everything to accompanying kids' solos to banging out blues. Keyboards can also be used as controllers to make all sorts of other sounds, thanks to modern technology. If I had to buy a new primary keyboard today I would get a Yamaha P-115.


Organ: Not the same as piano. Completely different fingering, style, and you have a whole new instrument below that you play with your feet, generally without looking at it. Plus, every organ has different ranks and sounds and you have to learn what sounds are available and what drawbars, buttons, kicks, or whatever you have to twiddle to get them, usually on the fly. If I were buying a physical organ I'd get an electronic one like the Hammond XK-1c instead of a vintage B3 (which requires a truck and 4 guys to haul to a gig plus if you blow a tube you're SOL) but what I actually use is virtual organ sounds through Mainstage, which is the live performance little brother of Logic Pro X, which is what my professional studio guy uses.

Pennywhistle: I learned this while living in Ireland when I didn't have access to any piano. An easy instrument to learn but a difficult one to play well. Because it is limited in range and also fundamentally diatonic, you have to own many different ones if you want to play in keys other than D or G. Sometimes you have to switch whistles in the middle of a tune. And to avoid being boring you have to have a lot of style.

penny whistle
uilleann pipes

Uilleann Pipes: This instrument should be the national instrument of Ireland, as it does not really figure prominently in any other place or genre. Pipes are finicky and require a lot of maintenance. They are also difficult to incorporate into a band (even an Irish one) due to their rather unique tuning qualities. I haul them out occasionally when the musical situation demands it.

Drum Kit: My drum teacher told me I could already play drums better than most rock drummers my first lesson. This is not a brag, it's simply a statement of skill transfer. Limb independence and rhythm, two major aspects of drumming and percussion, are gimme's if you already play piano and organ at the pro level. I don't currently play drums professionally but I get on the kit once in a while and can hold down the spot if needed.

drum kit

Pandeiro: This Brazilian percussion instrument is often mistaken for a tambourine (put that dumb chick on the tambourine, right?) It is very different, in that there is a lot more head work, and it is actually a difficult instrument. If I were a big celeb it would be a coveted bit of trivia that I play the pandeiro left-handed although I am naturally right handed. I guess I began by copying some Brazilian woman on some youtube video when I started. It would be a pain to change it now!

Melodica: (AKA little toy blowey piano) is a lot of fun at acoustic jams where there is no piano. Melodica is pretty much a gimme, keyboard skills and wind control skills from pennywhistle and vocals. You have to adapt to a different feel and smaller keys though. I had to bite the bullet and get the Hammond 44-key one with a pickup since installing a pickup on one of the cheaper Hohner models is a recipe for destroying it. Although it is plenty loud, it can't compete with amplified instruments, and the sound comes out all up and down the keyboard, depending on the keys played, so it is difficult to mike. Start with a Hohner 37 key and by the time you've blown it out of tune you'll know if you need to upgrade. Tuning involves taking them apart and filing and bending metal. I have a guy for that.


Piano Accordion: What musician would be complete with one of these Polka boxes? Due to skill transfer, I am Okay on the keyboard side, but I never played an instrument in a circle of fifths arrangement, as is the accompaniment side of the accordion. A fair number of folks play Right Hand only on the accordion and never learn the left. Watch their left hands, especially multi-instrumentalists like me who trot out the accordion occasionally. It's on my bucket list to be able to play basses well enough to get off polkas and folk tunes with both hands.

Bodhrán This Irish frame drum is useful for a number of applications. All frame drums are similar; the difference is in how you play them. Even within the traditional Irish genre, there are two conflicting methods to hold the beater. I learned bodhrán from the late Tom Creelan way back in the Heather Breeze days.