When I have trouble playing a passage on the piano from the music, I sometimes find that it is useful to follow the simple advice of playing the passage, perhaps just a couple of bars, 10 times over. After doing this, I either know how to play it or have a better idea of what the problem is. However, I often forget how many times I have played it and it occured to me that a simple solution would be to install a software counter on my computer. I have a second monitor sitting on top of the piano so that I can easily see what is happening on screen when I play my Second Life concerts. So, accepting that this is taking things to a somewhat obsessive length, I went online to search for a software counter. I found it extremely difficult to find anything. Possibly I was entering the wrong thing into the search engine; be that as it may, I gave up.

I was thinking about the problem while I was having a cup of coffee this morning. It occurred to me that there might be a non-computer solution. I had once before used a pile of ten coins but I found that altogether too fiddly. Staying with the principle of the pile of coins, my thoughts turned to the abacus that my daughter had when she was a little girl. I suppose I could have gone to a shop and bought a child’s toy abacus but they are usually rather large and clunky; I want mine to take up very little space. I then gave myself a bit of a talking to, since it felt I ought to be able to come up with something myself. I therefore pottered off to my workshop.

I did what I usually do in these situations; I wandered about with a blank mind, letting my eyes roam around, searching for je ne sais quoi. I opened some draws, checked the contents of a few tins and boxes, and generally ferretted about. This is what I found: a couple of wood off-cuts, a few metal eyelets, and some wooden BBQ skewers.

The raw materials

I figured that the skewer could become the bar of the abacus, the eyelets would be the counters, and I would make the supports from the waste bits of wood. And here is the result!

My home-made abacus

I have to get ready for my show in Second Life now. Talk to you later, my dear blogophiles.

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