Hills of Lorne

The Hanshaw Trio met to record this past Tuesday; we worked on Hills of Lorne and Midnight Maze, then had a little time to run through some Christmas music.

Hills of Lorne is a slow piece. We start with just fiddle, then add guitar on melody and dulcimer on harmony for the second time through, then all three playing melody the third time.

For the second time through, I decided to use hand-damping.

On a dulcimer, every note keeps ringing after you strike it. Different builders and designs have different sustain lengths, but sustain is part of that characteristic dulcimer sound. Sometimes, however, a player might want to reduce or stop the sustain. Options include mechanical dampers mounted on the sides and operated by a foot pedal, threading yarn or other material through the strings, or hand-damping.

There are different ways to hand-damp. Some hammers, especially in other countries, are designed to let the player easily turn their palms to the strings without the hammer getting in the way; it’s a bit trickier with typical American hammers.

I based my method on some instruments in the Indonesian gamelan, which require the player to strike the current note with one hand while the other hand damps the previous note. It’s an interesting challenge to think simultaneously about the current note, the next note, and the previous note.

For the third time through, on one take I played normally, so that there is a contrast not only of melody versus harmony, but sustained versus damped. After that take I thought I ought to damp this part, too, which I did for the other takes. Now, though, I like the contrast better.

We’ll also add mandolin to this time through, and perhaps something else — maybe some kind of drones or descant.

I’ve spent a lot of time already on engineering Hills of Lorne. We had four takes, and I’m using three of them. Take 1 for the fiddle solo, takes 0 and 2 for the rest.

The third time through is the trickiest, because there’s only that one take with un-damped dulcimer, and the fiddle on that take is not as nice as it is on the other. But I’m almost satisfied with the way I’m editing the takes together.

I haven’t even listened to the Midnight Maze takes yet.