Day 8: tinkling the ivories

Any day that I see Tom Leighton is a good day.  It happens rarely – only when I’m recording, usually, so it’s been 4 years since I last enjoyed his company.  Tom is the kind of person who can light up a sunny day. He’s positive, fun, and oh, so capable. There’s info on him at  We had him in today to play piano, keyboards (not the same thing) and accordion (no accordion  jokes, please – I’ve heard ’em all!). It was an intense day for everyone. 

He played 12 tracks on 10 songs – that means, apart from the bass player Russ who is on almost all of them, that Tom knows the album as well as anyone except Paul and me.  He mostly played on a standup piano that Paul tells me used to be owned by Sylvia Tyson.  It sounds lovely.

It’s time to talk a bit about the “charts” that we use to record.  The first two days last week, you recall that I spoke about Paul and me fine tuning the songs, then charting them.  Usually  that means writing down the structure and chords, with additional rhythmic bits that we may have decided on in certain parts.  The bass player, drummer, guitarists (me and Paul), etc all use those to record, and they notate them with special things they need to do in their own shorthand.  When the string players come in, they have special charts that look like proper music sheets.  The parts are written out with all the notes we wish them to play.  Sometimes we change them, but not often – Paul is very good at writing string charts.  Instead of writing the whole song, though, he puts blank bars in with the number of bars we wish them to not play – in orchestras, they are used to counting the bars of the song until they come in.  And all the bars are numbered.  So instead of saying “I’ll come in at the second verse”, they say things like “Punch me in at bar 117”.  Today, Paul said to Tom “Bar 54, where are you?”  Who says we don’t have fun in the studio???

Before lunch, Tom played piano on 3 songs and accordion on 1.   Remember the Sewing Machine, that Steafan played on the pipes yesterday? Tom got to play both piano and accordion on that song.  It’s a huge bit of reading he had to do, and he did it beautifully – it zips by so quickly!

After lunch, we made Tom work through 4 piano songs, 3 accordion songs (yes, Jack, including Duncan’s Cove!), and 2 keyboard/synthesizer songs.  What a prodigious output!  And all very different feels.  He did two wonderful spooky synthesizer tracks to “The Oak Leaf” (the slow Celtic ballad) – it sounds like there is a choir behind me!

We all deserved a glass of wine after the day was over.  Paul, of course, was being both producer and engineer again, and it was intense for him too.  It’s so difficult to maintain concentration over so many hours, to continue to balance the time and the performance, as well as making sure the recording is technically clean and correct. Especially when he had a delayed birthday celebration with his family last night!

I have one more day before I have to produce something useful: Friday is vocal day, and my goal is to break my own record of 11 final vocals in a day. I’m going to try to sing the whole CD (14 songs) in one session!  Tomorrow we have Anne Lindsay (fiddle) coming in the morning, and Bob De Angelis (clarinet and saxophone) in the afternoon.  That’s all the additions, not counting my singing parts plus harmonies (Monday). 

I’m still embroidering up a storm while listening.  Here is how it looks as of today:

It's starting to fill in!

All the motifs I’m stitching make reference to the songs we’re recording.  Once the CD is out, I think I’ll have to have a contest to see if anyone can identify them all!

One Response to “Day 8: tinkling the ivories”

  1. Peggy Freeman Says:

    Oh, yes. That quilt is coming together well just like your CD is coming together well. I think we’ll all have a new appreciation for what goes into something we enjoy listening to, singing along with, and tunes we have popping out of our heads from time to time. I could name several that have come out of my head in just the past couple of weeks. Guess you all are on my mind! Know you’ll go back home with a good (and tired) feeling.

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