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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 -
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.
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
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 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.
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
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.
Last 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.
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.
Meanwhile, 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.
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.