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“…from nests the owls called…” Linda Hogan

June 30, 2016

One day I was getting ready to record in a beautiful sounding church with a great CBC technician*. He was a bit of a mystery because every setup was different even if the venue and instrument was the same. He gave me my first good lesson on microphone placement. We traded places and he said, “Move your ear closer then back off – now do it slower. You should find a point where there is a change in sound, where the tone becomes more focused. Now move your ear from side to side, from the bottom of the guitar to the neck. Find the point where the trebles are strongest and listen for the same thing at the bass end.” Straight to the point, no magic formulas, just empirical evidence. Every instrument is a little bit different so the microphones need to be placed to optimize each one.

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I have continued to record at the Music Gallery** [in the old days] and with friends. For one thing it gives me goals to meet, my practicing is always deadline driven. Sometimes this means I have to compose and learn something before writing it down and in other cases I just make stuff up on the spot. This process has given me a realistic set of expectations as to what I can do and what are acceptable results. In other words, what mistakes can I live with? It might be possible – with a very large budget – to make everything perfect, but like most things in life it is better to compromise. I am one of those players who do mountains of work before the recording and hope to do very little editing after.

I have also found that it is much easier to let someone else push the record button. Self-recording is easier than ever, but I like to just play guitar. When I push the buttons I worry: “Did I set the volume right, are the monitors off?” It seems so much better to sit in my chair and think about the first notes to play and assign the other stuff to someone else. I am very lucky to have a marvelous friend*** who likes to do the button pushing.

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Editing platforms also make it easier than ever for one to do it at home. Speaking to a couple of singer-songwriters at a recent salon I found they were late with the CD’s they were self-producing as they worked and reworked the material, trying to get it perfect. Having time and budget limits forces one to choose what is important and what can be left as is. Having a friend to discuss the work with allows for outside input, allows for ideas bounce around.

*David Quinney

**Paul Hodge

***Alan Bell

Nasrudin once passed the home of a yogi who was lost in meditation. When he opened his eyes again, Nasrudin asked about his goals and the yogi said, “I meditate on the animals because I hope to be able to communicate with them.”

“A fish once rescued me when I was about to die,” Nasrudin said.

The yogi asked, “Will you stay and teach me so I can learn this?”

“Of course,” said Nasrudin, “But you must share what you already know.”

After three years of work the yogi said: “I have fulfilled my part of our deal, it is time for you to share your secret.”

“I had been starving for two months, when I caught a fish that nourished me for three days.

 

 

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