Bits and Pieces

Sacrificing the visual

One of the main reasons I was excited about this festival was that Jerry Read Smith was going to be there. I haven’t seen him in several years, and I wanted him to look at my dulcimer, sort of give it a checkup, especially to see if anything needed to be adjusted to make tuning easier for me.

Basically he did two things he’d told me I could do myself, but that I hadn’t wanted to do without an expert there in person to make sure it was the right thing to do. First of all, he took a hammer to any pins that were sticking or slipping, seating them further into the pinblock.

Secondly, he moved some of the strings up or down on the side saddles. I confess that I’ve always hated this idea. I find it visually distracting to have some strings not absolutely parallel to the others. And it bothers my idealism — ideally, the strings should all be absolutely parallel and tune just fine. Seems to me there must be something else wrong if they’re straight but not tuning properly. Jerry — and Dan — would like to persuade me that sometimes it’s just the best solution, and that the visual aspect is simply not that important. Sigh.

Loosening up

The first meaning…

Sunday afternoon Dan watched me play with regular hammers, and he thinks the way I play with my left hand is likely to lead to injury. My left hand doesn’t work the way my right does, at least not naturally or automatically. To compensate, I’d developed a finger flick — hitting the back of the hammer grip with a middle finger — that helps me get a nice clear tone and good accuracy with my left hand.

I know there are other players who do this — Nick Blanton and Tim Seaman among them. However, maybe they use their wrists better than I do. I didn’t think I moved either of my wrists while playing, and I didn’t think it mattered. In fact, I thought it was a good thing, preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. Dan said my right wrist does move just a little, nice and loose, but that my left one is locked stiff.

Those of us standing around talked about the whole ergonomics thing for a while, and the consensus seems to be that the more muscle groups involved, the better, and the more loose and relaxed these muscles are, the better. Dan doesn’t even really hold his hammers — they balance on his finger, and his thumb keeps them from falling.

So I need to think about what I can do to loosen up my left wrist, and the grip of both hands on the hammers.

The second meaning…

I tend to think fear is safer than arrogance. I suspect people will like me better if I need to be encouraged, reassured, than if I need to be taken down a few pegs.

It’s not really that simple. Being too fearful is just as annoying — but in a different way. It gets old pretty fast to those who have to do the encouraging and reassuring; the fearful person makes a high-maintenance friend.

The most comfortable people to be around are neither overly fearful nor arrogant, but comfortable with themselves.

For whatever reason — yet another symptom of pregnancy, lol? — I felt just a little bit more comfortable with myself at this festival than I have at similar occasions in the past.

It was nice.

Hammers

Several people noticed my flexible shaft, angled cimbalom grip hammers from Sam Rizzetta. One person who has arthritis thinks she’ll look into getting a pair for herself. Other folks, including Dan and Christie, found them awkward. Dan said it would be impossible to play the kinds of things he plays with those hammers — percussion stuff is too fast, and the flexibility loses too much energy and requires more muscle. Interesting. So far, I still like them for keeping my thumbs loose, but I admit that I miss the sound of my old regular hammers.

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Published in: on June 28, 2006 at 11:58 am  Comments (2)  

One fine day

This morning I found out the weather was going to be in the 70s. Woo-hoo! I decided I had to try for one more day at the Farmers Market.

That meant tuning.

It was 9:25 (market opens at 9), and I said to myself, “Self, you’ve got until 10:00 — see what you can do.” By 10:00, I think I was on F# or G. But I finished the last B at about 10:30. Folks, that’s right, I tuned in a little over an hour. Admittedly, I ignored the highest two courses on the bass bridge and the little chromatic bridge top left, figuring I didn’t need them for today or tomorrow. But still! That’s almost half my usual tuning time!

Will I be able to do that again?

