Category Archives: From the Practice Stool

Cleaning the Closet Reveals a Clever Classical Guitar Recording Tip

Laura Bruno Lilly with Prisloe classical guitar - practise selfie

Hello, hello from inside the mirror!

Hello, hello from inside the mirror! This is my attempt at a practice session selfie – using a dinosaur of a camera, no less. Notice the placement of the pillow, the height of the footstool and yes, indeed, those comfy tennies. This is my normal performance set up; albeit with a change of clothes and shoes.

It works.

However, in the recording studio, my beloved Dynarette pillow makes plastic-y squeaks during my playing as I tend to move a bit from time to time while I’m ‘in the moment’.

This is not a good thing.

Hardly noticeable by anyone on stage or off during a live performance, those squeaks wreak havoc to one’s ears while listening to playbacks of pieces played to perfection in the recording studio.

In my early attempts to silence those squeaks, Continue reading

Music makes fireworks in your brain!

puffin foundation logoFor some reason, not everyone on my little list or followers of this blog heard my great news so I will make a formal announcement here and now  -

The Puffin Foundation gave me an extension on my grant!

For that, fireworks are in order – so excuse me while I go and make a few in my brain while you enjoy/learn from this animated video on the merits of making and listening to music.

3rd year Blogiversary: 3 quotes, 3 categories, 3 past posts

Thank-you readers, from newest to first-to-follow, for marking this milestone with me. This year, I’m commemorating my third year blogiversary by offering the following quotes and links to past posts for you to peruse. Enjoy!

Quotes: 3 Very Different Men, All on the Same Page

original score - Goats in the Garden at Midnight by the Light of the Full Moon

my original hand-scored “Goats in the Garden at Midnight by the Light of the Full Moon”

 

I am in the world only for the purpose of composing. Franz Schubert


 

 

 

 

 

Al Bruno - promo photo circa 1940 - 1950

Dad (Al Bruno) ~circa 1945 (?)

 

 

Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn. Charlie Parker

 

 

 

 

Cesar Chavez in Community Garden-photo by Cathy Murphy

Cesar Chavez in Community Garden-photo by Cathy Murphy

 

When we are really honest with ourselves we must admit our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines the kind of [wo]men we are. Cesar Chavez

 

 

Continue reading

Marching to the Studio: Gearing Up – Strings

The first recording session for Swimming with Swans: the music is scheduled to begin Wednesday, April 27th.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post:

When prepping for actual recording, timing is everything.  Not just in the realm of musical readiness, but also in gear readiness. Booking this session date gave me approximately two weeks to break in fresh strings. So of course that meant changing out strings ASAP; which I did.

The Prisloe - ready for string change

All set and ready to go!

 

Changing out strings on the Prisloe is pretty routine.  Basic procedure for me involves laying down a blanket on the living room floor, arranging all the necessary tools on it (tuner, peg turner, string pack, dust rag, jewelers’ sandpaper, string clipper) and then sitting down with the instrument to my right. All set and ready to go.

 

The body as a natural luthier's bench

The body as a natural luthier’s bench

This is how I’ve done it for decades on both the classical and the 12-string, so even if I had access to a cool luthier’s repair bench, I’m not sure I’d use it for this task.

Gently sanding out burrs in the guitar nut

gently sanding out burrs in the nut

Doing related guitar maintenance is often easier done during string changes. Unfortunately the ‘new’ dead spot on the 4th fret 4th string is way beyond my mending capabilities. It will have to wait until I find someone in the area qualified to do repairs on my custom Prisloe.

First string shortened before winding on peg

1st string shortened before winding on peg

Until then, I also trick-out the 1st string to accommodate an oddly unbalanced string winding on the peg.

odd but workable 1st string winding

odd but workable 1st string winding

 

 

 

Squashed Palmetto Bug

Interrupted by a local intruder

 

 

Last week’s string changing routine was spooked up a bit by the need to crush a curious Palmetto Bug* (he looks tiny, but he shrank after being smashed, believe me!). Ugh – how I hate anything roach related.

Now, please excuse me as I continue to dig my fingers into these fresh strings…Gotta break ‘em in. My three solo selections are ready and just itching to be recorded.

*nicknamed ‘the unofficial state bird of South Carolina’, here are some funny conversations about the local critter.

wish you were here…

“Music is a place” Philip Glass

NASA The Carina Nebula

The Carina Nebula (photo credit: NASA Hubble Heritage Team)

Just a note to say ‘wish you were here’…I am camped out in the midst of prepping Swimming with Swans pieces for recording readiness.  Too cool.

