I’d like to be able to tell you that recording my third solo harp album was glamorous and fulfilling; that it was challenging, but exciting. That every morning for a week I waltzed into the recording studio prepared and inspired to have my artistic genius captured. It wasn’t quite like that.
In college I had a fascination with the ‘glamour’ of the hard work involved in becoming good at something. So many movies contain montage scenes where our hero or heroine is forced (or motivated) to become really good at their craft. They begin to hone their skills. The music starts, and we watch clip after clip of them practicing, or sparring, or studying, or dancing; failing and then trying again until they succeed. Mulan, Karate Kid, Take the Lead, Footloose, Billy Elliot, Dirty Dancing, Remember the Titans, Chariots of Fire, Rocky, The Incredibles, and so many more.
Movies contain these great inspirational scenes. While pursuing my music degree I sometimes used this idea to motivate myself in my sound-proof underground practice room. I would set my pedals to E flat minor, play my scales and arpeggios, and pretend that I was in a movie.
Many people ask what recording a cd is like. The succinct response? I can’t think of one. I’ll start with the basics. I chose my studio, Wild Sound Recording Studio, because they had been highly recommended to me and I had listened to another harp cd that they recorded for a friend of mine. I knew I could trust them to make my harp sound rich and capture a full sound.
I was right! Months ago, I sang in a choir concert at my church. My director had asked if they could play my recording for the prelude, and I was happy to agree, as I’m trying to market it as much as possible. But I had forgotten by the evening of the concert and as I walked into the church I was shocked by the sound of a harp in the sanctuary. “Who’s playing harp tonight?” I wondered, feeling slightly surprised that they hadn’t asked me to play. Moments later I realized my mistake, and was impressed anew with my sound engineer, Steve. My cd, played on the massive church speakers, sounded so much like a real harp that I couldn’t tell the difference. (Though the fact that I didn’t recognize my own tracks should perhaps worry me.)
If any part of the recording process was glamorous, it was the studio itself. With hardwood floors backdrop, classy lighting and impressive-looking equipment, everything about it was beautiful.
Each morning over the course of about six days, my dad helped me get my harp out the steps of my house, into the car, out of the car, into the studio. I warmed up while the harp adjusted to the studio, and then I tuned, REALLY carefully. (No, I still don’t wish I played the flute.)
Finally, we were ready to record. My dad would retreat beyond three thick doors to listen in the other room with Steve and his giant instrument panel and after a few moments I would hear a disembodied voice “Okay, we’re ready whenever you want to start.”
And I would take a deep breath and start. Sometimes I would make it through my entire piece and think “That was the one!” And sometimes I would stop after a few measures with a groan. And Steve’s voice would respond, “Just a moment. Okay, go ahead.” And I’d start again.
Gradually, carefully, I worked through my songs. I ended each day sitting on the big leather couch listening to the day’s takes, deciding which ones were perfect, which parts needed to be edited together with which other parts, and if there were any bits that needed rerecording. It was amazing to watch Steve work – he would splice sections together and play them back for us and we wouldn’t have any clue where he had edited it.
I can’t honestly say it was fun. Nor did I have the benefit of a movie soundtrack to lend glamour to those mornings. But it was satisfying to put each piece behind me, knowing that I had played it the way I wanted to play it, and arranged it to convey what I wanted to convey.
Read An Artistic Process, a humorous look the creation of my Christmas cd, Light so Brilliant.
Stephanie Claussen has recorded multiple solo harp albums. Listen to music snippets of Soirée à Montpellier, and consider supporting her music by making a purchase!