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  • Matt Juliano

Recording 01/15 - Scaling an Abrupt Difficulty Spike


The second hardest section in this quartet is in the viola part of the Trio section [1]. It's only 8 measures long, but it's fast and it's a finger twister, with a couple of long stretches and some brief second position[2] switches.

We did a first pass through the part so Mike could get mic levels. I was feeling alright today and played it serviceably. The hard part went only ok, but I was still warming up so I didn't let it get to me.

Our first recorded take was actually pretty good. (I was really prepared). The first four (easier) measures of the hard part were...fine I guess? The tangle-up part was a little bit of a mess, but I was expecting it to be.

I wanted to proceed a little differently with this session. Usually I do a pass through the entire piece, and if the take is pretty good we listen back from the beginning and touch up parts as we go. (The "Seek and Destroy" method as Mike calls it). This time I wanted to go right to the hard part and do that first while I was still fresh; I wanted to tackle it while I was at the peak in both my performance capability and focus. (Recording is tiring, as I've said before).

We spent probably twenty minutes running that part. I re-did the third measure because I (very slightly) muted the top note when I didn't quite stretch far enough with my pinky and then had to run the tangle up section about 8 times. Among all 8 takes I played it perfectly, but never all at the same time. We tried to just punch in the one measure that was tangling me up at the end, but I couldn't sync up if I just started on the one measure. I had to play in longer bursts to keep the feel and get in the groove. We finally got it to something that I think I'm ok with. It's not flawless and I'm kind of annoyed with myself, but I think it will do.

The rest of the movement was a breeze. I think we only punched in like 2 things in the 5-plus minutes of the piece that were not the nasty part.

I had banked on finishing in less than an hour and a half so we could do some level and timing adjustments on the Allegro movement. I finished recording the mandola in 1 hour and 23 minutes, so I was on track. The nasty part actually took a little longer than I was planning for, but as we pretty much just used my first take on all the rest we still came in right with my estimate.

We adjusted the Allegro levels from the previous bounce where the mandocello was really loud, the mandola was almost inaudible and the orientation of the instruments in "space" [3] wasn't what I wanted. (We had the levels set for me to record against, not for a human to listen to for enjoyment.) We also used ProTools magic to fix a couple of measures where my timing was a little off, I was ahead of the beat, or terribly un-synched with one of the instruments. I want it to be good, but I don't mind if it sounds like a human actually played it, though sometimes I wish the human was better at this than I am.

On this bounce the mandola is now a little too loud, but the instruments are in the right space and it's good enough for me to practice with and hear what I might need to re-do or tweak.

It always works out that in the car ride home when I listen to the track I feel like shit about what I recorded. I know where the punch points are, so I can hear them, and I feel like a trickster, a poser, a fraud. I feel like I'm going to be embarrassed when anyone hears this, that their going to (correctly) react with a "what is this crap?" I've learned to ignore it as best as I can. I'll always hate my work a little less the next day, and have come up with a plan to fix anything that I'm not okay with. This recording session was no different.

We'll see what tomorrow's listening brings.


01/15/21 - 2 hours

Goal: Status

Fodor Quartet Viola Minuet-Trio COMPLETE

[1] There's a part in the first violin section of the Trio that is more difficult, with lots of fast string crossings, which are potentially the one thing that is harder to do on a mandolin than a violin. The viola part was a bit harder to figure out because I don't read the music as well, and the mandola is a heftier, slightly larger instrument. I feel slow on the mandola, and learning the part involved not only a lot of coordination, but also fighting the instrument a bit.

[2] First position on a mandolin / mandola would be with your finger on the second fret, with the other fingers covering the frets up to the seventh fret. Third position is index on fifth fret, etc. For me, odd positions are kind fo the default for violin and are MUCH easier to translate from score to finger placement than even positions. When you are first learning, you do first position and third position, where the lines on the staff are either your index and ring (first and third) fingers and spaces are your middle and pinky (second and fourth). In the even positions, the fingering of spaces and lines switches.

Figuring out the fingering for the sixteenth note run in the Trio that shifts oh so briefly to second position and then back to first took a while. Especially since I still read alto clef pretty poorly.

[3] By adjusting where the instruments are panned you can make them sound like they are coming from different parts of the "recording space" that you hear. This is probably pretty intuitive, we've all likely heard panning on recordings before. The instruments had been set with the mandolin 1 on the far left, mandolin 2 center left, mandola center right, and mandocello far right. This is how most quartets would sit during a performance, but on the recording having the two mandolins right on top of each other meant they interfered with each other as they are in the exact frequency range as each other. Also having most of the melodic content (the mandolins carry most of the melody in this piece) all piled up on the left made it feel a little unbalanced. We set it to mandolin 1 far left, mandola center left, mandocello center right, and mandolin 2 far right.

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