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Recording: Two Tangos by Jose Ferrer

The next project involved Tango nr. 1 and Tango Nr. 3 by the Spanish composer Jose Ferrer (1835 - 1916). At the moment I am exploring this music, it’s fun to play, so that’s the reason it reappears in my recording adventures.

Both tangos have three sections, an A major middle section and A minor corner sections, the last section being a kind of Da Capo. Technically Tango Nr. 1 is the most tricky one. The ornamental notes required special attention, particularly for control of the fourth finger of the left hand, the ornamentation must be played accurately, yet without emphasis.

With respect to “problem detection” this adventure starts showing some sour apples. I still suffer from my self-judgement effect in the sense that I consider my play worse than my listeners experience it. It turned out to be something persistent that already influences me before I even press the Record button. It clearly affects my spontaneity compared to the situation that I play without recording stress. As if my self-judgement casts its shadow in advance.

Some time ago I discussed the subject of recording stress and self-judgement with Bobby Rootveld, a member of the Duo NIHZ, guitarist and recording engineer. He presented an original idea. Making a recording does not differ from taking a photograph. On one photograph you catch the big smile in time, on another you happen to be laughing sourly, because you could not keep up the smile for ages. Or the lighting causes a poor impression of the scene. They are snapshots, definitely no sign of something awfully structural, so it is hardly useful to be hard on yourself every time that it is not as you expected. Catch up the good things and take another picture that shows your smile.

From his experience as a recording engineer he knew that self-judgement often affects the recording. In a few cases the player found after a few days of sweating in the studio that he considered his play too bad for a CD, while the listener/recording engineer actually noticed a fine piece of music. In other cases the player wanted so many effects in order to mask a few problems, that the result sounded completely artificial. Professionals have hard times behind the microphones too!

Maybe this reluctance to play full speed ahead during recording is a part of my personality. A kind of risk avoidance. A feat that does not help me making music during the recording, so it’s a clear point of attention.

It seems to be a fact of life that many recordings are or seem to be unsatisfactory. Looking for hints on the subject, I came across a few lines about it in the book Howard Morgen’s Solo Guitar, Insights, Arranging Techniques and Classical Jazz in a chapter that ominously was called No Pain, No Gain.

This self-judgement is part of the pain that might yield something positive if you are able to cope with it in a positive way. The author explains that recording increases the stress level and becomes useful to notice the real sensitive spots of a piece. Of course you’ll benefit only if you see the opportunity to improve on things without being demotivated. The pain is a set of recordings that seem unsatisfactory until you have solved the technical and musical problems.

Well, I guess that he is right, and that is a frustrating assessment. Sometimes I had the feeling that the pain deterred me so much that I quit recording in that session.

I made quite a number of attempts with these tangos, but I became fed up a little in the end. The more times I recorded the pieces, the worse became the effect of my self-judgement on my play. I made slips on places that I used to play without problems. Gradually the fun to play the piece decreased to almost zero.

That’s a lethal effect, if I continue this way, I guess I won’t be playing guitar any more within a few months. So out of self-protection I’ll leave recording these pieces for a while. I’m sorry, just a demonstartion tape this time that illustrates how far I have got up till now. Maybe your judgement about the pieces is bterre than mine!

There it is, not every adventure is successful. On the rebound I started playing some different pieces for a few days. The Minute Solo’s by Stephan Rak are quite suitable to let off steam and find back the expression in the play.

Below you have the option to play the pieces. Before playing a new piece, stop the one which is currently playing, else you will get a most interesting musical clash!


Tango Nr. 1

Tango Nr. 3