Anyway, I got to the market by 11, and there was room for me to play at the boat landing. It was lovely out, a little breezy, sunny, comfortable. I got to chat with a bunch of folks who had questions about that thing I was playing. Got to hang out with a couple who are students of mine (who shared an apple and pecan Belgian waffle with me, with a lovely mound of whipped cream on top). My favorite lunch place, the Cambodian stuff, was in the closest booth, instead of all the way at the other end of the market where they usually are. CD sales and tips were slower than in the height of the season, but I didn’t care.

What a lovely day.

I sometimes wonder what it’s like for other dulcimer folk — or other musicians — who busk. I’ve got a pretty big repertoire, so technically I can play maybe five hours without repeating anything. But only a fraction of that is stuff that I’ve really arranged. Do other folks have four or five hours full of really good stuff, or are they like me, stretching their time with simple things, bare melodies, that sort of thing? Is that okay?

The other thing that was interesting was I tried singing “For the Beauty of the Earth,” which I’ve been doing fine in practice all week. My voice just wasn’t there — cracking everywhere, no support — perhaps because I was outside and had to put more oomph into it than I have to at home in my quiet music room? I hope I’ll be able to do it well in the concert.

Published in: on October 1, 2005 at 3:10 pm  Comments (3)  

Ambiguity: interpreting conflict or hardship

I’ve been corresponding a bit with Jerry Read Smith, who made my hammered dulcimer. Among other things, we’ve been talking about my difficulties tuning.

Last year, when I was working on What Child Is This?, I had a particularly bad tuning day — so bad that I had to give up in hysterical tears after attempting to tune just a handful of strings — so bad I was almost ready to throw the dulcimer away. I rarely call anyone, but that day I called Jerry, needing a physical ear to hear my complaint, and a voice to soothe me.

He wondered if perhaps it was time for me to move on from dulcimer, if that was the direction God wanted me to go. Terrifying thought. But since I’m committed first to God, and theoretically willing to obey him even if it means giving up dulcimer or anything else that I love, I spent some time thinking and reflecting and praying about that possibility.

Hardship can often mean a closed door, a stop sign, a redirection.

But sometimes it can mean a challenge to press on, to be courageous, to accept suffering for the sake of joy that lies beyond it, or for its sanctifying efficacy.

I remember facing that possibility when I was dating my husband. The idea that conflict is a natural part of relationship, and not always a sign that I should give up the relationship.

Same thing with church. Churches are supposed to be communities — relationships — and so conflict is natural there, too. Sometimes the conflict is best resolved by leaving, but sometimes it’s better to stay and face it and work through it.

This tuning thing seems to be the same way; it may be some suffering that I have to accept for the sake of the joy of playing dulcimer, a weakness that is good for my ego, an opportunity to be courageous without being willful, a crucible for my sanctification.

Published in: on September 28, 2005 at 12:49 pm  Comments Off on Ambiguity: interpreting conflict or hardship  

Practicing

Waterfall at A Sort of Notebook has started up her practice pact again. Each week participants make notes in the comments to record how much time they’ve spent practicing their instruments. Besides me (hammered dulcimer), there’s a pianist, an oboist, and a bassist. No other folkies (yet). It’s a little added motivation, and interesting to actually keep track of how much I’m practicing or not practicing (I’d like to average two hours each weekday), and fun to hear what other people are working on.

My practicing is usually organized around gigs or other projects. Right now, the main projects are The Hanshaw Trio‘s home recording, a concert with Pas de Deux, and a wedding with another harpist.

The trio CD is moving so very slowly. We missed two weeks while Craig was on vacation, then we were away, then this week didn’t work… and we have four gigs in September to work around, and then it’s time to review our Christmas material. Personally, I’d just as soon put the project aside until January when there’s really nothing else going on. But we’re going to try to do some more recording after our Farmers Market performance next Thursday afternoon. If I’m still sufficiently in tune after playing outside for a few hours. This is one of those times when I really wish I could tune in twenty minutes like all other dulcimer players, instead of my average of two hours (and that’s assuming I’m at home and calm without a deadline or any other pressure).

