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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Howe


Updated: Apr 6, 2023

Hi folks...

At the moment I'm working on the Shop part of the site, altering the titles in the gallery so that you can see the orchestrations of the pieces when you first look at the page. And I'm thinking about putting more Christmas carols on the site. The UK school October half term is a good bench mark I think. They should be on by then. I hope...

The thing is though, it takes an absolute age to create a new piece and put it up on the site. I write the music, create all the parts and then record it. The recording is the thing that takes the most time. But it's very important to me to do this because when I first had the idea for this site I decided that one of the big things would be that I would record all the music myself. (Sounded like a good idea at the time!) I wanted to use live strings, played almost entirely by me. I didn't want to use the electronic string sounds that come from composing apps like Sibelius. I wanted to create recordings that illustrated to the best of my ability my vision for the pieces so that those listening could see exactly how I imagined the pieces to be. Of course you don't have to create a performance of a piece that is identical to a recording. It's a matter of interpretation and that's important. But I thought it might be inspiring to see how I imagined these pieces would work.

I played violin and viola on all the tracks. I did play most of the cello parts myself but I recorded Mark Broadhead, a friend of mine, playing his cello on a number of tracks. I was so grateful to him for doing that for me because I'm not a cellist. I am practising and working on my cello playing, so I hope to be able to play on more difficult tracks soon, but at the start I could barely play a single note in tune!

My issue was of course that although I've played on lots of recordings before, I've never created a recording myself. My 15 year old genius son gave me some software and he had to show me, entirely from scratch, how to do it. It was a very steep learning curve I can tell you, and it still is. I had to pay a lot for a load of recording equipment. The recording software itself is difficult to master, and then there are balance issues, intonation issues, lagging issues...all kinds of nasty issues to deal with. But somehow I've muddled through and I think I've kind of pulled it off. It's interesting to see how the recordings have changed. The first ones sound very different from the later ones, which sound much more sophisticated. But I'm not about to go back and record them again. I'm proud of my first efforts because I know how I struggled. It was so difficult. I nearly gave up on many occasions. But I have to thank my son Alex because he kept me going, helped me with every aspect of it, and without him I couldn't have done it at all. He's an absolute star.

I also knew that if I recorded the music then I would have ready made backing tracks. The piano parts you hear were generated in the recording software Ableton. I wrote the music on Sibelius and sent the piano parts to Ableton as midi tracks and then managed to turn them into decent piano parts. I did have a go playing the piano parts into the software on a midi keyboard. Nightmare!!! It was impossible to play in time on the ancient midi keyboard I use. I could maybe have tried to record the actual piano but I don't really have the right equipment. Maybe in the future I can go down that road, maybe I will be able to buy an electronic piano with midi. But not yet. So these are the piano parts you hear as the backing tracks. I think the sound is pretty good. Certainly not as good as a real piano but maybe I'll get there sometime in the future!


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