Because I play the accordion and other keyboard instruments and sometime do a search on them, I see ads for musical instruments from time to time. Lately, I’ve been seeing ads for the thing pictured above.
They were banner ads, so the photo was tiny. At first glance I thought it was an ad for PVC pipes. Then I saw the text: Casual wind instrument. And it sells for less than $100.
When something is that cheap and described in such bland terms, it’s usually bad. Think of Zima: “Clear malt beverage”. Or the more accurate Canadian term for what gets called “American cheese” in the U.S.: “Processed cheese food”.
This thing has a name: It’s the Venova, made by Yamaha.
“The Venova is a completely new type of wind instrument,” says the website, “that is easy to learn. With simple fingerings and a sound like a saxophone, you can be playing music in no time!”
While it looks like PVC pipe, it’s actually made of its stronger cousin, ABS. It should take a drop without chipping (and definitely without denting), and it’s supposed to be water washable.
Here’s the burning question: What does it sound like?
Let’s first check out the Venova under the most ideal conditions: Professional musicians, recorded in a music studio, with the benefits of a little sound processing, backing tracks, and multiple takes:
Here’s the Venova under conditions you’re more likely to encounter: not in a music studio, occasionally with a backing track, but still being played by a professional musician:
Here’s a setting that you might find really familiar: In a music store, no backing tracks, just a decent player and the instrument:
Want some more in-depth reviews? Here are a few that take a closer look at the instrument:
There’s a lot of clever design in the Venova. There’s the “branched pipe”:
This gives the Venova a more complex sound. Yamaha’s promo material says that it helps make the Venova sound more like a conical wind instrument (such as the saxophone) than a cylindrical one (such as the recorder).
There’s also the “meandering pipe”:
It gives the Venova a longer air column in the same linear length. This allows for two things:
More complex harmonics
Shorter distances between finger holes (which means that you can play it as if it were a recorder)
If I taught music at school, I’d give the Venova a look. It’s got a lot of the qualities that might make it a good instrument for musical education: Easy to play, in the key of C, durable, inexpensive.
Finally: There’s one wind instrument player I’d love to see on the Venova — the one and only Saxsquatch. C’mon, Yamaha, if it retails for under $100, you can easily send him one!
One of the songs in my MP3 collection that’s on heavy rotation is Cage the Elephant’s Beck-ish, slide-guitar southern-rock-y ode to “doin’ what you gotta”, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. It practically begs for an accordion version, so I’m learning it in order to add it to my repertoire, which could stand a little refreshing.
I should feel ashamed to say this, but a decade’s worth of public accordion playing has attenuated my ability to feel shame: the reason I know about Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked isn’t because I’m dialed into the alt-rock music scene. Thanks to middle age, I used to be with it, but they’ve since changed what “it” was. I know about the song because of…well, a video game. Namely, Borderlands, which uses the song in its intro sequence:
For the curious (and the fans), here’s Cage the Elephant’s official video for Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. Enjoy!
“This musical instrument is undoubtedly one of the most popular nowadays,” goes the article. “First accordions appeared in Russia in the beginning of the 19th century, and thanks to original sounding and visual appeal, they soon became rather popular. Number of accordion masters has grown so much that their making became number two in Tula.”
The accordions that this factory makes are gorgeous, as are the photos in the article. If you’ve ever wondered how accordions are made, check out the article!