Pas de Deux is a duo with harp and flute player Lisa Fenwick. She teaches flute at a local community music and art school, and we’ll be performing in late November, one of three faculty showcase fundraiser concerts. We’re also playing at the Farmers Market this Sunday, which will be a good chance to try out what order to put things in and so on. Our repertoire is a mix of classical things, especially Bach, and Celtic things, especially O’Carolan, with some other things sprinkled in. One thing I’m excited and nervous about is “For the Beauty of the Earth.” I adapted John Rutter’s lovely arrangement for dulcimer, flute, and vocalist, and I’ve been learning how to sing and play at the same time. Most of the range is fine for my voice, but in the higher key (three verses) there’s some really high notes, and in the lower key (one verse) most of it is in the awkward place between my folky chest voice and my choral head voice. You know, it takes a lot of energy to play an instrument and sing at the same time. Especially if you’re trying to do both well.

The wedding is a week from Sunday. Lisa wasn’t available, so I asked Lynn Ray to play with me instead. We met at a community concert last Christmas that featured a number of choirs and soloists and small groups each performing two or three pieces. She sang and played a lovely thing on Celtic harp. For this wedding, we are doing mostly Celtic pieces, mostly O’Carolan, with some classical and Irish and other things thrown in. The mothers and grandmother will be seated to “Ashokan Farewell” by Jay Ungar, then the matron of honor and bride will process to Pachelbel’s Canon, but in G instead of D (lovely on harp and dulcimer), and we’ll do another Ungar piece, “The Lovers’ Waltz,” for the recessional.

Published in: on August 25, 2005 at 5:13 pm  Comments Off on Practicing  

Tuning reminds me

Today I need to tune again for a gig at the local Alterra nursing home, and that reminds me of my earlier post about my fears for the Cranberry Dulcimer Gathering, which I ought to report about.

I tuned without any big problems last Wednesday, and the dulcimer sounded fine at that evening’s jam and while we were practicing on Thursday. Later Thursday, though, I was starting to worry about our plan to play on the Commons Friday, because I wouldn’t have time to retune between playing there and leaving for the festival. We decided to stay home instead, which reduced my worry.

It came back the next day, when we started to practice and Rick said the difference between our dulcimers was significant enough to require retuning. I went at it with a sinking heart but trying to think “good enough.” I had a fairly difficult time of it, but I managed not to completely break down and cry until I was done and safely hidden in my bathroom. While Rick tuned his in an easy twenty minutes (how I wish I could do that), I got lunch together, and then we left for Binghamton.

I am not very flexible or adaptable. It’s hard for me to recover from something like a terrible tuning time, plus there was the stupidity with the car the previous day*, plus I was tired because we’d stayed up talking too late the last two nights. Nothing like going to a festival already overtired, feeling stupid, and psychologically worn out from a bad tuning session.

I was determined to avoid tuning for the duration of the festival, but had that underlying fear that it would become necessary, and along with that, an underlying fierce defensiveness lest anyone challenge me about it. No one said anything to me, and as far as I could tell it sounded okay for the rest of the weekend (it’s hard to tell, in a room full of dulcimers, whether mine or someone else’s is wrong).

Today I hope I can tune with less stress, even if I am increasingly certain that I’ll never be able to tune any faster.

*Instead of having Rick back his truck out into the road, then having me drive my car out, then replacing his truck, I tried to drive around his truck. I missed the truck but ran over the porch step, splintering a bit off the railing and putting a nice crumpled dent in the fender. Fortunately I didn’t break the light.

Published in: on July 27, 2005 at 9:14 am  Comments (2)  

Not safe, but good

I love C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles. I think they’re not only good literature, but full of fruitful ideas. One is the idea that Aslan, the Christ-figure, is not safe, but good. God is not in the business of wish-fulfillment or comfort or convenience. Not that all wishes, comforts, and conveniences are bad, but that sometimes there is something more important. God’s purposes and ways are higher than ours, and can be quite dangerous to us in an earthly sense, but we can have confidence that whatever he brings our way, he will carry us through it, and all things will work together for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

I have been thinking about the upcoming Cranberry Gathering, a festival for mountain and hammered dulcimer and for autoharp. I will be teaching two classes, and my friend Rick Davis from North Carolina will also be teaching. He’s arriving next Wednesday evening, so that we’ll have some time to practice for a piece we’ll do at the Friday night coffeehouse concert, and we’ll also spend Friday morning playing out on the Commons before heading to Binghamton for the festival.

