Improvisation class again. This week has involved transcribing. In class last week we all played a bit by ear and so transcribing is the next step in the process. I find it very time consuming. Is this improvisation or copying? Anyway there is some merit in trying to get the the right rhythms and sequences.
Still on F dorian, Db mixolydian and D Dorian scales. I have been trying the major triads too. But I cannot easily switch between these and on the second degree of the scale on the fiddle by ear.
These is more about Cantaloupe Island my HND1 private blog.
Condenser microphones need phantom power. It needs to go on first while all settings are down. Why? Because it could cause a power surge if you turn it on later and damage equipment. Health and safety issue. Remember this!
Booked a protools session just to check I can use it. Studio assessment coming up. Its fairly similar to Logic so gaining experience on that has been useful.
I've had a good week this week. Had my violin lesson yesterday and was told that it was all coming together - played the best ever. I also have been revisiting the two Shetland tunes I plan to play. I met up with a friend (great fiddler doing her Masters just now) to hear how she has approached it. She is studying Shetland and Greek folk music just now. She has given me a lot to think about. Her approach is rather different. She goes into recital and truly improvises.
I have blogged earlier about this tune being very close to Norwegian tunes. She showed me an extract from Da Mirrie Dancers where the tune is transcribed (although both of us don't recognise the bar divisions). There are some background notes which seem to confirm that the tune is based on a Norwegian Halling (one of the types of tunes played on the hardanger)
I am hoping to get my hardanger strung up this week and if its OK I will start experimenting with a raised G string. Not much time really until January.
Still working on my G minor set. The tuning, string crossing and jumping up to third position is a challenge. Hard to get it clean. I have the first half but the second had needs more work.
The Fiddle festival has been on this weekend. I went to four of the workshops. These are always a good source of inspiration. Its a great opportunity to hear and see international fiddlers. The highlights for me were:
Here's Celtic Fiddle Festival playing in 2010
I have been working on tone a lot lately. My tone is always massively better at the end of my lesson than at the start. I always need to warm up and pick things apart really slowly and then put them together again before my tone is best. Trying to get more depth to the bow whilst keeping my bow hand completely relaxed. I am making week on week improvements (according to my violin teacher) and my sound is now quite a lot different to six months ago. Getting a pure sound over fast semi quavers is hard.
I am also trying to commit the tunes I am working on to memory. We had a brief discussions about memorising in class. Many classical players don't commit to memory, whereas in playing traditional music, you would never see a musician with music (and many don't read). I don't find it difficult to memorise the broad shape of the tunes. However there are phrases that are very similar and its easy to play the wrong one. I suppose the listener would not know the difference but I do! I find that if I am concentrating on one thing eg sound/clarity, something else can go - for example whether its an up or a down bow. The only answer is more practice to try to completely internalise it.
I am meeting someone this week who has played the Muckle reel of Finnigart recently (which I m planing to perform in January) to get their slant on it. Should be interesting. She plays it in a GDGD tuning with a fair amount of improvisation. I am playing the tune with another and it would be a major job for me to do this. I don't think its advisable. But I have been experimenting playing the tune with a raised G string (scodatura) in an AEAE tuning. I think this might be achievable provided I don't double stop with the G string in the first tune of the set. It also means some changes in fingering. I think i may play a C sharp instead of flat. I am also thinking of playing this on my hardanger.
I played this last year, in the white (which means unvarnished), for my recital and for my Grade 6 exam. My partner has been making it for years. It still isn't quite finished in that it goes through coats of varnish and should have very decorative rosing on it. We have done the first bit (helped by the wonderful luthier Colin Adamson). It has been baked in his baking cabinet to give it a bit of colour and has one coat of varnish on it now. But I don't think it will be possible to do the amount of work and get it ready to play for January. So I've asked my partner to string it up now so I can try these tunes on it. It will look a bit rough. But the remaining coats and rosing can wait until February. Unfortunately the sound post has come down so I hope that when we get it back up it sounds as good as it did.
Ensemble playing has been interesting. I find all the classical stuff a challenge but I really enjoy it far more than I thought I would. I am highly impressed at the soloists paying Locatelli's Challenge in strings group.
I have blogged elsewhere about writing a reel recently. Our folk band were looking for things to play and maybe an original, so I sent in the music and we played it last week. It is quite an odd feeling to hear it coming back at you. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
Finally, we went to see the RSNO on Friday - Vaughn Williams, Fantasia on Thomas Tallis - lovely. Strings!
