02020-07-31 | Computer, Guitar, Performance | 6 comments

The guitar is an instrument that is mercurial enough, without having to struggle with open source software that “forgets” settings.

I remember reading a blogpost years ago where someone had asked Paco de Lucia about playing guitar. The post was taken down later, perhaps because it wasn’t an authorized interview, perhaps because of the language Paco used, not knowing this would be published. I will always remember it though because it was true. Here is part of it:

I could not live without the guitar, but at the same time this is no way of life, because it is such a difficult instrument, so ungrateful; you dedicate your whole life to it, hours and days, and suddenly you come up on stage, and that day you feel in perfect shape for playing, and still you don’t hit one single string right, and you cannot figure out why… it depends on so many things, on how long your fingernails are… I am talking about tenths of millimeters, and you ask yourself. What is going on? Where am I failing? And it could be a badly polished nail…

Well, yesterday I was looking forward to perform and my nails seemed to be in good shape. At 7:30pm the slideshow ended and I started playing. A couple of minutes later I was informed that no sound was being transmitted. I stopped and put my guitar down. Computers and software are clearly as mercurial as guitars are.

The open source streaming software’s meter showed that sound arrived at the computer, but somehow it didn’t make it out to the upstream. Instead of trying to search for the problem I quickly created a new sound source for the broadcast. It seemed to solve the issue and I started playing again. In my hurry I forgot, however, to add the new sound source to the other two cameras and when subsequently switching to either of the two additional USB cams the sound dropped out. We had to use one basic camera for the entire broadcast.

I work hard to make my performances look and sound as professional as possible. Touring with Luna Negra I know that the band sounds great and that our engineer Stephen Coler is doing an excellent job of translating that sound to every kind of venue. So it was very frustrating to stumble yesterday. When I was younger my temper was such that I surely would have destroyed a few things, that’s how upset I was…

I am going to look into streaming software alternatives after next Tuesday’s performance. Yesterday afternoon I spent an hour trying to get the software to “see” the USB cameras I was plugging in. To be fair it could have been a mercurial USB port on my laptop or something with the USB hub I have to use because streaming requires three ports and my laptop has only two. After plugging and unplugging different configurations, and restarting the computer multiple times, it suddenly started working.

I still believe in streaming over making videos because there is something about live performances that just feels right to me. It’s a unique challenge and when it all comes together it is magical. I am hoping Tuesday will be magical.


  1. Shin

    We saw and felt your frustration in dealing with the sound issue last night. You pulled it through calmly without throwing a tantrum (???) At the end, you gave us a Gift of beautiful and magical performance. I enjoyed it very much. Thank you.

  2. john

    It was no big deal, we very much enjoyed the performance. The reward of a live performance is well worth the risk of an occasional glitch. Looking forward to the next one.

    • john

      next one = performance

  3. JaneParhamKatz

    Dear Ottmar, I know there is no making you feel better about your sound blooper last night. But you were so poised and confident in handling the situation, which in truth was only a few-minute interruption. It’s fun to witness something unexpected sometimes, and I think it was your best streaming concert so far. The magic is you – YOU WERE ABSOLUTELY GREAT! I loved your gentle rendition of Barcelona Nights. And Surrender 2 Love was delicious!

    (Naturally, I was pleased to hear your voice for one second!)

    Interesting you mentioned your nails. I have a wonderful nail file plus buffers I’ve been thinking of sending you. I think you’d like it. Would you email me your best mailing address.

  4. Denise

    I thought that the heavy rains would leave me without a signal to watch your performance yesterday, but luckily I was able to enjoy it. I have found the magic in each of your performances, You always look bright and serene. Sorry for the sound problem but you were able to fix it and while you were trying to fix it, I read some messages on the chatroom sending you support, lots of love, admiration and gratitude. You have the best fans in the world, I include myself. Surrender to love sounded so sweet. Someone wrote that it was their wedding song, that was very nice and while you drank some wine you gave us a beautiful smile. But I think in the previous presentation you gave us more smiles and that was very nice, you have a beautiful garden and your cacti are so tall and beautiful. I loved them!. I think I will look for some cacti for my garden they look amazingly beautiful. Your music is always magical to me. Sorry if I did not write correctly. I send you my love and my gratitude. Thank you

  5. Luz

    Mercurial sounds like another title for a song–or not?! ;-) The performance after the mishap was top notch nonetheless! Hoping I can take a LONG extended lunch break on 11/4!


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