Studio Life: Piano Recording for Film/TV

When you think about Christmas break in college, you might imagine sleeping in, spending time with family and old friends, and just doing nothing.  While it’s true that I did do all of the above a little bit, for me, going home is always a time for recording and composition.

This is what my "break" looked like
This is what my “break” looked like

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My Best Worst Semester

These past three months in Nashville have been a whirlwind of a semester.  While this semester started off rough, I’ve finished it having done things I never dreamed I’d be doing so soon.  But it was a tough start…

When I went home for fall break in October, friends would ask me, “How is your first semester of college so far?”

“Awful,” I’d tell them. Continue reading “My Best Worst Semester”

Bright Idea or Playing With Fire? – Airborne Studio Diaries

As the lone audio engineer for my piano album Airborne, at this point, I’ve done way too much solo piano editing.  Am I that bad a pianist?  No, but I’m a perfectionist, so I strive to meet impossible standards—especially since I have such a strong idea of how my own compositions should sound.

Even so, editing is much more than finding flawless takes and putting in crossfades to piece them together—it’s about maximizing musicality through artistic and technical choices.  While I don’t purport that putting together twenty different segments into one track is as good as playing a perfect take straight through, I will go so far as to say that, when edited well, the difference between a composited track and a one-take track can be minute.  However, with any kind of solo instrument recording, making edits is playing with fire if you don’t know what you’re doing.  And with piano recordings, their many inherent challenges only pour on gasoline.  Even so, by following some simple rules, I’ve found one can safely edit a piano recording: Continue reading “Bright Idea or Playing With Fire? – Airborne Studio Diaries”

Studio Diaries – Airborne, Part 2: The Rubber Meets the Road

I didn’t want to do this, but I’m pushing back my Airborne album release to July 19.  I’ve changed my plans, but I haven’t changed my mind—I’m still making an album.  I’m going to push through these roadblocks and move forward. Continue reading “Studio Diaries – Airborne, Part 2: The Rubber Meets the Road”

Exceptions Are the Rule – “Airborne” Studio Diaries, Part 1

In The Studio

After five years of studio work, I somehow continue to hope that, maybe, my next recording session will be “normal”—no technical problems, no surprises, and no burnout.  But I’ve never had a “normal” session.  Apparently, in the studio, exceptions are the rule.  

Recently, as I’ve been recording my piano album Airborne, every day has been an exception:  five-hour experiments gone bad, poorly timed thunderstorms, and unexpected results.  Don’t believe me?  Read on. Continue reading “Exceptions Are the Rule – “Airborne” Studio Diaries, Part 1″

288 Hours

Oh, the doom of May 18!
Oh, the doom of May 18!

May 18.  The day is burned in my mind.  It ominously looms over me like a storm cloud, on the verge of raining havoc upon my world.  So what dreadful tribulation shall befall me on this date?

May 18 is my album’s tracking deadline.

No big deal, right?  Wrong—I still have to finish writing one of the pieces (which I’ll refer to as “F Minor” for now) on the album.  That’s a serious problem—really serious. Continue reading “288 Hours”

My First Solo Album: What’s REALLY Involved?

Recently, I’ve decided to release my first-ever solo piano album. In addition to composing and performing every piece on the album, I will be producing and engineering the project myself.  I’m also directing the marketing, promotion, and finances. In other words, I’m doing the whole thing on my own. (Hence, my lack of updates lately.)   I know there are significant advantages to pulling from others’ talents for a project, but at this stage in my career, I’m doing the album by myself to learn.  Am I crazy? Maybe. Am I a control freak? Not exactly. Let me explain… Continue reading “My First Solo Album: What’s REALLY Involved?”

Is This Piano Recording or a Physics Lesson?

I know, I know––It’s been a few weeks.  I’ve been in the studio a lot.

Since my music school audition is coming up, and since I’m applying as a composition major, I need to send in recordings of my work.  For better or for worse, I don’t separate my work as an engineer from my work as a composer, so the recording quality, as always, is of utmost importance to me.

Continue reading “Is This Piano Recording or a Physics Lesson?”

Why Piano Recording Is So Challenging

Piano miking
Previous piano session miking using a matched pair of small-diaphragm condensers

In my last post, I mentioned in passing that I wrote a new piano composition. Well, now I’m getting ready to take it to the studio.  It’s called “Equinox,” and it’s eight minutes long, in the key of Db (also modulating to Ab and Gb/Ebm), has lots of tempo changes, uses nearly the entire keyboard, and requires all three pedals (yes, even the middle one).  Recording it, to say the least, is going to be challenging.

While one might think it would be easy to record one acoustic instrument, personally, I find it much harder to do well.  It’s so much more exposed; you can’t hide your problems.  There’s no covering up bad edits or poor tone-quality by burying it among other tracks.  With this kind of recording, you hear it all––the good and the bad.

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Composer’s Block: Pushing Past the Walls

Too many composers and songwriters just sit around and wait for creativity to happen.  But the truth is that, most of the time, by making yourself write, you inherently have to be more creative to be able to put something on the paper in the first place.

I used to be the kind of composer that just waited around, and I often moved onto new pieces whenever I hit the “barrier.”  I used to think that forcing yourself to be creative stifled creativity, but now I see otherwise. Continue reading “Composer’s Block: Pushing Past the Walls”