Tag Archives: working musician

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.

New Book Release: Home to Cedar Branch by Brenda Bevan Remmes

                                 Waiting for Brenda
Home-to-Cedar-Branch-Novel-by-Brenda-Remmes
Of course wouldn’t you know, the day’s dark grey skies decided to pour forth a drenching rain the moment I stepped out of the car. Brenda and I were meeting that morning at the FloTown Starbucks on Palmetto for a quasi-interview, so I wanted to get there a bit before the appointed time.
After my mad dash into the tiny building, I quickly scanned the area for an available table. As a veteran of numerous coffee shops, I know that claiming one’s territory is best done first.  I planted my book bag atop my find as evidence of ownership then proceeded to redeem my empty bean bag* for a free cup of coffee.
Returning to ‘our’ table with java in hand, I settled in to read a few pages of ‘Home to Cedar Branch’ while waiting for Brenda’s arrival…

Home to Cedar Branch is Brenda’s second novel in the ‘Quaker Café’ series.  While not intended to be a part of an actual series, this stand-alone book clamors to be part of something larger than itself. Writing has a way of making demands on its author and Brenda is accommodating those demands by crafting yet a third book in the ‘Quaker Café’ series as of this posting.

Both novels, along with an in-progress third, are centered around the fictional community of Cedar Branch.  I asked Brenda if she would like to live in Cedar Branch.  Surprisingly, she told me that she Continue reading

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.

A Walk in the Swamp with Joe

Over these past three years of Thanksgivings, a tradition of sorts has evolved.  It seems our son Joe’s holiday of choice is Thanksgiving. Each Thanksgiving since landing here in South Carolina after our between homes journey, he has flown in to join us at the family feasting table. This fourth year was no different. He spent 10 days with us, kind of a combination re-group after his 2.5 month vacay in the DR and holiday time with the fam. This year we three took our walk in the Swamp the Saturday after Thanksgiving as usual only at a new-to-us spot: Woods Hole. To date, that is hands down our fav Swamp-place. But this post is about last year’s Swamp walk…

The Saturday after Thanksgiving 2014, I took a walk in the swamp with my son.

My Jo-Jo at the Lynches River Swamp, SC (2014)

My Jo-Jo at the Lynches River Swamp, SC (2014)

Turns out, he has become more of a walker since his youthful accident a few years back which requires him to keep his ankle supple and stretched.  Because my hubby was in the throes of knee problems, we took our walk without him.  It made for a long-overdue Mother-Son time together.  Yes, we communicate via texting, phoning and e-mailing, but there’s nothing like actually spending physical time with those you are in relationship with.  There may not be much spoken, but just the living, breathing and, in this case, walking presence of another produces a deep communication that can only be transmitted in such a manner.

Me finding a prime stump at the Lynches River Swamp (2014)

Me finding a prime stump at the Lynches River Swamp (2014)

Getting into each other’s head and space, without pretense is very freeing.  It also helps me to sort through stuff.

That November, I was blessed to be able to focus on my Musical Non-fiction project, via my Nano Rebellion. It progressed nicely and I was pleased with my output as well as organization of said output.  It also served to re-connect me with myself.  A self that has by circumstances of ‘place’ not been easily allowed to come out and play.

South Carolina Swamp Cypress Trees

South Carolina Swamp Cypress Trees

The Monday following our Swamp walk I took Joe with me to be a part of my regular Wounded Warrior Horse Therapy volunteer time. I was excited to show him off to the gang as most of those there have family nearby 24/7 – warriors, therapists and volunteers alike. He got along with most everyone as he always seems to do wherever he goes, especially with Jason.  Funny, that, since they remind me of each other. Joe’s interest in the horses wasn’t all that much, but he did like seeing his Ma doing her horse thing anyway.

What happened there was something I didn’t expect. Doing what he always does, talk music with me comparing notes on gigging and crazy audiences; drawing others into our conversation cuz you know, everyone loves music. Between talking up his own bands and the Denver music scene, somehow it came out about my being a working musician, my dad being a pro-jazzman and that that was how he was brought up – surrounded by rehearsing musicians, learning to help set up gear for Ma’s gigs/concerts… No one there knew of my status as a musician prior to moving to South Carolina. I was just one of the horse handlers.  Mostly due to the fact it wasn’t something relevant to horse handling chores or in bonding with the warriors.  And also due in part to my own healing process related to the last months of our between homes experience…But that day, that ordinary Monday during horse handling chores and bonding with the warriors around the picnic table after therapy sessions, my son bridged the real me with the current me.

Lion King Quote

Remember Who You Are – Lion King

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

Hatikvah

The post following this sticky note, Alice Fulton Quote, Beethoven and My Music seems to have been an unknowing experiment.  The cdbaby songplayer widget I placed at the end of the post functions differently in reality than as a previewed post.

I apologize for that.

Meanwhile, I’m going to wait out a few hours and see if this is more an exception than the rule to using this device.  So that it won’t inconvenience your reading/listening experience of my most recent posting, I offer to you here another means to listen to the single off of unexpected with the most digital listens as referenced in Alice Fulton Quote, Beethoven and My Music.

Here then is Hatikvah.

 

Alice Fulton Quote, Beethoven and My Music

Alice Fulton Quote

‘It will be new whether you make it new or not’ – Alice Fulton, Poetry, October 2013

I have to admit that when I first saw this quote, I didn’t fully comprehend its meaning. While the artwork makes for a beautiful visual, it didn’t aid in my understanding of the written text. But something subliminal captured the attention of my subconscious brain, prompting a silent rumination over the course of several months.

Bits and pieces of enlightenment would come to the forefront of my consciousness, until at last I had a mini-Aha! moment:

Beethoven and my first encounter with his 9th Symphony.

When I was a teenager, I dug out my parents’ old 78s from the shelves in their walk-in cedar closet.  Sorting through the stacks, I recognized most of the tunes and placed them in their respective piles – Ma’s stuff, Dad’s stuff and corny stuff.  My baby brother and I grew up dancing in the living room listening to all of it, including the ever present live gig-prep practicing of Dad’s – From Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (Ma’s stuff) to Charlie Parker’s Yardbird Suite (Dad’s stuff) to Jimmy Durante’s Bill Bailey (corny stuff).

Scattered among those records were some 33s pressed on yellow-vinyl. Intrigued, I noticed they were mostly classical (by genre, not era) recordings. Beethoven’s Symphonies were recorded in a huge boxed set of 33s. I decided to listen to all of them, going from last to first.

That 9th symphony – composed in 1824 – was new to my 1971 ears.

“It will be new whether you make it new or not”

I listened to it over and over alongside some of my favorite records at the time: The White Album, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Beethoven, the Beatles and Andrew Lloyd Webber. A motley crew, all strangely powerful and new to me.

Now, I am no Beethoven, but that mini-Aha! moment became more of a major-Aha! moment for me recently.

Since last May, sales of music from my cd, unexpected, increased significantly. Why? This recording was released in 2007.  In terms of musical output, it represents old stuff. I use it now more as a demo of sorts; an example of the breadth and quality of my playing for marketing, colleague introductions, resume point of reference and so on.

There have been many projects, performances and pieces learned since then till now. Immersed as I’ve been in my Swimming with Swans: the music project, striving to put out this new material, I’d forgotten that to those who’d never heard my stuff before:

“It will be new whether I (you) make it new or not”

Below is the single off of unexpected with the most digital listens since its release in 2007, Hatikvah.

 I wish you peace.

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