I have a confession to make. The first time I went camping as an adult was two summers ago. Before that, I was seven and my parents shipped me off for the weekend with my Brownie troupe to learn all sorts of life skills and earn all sorts of badges. I cried the whole time. But when one of my closest friends convinced me to join her annual camping trip—which meant no electricity, no WiFi, and no plumbing—I decided to put my tiara away for a few days and suck it up; and as it turns out, it was one of the best times I’ve ever had.
Our days were spent floating blissfully on the lake, and our nights were spent fireside with impromptu karaoke sessions accompanied by an acoustic guitar. But this was no Kumbaya sing-along. This was a group of friends giving everyone from Green Day to Taylor Swift a run for their money. And while my camping experience is limited, this one epic weekend made me realize that whether you’re fireside, seaside, or somewhere in between, when you add a musical instrument to the mix, your summer trips are guaranteed to be memorable. So with that preamble in mind, here are some ideas for what wireless, portable musical instruments you should consider taking with you on your next summer trip.
Let’s be honest here folks. Acoustic guitars and the outdoors in summer go together like Kim Kardashian and skin-tight clothing. Heck, you don’t even need to be a fantastic guitarist to add that extra something to a summer trip. A few chords and a handful of songs and you’re set. And you don’t need to spend a fortune on a guitar either. Squire’s SA-50 Deluxe Acoustic Guitar Pack comes with everything you need to add some acoustic entertainment to your next summer excursion, including picks and a strap; so it is ideal for the entry-level guitarist. Then of course there are options from Fender and Epiphone, which my (wannabe) guitarist father says are among the best of the guitar bunch. Just be sure to keep your guitar in its case when not in use. As I’m sure you know, wood and water, and wood and fire are not great combinations.
When I think of someone playing a mandolin, I can’t help put picture an elderly gentleman wearing a satin shirt complete with epaulets, cowboy boots and an ascot. But mandolins really are a classically cool instrument and their unique sound makes them ideal for adding a little blues or a little country to your summer retreat. Plus, when you’ve got a mandolin like this one from Fender propped on your knee, you’ll be guaranteed to get some attention!
If you’re limited on space and can’t fit a guitar or mandolin case in your vehicle, there’s always the good old harmonica. Also known as the French harp or mouth organ, harmonicas have been used in a wide variety of genres, from folk to jazz to country, since the early 1800s. Unlike the guitar or mandolin where you can get by with a rudimentary understanding of chords to entertain around a campfire, to play the harmonica without sounding like a dying seal, you really need to know more than the basics. The good news is that there are thousands of YouTube videos out there that can teach you how to play some harmonica standards like Home on the Range and Oh Susanna … trust me, I Googled it. Perhaps the best part about the harmonica though is that they can be popped into a pocket, backpack or purse and toted with you wherever your summer trip might take you.
If your taste for instruments lean more towards the classical, why not bring your flute, saxophone or clarinet with you on your summer trip? Heck, combining one of these instruments with a guitar or harmonica can make for some serious musical entertainment. Perhaps one of the most amazing renditions of House of the Rising Sun I have ever seen was in the streets of New Orleans and it was being played by an amazing woman on her sax and accompanied by a guitar. It was epic.
Now, I’m not saying you tote your entire drum kit with you on your summer trip, but why not bring a djembe (similar to a bongo) like this one from Toca. It doesn’t matter where you end up, with a djembe you can add so much energy and fun to whatever kind of music you are making. I see a drum circle in your future!
Songs to Play
As far as songs are considered the list is really endless, but here are some that I think are fantastic summer time sing-a-long tunes that can be played on an endless variety of musical instruments:
- Hey Jude, The Beatles
- Take it on the Run, REO Speedwagon
- Don’t Stop Believing, Journey
- Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash
- Redemption Song, Bob Marley
- Old Man, Neil Young
- Knockn’ On Heaven’s Door, Bob Dylan
- Maggie May, Rod Stewart
- Let it Be, The Beatles
- Every Breath you Take, Sting
- House of the Rising Sun, The Animals
- Ain’t No Sunshine, Bill Withers
- Hotel California, The Eagles
- (Sittn’ on) the Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding
- There She Goes, The La’s
So there you have it folks—some ideas for musical instruments you can take with you on your summer adventures that don’t need electricity or WiFi. Now, I think I’ll go dust off my old clarinet and see if I can still manage to play Hot Crossed Buns, because that is sure to be a campfire hit, right?!
Main image courtesty of @favim.com