That means that I’ll have to tune on Wednesday, and hope that my dulcimer stays sufficiently in tune for the whole weekend. With the weather being somewhat various lately, especially in terms of humidity, that hope seems really thin.

So what, right? If you were me, you’d just tune it again; Friday between playing out and arriving at the festival, and maybe again Saturday or Sunday sometime. And that’s what all the other dulcimer players will be doing. At least all the ones who care about being in tune and who are not raw beginners.

I’m not like those people. I can’t seem to ever tune in less than an hour and a half, and my average lately is just over two hours. And that’s not even all in one sitting; I get stressed enough that I generally have to take at least one serious break and sometimes two. I typically set aside a day for tuning, and work on it in bits throughout that day.

My reputation is at stake. I’m a professional performer. And I’m actually teaching some of these workshops. If my dulcimer doesn’t stay in tune, what will I do? I could leave it alone, or I could try to adjust it and hope that it doesn’t take too long, or I could try to adjust it and burst into a crying fit if it’s not cooperative. What will people think?

I’m dreading this.

Yesterday afternoon I was thinking about it. I was reminding myself that generally my dulcimer sounds pretty good to other people even when it sounds off to me. And that in the past my dulcimer has indeed stayed quite reasonably in tune for weekend festivals. There was one time when I did some visiting in Virginia before heading over to the Upper Potomac Fest in WV, and I had to retune in WV, and had a terrible time of it, but then the rest of the weekend it was fine.

Still worried, I tried the opposite approach, instead of trying to dismiss the fear, facing it head-on: what’s the worst that can happen? My dulcimer will sound awful, and I won’t be able to use it to demonstrate the things I’m teaching. I’ll try to tune it, wasting the entire class time, and having a panic attack, maybe even going into a rage and hitting someone or smashing my dulcimer. Everyone will think I’m absolutely crazy, or a fool, and that I have no right to be there at all, participant or teacher. I’ll never be able to go back. In fact, I’ll be blacklisted from all the other festivals, too, and wherever we go once the husband has finished here at Cornell, I’ll never again be able to play or teach dulcimer in public.

That’s pretty dire. But not the end of the world. Do I really care more what the dulcimer community thinks of me than what God thinks of me? Isn’t God big enough to provide for me even if I lose this career? I’m not saying it’ll be easy or that it won’t hurt a lot. But surely I can trust that God is good even when I’m a fool and humiliated?

Published in: on July 14, 2005 at 9:07 am  Comments Off on Not safe, but good  

5:00am is not a time

Good morning. It’s 5:00 am, a time no one should ever have to be aware of. I have to be up at this time on a Saturday because our trio is playing an 8:30 gig at a coffeehouse two hours away. What was I thinking? (Insert grumbling whiny not awake yet noises here.) And of course, since I knew I had to be up early, my body prepared in advance and woke me up at 3:45. After an hour I gave up on getting back to sleep. Fifteen extra minutes means I can blog a bit.

Yesterday I spent most of the morning and part of the afternoon working on mixing and editing. (Our trio is doing a home recording.) I think I’ve got a good workable mix of Star of Munster / Old Copper Plate, and I think maybe three others might be acceptable. Banish Misfortune / Swallowtail Jig, though, we definitely have to do over.

I tuned in the afternoon, which was going quite well until one of the strings broke. I have a box of extra strings and I think I matched the right gauge. I didn’t do it quite right, though; I only got two windings instead of the more secure three or four. It’s a little scary to replace a dulcimer string, especially a really high one, because they’re so tight; as I bring it slowly up to pitch I’m afraid it’s going to break again. Fortunately, dulcimer strings rarely break. This is the fourth one I’ve broken in five years. Anyway, new strings stretch, which means they go flat quickly, so I’ll have to tune it up again when we get to the gig. I hope it’ll stay close enough for the duration of our performance.

