If you went into any Musicroom store on 24th June, you would have experienced something a little bit special.
Musicroom, in support of Learn To Play Day, welcomed hundreds of people across all ages into our stores for free lessons. Our lovely and experienced staff were all on hand to teach you all the basics; how to pick up an instrument for the first time and play a tune. Guitar, Ukulele, Piano, Trumpet, Drum and Singing lessons happening across the UK all day.
Our “Rae Macintosh” Musicroom store in Edinburgh really pushed the boat out. Read below for their story and be inspired to pick up an instrument, sing a song and fall in love music as much as we do…
It started as a joke in the pub on our Christmas night out. “We should have a shop band – what would we be called?” Fleetwood Rae Mac of course! The idea grew arms and legs over the course of 2017 until it was resolved that, for Learn To Play Day this year, we would try to create a band from scratch. In two hours.
Famously, Status Quo made a living from three chord songs. Bill Haley started the Rock & Roll revolution with Rock Around The Clock – three chords. Wild Thing, Leaving On A Jet Plane, Sweet Home Alabama – all three chords. With three chords we could rule the world.
One of the hardest parts of our preparation for Learn To Play Day was whittling down the list of possible songs to just three. In the end went for sing-along favourites; Achy Breaky Heart by Miley Cyrus’s Dad; Twist and Shout from the Beatles; and the impossibly catchy classic, The Lion Sleeps Tonight.
The team at Rae Mac’s is versatile and talented. From within the group we could muster teachers for Guitar, Bass, Drums, Keys and Vocals – with a dash of Mandolin and Ukulele for fun.
In the first hour, we offered a group lesson to show people around their chosen instrument. This helped the new band members get to grips with breathing, tuning, rhythm, finger placement and confidence; before introducing the songs we would be playing together in hour two. Our ambition was to impart enough information to be able to showcase the sociability and fun of making music as a group. The band session would be rough and ready; if we could make a glorious noise and end up smiling then we couldn’t ask for more.
On the day itself, the first challenge was to make enough space for the band. Our store is already bursting at the seams with books, gifts, accessories and instruments. However, we are lucky enough to have our own stage, and with a bit of rearranging, we had a drum kit in the piano department, a piano in the office, singers in the staff room, with the guitarists taking the stage by storm.
Our first group was small, but enthusiastic. Ian brought his own electric guitar, ready to rock. Norma is a fiddler, but decided to try guitar for the day. And finally student, Sebastian, came from Dundee just to sing with us.
All three had a little experience of their instruments already, so they took to the challenge with no problems. Norma could confidently change chords by the end of the first hour; she drove the rhythm in the band with her strumming. Ian added colour with some lead guitar riffs. Sebastian proved to be a confident and charming front man – even though he was new to most of the songs we had chosen. With staff members Russell, Jamie, Stuart and Claire filling the gaps, Fleetwood Rae Mac #1 were remarkably competent. We definitely achieved something special in a short space of time.
The afternoon session was a real family affair. The Carter clan joined us for guitar, keyboard and drum lessons from scratch. Father and daughter, Allan and Emma, wanted some inspiration to get their guitar playing going. The Segalla sisters (accomplished pianists already) came to unleash their inner punk drummer. The larger group was more challenging, but Andy helped Russell to make sure the guitarists’ fingers moved in sync.
For Fleetwood Rae Mac #2 our colleague Keri stepped in on vocals, ably assisted by whichever drummer wasn’t playing at the time, plus some passing customers. The debut guitarists were getting slicker all the time, but knew that if in doubt they could stay on C and they’d be right eventually. There was a lot of intense concentration as we stumbled our way through the songs. Rae took photographs, shot videos and shouted chord changes to help people catch up. Customers were issued with song sheets and egg shakers and were amazed to find out that the musicians were only 90 minutes into their education.
At 4 o’clock we rounded off with a final rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, with the extra high notes and everyone left the shop with sore fingers, a sense of achievement and smiles all round. I suspect we’ll all we singing ah-wimmow-weh on a loop well into next week, but it was worth it for such a joyous experience. We won’t be waiting until 2018 to get the band back together – this is an event that will become a regular fixture at Rae Mac’s in the months to come.
VISIT RAE MACINTOSH
Macintosh Music has been a fixture in Edinburgh life for over 160 years. Originally owned by Mr. Rae and Mr. Macintosh, it has been and still is the first port of call for musicians in the capital. The shop has worked its way along from its original location in George Street and since the 1960s we have been part of the bustling West End of Edinburgh. We’re now situated on Shandwick Place.
41 Shandwick PlaceEdinburgh