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Vicki Swan plays smallpipes, Border pipes, Flute and Bhodran in the Essex based band “Muckle Flugga” who have just released their debut CD “Celtic Labyrinth”.

Going into a recording studio ought to be easy, “After all,” (I try and persuade myself)

“It’s nothing that I haven’t done 20 million times before.”

No matter how convincingly, or how many times I say this little mantra to myself, deep down in the bottom of my heart I know that it wont work. Most people say to me “Oh recording, that must be so much easier than performing live, if you make a mistake you can always just do it again.” What most people don’t realise is that you spend weeks learning the tunes and yes, you can record if the worst comes to the worst, but if you can’t play it with absolute ease first time every time, then in front of a microphone the Gods are not going to let you perform a piece gremlin free.....ever!

The root of the problem, I suspect, is not the playing of the tune without mistakes, but the fear of making mistakes. You play through the tune the first time effortlessly. On the repeat you realise you are holding your breath. Suddenly your heart starts pounding and before you know it you are onto the second tune. Now you know you are past the point of no return. If you make a mistake now you know that you'll only have to get through the first tune again, followed by the agony of playing the second tune.....again. Put under this much pressure the brain starts to wander off in directions of its own. “I’ve never noticed that grace note there before!” No!! Pull yourself together, concentrate. You wonder, “How many mistakes can I make until I really can’t face going on, oops, a little bit of improvising here, a grace note missed there, that’s OK no one will notice that....” By the time this has gone through your head you're lost, was that the bit with the G strike or the bit where you substitute a G D E? Aaaggghhh, too late, you’ve stopped, the rest of the band glare at you, the whole set will have to be redone.

Recently in a recording studio I knew I couldn’t play one of the tunes in a set. In the end, after a couple of botched attempts, I refused to play it and just cut it out altogether. This worked really well except that I forgot to tell the printers and that fateful tune is forever                 engraved on the inlay.

The only time when a piece went down easily was when the producer threatened to create a didgeridoo track to make up more time. Then I managed to lay down a whole pipe set (that I wasn’t incredibly at ease with) in one very slick take. Tears came to my eyes; relief that I wouldn’t have to play the darn thing again!!!