Improvisation tomorrow. I have been listening to Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock this week. I tried picking the first part up by ear - and then comparing to the notation, Seemed OK. Playing the blues scales F and Db and D Dorian. I am playing with a metronome and trying to get the speed up.
We recorded vocals and keyboard today using cardoid condenser mic for each singer along with a pop screen. The mic was set without a reduction and at felt response. We also recorded keyboards through a built in DI on the amp.
We didn't actually record the bass but if we had, we would have added an AKG dynamic mike pointed at the amp speaker as well.
We also tried adding reverb and compression.
I will be recording a song - vocals keyboard and bass guitar - in the Studio on Monday. So what type of mics should be used and where should they be positioned?
Its important to think about whether you are recording a choir, ensemble or a solo singer.
Other things that might be relevant is how the person is used to working. For example it might be difficult for a singer who is used to singing in a rock band to perform the same way if isolated.
If recording a group of singers or a choir, and omnidirectional mic might be a good choice with the singers making a circle round the mic.
But otherwise a cardoid mic in front of the singer could be used. It should be pointed between the nose and mouth for a balanced recording. It may be necessary to think about the room. An omnidirectional condenser mic will pick up room reverb etc. This might be a good or bad thing depending what effect you want. The distance between the singer and the mic will change the balance of room sounds versus the singer.
A dynamic microphone could also be used, e.g. the Schure SM58.
If the mic is picking up pops and other noises from the singer it might be possible to reduce this by changing the angle of the mic or by using a pop screen.
Endless possibilities. It obviously depends on whether the piano is upright or a grand/baby grand.
If a grand piano, then you can position the miss above the strings with the lid open. You can achieve different sounds depending where you put them. If you position them more towards the treble strings you get a brighter sound. Similarly if you are recording an upright you should open the lid and place microphones above the piano. They can also be pointed at the front of the piano.
Condenser or dynamic mics can be used.
Bass guitar can be recorded either through DI (direct inject) or through a miked amp or a combination of both.
If using DI method you also need to route through a DI box so there isn't an impedance mismatch. If recording an amp then you can get distortion. Valve amps are generally better for bass.
There are other challenges. Compression is usually used when recording bass - there is such a big different between the open E string and something played right up the neck on the G string. Also players may use techniques like slapping.
Choice of mic for recording bass as always depends on budget and the effect you want. If on a budget a dynamic mic close to the to an amp would be a good choice e.g. Schure SM57. But a large diaphragm condenser would be good too.
i'll blog again after Monday to capture what we actually did.
Midi recording in Logic. Great features. The punching and step input facilities are great. Recording with the cycle mode lets you build up complicated patterns. This combined with ultrabeat allows you to do things like build up drum patterns. The power of the software is amazing. What did we do before all this became available?
Its been a busy week for performance this week. I performed with the folk band on Monday and today I played Telemann with Strings group.
It went pretty well. It felt tighter than at rehearsals. Tricky changes in tempo.
We also had rehearsal class. Its getting close to the time for auditions for Consevatoires and so some people were rehearsing for that. Interesting points about stage presence and trying to get this right - try not to be too nervous or it can come through in the playing. Play piano at your normal volume - its easier to control. For those that aren't nervous don't be too relaxed or it can look as though you don't care.
I am working hard on the runs and the bowing in the strathspey I am playing. Not rushing and trying to make every note clear. The bowing is difficult. I have also been working on a very tricky reel that I am playing. G minor is a hard key to play on the violin and its difficult to keep the intonation accurate. The reel has jumps across two strings and also a lot of string crossing. My hands are quite small so I have to actually flatten my finger to span both strings.
Oddly I find that if I slow right down to practice I start to not remember the notes. Its a bit like typing slowly. You can lose the thread and overall sense of what you are playing. However I am trying to keep slow and plrac at 60 bpm.
I have also been trying to work out the best way to get up into third position in this particular. The sequence of notes does't allow you to look at where you last played (as is often the case) to get your bearings. For me, I'd like to slide up to the A and drop back to the G. But its getting it completely accurate that is difficult. Its a move that its worth getting used to.
It's also time to start rerunning the tunes I played a few weeks ago to keep them under the fingers. They have been on the back burner while working on my own new material and on the ensemble pieces. I play form memory at recitals and if I leave them too long they begin to be hard to remember.