In the mix

After a few days of almost frantic practicing, I returned to the studio today to add guitar and psaltery parts to “Fallen” and to record dulcimer, psaltery, and recorder parts for “Noel Nouvelet.”

(Why frantic? Well, for most of my gigs I’m just playing dulcimer, so that’s what I practice most. Then, when something like this does come up where I need another instrument, I end up cramming in practice like a student at exam time. Also, just in case I managed to do all I’d planned on and still had time left over, I was trying to prepare “He Shall Feed His Flock,” although I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finalize the arrangement and be able to play it well enough in such a short time.)

The day began with tuning the dulcimer. That took about two hours. So far, necessity is not reducing tuning time. But it could have been much worse.

Then we worked on “Fallen.” The guitar part was a little tough, but the psaltery part was really tough. I don’t have the steadiest hand when it comes to bowing long notes, and I don’t always start notes very smoothly either. Everything just sounded scratchy and wobbly to me. Even after we’d selected and spliced the best parts of various takes, I was wondering about writing an entirely different part or even asking my trio partner Jerry to play the part on violin instead.

Moving on to “Noel Nouvelet,” we recorded the dulcimer parts, where the main issue was trying to articulate the ornaments nicely without getting off tempo. The recorder parts went pretty smoothly. Then back to the psaltery. The harmony parts weren’t bad — no really long notes requiring that especially steady hand. Last, the hardest part: in one section the psaltery has the melody. Because the tune is in A dorian, I have to reach across the psaltery for an F#. Moving the bow that far that quickly and still getting the note nicely is tough for me. By this point I was feeling pretty beat, so we called it a day a couple hours early.

Before I left, the final task was to put the day’s work on CD to take home and evaluate. I asked Matt to burn one “Fallen” with the psaltery and one without, so I could try some alternative ideas. We usually check the mix before burning, adjusting relative volumes of the various tracks to get a decent blend. While we were doing that, much to my relief, we found that at its proper background volume, the psaltery actually sounded quite nice. No more scratchies and wobblies, just that edgy but sweet psaltery sound. Whew!