Deep in the heart of Music City, USA lives a 23-year-old pianist by the name of Eric Burgett. He is small town, central-Illinois native who moved to Nashville this past August to pursue graduate school at Belmont University as well as a career in performing, songwriting, and teaching. Thus far, he has had the opportunity to teach private lessons and group classes at Belmont, co-write with a few folks around town, attend workshops, and carry out duties as the music director of Glencliff United Methodist Church, a small but mighty church in town. Burgett claims the most exciting part of his weekly schedule is playing piano at the School of Nashville Ballet, where he accompanies in the dance studios, providing music that fits the many dance steps taught by the instructors. Eric provides his view on the art of accompanying dance and shares some of his own experiences. Continue reading →
On Dark Dark Dark’s third full-length release, Who Needs Who, there are few elements of Balkan or New Orleans-style music that previously defined their sound. The album is predominantly piano-driven, with waves of orchestral accompaniment, and lush background vocal harmonies. “Without You” features syncopated accordion flourishes, but the clarinet and horns on “It’s a Secret” match the lethargic mood of the piano rather than lift it.
The single “Tell Me” might be the closest to having a hook, but lyrically it is the most melancholy. Vocalist Nona Marie Invie has written a great breakup album, establishing the mood in the opening and title track, with her alto voice accompanied only by slow piano, lamenting, “Oh I have the memory of trust/I try to keep it close.” Even on the more musically upbeat “Last Time I Saw Joe,” the overwhelming sentiment is loss. It’s fitting that the album’s release comes with the beginning of autumn. Its solemn and mournful arrangements are perfect for when the days get darker and our parties move indoors.
Produced by Tom Herbers
Recorded at The Living Room, New Orleans and Creation Audio, Minneapolis
Additional Tracking by Eric Swanson at Sacred Heart, Duluth
Mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering, Boston
In Part 1, we explored aspects of recording white key noise, mic placement and stereo considerations when recording pianos and keys. You can read that article in the August 2012 print issue.
Concert Stage vs. Studio
You might be lucky enough to have a friend with a nice piano in their living room, but the downside is that there are usually less-than-stellar acoustics and unwanted background noise problems when recording in a house. Studios with big rooms and expensive pianos can be, well… expensive. If you are creative and do your homework, you can probably find a church, music school or small concert hall in your area with a well-cared-for piano that you can use off-hours for cheap. We have a local Performing Arts Center nearby with a stunning Steinway grand available for use, so check around, you might be surprised. So pack up your laptop, interface and mics and capture the piano in its natural environment without the problems a live audience can cause.
No one will care about all the trouble you took to position the mics if D#3 and F4 are out of tune on the final recording. Our studio piano goes out of tune so often that we’ve learned to tune it ourselves (it takes about an hour to do a touch up tuning). But there are plenty of local piano tuners in the $100 range – just look them up on the interwebs, it’s money well spent. Continue reading →
What was your pre-production like on this project?
As a pianist, the most important thing was to find the right piano. Unlike other musicians, we don’t usually have the luxury of taking our own instrument with us to the studio. For this record, I really wanted something kinetic with a huge sound. The songs really called for a bit more grit from the piano and a really big, booming bass. My fantastic team at Zippah Recording went on a search, and that search eventually led us to Blue Jay Recording Studio where they had a beautiful grand, just waiting to be played. Continue reading →
Yeah, they both have black and white keys, but the similarities end there. Acoustic pianos are mechanical machines that produce sound when felt-tipped hammers hit strings held by a massive cast iron frame stretched across a wooden soundboard. Electronic keyboards are filled with analog circuits that synthesize sound waves, or digital circuits that mimic analog circuits or digital circuits that play back sampled sound waves … whatever. So how do you record them? Continue reading →
Neara Russell Noise and Silence
Los Angeles, CA
“Sharp piano hooks and swirling electronics”
Combining the rich sound of a grand piano with everything from toy drums to synthetic soundscapes, Noise and Silence is many things at once and, much like its creator, hard to pigeonhole. Neara Russell writes pop music like musical theatre, musical theatre like modern classical, and modern classical like experimental electronica. No matter how much you listen, there’s no way to quite figure out where it’s coming from or where it’s going. Her voice is earnest and has an uplifting quality found in few singers today, telling stories from the front lines of young life in America.
The songs all rely on her formidable piano chops but still find ways to surprise you in their accompanying orchestrations and moods. Opener “NeverNeverNeverNever” defines the sound of the album with catchy piano hooks and Russell singing her way into your head amid a swirling mix of electronic and acoustic sounds while “Dumb in Love” sounds like a teenage-romance scored by Yann Tiersen.
The album proceeds smoothly through piano bar ballads, carefree love songs, and songs built on rising tensions that break at just right the moment – all beneath Russell’s increasingly familiar voice. Noise and Silence is an album that’s simpler to listen to than to describe or pick apart, filled with songs that are complex to think about, but easy to relate to.