One good thing is that we’re not driving two hours to play forty-five minutes at the coffeehouse and then come home again; we should be able to go play in the gazebo on the village green afterwards, until 11:00 or perhaps even later. (Chance of rain: 30%.)

Well — time for me to get dressed and put my waffles in the toaster oven. Made them yesterday and stuck them in the freezer; a double batch of cinnamon walnut waffles, with half regular and half whole wheat flour. Butter and honey; mmmm.

Published in: on June 18, 2005 at 5:16 am  Comments (1)  

Tuning Day

Today is tuning day. About once a week I tune my dulcimer; lately that’s been Thursdays because The Hanshaw Trio is recording on Thursday evenings.

Tuning is my least favorite thing about the hammered dulcimer. That’s putting it mildly. My screensaver says “Tuning is evil.” I’ve called it my nemesis. It’s sometimes had me in tears, and once almost ready to quit dulcimer altogether. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that bad about it, and in fact lately I’ve been feeling, if not enthusiastic, at least less frustrated.

A little background on what it’s like to tune a dulcimer. Mine has ninety strings, all of which are tuned by turning little squared off pins with a T-shaped, star-bit wrench. Thirty-eight of these strings are on the treble bridge, which is the only bridge that divides the strings into two playable notes. So for these thirty-eight strings, I have to pay attention to both sides, making sure both notes are in tune.

Most dulcimer players can tune in twenty minutes, maybe forty, rarely an hour. I, on the other hand, have a history of tuning times averaging two hours, sometimes taking as much as twice as long. Now the first thing to remember is that I take a lot of time to do everything, and another thing is that I’m a hypersensitive perfectionist. These two things probably explain my longer tuning times. I’ll also note that it’s worse when I’m recording, because I’m even more perfectionistic and sensitive about something as permanent as a recording than I am about live performances.

Here are some of the issues that hinder tuning quickly:

Wrench / tuning pin issues: Sometimes the wrench seems to be turning the pin, but when you let go the note slips back to where it was. Sometimes the pin is really stiff and difficult to turn; then you might finally get it to move and it goes too far. Other pins are a bit loose and turn too far even when you’re very careful. These issues just have to be endured.

String issues: Each of my strings is doubled; that is, it starts at one tuning pin, goes across the dulcimer, around a hitch pin, and back across to a second tuning pin. Sometimes tuning one half of the string affects the other half a little; it helps to go back and forth between them. The treble strings sometimes have trouble because of tension and friction. One side may be in tune, and if the string sticks a little on the main bridge or the side saddles, the other side may not be in tune. Lifting the strings gently off the bridge and setting them down again helps; sometimes pushing on the sharp side of the string or the top of the bridge also helps. Occasionally the treble bridge itself is not in exactly the right position, so that it doesn’t have the necessary perfect fifth interval from one side to the other. I have a tool for adjusting the bridge position, but it’s a last resort.

Tuner issues: I used to use a digital tuner with an LED display of lights and a “needle.” Then I switched to a tuner with a mechanical needle. Both would sometimes have a delayed response, or would respond differently to the same input, or waver. The mechanical one was a little more steady. I suppose there are three issues here. One is that these tuners are not that precise; I think it’s maybe +/-3 cents. Another is that these tuners use sampling, rather than continuous real-time reading. The other issue is with the dulcimer: so many strings means some are going to resonate sympathetically, which could interfere with the tuner’s reading.

