Carrapatoso Recording Update and Another Recording Project

Last June my colleagues Claire Vangelisti, Richard Seiler, and I recorded an album of music by Eurico Carrapatoso, which you can read about here. We were very excited to receive the first edit of the recording a few weeks ago, and are currently preparing some final editing requests to send to the engineer. From here the next steps are related to production and commercial release, including: liner notes, cover/booklet art and photography, and various other details.

Richard Price, the producer and engineer for this project, let us know that even though this was a first edit, the editing process is more or less complete, utilizing (hopefully) the best possible takes of the material. However, listening to the first edit and providing comments is still very important, as mistakes can happen.

So, how does the first edit of our Carrapatoso recording sound? In short, I think it’s really good! I was very pleased with the warmth, balance, and overall musical quality in all three parts (soprano, piano, horn). Bravo to my colleagues and to Richard Price for helping us sound our very best!  That being said, I did have a few minor requests for the final edit (more on that later). I listened to the recording multiple times, and on various devices with different kinds of equipment (speakers, headphones, earbuds, etc.) On my first listen I just popped the disc into my CD drive and let it play all the way through on my stereo. I wasn’t listening too critically at that point, just sitting back and trying to get an overall feel for the sound and making some mental notes about places I wanted to go back and listen to more critically. I did this quite a few more times, using earbuds, in the car, etc. My goal in doing this was to see if any issues I was hearing were exaggerated or minimized depending on the equipment. If something was noticeable during my casual listening on all of this equipment, I definitely wanted to go back and listen more closely with the score and a great pair of headphones. For equipment-minded people who may be curious, I own two pairs of  excellent but affordable headphones: Sennheiser HD 518 and Sony MDR-7506 (pictured above). Each is well made, durable, and good for listening to classical music.

After lots of casual and critical listening, I only had a few requests for the second round of edits. At this point they are probably more subjective than anything else, but I made note of them anyway.

  • Two places where isolated attacks weren’t quite centered. The takes were definitely usable, but something about the fronts of the notes didn’t sound quite right to me.
  • Horn sound was too “live” on a few notes above the staff. I don’t know the exact technical way to describe this, but the mikes were picking up a little more “fuzz” than I would have liked in my sound on a high A-flat. I didn’t notice this effect during the sessions, and again it is a minor issue.

As I am neither a vocalist nor a pianist, these comments are obviously geared towards the horn part. The voice and piano parts are in the more than capable hands of my colleagues. Once we send our comments back we should receive a second (and probably final) edit to listen to one more time before the recording moves to production. Keep an eye out for it in the near future from MSR Classics!

With lots of progress made on this recording I have been turning my attention lately to another project – new original compositions and arrangements for brass trio, featuring Black Bayou Brass. 

Look for more information about this project in a future post!

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Recording Project Update: Music by Eurico Carrapatoso

As mentioned in an earlier post, one of my big projects this summer was recording several works for soprano, horn, and piano for a forthcoming album of music by Eurico Carrapatoso. I’m pleased to say that we recently wrapped up recording, and I thought it would be good to share a few observations about the process while details are still fresh in my mind. Thank you to my colleagues Claire Vangelisti and Richard Seiler for inviting me to participate in this project, and Bravo on your inspiring work!

Engineer/Producer: We were very fortunate to be able to work with engineer and producer Richard Price of Candlewood Digital on this project. Mr. Price has a fantastic reputation, and even if you don’t recognize his name I would be willing to bet that you own or have heard his recordings. I had not worked with Mr. Price previously, but after two solid six-hour-plus days of recording, I would recommend him to anyone without reservation! His incredibly discerning ears and easy-going demeanor made him a joy to work with as a producer and engineer. While I don’t know the exact technical aspects of what he did with microphone placement and other variables, I do know that the sound he was able to capture was great – warm and nuanced, with exactly the right balance among all three parts. And this was just from the raw takes! The final edited and mastered recording should be really fun! See below for a few shots of the stage setup.

Horns, Endurance, and Rehearsals: As I’ve mentioned before, much of this project emphasized high and light playing, for which I used an older Paxman Model 40M double descant horn. My sincere thanks go out to Craig Pratt for the generous loan of this fine instrument! There were a few movements on which I used my regular Yamaha 671 double horn, but the majority of the playing on this album is on the Paxman. In my preparation for the recording sessions I focused on familiarizing myself as much as possible with the tendencies of the instrument, as well as getting creative with some different fingering choices.  Despite the intense schedule (on both days we did a 3-hour session in the morning, followed by a 2.5 hour break, and concluded with another 3-hour session in the afternoon, plus about another 30 minutes on a third day to wrap up some minor things), my endurance held up well. For those that might be interested, I believe this success can be attributed to a few different factors:

