Notes from the Shore

Work, marriage, kids and music

Recording Session – Trinity Church

This fall my wife and I helped out with a friends wedding, which was held at the historic Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Portsmouth, Virginia. The church is recently remodeled and is beautiful. It also has a really nice Steinway Model B in the sanctuary. While the 9-foot model D is technically superior (and I loved playing Norfolk First Baptist’s D), the 7-foot Model B will always have a special place in my heart, as I spent my first year post-college rebuilding them with a company called the Piano People.

During the wedding practice (or maybe before the wedding, I can’t remember) I had some down time and sat down to play the instrument. Right then I knew I had to record it, and this medley of carols I’m working on right now provided the perfect opportunity. The medley consists of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, I Wonder as I Wander and Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. A future post will be dedicated to  the work when it is complete, but hopefully there will be several more Recording Session posts in the process. I will mention that piano runs through most of the piece.

I have to shout out Linda Torres from Trinity Episcopal. She set up the recording date for me and even helped me move the piano around in the sanctuary to the  best spot to record it. She wanted to make sure that I captured the best possible recording.

We rolled the piano right into the middle front of the sanctuary under the highest point of the ceiling. I had the brilliant idea of setting the computer up on a chair to make it more accessible, and kicked myself for not doing that on my last session. I also brought a wireless trackball, so that operation was made easier, as well. Placing the interface in front of the computer underneath the keyboard made that more accessible, too. Live and learn.

Over the strings I suspended my MXL Tube mic. Since this is a fairly dense arrangement I decided that a mono mic on the piano would be sufficient, and make mixing easier.

I also wanted to capture the sound of the room, fantastic as it was. I took my multi-pattern condenser and placed it back a ways on the open side of the lid. I couldn’t get it back far enough on the floor, so I took to the apse and elevated the mic. Unfortunately I didn’t get a whole lot of signal from this mic. I checked to make sure the pad was not engaged and phantom power was, but still with the gain cranked all the way I wasn’t getting a much volume. It shows on the recording, as the signal is not a lot above the noise floor. Given the chance to do it again I would probably spend more time sussing out why, since this mic should have been plenty hot enough for this application.

It took me about 1 1/2 hours to record 7 1/2 minutes of music. I could have done it in less time had I spent more time practicing prior to the session, but it kind of snuck up on me.

I also remembered to charge my video camera (and even bring it) so what I did was reposition the camera every time I started a new take. That way I can cross-fade between them like I did it on purpose specially for the video.

As of this writing I’m about half-way through editing the recording. I’m in the process of setting up a cello recording session and following that will be working on my guitar-playing buddy. I’m excited about this arrangement (the darn thing has been an earworm for me every night in bed trying to fall asleep), so I can’t wait to finish it and present it to you all.

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