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In The Studio: Using Effects To Create A Dreamy Piano Sound

How to give your piano the perceived sonic effect of existing in the half state of dreaming.

By Mark Marshall December 14, 2015

Image courtesy of Mico Samardzija
This article is provided by the Pro Audio Files.

Recently, I was working with an artist, Elizabeth Ziman.

Elizabeth brought in a really interesting song that sonically reminded me of being in the half state of dreaming.

I wanted to try to find a way to embellish the sound of the piano to psychologically put you in that state of mind while listening to the song. This song is basically a solo piano with a really lovely airy vocal on top. We recorded it in her apartment. She has a lovely old Mason & Hamlin. We used two ribbon mics on it, and nothing particularly special about the way I mic’d it.

Once I got it into Pro Tools, I applied some EQ and a Fairchild compressor, but it still wasn’t enough. I wanted it to somehow sound almost slightly broken and distant.

So, in order to do this, I did something slightly unconventional. I created a buss on the piano tracks and I sent it to an amp emulation plug-in. For this particular amp emulation, I was using this Marshall plug-in from UAD. You can use Amplitube, or Logic has some built in amp plug-ins that would work.

I picked the Marshall because there’s a certain mid-range that exists in the Marshall amps, somewhat from the closed back cabinets and the 4x12s. There’s weird phase stuff that happens among those four speakers.

Let’s listen to the piano and hear what’s happening…

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC.

Be sure to visit The Pro Audio Files for more great recording content. To comment or ask questions about this article, go here.


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