Tag Archives: piano

Round Midnight

I was tracking some piano last night for a beautiful song that Chad put together, it was late and the lights were down and everyone was asleep, so I took a few minutes afterward to play through one of the greatest jazz ballads every written.

This is what the Steinway sounds like with a pair of Neumann TLM 170s on it.

Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk

It’s that time of year.

Christmas record time!

So, I’m doing a little solo record. It’s the first time ever for me. It’s an interesting process for a guy that is always trying to help someone else do their music. I’m not sure what I sound like on my own. So, I basically gave myself a narrow niche to fill, and dove in.

It’s a instrumental piano record, but not “solo piano” music. I’m building loops and grooves and “production” out of sounds I’m creating by playing, hitting, strumming and plucking our little Steinway. The vibe is pretty chill… the idea being that it’d be a nice easy background to your Christmas party. But, since I want to be able to market it to my church and some of the Worship Leader Mag connections, I’m keeping it all sacred Christmas hymns. So, no ‘Grandma Got Run Over’ on this one. And harmonically, it’s pretty consistent too… lots of add 9, add 4, plenty of minor 11, and an occasional plain ol’ major chord.

And since everyone that makes a record these days has videos of the process up on YouTube, I figured I’d better get with the program. Hopefully they’ll be somewhat interesting since I’m doing more than just sitting at the piano playing pretty. So, the first two vids are up, on YouTube and on my website. And of course, here.

Intro to the Christmas Record

Meet the Steinway

Part of the Problem

Zack gave me a wonderful little “Escrow Survival” gift a few weeks ago, a copy of Gavin DeGraw’s new album Free. I’m diggin on it.

If you own a copy, check something out with me. Roll to the song “Stay”, track 3 on the album. Hit play. Hear that? 3 seconds in, “have to be part of the problem.” Hear that? Yeah.

That’s what a vocal sounds like when you track it in your bedroom at 3 am, engineering it yourself, and you blow a big phat “P” right into the mic with no popper stopper. That’s not the only example on the album, but it’s the easiest one to find.

So, now I’m torn. I’m not a big fan of the perfect pop experience, where everything is ironed out and tuned up and comped together into an indistinguishable amorphous wash of frequency. But … yeah. But. There are technical flaws on this record that really bug me. I can’t enjoy that tune. Everytime I hear it, I hear the pppppop. It keeps me from enjoying some very good songwriting and damn fine singing, some of DeGraw’s best I think (the previous song “Free” hangs together so well, check it out). I find myself wishing there had been a little more attention paid to the basics of good engineering.

So, I guess I’m part of the problem.

The Real Thing

I love it when a plan comes together. I had a session today, and I had to drag the client kicking and screaming into a real studio. The producer really wanted to just use piano samples. We sat down, mic’d up the piano, Engineer Chris hit record, and the lush awesomeness of the Eldorado piano won over a whole new set of fans.

Stay tuned, those of you who have projects brewing. Chris and I are cooking up a way for you to get real keyboards (piano, B3, wurlie, rhodes) dropped in at a ridiculously low rate. More details to follow …

Eldorado Recording Studio

Eldorado Recording Studio

Mike’s Science Project

So… I love that Bobby put up his link.  I think everyone should just regularly link everyone else to all the cool, creative stuff they’re doing.  I love that.  

Over at our site, I posted a little summin’ summin.  I think some of you would enjoy reading it / hearing it.  

As usual, I will force you to go over there, but I have a purpose in this.  Back in the day, (February) if you googled “The Dailies,” you’d find us on like… oh… the 12th page.  In the Googleverse, this is the same as death.  

But now… we fluctuate between #3 and #5, just behind the wikipedia page for “Dailies” and just in front of some chick from NYC who shoots some moderately disturbing erotic pictures.  

So, off we go to manipulate The Googleverse!  This one’s cool.  Go check it out.  There’s a cool story about Mike and how he’s smart and cool and stuff, and there’s even audio!  

Classical Fantasy Camp!

I got a call yesterday from the contractor for the Antelope Valley Symphony, asking if I would come play with them. They’re doing Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms” this next Saturday, and they need a pianist.

Because when I think “Pianist who is should be playing 20th Century Art Music with a Symphony at the last minute”, I think Mike Lee! (This is only funny if you realize that I make my living on songs that max out at 4 chords).

I graciously declined, and gave them Joel Clifft’s number, which is who they should have called in the first place. As much as the 12-year-old kid in me wanted to live out the fantasy of sitting up in front with an orchestra, playing piano on some monster classical piece, the 31-year-old kid in me thought better of it.