I tackled the first two issues by getting a strobe tuner, a Conn Strobotuner ST-11 from the 70s. Strobe tuners are precise to I think +/-1/100th cents, maybe 1/10th. They also read continuously in real-time. I also really like the display. It’s a wheel with a black and white pattern on it, spinning at the frequency of the desired pitch. Behind it are lights flashing at the frequency of the input. When they match, the pattern appears stationary. It seems to rotate left if it’s flat, and right if it’s sharp. Sometimes I get good strong clear readings. Sometimes sympathetic vibrations — the third issue — cause a little wavering. I can usually help that by hand damping the other strings that have the same pitch.

Ear issues: The more I concentrate on what I’m doing, and the longer I’m at it, the more sensitive my ear gets, so that I hear, or think I hear, awful dissonances even when the tuner thinks the strings are in tune. Taking breaks helps, by allowing my ear to relax. (You might think that my more precise tuner would make this worse, but it actually makes it better. “Really close” on a digital tuner rarely sounded good enough to me, but the lack of precision meant I couldn’t really do anything about it other than trust my ear, which, getting too sensitive, would not be very trustworthy. “Really close” on my Conn is so precise I can relax and know it’ll sound great even if my ear doesn’t think so at the moment.)

Will issues: All of the above issues are real and need to be dealt with. But the one issue that has made me dread and hate tuning, that has made me cry over it, is the issue of Will. Coming up against one of the above issues, I might will myself to overcome it; but you can’t overcome these things by will. Just because I want the tuning pin to move a certain way doesn’t mean it’s going to. Just because I want the tuner to give a clear reading doesn’t mean it has to. And, most of all, just because my ear insists that a) the note is off and b) I should keep at it until my ear likes it doesn’t mean that I’ll succeed. My ear is ready to hear dissonance, and the more I try to please it the more it’ll resist. I’ve learned that I need to practice caring less about precision, trusting my tuner. And I need to treat the strings like problems on a math test. If I have trouble with one, I should move on to the next and come back to it later. Most of the time, when I come back to it, my ear has relaxed and likes it just fine.

I have often thought that it would be nice if I could approach tuning the dulcimer the way I approach changing my guitar strings. I love changing guitar strings. I get to sit down with my guitar and take good care of it, removing the strings, polishing the body, putting a treatment on the fretboard. And I know how great it’ll sound with new strings. In the same way I know tuning my dulcimer is taking good care of it. I also dust the thing and clean / polish the strings whenever I tune. I think, as I’m making progress with this issue of Will, that I’m getting closer to the time when I can enjoy tuning like I enjoy changing guitar strings.

Published in: on April 7, 2005 at 10:39 am  Comments Off on Tuning Day  

Not yet

Today I worked on two tunes: the remaining recorder parts for “Christ Child Lullaby,” and a new piece, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

I’d been practicing those recorder parts several times a day, so they didn’t take too long this morning. In fact, the timing was really nice: I had from 11 to 12:30 to tune, then took a break for lunch, and finished tuning afterwards. Taking a break in the middle of tuning helps keep my ear from getting overly sensitive with concentration.

After lunch, we started on “Emmanuel.” My version starts with an adaptation of the Episcopal Hymnal’s setting, continues with another verse in the standard 4/4 meter, then goes into a sort of two-over-three rhythm.

Recording the middle verse was interesting because it involved a set of softer responses between melody phrases. What we ended up doing is recording one melody phrase, switching tracks, recording the response, switching back to melody, and so on. The last verse was challenging, too, because of the syncopation, timing, and accents. I’m not entirely sure of the editing yet… I’ll have to listen to it a lot and see what I think.

Tomorrow may well be my last day of recording. I just have two more new pieces to do, plus fix one part of another tune. The end is near, but not here yet.

Besides those last bits of recording, I need to do the mixing and mastering and finish the text and graphics. Writing the liner notes is proving to be difficult — there’s only so much room, and it’s hard to decide exactly what I have to say about each piece and then figure out how to say it in the space allotted.

A college friend, artist Andrea Seavers, is working on the cover art and text. She does marvelous Christmas cards: collages mixed with original drawing, painting, and lettering. So far she’s sent me one rough sketch of a Madonna and Child collage based on a Fra Angelico painting, and I think it will be a perfect cover for this album.

