Tag Archives: classical guitar

Bananas, Performance Anxiety and the Minions

Once-upon-a-time there was a classical guitarist with severe performance anxiety.  Throughout her years as a working musician, she managed to control it through judicious elimination of caffeine on the day of playing and maintaining a regular pre-performance regimen including the use of breathing exercises learned during delivery of her three children. Nothing really worked all that well, uncontrollable shakiness of the hands often threatened to take control of the show.

minion with bananaRecommendations of relief by self-medication using beta-blockers began to sound quite appealing, but her natural aversion to non-organic approaches to dealing with life’s issues held her back from taking the leap on that avenue. Good thing. Most who went that route, acquired other side effects that only compounded the basic performance anxiety problem.

Then one fine day, rumors of the Banana Cure began circulating among other afflicted cgers.
That was one cure this lady cger was willing to investigate further. Coming from a scientific background, she tried her best to set up quasi-experiments to see if the Banana Cure had any merit or if it was purely placebo.

“Have you ever thought of bananas as a natural remedy? New research shows that bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, which is known to help you to relax, improve your mood and cause you to feel happier…Bananas are a natural stress reducer! Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body’s water balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack.”   Bananas; Nature’s Remedy

Bottom line: consuming a banana an hour before performance, then a second banana about 30 minutes before performance did indeed take the edge off of shakiness in small muscle movements required during precision performance situations. Once that edge was removed, entrance into the creative zone opened up the thrill of performance in the moment – taking control of this lady as a conduit for musical expression.

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Note: A few months ago I stumbled upon this site – validating my personal findings. In a graph showing various methods to help curb performance anxiety, the Banana Cure had a 45% effectiveness rate…

The site’s featured documentary film, Composed, goes into depth on the subject of performance anxiety; offering hope, solutions – but most of all encouragement that those of us who struggle with performance anxiety are not alone…

“The film explores what without exception all of us, performers, have experienced and known well – first, love for our craft and stage, and then performance anxiety at the other end of this beautiful and exciting spectrum. Congratulations to the director John Beder and his team for completing this project and for inviting all of us to a meaningful and necessary conversation.”  Maestro Christoph Eschenbach

Me as Composer

About 6 weeks ago, while planning our extended stay in Colorado to continue the hands-on process of getting Dad’s estate settled, I contacted a longtime colleague about collaborating with me on the recording of my Goat Suite (Saga).

Her willingness to work with me under challenging circumstances – finding snippets of time to rehearse, then laying down tracks at the recording studio – was refreshing.

So, tucked in between sorting files upon files of papers, packing up shelves of books, trips to drop off never ending donations at ARC, lining up realtor interviews, meeting with tradesmen for quotes on needed repairs on Dad’s house, working around my brother’s schedule to get certain estate things done; as well as working around my colleague’s own teaching and wedding gig schedule, we did indeed get started on the recording of my Goat Suite (Saga).

Sometime during our only rehearsal on a Sunday afternoon before our Wednesday recording session, my colleague tossed out a casual comment about ‘working with the composer’.

Say, what? Are you talking about me?

Re-tuning my ears, I heard her say something about enjoying working with the composer for learning what is wanted in the piece or some such comment.

In essence, referring to me – Me as Composer.

On the day of our recording session, I enjoyed this new-to-me experience of being the composer overseeing a musician in the nuanced shaping of her part and finalizing its recorded form! This talented professional laid down 2 tracks – the cg2 parts to movement #1 & movement #3 of my Goat Suite (Saga) in less than 1 ½ hours!

With 1 ½ hours left on the session clock, it was my turn.

I laid down the cg1 part in a flash for movement #1 and worked with the recording engineer on getting a final studio mix ready to add the rain stick part at another time.

Terry W. Lilly playing the rain stick during my Swimming with Swans presentation at the Goodwill Cultural Center, June 2017

Terry W. Lilly playing the rain stick during my Swimming with Swans presentation at the Goodwill Cultural Center, June 2017

 

Interesting aside: hubby has agreed to play the rain stick on the recording – he did a great job demonstrating its use during the Swimming with Swans presentation at the Goodwill Cultural Center in June and I think it will add greatly to the personal significance of this project.

 

 

In the event that there’d be time left over from the GSS session, I held hope to record my original solo piece Gift for TWL.

Yes, indeed, I was able to slip it in and did four takes with the 4th being the pot of gold. Only had to ‘borrow’ a very few notes from previous takes and it was done.

I guess I’m back to being an on-the-road working musician – ahem – composer.

Me & the Board & Moving Forward

Me & the Goodwill Educational & Historical Society, Inc Board Left to Right: Ada Lyn Jones, Donise White, James Boyd, Laura Bruno Lilly, William Remmes (President), Louise D. Bevan, Rev. Carnell Hampton, Ruby Jean Boyd

Me & the Goodwill Educational & Historical Society, Inc Board
Left to Right: Ada Lyn Jones, Donise White, James Boyd, Laura Bruno Lilly, William Remmes (President), Louise D. Bevan, Rev. Carnell Hampton, Ruby Jean Boyd

I fully intended on posting a ‘thoughtful article on my first SwS presentation’ as mentioned here. Obviously, I haven’t been able to quite pull one together. Yes, the June 3rd featured event at the Goodwill Cultural Center was a huge success and the thrill of introducing the public to my Goat Suite (Saga), the related creative process and how it all occurred while in the midst of our non-traditional between homes journey was some kind of high. But what really makes this experience stand out for me is the fact that all of the Goodwill Educational & Historical Society, Inc board members attended it.  In the world of the working musician, this is quite an anomaly.

I keep perusing these two photos* taken afterwards. The genuine expressions of joy shining through the faces of those photographed remind me of the spirit of the place; the delight of the moment.