It left me wondering two things. Who the heck has my name in their book with “Call 4 Stravinsky” scribbled underneath it? And, more to the point, what would they have done if I had actually said yes? Now that, my friends, would have been a ticket worth having.

15 Hymns: Go Tell It

I forget how quickly “everyday” comes around. Today’s “15 Hymns” offering is just a quick piano romp, flipped the MacBook Pro camera toward the keyboard and hit record. I’ve always liked watching the hands of people who play piano. Hopefully you all do too.

Sharolyn, there’s a little something in here toward the end that’s just for you (and no, I’m not talking about the sloppy pinky technique on the top end of the runs). Enjoy.

(NOTE: if any of my students are following along, this is NOT appropriate piano technique. This is me farting around on a piano for 10 minutes. If you’re looking for an example of good piano technique, you check this guy out.)

The Dailies – Day 4a – Why Mike is Here.

Lemme tell you why Mike’s here.

Last night we launch into a track called “Loved.” Loved is the track on which the defecation might hit the oscillation, and we all know it. It’s in 12/8 time. The signature piano phrase is an endless cascade of triplets in the right hand of the piano. It’s not a slow song, the click beats 96 bpm to death.
The drums have been tweaked, guitar tones are dialed, the bass is… turned on… and we start woodshedding the tune. Something’s off. The piano at El Dorado is a stunner, but it’s gone out of tune on just one note. A. The song is in the key of A. The song repeats a technically difficult ostinato over about 60% of the song. With that A used somewhere in the chord.

It’s not good, is what I’m saying.

Erica was the first to say it. Rosy seconded. Mike agreed. I emerged from my usual bass tracking fog of “For The Love of All Things Holy Do Not Rush This Freakin’ Part” haze and agreed.

The APU nerds had united. The piano had gone out of tune. On just one note. Chris, the engineer, was unconvinced. Are you sure it’s not the guitar? Yes. Because Corey has an honorary APU music nerd degree, that’s why. ‘Cause we just switched guitars. We know. It’s out of tune. We clear out the live room and listen to the track. It’s out. No doubt. The string played by itself is phasing.

Mike hops behind the instrument and figures out which of the actual three strings that the hammer strikes is out of tune. Guys? He says. Listen. He plays the note once. Phasing. He plays the note again, this time muting the middle string. In tune. “It’s that one.”

“Can you fix it?” I ask.

Spoken response – No.

Unspoken subtext – No, and are you retarded? Yeah, I know! I’ll pull my piano tuning kit out of my man-purse and get right on that.

I don’t remember who called it, but I think Mike and I both decided that the show needed to go on. This is not a problem that is going to get fixed in the next ten minutes, and we have tracks to get. Mike jumps on the borrowed Nord Stage piano. The piano sample contained therein is a stunner. It’s one of the best I’ve ever heard. But it’s still a fakie.

Mike lays in a stunt track, meaning it’s intentionally going to get replaced later, while Corey, Rosy, and I get our parts in place. Mike makes it work. After three passes we get one that we like. We take one more. Mike is frustrated. The part’s hard, and having to play it on a synth isn’t giving him any help whatsoever.

To be fair to Chris, who rocks with unholy rokkness, he tells me later that a few weeks ago, a BIG name producer with a BIG name band and said the same thing, but they brought a piano tuner all the way out and it turned out to be the guitar. Rob, the owner, is a piano player. He’ll hear it in a heartbeat and get it fixed. We don’t need it until tomorrow, anyways…
Drums are comped, meaning the best parts are grabbed from the two passes, guitars are overdubbed where they mismatch, I replay my flubs, and all of a sudden it starts to sound quite sublime. I will have to go into another post about this, perhaps later today, or tomorrow… but the guitar tones are… just… unspeak… warm… distorrtion… getting…. aaaaahhhhhh.
Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a song. During this hour or so, Mike has taken a walk. He’s not needed, and ge gets some air. And perhaps a beverage. All I’m saying is this. Just as we’re finishing up, he comes in and goes…

Chris… can I have a go at the piano? Gimme a dreamy quarter note delay on the piano.

I’m (Chad here) exhausted and ear-fried, and decide I’m gonna let him get his idea out. I return a few minutes later to hear… it. The piano part, revoiced to avoid that note… with a glorious ambient delay washing over us. Mike’s killing the part. It ducks and weaves… it pushes and pulls.

Now it’s really a song.

See… I play piano, I really do. I’ve done it every week for seven years. I could, with enough time and clever editing, I could have figured out that part. And it would have been… ok. Adequate.

But Mike really really plays the piano. Mike knows all the ins and outs. He knows where the cracks and the canyons are. It’s just not a hobby.
That’s why Mike is here.