People often ask me about my background training in Music. I wouldn’t call myself a musician. I never learned to read music and couldn’t tell you how the circle of fifths works. When I was twelve years old I took seven weeks of guitar lessons. That’s it. I taught myself to play piano, violin, banjo, mandolin, harmonica and hand drums.
Everything changed for me in 1992 because of a construction accident. Three surgeries and long hours of physical therapy couldn’t repair the broken middle finger on my left hand. It is now permanently bent and crooked and I am unable to close it into a fist. I gave up playing stringed instruments. The fingers I use for fretting don’t work properly anymore.
This kind of accident would have been catastrophic for a professional musician. I thought it was pretty bad also, until I discovered how to make and play the seashell flute, twelve years later.
There are five pitch holes in a seashell flute. They follow the straight lengthwise axis line of the shell and are drilled through whorls 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8, counting from the shell’s opening (aperture) to it’s pointy end (apex). The reason I put the pitch holes where they are is simple: that’s where my finger tips naturally touch the shell. I had to leave a space between pitch holes 4 and 6 because of my broken middle finger.
As it turned out, the space between pitch holes 4 and 6 is absolutely necessary for the flute to release a proper diatonic scale of musical notes. A pitch hole through whorl 5 releases a sharp/flat note. Same for whorl 7. Any deviation from the pitch hole placement pattern results in a less than perfect scale of diatonic notes. That’s just the way it works.
I considered calling my business ‘Broken Finger Flutes’, to honor one of the deciding factors leading to the discovery of the diatonic scale of musical notes inside a seashell. Accidents can be catalysts for discoveries. What appears to be a tragedy one day may turn out to be a blessing the next. In my case, it took twelve years to find the blessing.