  • Balanced practice between double and descant horn It was tempting to cram in lots of practice on the high horn, especially in the days leading up to the recording sessions. However, I can speak from experience that too much intense practice on the High F side can tire out your chops quickly! I didn’t practice more than 25 minutes at a time on the descant horn without a break, and always made sure to end each day on the double horn with some relaxing low register playing.
  • Mindful Warm-Ups/Warm-Downs I crashed and burned once in graduate school by practicing too much on the day of a recording session, and vowed never to make that mistake again. On each day I warmed up very lightly for about 25 minutes, beginning in the mid-low range and gradually expanding outwards (but still avoiding extremes). At the end of each day I warmed down for a few minutes, then followed up with light massage and alternating cool and warm compresses on my cheeks and upper lip for 5-10 minutes after getting home. *The cool “compress” was a soft drink can from the refrigerator, and the warm compress was a washcloth soaked in warm water. I was tempted to try some ibuprofen, but not really being in the habit of taking that type of medication I decided to forgo it in favor of the compresses.
  • Lots of Great Rehearsals One other major factor in the success of this recording was being able to perform and rehearse frequently with my colleagues before starting the recording process. It seems like an obvious assertion, but is probably worth mentioning anyway. Having performed and rehearsed this repertoire frequently just prior to the sessions made things go very smoothly for the most part. Most of our discussions during the actual recording had to do with minor variations in interpretation, and adjusting to the modified stage setup. Because of the sight lines and lighting, I ended giving lots of cues for both piano and voice.

Final Thoughts: Recording a classical album can be a grueling process, and the bar for technical perfection and artistry is extremely high. High quality microphones and a great producer will quickly expose any and all weaknesses in your playing! I’ve always found it a humbling yet enjoyable experience, though distinctly different from the act of live performance. Though a major part of the work is now complete, the project is still a ways off from completion. Now comes the editing, followed by mastering and various other procedures involved in the production of a commercial recording. Be on the lookout for more updates in the coming months!

Post Hiatus Reflection and Introducing the Solo CD

Our son Nicholas is one month old today, so it seemed a fitting time to jot down some thoughts about the past few weeks, and to look ahead to what the summer has in store. Things have been a bit hectic around the house, to say the least, but I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. After the birth I took a few days off from the horn, and it was wonderful not to worry about work, horn playing, or anything else except taking care of our child. Although we haven’t exactly settled into a routine yet with the baby, I’ve been fortunate (thanks to my wife!) to be able to work in some practice time each day on the horn. Things were slow going for the first week or so after taking time off – 30 minutes here and there, then 40 minutes, and so on – but I’m pretty much back in shape. This is none too soon, as I have a recital coming up on Tuesday for a local church’s summer concert series. These summer concerts are great fun, and are free admission. For this recital two of my colleagues and I will be reprising our program from a few months back, which features music by Portuguese composer Eurico Carrapatoso.

In other horn-related news I’m very excited to announce the release of my solo CD Jan Koetsier: Music for Horn on the MSR Classics label. This project has been a tremendous learning experience, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to do it. If you’d like to read my previous articles about the recording process, you can do so at these links. Please excuse my less than creative titles for these posts!

If you are considering a project of your own I hope that you’ll find these candid and somewhat informal ramblings helpful, or at the very least entertaining. Although I had listened to the final .wav files for the master recording, it somehow seemed different (in a good way) to actually put the finished product into my computer’s optical drive and just sit back and listen. There is a brief sample on MSR’s website (see link above), and here are a few more short clips. I might also add that the CD not only sounds good, but looks fantastic thanks to cover art by Markus Bleichner and design and layout by Rob LaPorta and the folks at MSR.

Romanza, Op. 59, No. 2

If you like what you hear, I hope that you will consider purchasing the entire CD. For now, you can order it from the MSR website, but in the near future the album will also be available for digital download from Amazon.com and other distributors. Check back here for updates! As for the rest of the summer, I’ll be staying close to home for the most part, although I plan to keep posting here every week or two. Although I haven’t been writing much for the last few weeks, I did jot down some ideas for at least a dozen or so new articles, including reviews of recent books and recordings. For fans of my Kopprasch Project, I plan to get at least a few more etudes recorded this summer, hopefully completing the final ten studies by the end of this year. Looking towards the end of the summer – which will be here in the blink of an eye – I’ll be gearing up to perform at the 45th International Horn Symposium, July 29th-August 3rd at the University of Memphis. As always, this year’s symposium promises to be an extravaganza of all things horn. If you are anywhere near Memphis, TN (or even if you’re not), you won’t want to miss it!

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