how to play the Yamaha

Playing a Yamaha is not as easy as you might think, especially if yours has handlebars and sturdy tartan pannier bags. A rudimentary tune might be achieved by tapping different areas of the petrol tank with your key-ring, but you risk chipping the enamel, so I'd advise against it.

Instead, why not slip on your leather gauntlets and ride off to Tandy, or Dixons, where you will find a host of the latest Yamaha keyboards. And Casios, of course, though I don't think they sport the fun rhythm which goes down so well in sheltered accommodation.

My current Yamaha was purchased for pounds 35 from a policeman called Ian Horncroft. Now Ian couldn't master it, you see, and he was very bitter about this, and wanted it off the premises. He assumed he'd be recreating classics like Jennifer Rush, or Toto's surprise smash hit of 1983 "Africa", within seconds of peeling off the cellophane. "Well, it doesn't work like that, Ian," I told him. "Yes, it's got 'single-finger play', but you've still got to decide which finger to use, haven't you?"

When you first get your Yamaha home, set it up in the lounge on the stand provided. If you didn't get a stand, do what I do. Place the keyboard on your armchair (so it's supported by the arms) before gingerly sliding your body down in-between the tiny gap.

Extra impressive results can be achieved by plugging into your hi-fi stack system - a silver one like mine's best because it's got "bass boost" and "five din to phono", things like that. I used to work for Comet, so I've a thorough knowledge of technical wizardry.

Enjoy the honeymoon period because your family will soon complain that your playing is interfering with the telly - which is fair enough - and insist you seek an alternative site.

Now here's a hint: your departure to the back bedroom can be delayed by switching to headphone mode. But beware of spillage and check your breathing regularly. It can become noisy and rasping and often the mouth produces more saliva than is desirable. (Don't ask me why, I'm not a doctor.)

If your destination is the garden shed - another word of warning. Make sure it's one with an apex roof, because you must have room to punch the air when you get roused on a key phrase, as Michael Ball does, or the Boo Radleys, and I wouldn't want you to graze your hand on a proud nail.

Then again, the fewer fingers you have at your disposal, the easier the prospect of the "single-finger-play" mode, if you see what I mean.

Currently I'm set up in the garage, which is ideal because I get a nice reverb off the breeze blocks. I squat on a 24-pack of Diet Sprite, which provides easy access to the Yamaha on top of the deep-freeze. The only drawback is that Mary, my wife - a dinner-lady at a local primary school - does have an annoying habit of coming for a shepherd's pie during the final chorus.

Right now she requires four economy steaklets and a Linda McCartney sausage roll (for our Karen who's gone veggie) and as my typewriter is also on the deep-freeze I'm going to have to close now, aren't I? Sorry about that.

Have I explained how to play the Yamaha yet? I haven't really, have I? It doesn't matter. If you have any problems I suggest you refer to the manual in the box. If, in the end you really don't know which finger to use, why not hit the demo button with your elbow? You'll be treated to a sprightly rhumba version of George Michael's excellent "Last Christmas".

Oops, I'd better go. "All right Mary, calm down. Let me get the lid on. Be careful, it's not even my typewriter." It belongs to the halfway house, you see. They let me borrow it in return for me cutting their grass, because they haven't got a mower. But I have. It's a Concorde, which is a bit erratic as it is an early model. Do Yamaha make lawnmowers, do you know? They should do.

John Shuttleworth, aka Graham Fellows, is appearing at the Bloomsbury Theatre, Gordon St, London WC1 (0171-388 8822) 7 to 11 Nov, 8pm, pounds 8.50/pounds 7 (concs)

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