My practicing setup

When I initially built my PVC pipe instrument, I also bought this little midi keyboard to help me transcribe songs for it. I’ve also got a midi sound module and a little speaker that I had from before connected to it (I’ve since learned that there are midi keyboards you can buy that already have speakers built into them – oops!)

After starting with IFR, I’ve also decided to create a little stack of index cards (I took some standard size index cards and cut them in half both ways) with every possible sequence of up to four of the notes 1, 2, and 3 drawn on them. Here’s a small random sampling:

I’ve been inspired to get some color sticky dots and write all the tonal numbers on them as well, so I can temporarily stick them to my keyboard in any key signature I want. What I like to do for practice is to pick a random key, say for example F-major represented here (it’s in F-major currently since that seemed to be the key of a song I was recently listening to while playing along with the keyboard). With my random key signature, I’ll put just the stickers “1”, “2” and “3” on the appropriate notes. I’ll draw some random cards from my “deck” and play them for a little bit to get used to the key I’ve chosen. And then I’ll switch to singing the cards I randomly draw. I’ll try to be 100% sure I’m singing them right before playing them on the keyboard. For added fun, I’ll sometimes string together 2 or more of these index cards into a little “random melody” and try to sing it.

Of course, I don’t have my midi keyboard with me all the time, but the stack of index cards is tiny and can easily fit in my pocket, so if I’m taking a quick lunch break or otherwise have a quick opportunity to practice, I can pull them out and draw some cards at random and try to sing them or even just imagine them in my head.

I find this is a good complement to listening to the “sing the numbers” tracks – as it works out my mental memory in sort of the “opposite direction” so to speak; if I don’t hear the numbers first – I just see them written down, and presented to me in a totally random order – can I still imagine the sounds they would make in my head?


Love the setup, and good to use prompts and aids to really get those tonal numbers ingrained. And I’m a big fan of flashcards, little random melody sequences to test yourself. Keep up all the good work.

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Great idea @Nate_B .

Have you come across this?

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@Nate_B it’s great that you’re inventing ways for you to learn and absorb tonal numbers. Brilliant!

(I’ve since learned that there are midi keyboards you can buy that already have speakers built into them – oops!)

There are very few. I wanted something small like the original Casiotone. In the end I got the “play” version of yours which is too big, too quiet, and has no backing beats :frowning:

But it does for IFR away from my bass.

Funny you should mention that – I came across website that just the other day! Even though as you increase the number of notes, mathematically the number of possible combinations quickly explodes, I would imagine most of them would just sound like random “noise” and not necessarily “music” per se. – like a cat walking across a piano. So I had an intuition that as I increased my number of notes/index cards, I would need to “filter” the possibilities somehow. And 24 figures seems much more reasonable than billions.

Mine was way too quiet at first, too (connected to a computer). But then I found a YouTube video about some setting you could adjust concerning the velocity sensitivity that made it more reasonable. Perhaps yours would have a similar setting?

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Interesting idea I’ll check. You’d have thought they’d got that set right for the speaker. I tried max velocity when playing.

It’s still great for quick practice any time, any where at home. I had to get lithium rechargables though as NiCads too low voltage.

Ps I also have a very small keyboard and I tried using my phone as sound source. Notes and pictures on my blog.

@steve What’s the ‘out of the box’ (i.e. without any messing about) volume like with headphones? Is that any better?

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Hmm, not sure it has headphone socket, just the built in speaker. Can check but want a least kit possible solution so I just grab it and play. Hence getting the Play version with speaker.

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I believe the miniplay has a headphone socket (on the back) - after you mentioned the instrument yesterday I looked at a couple of videos & it was used in some of those (either for headphones or for audio out to a recorder).

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Indeed it does, I looked, but for my every day use I do not want to use headphones. I also have hi Z phones which are quiet. To be honest a little more volume from speaker would be perfect.

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Sure @steve . Just checking. Each to their own. I tend to use headphones a lot - my ‘shed’ is indoors. Plus, if I ever had one of these miniplay keyboards the most likely place I’d use it would be when I’m sat in the same room as my wife & she’d be reading… :slight_smile:

Haha, You’re giving me ideas! Lol.

In my case I just want to grab and use, usually on my own. Will try with phones though. Thanks

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@DavidW so I tried my DT 770 Pro phones and is just loud enough. Advantage is a lot better bass and they do block out some ambient noices :slight_smile:

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I saw this coconut-turned-musical-instrument today at an arts market and just could not resist! The number of musical instruments I own seems to be quickly growing!

Funny how I never really thought of myself as a “musical” person before, but it’s really starting to grow on me.

I would credit both direct experience (finally deciding I just had to build the PVC pipes, and then spending a lot of time just “goofing off” (aka improvising) on them) and the I.F.R. method for causing me to enjoy making music a lot more than I ever did before!


Am I going to put stickers on it with numbers on them? You bet I am!

@Nate_B I know the feeling. Welcome to the club. :smiley:

This little coconut instrument has turned out to be particularly useful for Exercise #1 (Landscape). My PVC pipes don’t have a full sequence of half-steps, as they are just the C-minor scale. My MIDI keyboard does, but since it’s not standalone I would have to carry around both the midi sound module and little speaker for it, plus a USB cable and audio cable, and make sure the sound module and speaker stay charged, all of which is kind of a hassle.

But this little coconut kalimba is perfect for exercise #1. I can tune it however I want by adjusting where I clamp down the tines, so I’ve got the seven tines currently tuned to a sequence of notes all a half-step apart. And it’s tiny – the whole thing can fit in the palm of my hand, so I can take it anywhere.

Whoever thought of this must have been really clever. I’m sure their name has been lost to time, as Wikipedia says it’s been around for thousands of years.

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