On the steps of the Goodwill Cultural Center Mayesville, SC

On the steps of the Goodwill Cultural Center Mayesville, SC
Left to Right: Laura Bruno Lilly, Terry W. Lilly, James Boyd, William Remmes

I have long since done my own personal ‘performance assessment’, ferreting out solutions to challenges encountered during the actual performance. Specifically: in the transition from spoken word performance to the focus required in performing on an instrument – a very real hurdle for the brain in switching gears.

Quotes and clips have been gathered for use in future marketing and grant proposal endeavors; bits of prose and musical phrases have been tweeked; new contacts have been made and old ones reignited…I’m ready to move forward!

*photos by Jayne Bowers used with permission; content of photos used with permission

39 Years is A Loooong Time: lots of years to grow stronger and in love together

As I sit here sipping the last of my Pinot Noir from dinner, the eve of our Wedding Anniversary, I’m reflecting on 39 years of marriage to the same hunk of a man, my TWL. As mentioned before in a previous post, he’s my James Taylor of a guy back in the day when we first met and has morphed into my stalwart protector, staunchest supporter of my (he)art and deepest devoted Father and Grandfather of our progeny.

TWL is the ‘name’ we jokingly refer to in e-mails and snail mails to each other, letters defining his initials. It is also part of the name of a solo classical guitar piece I composed and dedicated to him on the first Christmas (out of three) during our between homes experience: Gift: for TWL (actually performed in context with the Goodwill Cultural Center Swimming with Swans: the music program presented on June 3rd).

In honor of our 39th I present to you a favorite youtube representing one of his special passions: sailing. Keep in mind that the video shows ‘motoring’ rather than actual sailing, regardless of the sung lyrics!

Enjoy and celebrate with us.

Ormai la frittata è fatta!

Cheers!

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

Hurting for Home

in honor of all those displaced due to all manner of circumstances

“Roots are best planted in the hearts of people rather than in a place.”
Mary Lou Mawicke Bruno (Ma)

(Andrew York, ‘Home’)

The (Unwanted) Power of Three: Roland, Leonard and Leon

Whether superstition, or relative to some innate programming within the natural world, death often occurs in multiples of three. My own family has recently experienced two losses close together and I hold out hope that the power of three will not prevail in our case.

However, in the musical world, I have a tally of three personal favorites who have passed within weeks of each other. Like my taste, each one is different from the other in genre, temperament and level of public awareness.

The first to begin this trio was Roland Dyens. Continue reading

The Liebster: my very first blogging award!

In my over 3 years of blogging, I have never, ever, been nominated for any type of ‘blogging’ award. I figured because I am WP.org (self-hosted) rather than WP.com (WP hosted) that my chances for those sorts of things were stacked against me. So be it.

Well, that all changed during my Summer of Dad time away from regular secure internet access.  LuLu from The Real Adventures of Becoming (whatever this thing is that I am presuming is the authentic and genuine) Me nominated me a few weeks ago for the Liebster Award. She is a gentle soul with a writing style that is deep and pure. Thanks for thinking of me, LuLu!

Liebster Award

My very first blog award!

Continue reading

UKE to the rescue

This coming Saturday morning, I leave for my third and quite possibly, last, scheduled trip to Colorado to visit with Dad (note-operative word here is scheduled). With it comes the usual deliberation on what to pack; most of which is rote routine. But those few variable items that require more thought on just how to pack along for the trip are often troublesome.

As a musician, it’s always about the music.

Yes, I have my NOTION software available to me on my laptop if the muse tickles my fancy, or I feel the need to work on compositional works-in-progress.  Heck, I’m so old-school I consider it a badge of honor to whip out my staff paper notebook and jot down ideas using archaic graphite dots.

But that’s not what I’m meaning. And I’m not talking about iPod, streaming or even radio station music, either.

I’m talking about how does one pack that part of your essential being that doesn’t fit into a suitcase, in the overhead bin on an airplane, or be safely transported as general baggage without risk or costing a fortune?  This common question faces all instrumentalists, yet there is no one-size-fits-all answer to it.

Coping with life – the good, the bad and the ugly (to borrow a phrase from a fav Spaghetti Western) – has always been reflected in my music. Prayers, supplications, questions, acceptance; hurts, healings and happy dances; all the dialogue, working through, pouring out – done with my instrument.

Rental 'beater guitar' placed across scrap quilt I made for Ma & Dad ~ 1983

Rental ‘beater guitar’ placed across scrap quilt I made for Ma & Dad ~ 1983

Borrowing or renting a classical guitar is not as easy as say, a violin. I won’t go into the technical details of why, but suffice it to say that the “beater guitar”* I scouted out to rent during my first extended visit, while hard to procure, did deliver as a sort-of security blanket instrument during that five week time span.

My second visit lasted two weeks, a doable length of time to go without direct instrumental contact so that counted as an easy fix.

But…those were solutions for then. What about now?

This time around, I’m slated for a three week stay. As much as those visits are a precious blessing, they are also very intense; filled with tender moments alongside heart wrenching end-of-life realities.

This time around, hubby booked my flight on another airline, one which allows 1 bag and 1 personal item for free as carry-ons.

This time around, I’ll stuff the computer bag with my wallet, snacks and paperback mystery novel as usual, and tote my UKE as the other carry on.

After all, George Harrison composed ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ on his UKE when his primary instrument was unavailable for use.

*”beater guitar” is a term used by cgers and acoustic guitarists alike that refers to an instrument that can be taken anywhere without fear of ruining it…case in point: around the campfire during wilderness treks.

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One of my fav renditions of this piece follows and indeed, inspired several of my students at the time to ask me to teach them the UKE…thus forcing me to pursue a certain level of mastery over this little gem of an instrument -

 

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.