The Carolingian Guild of
Musicians and Jongleurs

Concerning Alison's Recordings For Practicing

Lady Alison Winter sometimes makes recordings of the music to songs the Quire is working on, to expand her ability to practice the songs. When we can manage it, these recordings are published here on the Jongleurs' Guild website so others can also take advantage of them. This is her general explanation about these recordings:

Some time back I got interested in using a multitrack digital recorder to produce audio files of vocal part music, to aid in learning parts and for singing along with for practice, vocal exercise, and enjoyment outside of rehearsals. There are much simpler ways to produce usable recordings for such purposes, especially ones suitable for listening to as you read the music -- but I was particularly interested in recordings to sing with in the car -- where I can't look at the music at all -- including learning words, and in having a recording of my part where I can really follow my own part, yet can also hear what the other parts are doing around it. Also, though the process of making these recordings is pretty cumbersome, I gain the benefit of getting practice on various of my instruments and becoming very familiar with the song in the process. I can record all the voice parts (each on two or more different sounding instruments), record the words as well, and mix and match to produce various combinations. Deciding what is useful to record and combine, improving my playing, and learning how to use the equipment I have, are all still works in progress. What I actually did for each song varies, but currently I generally consider these forms useful:

  1. A quartet of similar instruments, to hear how the piece sounds all together, sometimes with all the lines on plucked strings (I call that 'plink' in the file names), and sometimes all on bowed strings.
  2. A mixed quartet, with no two lines (or at least, no two adjacent lines) played on the same instrument -- e.g. top line on treble viol, 2nd line on recorder, 3rd on guitar, 4th line on cello -- gives an idea how the 4 parts sound together, while people able to focus in on the different types of instrument sound can follow individual lines in the quartet.
  3. Separate recordings of each of the 4 lines on a bowed string instrument, against the other 3 lines plucked, for clearly distinguishing your line while having a hint of what the other parts are doing.
  4. The reverse of #3 - each line plucked against the other 3 in full sound, for singing your part with 'music minus one' but with a little help.
  5. The same as #3, but with a voice-over added speaking the words in rhythm with the notes. Note that I do not sustain the vowels for the length they are supposed to be held, as I hate how that sounds and it would obscure the pitch. The spoken words are for placement and pronunciation; the played instrument indicates how long to hold the notes.
    Disclaimer: there may be errors in pronunciation! Don't get too attached to my pronunciations before they're approved by the director.

For some songs, there are additional sound files of various pairs of lines together. This can be especially useful if, for example, the alto and tenor lines cross each other a lot, or someone who often sings soprano is singing alto and needs practice at not going to the highest note she hears.

What I recommend is to start with the recording that has your line bowed against the others plucked, where -- if I got the balance at all right -- you can follow yours easily. You will also learn from the intro which of the notes in the starting chord is yours. After you're secure on singing your line and on finding your starting pitch from the chord notes, you might want to sing your line along with the recording in which your line is plucked and everything else is bowed. If you get lost, you may be able to hear your line well enough to get some assistance from it, but it's almost missing, and so left for you alone to fill it in. If you have trouble with that, go back to the basic recording of your line. If you can sing your line with the recording in which it is the only one plucked and all the others are bowed, you may want to try singing your line against single other lines. If you try that and have difficulty, A) go back to work some more with the recording of just your line, and/or B) if there are recordings of your line paired with single other lines, work with those before trying your line against another without your line being prominent in the recording.

About the intros

Every time I recorded a line on any instrument, I played the notes of the starting chord as an arpeggio, then the starting note for that particular line, all in some sort of rhythm -- so that once you get the hang of how the intro goes, you can find your starting pitch and take a breath and start right with the music on the actual song. Once the 4 lines are put together, of course, the starting notes for all the lines are all there in a chord and yours is not distinguishable from the rest; you need to learn to get your line's starting note from the recording in which your line is the only one on a sustaining instrument and the rest are all plucked.

About the file names

For my use, I added tags to these files so that on an MP3 player you can browse for them in different ways. I assigned an album name that is the song name, while the individual file names include the song name (usually abbreviated), a number to help them sort into some order, and an attempt to include a description of the mix. I also added a genre name that refers to the event, or the season for which the songs were being prepared, e.g. SCASept2009, or Pennsic40, or QuireJan2012. I think none of this is very useful for playing on a computer or making a CD, but it can be very useful for browsing on an MP3 player. Anyone who receives or downloads these files is encouraged to edit the names if they wish them to sort differently in their folders.

Another disclaimer: I don't pretend that my instrument playing is virtuosic! I generally keep trying and practicing until I get something where the pitch and timing are basically correct. I don't achieve perfection, and the tempo may be slow. I am actually proud of myself for keeping the goal in mind, and getting something useful completed rather than striving for perfection and never completing anything. I trust that people will understand this.

Yet another disclaimer: In performance, the director may do things differently from what I did in the recording, especially with respect to tempo, tempo variations during the song, holds, lengths of notes at cadences, extra time between phrases, or whatever. I did what seems right to me, but the director may have another opinion.

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Last modified by Eowyn, 18 January, AS XXXXVI (2012 C.E.).