In the Studio – On Native American-style Flutes and Electric Guitars

Project: “QueridaQuerida - Bill Leyden (Una Persona Amada)

Trusting the Muse

There is a scene in the re-imagined “Battlestar Gallactica”  series (2004 – 2009)  in which the Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace character (played by Katee Sackhoff)  sits at a piano bench with a disheveled  composer as she spars with him about the worth of an emerging composition.  The man at the piano turns to it and bolsters himself by saying something like,  ‘trust that the music will come.’

I think that I feel something similar at the end of every project as I step up to the ‘void’ in an attempt to perceive whether anything musical appears.  I don’t worry anymore — I just trust that it will.

I can’t mention Battlestar Gallactica without paying respect to the music of Bear McCreary, whose score haunts me (in a good way).  Bear’s ‘cues’ make a great series superb, and vocalist Raya Yarbrough is breathtaking as she sings in what may be Sanskrit.

Remembering Monte Zucker … Again.


Anyway, as I return to the studio for another album that features the Native American-style flute with some orchestrated accompaniment, I find myself thinking again of my late photographic mentor,  Monte Zucker.  I am not alone in this pass-time.  Most of the people who met Monte mention him as often as possible.  I am just one of the more recent devotees.  Great photographers like Clay Blackmore, Hanson Fong, Robert Lino, Joe Bruch and Michele Gauger have much more time-in-grade in their affection for Monte.

One of the highlights of the second half of my life was studying location photography with Monte in the Yucatan.  I don’t think that in the hours outside the photographic intensive that we ever talked about photography.  We would joke and chat about love and relationships and the things that we found important at the time.

Finding a Distant Sweetness

So, as I remember Monte with affection, the music turns sweet and perhaps a little exotic.  In Scottsdale (the last time I saw him), he was soon about to learn that he was dying of pancreatic cancer.  I thought something was wrong – he seemed tired and swollen.  But all he could talk about was being in love!  And love runs through the tracks of this album.

The album art for “Querida” is an image that I made in the Yucatan with Monte and my friend and photographic master, Michele Gauger:

“Querida” Album Art

Embracing Instruments Formerly-used

Hejaz Scale Flute

Like many people who play the Native American-style flute (or guitars for that matter), I have inadvertently become a sort of collector of the instruments. After obtaining a number of must-have items, we look for something perhaps more exotic or unique.

When it comes to flutes, if I want exotic, I turn to Russ Venable.  In this album, for the track “Ana Bahibbik,” I used one of his maple flutes tuned to a Mid-Eastern, or Freygish scale.  I may be altering reality as I look to the Mid-East through decidedly Western eyes, but to me the track reminds me of warm nights, urgent love and belly dancers. The result was a lot of fun to produce:

Adding the Electric Guitar

Growing up, my friends and I could think of nothing more important than owning a Gibson ES-335 guitar.  It wasn’t quite as cool as Chuck Berry’s ES-345 stereo guitar, but it was just as unapproachable.  We scoured the pawn shops in Los Angeles on the improbable chance of finding one, but in the end would have to settle for something less dear.

Gibson ES-335

Gibson ES-335

When I was older and more flush, I got my ES-335 and loved it for a few years, but I found that by that time, my guitar-playing style was served well by a Fender Stratocaster and later, the Fender Telecaster.  I wasn’t particularly looking for country twang, but a chain of events including  befriending a guitar virtuoso from Tennessee and filling-in on a country music bandstand for a vacationing Oklahoman lead guitarist sent me down a road that led to Fender if not more.

I haven’t guitar played steadily for years — a psychological disorder that I acquired after dodging beer bottles thrown at the stage and being jumped in the parking lot after several gigs manifested itself in an aversion to holding the instrument for more than a few minutes.  It is probably the reason that I gravitated so quickly to the Native American-style flute for my musical outlet.  Flute aficionados in my experience tend to be a bit more docile than country music fans.   But those quizzical memories are fading now, so this week, I went over to a friend’s who was keeping an American Fender Nashville B-Bender guitar for me to retrieve it and to see if I could still make it ‘sing.’

I used this pretty baby for the album on the track, “Querida.”   For the track, I ran the guitar through a Roland preamp on a very clean setting.  I was surprised how tasty the guitar sounded — it needed very little post-processing and appears on the track with a little echo and reverb, but little else in the way of signal conditioning.  The guitar can also be heard as I make a few rhythm flourishes after the w_1132 bbendersolo.  On the track, an F# Native American-style flute made by Colyn Petersen has a dialog with the ‘Tele.’

All-in-all, the “Querida” album, along with the last (“In Another World”) have been made during a period of rest and relaxation.  The music to me presents itself with more hope mixed in with longing than an album such as “Seeking Balance,” which is filled with plaintive flute calls that ask musical ‘questions’ without waiting for or expecting the answers.

I plan to release “Querida” on February 14, 2013.

Track Notes:

1. Cezannesque – Fm Black Walnut Flute by JP Gomez, Vocal by Neysa (with special thanks).

2. Princessa – Low Dm Lacewood Flute by Geoffrey Ellis.

3. Drift Away –  “Deep Blue C” Diatonic Scale Flute by Steven DeRuby, Low Dm Flute by JP Gomez.

4. Opaline – Fm Black Walnut Flute by JP Gomez.

5. Rondo – Gm Blue Ponderosa Pine Flute by JP Gomez.

6. Cisne – Low D Flute by JP Gomez.

7. La Huera – “Deep Blue C” Flute by Steven DeRuby

8. Ana Bahibbik – E Mid-East Scale Flute by Russ Venable.

9. Cantinela -“Deep Blue C” Flute by Steven DeRuby.

10. Ruby’s Love – F# Babinga Flute by John Stillwell.

11. Twilight in Tulum – Generic Pan Flute, “Deep Blue C” Flute by Steven DeRuby, Conch Shell by Peruvian Shaman, Don Francisco.

12. Cita – F# Yellow Cedar Flute by Colyn Petersen.

13. Querida – F#m Yellow Cedar Flute by Colyn Petersen.  Fender Nashville B-Bender Telecaster Guitar.  Vocals, Bill Leyden.

"Querida" Track List

“Querida” Track List

Albums by Bill Leyden

Albums by Bill Leyden


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