Study in E Minor by Tárrega

I told you I was on a recording streak. Two days in a row! This is a nice easy one, Study in E Minor by Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909). I used the score published by Bradford Werner. He also has a video giving some advice for anyone learning this piece.

It’s probably the easiest piece I’ve learned. I first downloaded the score yesterday and was able to sight read it without much problem. By this morning I had it memorised, and I recorded it in the afternoon. If only all pieces were like this. Maybe they should be?



Snowflight Revisited

I’m on a recording spree at the moment. Here’s a re-recording of Andrew York’s Snowflight. (Score is under copyright.) I think it’s an improvement over the last time I recorded it—at least the recording quality is.

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

Jumping straight back in with another recording, here’s J. S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. I used the free score transcribed by Bradford Werner.

I’ve been away a lot this year, and although I haven’t managed to practise as much (averaging below an hour a day this year), I have still been playing fairly regularly. I haven’t recorded anything in about nine months, though, and I had forgotten how much playing in front of the microphone affects me: nerves, shallow breathing, sweaty hands, shaking fingers. I really need to record more often to overcome those feelings.

Anyway, I’m reasonably happy with this effort. There are flubs here and there, and overall it sounds a bit rushed, but I got through it. I haven’t memorised this piece yet, despite having been able to play it for a few months now. I’ve found it quite difficult to commit to memory. Why is Bach so hard to memorise?

You might have noticed that the quality of the recording is much improved. That is because the headphone socket on my laptop broke and I replaced it with a USB headphone and microphone adapter. When the microphone is plugged into this adapter instead of straight into the laptop, recordings have much less background noise. I don’t know why. Everything else I do for recordings has stayed the same.

Once I manage to memorise this piece, I’m going to record it again and try to iron out some of those creases.

2000 grit sandpaper

Another step in my exploration of tone production: I’ve just acquired some 2000-grit sandpaper. Yes, 2000! It’s so fine you hardly notice the grit. Compared to the rough stuff I was using before, it’s made my nails silky smooth. (Though the rough stuff was gradually becoming less and less rough through use.)

My process for nail care is to file them to the desired length and into the desired shape once a week or so, and sand and buff them every day. This seems to keep the tone fairly consistent. I use a regular nail file and a tissue for buffing.

While the 2000-grit sandpaper does a great job of smoothing my nails, it doesn’t appear to last very long. The first bit I cut off is already starting to resemble a piece of old leather. So it’s maybe buffing my nails more than sanding them now.

Snowflight by Andrew York

‘Tis the season. Christmas music is upon us. I do like Christmas music but it can still get too much. After recording Silent Night last year, I thought I’d do something a little different this time, more seasonal than festive: Snowflight by Andrew York (the score is under copyright, so I can’t link to it here).

I haven’t recorded in a while and I think it shows in the quality of the recording. I also filed my nails too short this morning and you can hear that I’m not quite making contact with the string at the point that the nail and the flesh meet, particularly with the thumb. On the upside, although I did start too fast, I was more relaxed recording this than I’ve been before. I think the second half is actually better played than the first, which makes for a nice change.

Two years of practice

A month of no posts, but I’ve still been practising. In fact I’ve been practising for two years now. I started seriously in November 2015 and have practised consistently ever since. Averaging about an hour a day—two thirty-minute sessions—I’m 700 hours into the 10,000 needed to become an expert…

I celebrated this minor milestone by stringing my guitar with something other than the cheapest of the cheap strings (£1 from China). I forked out for Alice AC134N strings, which cost me £5.99. Initial impressions are good: the trebles sound warmer straight away; the basses are still slightly twangy, but I think they might settle in; and I think they produce a longer sustain.

Over the next year or so I want to experiment with different strings. I’ve heard good things about the D’Addario EJ45s, so they are on my list.