A week of the holidays has whizzed by. I have 101 things to do but my practice continues in amongst being the Easter bunny (my kids), visiting my mother in hospital, building shelves, shopping, cooking and all the normal stuff. I have been practicising my recital pieces mainly. I'm not actually sure I'm making much difference. I am trying to make the Strathspey bowing smoother as my teacher has said. i am not totally convinced this is traditional but its better for tone.
I am also trying to fit in improvisation practice. I volunteered to go fairly early for my improv exam - 30 April. Leaves more time later for the other things I have coming up.
Also doing position work (various studies by people like (Mazs, Hohmann and Scholz) and technique (vibrato and bowing). This is all helping.
i have ordered some more books on bowing (both from the Library and Amazon) - keeps me motivated.
Played with the Edinburgh Film Music Orchestra last night at its Spring concert. It was a big orchestra and there were quite a few players from Edinburgh College helping out. It was fun.
Interesting program of new writing and better known pieces featuring music from Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. First time I've performed these pieces.
Z. Preisner - Bolero
J. Pernell - Orion
L. Holland - Blade (Weapons)
Y. Durant - Potemkin
W. Kilar - Dracula
Exam on this tomorrow. Here are the connections.
How many people think that MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keyboards produce sound? You'd be wrong - they don't. They send signals. Would you know what bit depth and sampling rates are about - they convert analogue signals to digital. There are some great Youtube videos on this stuff.
We have been learning all about midi recently. Theres a lot to it. Wiring up the hardware and learning the glossary of terms. Learning how the messages flow, what signals are digital and analogue. I have taken photos of the set up and the connections and we practised this.
I have also been working quite hard to finish off our recording project. I booked the studio last week for us to try to get the mixing done. We didn't manage to finish it so we have one more session booked for tomorrow. Revision this week for assessments at the end of the week on Music technology.
We performed on Thursday which was great. I performed in string group, folk band and choir. I felt the performances went well.
We played Brandenberg Ghosts by Richard Meyer. The parts are quite challenging.
We sand a few things in choir (Handel and Bach) and also Mack the Knife. I have had a cold for about five weeks and still feel that I have only about half the amount of breath I should have. It makes sustaining the notes difficult and my voice gets tired more quickly.
My daughter recorded the folk band set and when I listened to it I realised that I never hear the balanced band as its heard by the audience. I noticed the percussion beats particularly. It feels like the first time I've really heard them. When we normally play I must hear them from a distance but they are so drowned out by own fiddle and those around me that I don't hear them the same way.
What could have gone better? I felt the strings group was great from the seconds point of view. I couldn't really hear if things went wrong elsewhere in the group. The audience seemed to enjoy it.Folk band was quite fast. Washington Square (one of the tunes we played) felt a bit on edge but sounds good on the recording. The links we did in the middle are tricky. The jigs went pretty well (Whelan's and Paddy Callaghan's) and the last tune - a serbian tune called Ducino Kolo was a good one to finish with.
I have agreed to play with the Edinburgh Film orchestra for their last two rehearsals and performance on 26th March so that is the next thing I'll be practising. I am also continuing to works on material for my recital. More of that is on my HND1 page.
Meanwhile here is one of our folk band tunes below and some pics of strings group playing Ghosts of Brandenburg.
Performances coming up tomorrow. We had strings group rehearsal today. Much of my practice has been on the performance material this week.
We are playing Ghosts of Brandenburg. Its technically quite tricky for our group. The second violins have enough in numbers to sound quite strong. But the rest of the group was down in number today at rehearsal. We talked about the need to play out confidently. The audience can pick up if we are playing tentatively. This seems to be code for we are all worried. Its a cool arrangement though.
I can get through the notes Ok but the bowing patterns are tricky and I find them quite alien - even now.
I have been practising with Audacity at home to work out where the part fits. Most of it is Ok But there are still one or two entries where it seems easy to lose count when playing with the group. Its difficult to hear and of course we have assigned parts to different instruments as we don't have all the instruments to play the original score.
I also went to my lesson yesterday. I am trying to improve hook bowing. Its difficult to play the stops cleanly and annoyingly I sometimes feel the bow slipping back giving a slight skipping. Very sweet but not quite a strathspey.
I have also been playing a lament. I have been improvising a lot, finding lines. Of course i am off into orbit but my teacher is making the sensible point that improvisation should be recognisably the tune. I am having trouble with the timing of the lament. i think I have listened to a recording too many times where it is certainly not played as notated. It has contaminated me. In fact the recording plays the piece in a sort of 6/8 rather than 4/4 in parts. Other parts are free timing. Every time I play I have to check myself or I am off into 6/8 or worse.
I am working in ornaments and playing the octave down. Trying to get vibrato in. I have been learning an arm vibrato but I am apparently naturally playing more of a wrist vibrato. Hmm . Ideally its good to be able to do them both. Slow practice required to get the bowing better. Triple stopping needs to be smoother.
Our group was performing this week. I had practiced the awkward corners of the heads (definitely not fiddle friendly) during the week. There is a section that jumps across two strings and doesn't lie under the fingers well at all. But by the performance I had it OK.
We spent the first half hour running the Bb blues a few times and working out an intro and outdo. Getting in and out is as important as the rest. We decided that Sam would play us in with four bars. Then Keiran and I would play the heads. We were then going to do question and answer improvisation all the way through and then back to the heads to finish. It went fine in rehearsal.
Keiran and I were soloing with Sam on piano chords and Dean on bass notes.
How did the performance feel? Given we had only been playing as an ensemble for a few hours it went OK. Rehearsal felt relaxed and everyone worked as a team. We felt we had a soild plan.
The actual performance felt OK from the perspective of soloing. The bass seemed to go a bit out of synch with the chords. Its probably quite difficult to hear from one side of the stage to the other (where they both sat). Kieran and I were in the middle. We kept soloing to the correct chords - it was quite difficult though with different chords going at the same time.
We ran through the soloing one more time than we had originally planned - really because to took a while for the band to tighten up. Then Kieran and I were on the heads again together. I was reasonably pleased with my soloing although I will keep working to improve riffs and fluency. I did manage to avoid landing on the root most of the time.
I quite enjoyed it. But it wasn't as good as rehearsals. Ah well - things happen live on stage and you just have to improvise - literally! I think if we were to play again I would arrange for the bass and piano players to be closer to each other. perhaps that would have helped.
Very sad to read that Alvin Lee has died. A fantastic guitarist and vocalist.
Playing at the Scottish Parliament
Played at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday evening. It was great. There were three of us on fiddle . The feedback was good and people seemed to enjoy it. We were well rehearsed and the band sounded great. More performances coming up next Thursday at St Nicholas Church, Sighthill Loan.