Another couple of friends (who happen to also be dulcimer students), Keith and Marty Bryant, took photos of me with the instruments for the traycard, and I’ve also taken some studio shots of guest musicians for the back of the booklet. The last step, besides sending off the CD and graphics to the manufacturers, is planning a release party and concert. I have some ideas, but I’ll wait until it’s finalized before I announce it.

Published in: on September 21, 2004 at 6:48 pm  Comments Off on Not yet  

A touch of grey

As always, this recording session began with tuning. I took the dulcimer to the studio yesterday and did an hour’s worth of tuning, then finished this morning. It took a long time again, but was relatively straightforward and nonproblematic. Whew.

Speaking of tuning, I’m anticipating the arrival of a new tool that I hope will help reduce my tuning time: I won an Ebay auction for a Conn Strobotuner ST-11. Its grey face sports a spinning patterned disc with flashing lights behind it… when the note I’m plucking is in tune, the pattern will appear to be stationary; when it’s sharp the pattern will seem to be moving to the right, and when it’s flat the pattern will look like it’s going left.

I’d tried a Peterson VSAM virtual strobe in a store, and found it confusing to read. At another store I got to see how a mechanical strobe works with a guitar, and to me it seemed easier to read, so when I saw the Conn on Ebay I decided to bid on it. I’m hoping that its continuous reading will cut the time I usually lose to my needle tuner’s sometimes delayed and inconsistent responses. I’m also hoping that it’s in working condition when it gets here!

Tomorrow evening, the Hanshaw Trio will be recording two medleys, so today I recorded my parts. We started with “Easter Thursday / O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” a medley I’m including on this album as a reminder of what the babe in the manger accomplished when he’d grown up.

“Easter Thursday” has two especially tricky parts: one separated hands moment where I kept hitting the note just above the one I was aiming for, and several places where, reaching for the Bb on my extra bass bridge, I instead hit the wrong side of a course coming off the regular bass bridge. It’s like the sound you’d get if you plucked a guitar string between the top of the fretboard and the tuning pins. So it took a while to get it right.

“Hewlett / Silent Night” went more smoothly, probably because it’s in D, one of the most playable keys on the dulcimer. We did it in just four takes. Because this one starts with the guitar alone, I first recorded a count and then plucked the notes the guitar will play, then on another track I recorded the dulcimer parts. Likewise, where there’s a pause near the end, I recorded another count so that all three of us will come back in at the same time.

After listening to the “Three Ships Medley” I’d recorded last time, I’d decided I should fix two little errors. To do that, I figured I’d have to record the two larger sections containing the errors. It turned out I had to re-record the entire thing because the mic placement today was a little different than it was last time. However, it wasn’t that bad… only four takes; and just five edits, compared to fifteen last time.

We also recorded the dulcimer harmony parts for “Three Ships.” One of the harmony sections had three notes that weren’t timed exactly right, leading to a technique that, for me, falls in a grey area between what’s too artificial and what’s acceptable: Matt moved those three notes slightly to correct the timing. I said in an earlier entry that I draw the line at looping or recycling — that I want to really play every note each time. Well, I did play those three notes… but not with exactly the right timing. Hmmm.

The end is in sight. I’ve scheduled the rest of the sessions, at least what I think I’ll need, and if all goes well I should be done by mid-October. That should mean I’ll have the CDs by mid-November. So, this year I expect I’ll make my anniversary concert a release party, although it’ll probably be a few weeks late.

What’s left? Finishing the trio medleys, finishing three other pieces in progress, and three new pieces, plus, if time allows, a few fix-its. (Hopefully these other fix-its won’t require as much re-recording as “Three Ships” did!) I’m starting to work on the liner notes and graphics, too. This time I’ll make sure the web address is correct! (On No Loose Threads, I missed a typo in the URL, and I also didn’t realize that you can’t include the usual “www.” with addresses at Tripod, my former hosting service.)

Published in: on August 25, 2004 at 5:38 pm  Comments (2)