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Thread: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

  1. #1

    Default Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    I submit for your perusal, critiques, and perhaps even enjoyment, what I have so far in my 2020 new year’s resolution: to record the complete Bach Cello Suites on mandolin, publishing each next movement roughly every week. I am not aiming for perfect recordings: I damaged my left hand/arm overpracticing many years ago, and I am still slowly working back into fitness. But, I hope to inspire others to dare, and even bring a little light into this virus-plagued world while I get back to the level I hope to play at. Thanks for listening! -Phil

    Today’s (well, I guess it’s now yesterday’s... I need to get to bed) recording (Suite 3, Mvt 3): https://youtu.be/irLxvwuggxo

    Complete playlist so far: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...MOhvQrgw1ggdpf

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    That Courante was really nicely done! The tone of your instrument is very clear. I'm working on this same suite but have a long way to go.

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  5. #3

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Wonderful project you have going. Nice playing. Keep up the momentum. I appreciate all the effort that you have put into your project.
    Maybe you could offer what you are getting out of this musical journey?

  6. #4

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    New Bach up! I like Sarabandes. Sorry for the delay getting this recorded and posted. Life happens (and I'm in no rush to get the the Fourth Suite's Prelude... knuckle buster, that!) Enjoy!


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  8. #5

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry Canada View Post
    Wonderful project you have going. Nice playing. Keep up the momentum. I appreciate all the effort that you have put into your project.
    Maybe you could offer what you are getting out of this musical journey?
    Just trying to get better again at the mandolin after my long injury-induced hiatus, trying to practice stuff other than Thile music, sharing music I've loved for decades, and trying to inspire others to do it even better!

  9. #6

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Suite 3 Bourrée is done! Hopefully the Gigue will get done this Saturday. Enjoy!


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  11. #7

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    I'm now halfway done with my New Year's Resolution! Things get super hard next movement though. There may be a couple weeks before I record. Enjoy!


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  13. #8
    Registered User Erin M's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Beautiful!

    I've tried reading through parts of Suites I and II (G Maj and D min) just for fun. I'm way too new to mandolin to be attempting such challenging repertoire, so my attempt sounded pretty awful But you've given me something to aspire to. I hope to one day at least come close to being able to play these as well as you. Thank you.
    "Flow, river flow. Let your waters wash down, take me from this road, to some other town." - Roger McGuinn

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  15. #9
    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Great stuff, Phil.

    You guys might be interested in my recording of the whole suite...with a slight difference: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...in-5ths-tuning

  16. #10

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Great stuff, Phil.

    You guys might be interested in my recording of the whole suite...with a slight difference: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...in-5ths-tuning
    Nice! Thanks for sharing: really well done!

    I did a little of the same thing when I recorded the 2nd Cello Suite: I tuned the mandolin down a *half* step. Simple A minor just seemed so bright, especially compared to the original D minor, and I think while there were a couple side effects (strings/notes bend much easier at lower tension like that), going down to Ab minor turned out pretty good.

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...ALsb-SmvliPfLf

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  18. #11
    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Definitely better at the lower pitch, I think. Well done.

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  20. #12

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    I'm working on the 2 Gavottes from Suite 5. You will probably get there by the time I finish. Bach wrote my favorite music when he composed those Cello Suites.

  21. #13

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Nicely done, Phil! I've been working on several of the Bach cello pieces and sonatas for the past four or five years. Not the easiest stuff to pull off, but you do it with ease. I'm very impressed.

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  23. #14

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites



    Yes, I crashed, and kind of right at the climax too.

    This movement... this movement... This was hard for me.

    I've been practicing it for a solid month now, and it's only the second movement so far I've had to have the music out for. I wasn't able to memorize it like I normally do. It beat me in another way, too: I wasn't able to make work a fingering technique I tried for a couple weeks which held the first note of each measure through the entire measure. It would have sounded great, but it was a few steps too far past my ability at the moment. The song pushed my left hand and forearm muscles past the limit again, forcing a few multi-day breaks completely off the instrument, with lots of massaging and cold treatments involved.

    This has been a frustrating month for me, and I showed up in front of the microphone today just determined to lay down my best effort. After several false starts (some a couple minutes long), I finally finished a take where I wouldn't have regretted every line. There are a bunch of moments in here I'm proud of, so I'll plant my flag there. Checkpoint reached! Onward we go!

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  25. #15

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites



    I really liked practicing this movement. I frequently like to go back to basics, working on fundamentals like placing my fingers on the fretboard, cleaning up my pick strokes, and turning scales into music. This movement played right into all those desires. Besides having a couple tricky parts that took a bit more practice, I took an extra week to record this because playing this set of notes just felt so nice. By the time I got to this take, I was almost in Glenn Gould mode, practically singing along with the music as I played it. I just wish the 98% of the song that I actually loved the result of would smooth over the little bobble at the end!

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  27. #16

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    I felt like I went through a big growing phase practicing for this song. Sort of like computer processor manufacturers go through a tick-tock innovation process, I had a bit of a "tick" this song: my technique is actually a bit different, though the benefits aren't really apparent yet. I finally learned (or maybe re-learned) the importance of a proper left-hand anchor point (causing me to now want to reshape and resize the neck of my instrument), and I'm getting more comfortable with the new picks I got a month or so ago which led to a paradigm change in my right-hand technique. Learning advances, another movement is recorded and dropped, and onward we go!


