Tag Archives: classical guitar

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.

***

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.

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.

Poetry Shoutout: “Heading North” by Andrew James Murray

Heading North book coverAndrew James Murray“I am a northern guy. I have lived the whole of my life in the north west of England. I feel northern. It is in my accent. It is in my attitude. It is in my preferences: my favorite season is winter…”

Thus begins Andrew James Murray in the Forward of his new collection of poems, Heading North.

 

This idea of ‘northern-ness’ in a non-American context intrigued me.

A mere 35 miles west of Manchester where Andrew resides lies the infamous town of Liverpool. I never thought of The Beatles as being ‘northern’.

And yet, thinking on this further, it begins to fall into place – this marriage of blue-collar work ethic to the arts and education; a gritty, earthy element evident in both (he)artists’ life-work.

Damp, dark mists surround day-to-day living in the North, where cold light slants in mysterious angles. This is where Andrew draws inspiration. Continue reading