A few weeks back, Ananda, Lisa and I were lucky enough to be selected for a side project which involved traveling to SAE Byron Bay campus to use their baby grand piano for recording purposes. None of us had been to the Byron Bay campus before but had heard of its awesomeness from lecturers and fellow students so were very excited for the recording date of 20/4/15.
We decided to travel down the day before the 9am studio booking just so we didn’t have to get up so early. We stayed in a B&B and ensured we had a small group meeting and completed the recording session plan before heading out to contribute to any Byron Bay night life 😉
The next day we arrived at the campus and were thoroughly impressed by and jealous of the grounds themselves. A lovely entrance to reception leads to an outdoor eating area where we found a beautiful green lawn with a volleyball net, soccer goals and a small life-sized chess set (these I didn’t think to photograph). Once we entered the SSLK studio we were even more envious. Check out the photos and you’ll see what I mean.
The SSLK (Solid State Logic K series) was impressive and daunting at the same time – so many buttons and knobs! Luckily we’d had time beforehand to check out the user manual as well as Rose (our mentor) being there to guide us through it’s signal flow and functions. We’d also discussed some miking techniques in the weeks prior so had some idea of what we were going to do there.
The idea was to first record a guide track, then lay down the piano and afterwards record the vocals. We realized about halfway through the session that this most likely wouldn’t happen. Our discussion on mic setups took a bit longer than expected and during the establishment of the best position for the room mic (a TLM 103) we realized it was producing a buzzing sound. We tried changing XLR cables a couple of times then tried a different input on the junction box but the buzzing persisted. We decided it must be the mic itself (it is quite an old model) and exchanged it for another identical one. We also grabbed an AKG Perception for the same purpose. We set that up further away from the piano, facing the glass window separating the live room from the control room. Rose suggested that this would pick up some reflections off the glass surface which would be interesting to capture as the live room itself is relatively dead. We then decided that the positioning of the TLM 103 essentially made it a distant mic rather than a room mic, particularly as it was directly facing the piano and not too far away from it.
After we’d solved the buzzing issue and set up the new room mic we were good to go ahead with recording a guide track. This started at around 11.20am with a few rehearsals and discussion of the song’s structure and desired tempo changes to suit more emotive parts e.g. chorus and bridge. We then moved onto recording different takes (using Pro Tools’ playlist function). The goal of the morning soon changed from recording a guide track to recording actual piano takes. Over the course of the next few hours the artist performed eleven different takes. In the end we managed to capture four amazing performances that are all very usable but we agreed that the tenth take was the best and we’d most likely use it for the project. It was 2.30pm by that stage so we soon started packing up for our 3pm booking finish.
On top of our awesome SSLK recording experience the Byron Bay campus put on a delicious lunch for us. The staff there were all so friendly and welcoming which really enhanced our experience. We agreed we’d all love to go back and use those facilities again if the opportunity arose.