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  29. #17

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    This is one of the movements where a mandolin can actually outperform a cello. There are several places where the melody note is played, followed a beat later by all the other harmonies of the chord. A mandolin can continue sustaining (as much as a plectrum instrument can sustain) the melody note while playing the other two notes, unlike a cello which would have to stop bowing the melody note to play the other two notes. Mwaahaha.

    I was starting to worry I wouldn't be able to put all the pieces together at the same time in today's recording. Every recording day for me is as if, if one could graph it, a couple simultaneous curves are progressively plotting. One curve, the one plotting how well I know the song and can remember the right notes in time, generally gets better as I do take after take. But there is another curve to contend with: the more I play, the more tired my hand and fingers get, and the less I'm actually able to execute the notes I know I'm supposed to play. Ideally, those curves intersect above some level of "acceptable listen-ability," so that the take I end up posting isn't too horribly annoying to listen to. Today, with all the sustained chords, my "tiredness" curve was going in a bad way quickly, and I still kept blanking on various parts of the song. Fortunately, probably about 15 minutes before my hand would have become practically useless, I had a take where I missed only two notes toward the end which I would have been content to keep. Then, just for the lulz, I went for one more take after that, and though there was just a hint more buzzing, the notes and phrasing all ended up almost perfect. Win! I hope you enjoy this nice tranquil slow movement!


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  31. #18

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    I've always heard this movement as "The Official Start of the Second Half of Bach's Cello Suites." Obviously, by movement count, it's several movements past the midway point, but to me the character of the music from this movement forward is a different maturity level from what's before. It's as if Bach had the 5th and 6th suites already in mind, sort of his ultimate creations for solo cello in minor and major keys, and this movement is sort of a spin-up for those masterpieces.

    Technically, this is all about shifting and even pick strokes. I do neither perfectly, but I certainly learned a lot over the last week while I practiced it. I hope this recording, just like all the rest of this series, gets taken as a dare by other mandolinists (and musicians in general) to progress past what I've done and to do it even better. Enjoy!


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  33. #19

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    I've always liked this movement, and have decided that it is the most jig-like Gigue in the Cello Suites. Had issues with my left hand cramping up during recording tonight, and had trouble making my brain keep up with the notes, but was able to get through by focusing on producing every note with the pick (not the left hand), and it got done. Thus is the Fourth Suite complete! Enjoy!


  34. #20
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    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Phil, What a treat! Many thanks. - Doug

  35. #21
    Registered User BoxCarJoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    That was great. Well done.
    I'm struggling with this one now.
    The concentration required is awesome.

  36. #22

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Suite 5 has begun!

    It seems like a lot of teenagers bond strongly with music during the years transitioning from childhood to adult, whether they latch onto an artist or an album or a song or a genre. This song, this particular movement, was that song for me. My family grew to hate it because I would play it on repeat for hours, month after month, for years. This song means a lot to me.

    I broke rules on this song. The first one was that I didn't drop the pitch of my high string a step, as is called for in the purest transcriptions (i.e. I should have been tuned G-D-A-D instead of standard G-D-A-E.) I've done that tuning before on octave mandolin (listen to my recording of Sheebeg and Sheemore), but it makes a mandolin significantly more twangy and causes the intonation bend significantly with just normal finger pressure. Also, it would take away any reflex of going to hit a note from regular relative pitch instinct during the middle of the song when mental focus frequently drifts momentarily.

    The other rule I broke was that of the truth of "concert A." Normally, the A string is tuned to a standard 440.0 Hz. (Europeans tend to go a bit sharper, up to A = 442.0 Hz.) Since I'm already playing this song a fifth higher than it was written, in G minor instead of C minor, and on a soprano-voiced instrument to boot, I wanted some way to make the song sound just a little darker. In Suite 2, I did this by tuning down a full half-step. This song didn't require quite so much, but I still retuned down based off A = 435.0 Hz, just enough to darken down the intonation a bit. Sorry if you're trying to play along... the intonation is in the cracks on purpose.

    This song is long, at seven and a half minutes, over a full minute longer than the second longest song, the Suite 2 Prelude. In the title part of the description, I call it the "Prelude [and Fugue]" because it really is practically two different songs tied together, like Bach's super-famous organ piece "Toccata and Fugue," and the second half is Bach ingeniously writing music that resembles a Fugue (music with interleaving variations of a motif) even though it's being played on an instrument that can really only play one note at a time (exceptions apply). It's a spectacular piece, and I'm sorry to have included any mistakes at all, but I really wanted to have this be a single take. Since this is the first time in my life I've ever attempted to learn/memorize/play/record this song, I consider it a good first effort. Now I have a bit of a foundation to actually get proficiency on the song over the next couple years. Enjoy!


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  38. #23

    Default Re: Recording through the Bach Cello Suites

    Another movement complete. I was just trying to enjoy the sound of my mandolin on this one. Trills were meh, and I left four notes out, but I'll leave it to the listener to find out which ones. Onward!


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