On July 20th, 2014, my girlfriend, Bobo, and I hired a large trucked and packed up most of my recording studio, Crash Symphony Productions (www.crashsymphony.com.au). We headed to Kendall, in far northern NSW, Australia, to embark on a weeklong album recording for Australian Piano player and composer, Fiona Joy. This was the beginning of a great journey that would eventually take us both to a Wyndham Hill recording studio, in Vermont, USA, to record at Imaginary Road Studios with Producers, Tom Eaton and Will Ackerman.
About the Piano
Prior to this album Fiona had recorded many albums with the team at Imaginary Road recording studio. However, this was the first time that the Americans had allowed anyone outside of their country, and their recording studio, to record the piano for them. After all, they are considered the best in the world at recording grand piano. So why did they allow it on this occasion? Well, the piano that we were recording was no ordinary piano. It was a 97 key Huon Pine concert grand piano made by Australia piano maker Wayne Stuart. Stuart & Sons pianos are huge and they sound unique when compared to other more traditional pianos. They have an extended range. This particular piano, which was housed in Fiona’s house in Kendall (to be turned into a recording studio), was a enormous 97 keys. Normal pianos have a range of 88 keys. The piano extends down to a low F and up to a higher F. This gives composers, like Fiona Joy, more places to explore when composing their pieces. Further to the interesting nature of the recording was that Wayne Stuart was sitting next to me throughout the entire recording. The pressure was on like no other time in the recording studio!
Grand Piano in the Recording Studio
Recording grand piano is considered by many sound engineers to be one of the trickiest instruments to capture well. It has a wide range of notes when compared to other instruments, a large dynamic range, and the frequencies that it produces consist of many complex overtones and harmonics. It is hard to capture the instrument well in the recording studio so it is a good thing that I had so many knowledgeable people on my side. Prior to recording this giant Stuart & Sons piano I had asked Michael Stavrou, author of ‘Mixing with Your Mind’, to teach me one-on-one how to record a grand piano. He is considered one of the best sound engineers in the world and his forte really is recording grand piano. However, he is an advocate of the mid-side recording studio method and a minimalist for the number of microphones used. This project method was not to be used on this album because we wanted to keep to similar methods that are unique to Imaginary Road recording studio. So we used a lot of very high-end microphones instead.
Learn more about the project in post to come!