Last week we had a week off on holiday to have a bit of a rest and I thought that this would be an ideal time to get stuck into some studio time. Firstly I thought that I would take a look at trying to repair my old harmonium. I bought it for a bit of a steal from somebody on eBay many years ago and according to them it used to be used by a Salvation Army band as they travelled around the place. This is because although it has a full size 49-key keyboard, it can be folded up into a, admittedly pretty heavy, suitcase sized box then be carried about.
It has a lovely sound that you make by pumping the bellows using a couple of foot pedals. Although it is in tune with itself as a whole it is a bit of sharp of concert pitch A440, but with retuning software like Celemony Melodyne that isn’t really a problem for me anymore. Must have been hell for the Salvation Army brass section though.
Anyway, I was playing away on the harmonium a few years back and there was a big crunching sound and when I looked underneath I saw that one of the two bellows had ripped away and torn open. Being the kind chap that I am I obviously immediately packed the harmonium away and though, ‘I’ll deal with that later’.
Well last week was that time and I unpacked the harmonium and attacked it with a hammer, a screwdriver, lots of screws and a healthy dose of superglue. To my genuine surprise my efforts did actually succeed and it is now sounding as good as it ever was.
Flushed with my own success I then obviously decided that the next thing I needed to do was spend some money on eBay. The first thing I got was something that I have actually been meaning to get for ages but always forget about when I am actually looking to buy something, a melodica. I got a Hohner Student 32 model and I think it’s brilliant.
It’s basically a very simple free-reed instrument like an accordion or a harmonica and you blow into it to power it. I like it so much that I’ve already recorded it and put it on to a song.
My next purchase from eBay was something I’d been thinking about getting that would be useful for performing live. When I perform live I tend I generally play guitar and sing. However I also really enjoy playing piano and keyboards, but I don’t really have a way of easily bringing a piano or keyboard around with me, especially when playing acoustically. As I mentioned above, my harmonium is portable, but to be honest it’s too heavy to travel around with and the tuning issue means anybody else would have to tune to me.
However after looking around I saw that there are some really nice travel harmoniums around that easily be carried about the place and aren’t all that big or heavy. I also found a few that had a shruti box built into them. Well I don’t need to be tempted twice, so through eBay I got myself one of those too.
After it arrived it was clear that perhaps I should have been a little bit more considered in my purchase. Despite being cocooned in more bubble wrap, polystyrene and cardboard boxes than I every thought it possible to wrap something in, when I open it up I saw that was of the keys was stuck down. Hmmm. Well it would seem that this was the tip of the iceberg when it came to repairs that needed to be made. I ended up having to take all the screws out and completely open it up.
I determined that one of the springs that holds the pads down was busted, hence the stuck down key. I managed to fashion a new spring out of the old one and moved it to a key down the end of the keyboard that I am much less likely to play, so hopefully it won’t go again. All good I though, so I closed it back up again.
However when I pumped the bellows there was a note playing despite none being pressed down and it was different to the note I’d just fixed. I opened it back up again and couldn’t find anything wrong, so closed it again, played it and all seemed fine. Then, and I swear this is true, I sneezed and suddenly the problem appeared again. After opening and closing the harmonium another two times with the problem coming and going on various different notes, I think it’s fairly safe to say that there was a rather long bout of some very colourful language.
I opened it up one last time (so I had promised myself) and this time I found what the problem was. The pads were taped and glued to the sticks that were themselves screwed into the keys. However a number of the pads had got loose and were turning sideways meaning that were not covering the holes in reed board all the time and this meant that their associated notes could be heard despite the keys not being played. Two keys in particular were suffering so I took them out and gave them a more than healthy dose of superglue.
In fact I thought it would probably be a good idea to give each key a touch of TLC, so I went through them all and made sure that they were all okay. I then close the harmonium up again and joy of joys, it was now working perfectly. I’m thinking that if all else fails I could always go into harmonium repairs.
So despite all this repair work I did actually find some time to write and start recording two new songs as well, which made me very happy indeed. One is called ‘Daylight Breaking Through’ and the other doesn’t really have a name yet, but it might be called ‘Close My Eyes’.
When is my next week off?