Some too many years ago, I used to live in Cranleigh and was educated at Cranleigh Prep and Cranleigh School. It is therefore always a particular delight when I get to go back to my old hunting ground and record at schools in the area near where I grew up. Lanesborough Prep School in Guildford is located just near St Lukes Park. And some 40 or more years ago I was born in St Luke’s Hospital which was once on that site. The hospital is no more but fortunately (for some anyway) I have survived and it almost felt nostalgic to go back to the place near to where I was born. Anyway enough reminiscing. I was there to do a job. The school had reserved me a parking space outside the main entrance. This was great although soon transpired it was quite a long way from the proposed recording venue in the hall. Fortunately a member of staff and a work experience boy were put to work and we soon had the recording kit in the right place.
With everything in the hall I set about rigging the microphones. Today’s recording, unlike most of the recent ones was mostly about recording instrumentalists. These ranged from Violins and Cellos to Flutes, Horns and solo pianist. There were also a couple of singers, an orchestra and then later on a choir. This meant that one set up would not do for the whole day and I had to ensure some flexibility was built into the set up to make it simple to move from one recording to another.
In fact probably the only consistent thing throughout the day was the inclusion of piano which was accompanying most of the instrumentalists, the singers and later on the choir. I could at least therefore mic up the piano and then leave the mics in position. It was decided that the piano would actually be moved around 180 degrees from the position shown in the above photograph to try and avoid some of the bleed onto the instrumental microphones.
Recording Instrumentalists with Piano
It’s always a challenge recording different instruments and vocalists in a shared space. In a studio there would be degrees of separation between the instrumentalists to ensure a clean feed of each part. This makes things much easier when it comes to mastering and post production. However, the reality of our business, recording schools on location, means that we have to find ways around some of the ‘text book’ rules on how to record. Sometimes it works better than others depending on the space. But usually where there is a will, there is a way.
Moments after this photograph was taken, the mics were then taken down again and the piano was spun round! Luckily there was still plenty of time to get everything set up and ready.
We were operating to quite a tight schedule at Lanesborough particularly given the amount of set changes which needed to occur during the course of the session. The head of music had done her best to group similar instruments together and the plan was to do all the solo plus piano items first. Then after a break there was a couple of small orchestras to record and finally a year 6 choir with piano and drums.
As generally happens, everything ran exactly to schedule and there was even time for a very nice lunch in the staff dining room!
By mid afternoon everything was recorded and it was soon time to pack away and head back to Wiltshire. Once again I was given a hand moving the kit and was able to bring my car round to a door near the hall which saved a lot of time loading everything. For once, unlike the trip to Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago, the sun was shining and it was a rather pleasant and quite hot summers day. So much so that I dived in to Reading Services on the way back to partake of a pink drink – still being a child of 12 I am easily pleased with a pink milkshake, especially if it comes with a straw!
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