365 DotU, Day 136 Is A Freshman Once Again…

…acne and all, musically speaking.

I’m trying to figure out a few things about mic-ing and mixing classical strings, so I decided that this time around on the ol’ (much-neglected) challenge, I would take a stab at some of that fancy longhair stuff.
The problem, of course, is that I am — ehem — a little rusty on the ol’ repertoire. I have gotten into some very bad habits lately (mostly enabled by the fact that I can improv my way around the hard stuff in the non-classical realm and the gift of other players masking my ineptitude in orchestral settings). Playing solo or in a small ensemble requires better tone and greater skill than I’ve had occasion to exercise lately. Oops! Looks like I need practice! I also, frankly, need to take lessons again. I’ve regressed to my high-school skills. Sadly, I do not have time for this improving work at the moment.
Another problem: Multitrack recording may let me play all of the parts, but it doesn’t make it easy for me to get artsy about it. It requires rigorous obedience to the metronome, especially in the absence of a cello or bass part that’s specifically designed to keep time. This leaves little room for rubato (among other things. It’s hard to get too stylish when you’re either playing the track that has to keep the time stable or the part that stops and starts a lot. Solid, regular rhythm makes it all possible, but it makes the kind of on-the-fly, immediate musical adjustments one makes when one plays live with another person a LOT harder to do. Starting is especially hard — I miss the breathing that tells me when to begin (weirdly enough). Very, very awkward, playing to a canned thing.
Putting the right mic on and getting things set up is its own challenge. I don’t really have the best sort of room for this kind of recording — it would sound better in a space with a little more liveness and a lot less humming traffic outside the window than my living room. :)
Still, I made the experiment anyway, and it was good practice. I certainly managed to play one of my early high-school pieces at least as badly as I did it when I was in high school — only this time, I played the 1st violin part on a viola, just for kicks. The piece is Samuel Applebaum’s arrangement of some Beethoven into a cute little duet. It was weirdly fun to play, although I’m not proud of the performance (intonation issues…thin violin sound…not a lot of style…too heavy…ugh). Whee! I could have scored as fair-to-middling at a junior high strings contest! :) Next time I try to do a duet with these two instruments, I’ll probably place the mic differently for the viola and switch on the lo cut on the mixer. Keeping the gain down was a good idea. I may switch to a dynamic mic and see if it makes a difference (I used a condenser). I’ll probably record the next attempt in my front hallway, which has a bit more ring to it. In a better space, I might find it easier to capture dynamics — sadly, I had to do a few little recording tricks to capture volume changes this time.
Anyway, now that I’ve lowered your expectations, here’s my impression of two non-prodigy teenagers staggering through something like Beethoven:

I feel so young again!

About L. M. Bernhardt

For a good long while (15 years or so), I taught philosophy at a little private university in northwest IA, and occasionally branched out into playing music, dabbling in photography, experimenting with food, and writing nonsense on my blog. The philosophy teaching part ended in 2017 (program elimination via prioritization), but never fear! I've just finished my MLIS at San Jose State University, and I'm currently on the market looking for new adventures in either philosophy or LIS. For now, I labor at a fairly interesting administrative job in order to support my dogs in the lavish manner to which they've become accustomed.
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