I totally went Science Fair Project Dad on one of Elder’s projects. You know about SFPD, he’s the one that gets way to involved with their kid’s projects and winds up doing most of it for them. So you see these really polished, professional looking things that it’s obvious the kids didn’t do on their own. So I have done.
The assignment was to ‘create an instrument from common household items. Demonstrate amplitude and pitch by playing a rhythm or melody on the instrument.’ So what did we do? We asked GPT for examples of course! We asked the AI for ten possible projects, then asked for clarification on a few of them before settling on one. We decided to make a popsicle stick piano.
We may have gone a bit overboard.
The local hardware store didn’t have the sticks, so we made a trip out to Michael’s. While there, we found a nice plank of pine about a foot in diameter that we could use for the base. We’d attach the popsicle sticks to a 12x1x0.25 piece, and screw that to the mount.
The first thing we did was stained the wood. Yes, I had an old can in the garage that I pulled out and we stained the base, the mounting block and all the popsicle sticks, which I literally just dipped in the paint can. Unfortunately the can was old and most of the pigment was settled in the bottom of the can, so the stain job came out really uneven and messy. I figured it was fine, since this was a 5th grade project after all.
Yesterday we went back to the hardware store to get the screws we needed, then started putting everything together. The plan was to put screws on either side of each key stick, which would allow us to tune each key. I did most of the marking here, drawing with a level and ruler, marking off where each of the two screws would go for the eight keys. After I got the first few done I handed the drill off to Elder so she could do a couple.
In all, it didn’t come out too bad. It’s got no resonance, so it’s not loud at all. A couple of the mounting screws are off, so the keys don’t make proper contact, losing tone and sound. But enough of them work to do a basic three of four note melody. And it does work as a drum in some respect.
Elder had to write a report for this project, which she did on her own despite my egging her on to use chatGPT. She actually told me that she needed to do the work herself, bless her heart. I wanted her to write the essay then fold it into GPT to see what it could do. I’ll teach her it’s a collaborative tool. It still requires effort to use, it’s just a huge lever for the eventual output.
Anyways, my musical brain couldn’t help turning her presentation into a rap. I’m such a ham, that’s the kind of stuff I used to do in school. I remarked to Elder that one year for English class I wrote an entire song for a creative writing assignment and played it before the class. I really wish I could remember more; the memory is weak. So while I was meditating this morning, my brain kept churning out versus, which I related to Elder this morning:
Well my name’s Elder and I’m here to say
I got a portable piano that I’m here to play
You wanna build your own, here’s what you do
Get a few pieces of wood and a bunch of screws
You can make the note low by making it long
Short keys high notes can you follow along
I can play the beat quiet I can play the beat loud
I can play the beat all day to rock the crowd
I El and I’m done and that’s all I say
but I think this report deserves an A
Now Elder doesn’t have the same fearlessness that I did at her age, I had already played the lead in the school musical by her age, but she won’t even try out for the lead. She hasn’t learned how to deal with that stage fright and comes up with other reasons to convince her not to try.
But I performed this rap, or a variation of it, for her this morning and she seemed somewhat open to the idea. There was a little fear there, but I assured her that it would go over well and she had nothing to worry about. She wasn’t able to memorize what I came up with in the 10 minutes we had before we had to shuffle out the door, but I think she got the gist of it.
I can’t wait to hear what she comes up with.