Swimming with Swans – March(ing) to the Studio

Southern Harmony Recording StudioLast Thursday marked the beginning of forward movement towards the recording of Swimming with Swans: the music.  I met with Ken*, the sound engineer and owner of Southern Harmony recording studio here in FloTown**.  I had a fantastic time sharing my project, discussing needs, working through technical details and listening to his expertise as applied to contexts unique to solo & ensemble classical guitar.

I am so glad I went with my gut on using this studio for my solo pieces.  The selection of quality recording studios nearby is limited.  I vetted several this past year covering a 3 hour driving radius and came up with a scattering of possibilities all over the state, but really, the best for my needs are located in Raleigh/Durham, NC.  Hubby being my #1 patron and supporter of my art is keeping those options open for me to use if I decide to go that route, regardless.

Original musical monkey in journal

A page from my journal…

I have to admit that until moving to and living in Florence, SC I took basic musician needs for granted.  This scarcity of a vibrant, well-rounded arts-scene will no doubt be a foreign concept/truth to grasp for many of my colleagues.  It certainly was for me, but – it is what it is and I’m thrilled to have cracked the code to a satisfying solution; enabling me to thus move forward and march*** to the studio.

There is one other semi-appropriate studio in Colombia that Joe and I toured during his Thanksgiving visit.  It was more attuned to the needs of classical/jazz musicians, but the space didn’t feel good.  It offers the use of a superior quality grand piano, but that’s not something I need. Also, the sound engineer didn’t have any project tracks to play for me to listen to that were relevant to my instruments.  The ones we gave a listen to were mostly of brass instruments, which sounded great…but.  After doing some of my own digging on the internet for sound samples from his client list, I found a few background tracks with acoustic guitar that sounded – well, let’s just say they were not to my liking.

As a musician, the bottom line is one’s tone, one’s sound. If that gets messed up, no amount of playing technique or flourish will save the day.  After listening to some of Ken’s current projects highlighting a variety of acoustic instruments, I believe I can trust his ear.  We certainly have a great rapport, which also counts as a keen element in the recording process/experience.

The Prisloe, Mo Giolla Mear, the ZOOM H4n & PillowMeanwhile, I’m doing time on the ole’ practice stool, fine tuning my solo pieces, getting ready for recording and keeping up my chops.  I hope to start sessions by mid-late March.

I am definitely psyched…

 

 

*If you visit Southern Harmony, you’ll find Ken is quite modest…his creds include an impressive resume of work in the LA scene for most of his 20 years of experience before moving to FloTown,  yet not listed on his website.
**Local name for Florence, South Carolina
***Yes, pun is intentional.

Strings, Strength and Soup

Well, I hit a wall on my grant progress shortly after our son left on Wednesday.

The energy of juggling regular meals, avoiding each other’s space when all three of us (both hubby and son are over 6 feet tall, so figure three adult bodies) were camped-out inside our homey 1100 square foot rental, balancing rest and relaxation with a few jaunts here and there, and just the comfy, constant companionship of each other’s company must have triggered my resolve to focus on the grant regardless by squeezing in very productive ‘me times’.  (Now how’s that for a sentence?)

I admit, I panicked.  After all, my goal is to have all but the Budget Section finished sometime within the first full week of December – which is right around this weekend’s corner. Yikes. So what did I do to allay that panic?

Took a walk. No good.
Took a shower. No good.

Cleaned up the kitchen. No good.
Cleared out the leftovers in the fridge. No good.

Stayed up all night staring at the computer monitor hoping the words would come. No good.
Downed two, yes, two, pots of coffee in the hopes that would help the above. No good.

Then it hit me…It’s all about the music.

I picked up the Prisloe and began playing.  Way good. Continue reading

From the Practice Stool: Mo Giolla Mear (an excerpt)

My hand scored copies alongside newly entered NOTION scored parts of Mo Giolla Mear

My hand scored copies alongside newly entered NOTION scored parts of Mo Giolla Mear

The other day I came off of the practice stool elated.  It was one of those sessions where everything went right.  The tone from my perfectly honed right hand nails emitted a luscious aural tapestry of sound while working through completed scores of my own creation or arrangement.  Fluidity of movement in the left hand during execution of certain passages, coupled with the flow of interpretive playing all within acceptable tempos…this is my dance, this is my place, this is my praise to the Giver of Gifts.

I was particularly pleased to master specific measures in my classical guitar arrangement of the traditional Celtic piece, Mo Giolla Mear. Written during our between homes time, it is part of my Swimming with Swans: the music project.

Yes, there is an entire story behind the discovery of this piece of music and how it relates to our life on the road.  It remains scattered in the bits and nits of my mind, journals and ‘little list’ e-mail updates jotted down at the time.  For some reason the words do not come easily right now.  The challenge remains for me to sit down, focus and craft a vignette to include in my Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three year journey between homes manuscript.

However, while immersed in my music, that challenge is mercifully set aside. Continue reading