In late June, I was joined by musician and audio specialist extraordinaire, Tim White, who engineered four days of recording sessions at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA.  My long time friend and colleague, Jon Lesher, was present at the sessions and also contributed some engineering work.  The entire staff at Fantasy was helpful and great to work with.  I will remember those four days of recording - fondly - for years to come.  Probably forever.

These days, so many of us musicians have recording studios in our homes.  Nice, convenient, handy, immediate...there are lots of reasons why we've invested in home recording equipment in this digital age. The cash outlay required is relatively reasonable, and often the needed recording equipment is placed in bedrooms, dens, offices, basements, or garages.  Personally, I've released three albums worth of music recorded entirely in my own home.  Kinda' cool, really. 

But I'll be the first to tell you, recording at home has its drawbacks.  Especially in my case, where my primary instrument is a grand piano.  This translates to microphones and mic stands in the living room, along with cables strewn about from that room to my "control room," which is essentially a small bedroom in our home.  Not exactly the best way to keep a spouse happy. In a word, it's disruptive.  Sure, it would be nice to have a 10,000 square foot home with a separate room or building, but we don't have that luxury. Things really get interesting when you bring in musicians for the recordings, especially drums.  But you make do as best you can.

Enter Fantasy Sudios.  One of the last bastions of major, full service recording in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Managed by Jeffrey Woods and Allison Gomer, Fantasy has it all.  Not the least of which are two Yamaha Concert Grand Pianos, each with a nickname:  The Bill Evans piano and the McCoy Tyner piano. Named, of course, after the two legendary pianists. 

After trying them both out, I opted for the Bill Evans piano.  Rich in tone, with swift action, playability, and a tight feel, I instantly fell in love with the piano when trying it out in April.  It feels like playing soft butter.  And the sound is, well, incomparable.  Part of that is the room itself, acoustically treated to perfection, highlighting all of the characteristics that go into making and shaping sound. 

We ended up recording about 47 songs. About 65% originals, and some carefully chosen cover songs. Most songs were recorded with multiple takes, in order to help with the editing process.  That comes later, followed by mixing and mastering.  So far, all we have is the "raw" tracking.  But to suddenly have a bunch of new recordings to work with is a great feeling.

Tim and Jon both have lots of experience recording acoustic grand pianos - no easy task.  We went with Tim's choice of microphones and their placement, with excellent results.

We even managed to record some songs featuring guitar and vocals.  Many were original songs I've long wanted to record, others were newer songs.  You hear a lot these days about the need for "content."  At last, I've got a bunch of new content at my disposal. We'll see about pitching the songs to appropriate recipients, as well as maybe releasing an album or two, in the coming months and maybe even years.

When it's all said and done, incurring the financial cost of recording in a commercial studio like Fantasy was worth it to me.  At least this time around.  Essentially, all I had to do was prepare the songs and show up.  The engineers, assistand engineers, and interns utilized at the studio did the rest.

One more item worth noting, I did my first ever recording on piano with a sitar.  Tim White added a sitar track to one of the piano pieces, titled "Dreaming," with outstanding results. It's an original instrumental song that builds to a crescendo,  There's something very cool about piano and sitar. I'd like to do more of it. 

Tim also laid down a wooden flute track on one of my first ever original tunes, written when I was about 14 years old on guitar, called "Never Let Me Die."  Nice effect.  We'll consider additional overdubs on these and some of the other songs later.

Thanks to everyone involved with the project, which I refer to as the Fantasy Studio Sessions of 2015.  A great and productive time that left behind lasting memories of creative effort and fun.  Not to mention "content."


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Jim Hudak

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