demo sessions 3: find your location!

tumbling dice: the musicians relax int he villa's basement studio.
despite the debauched environment,
exile on main street went onto become
widely viewed as the stone's best album.
however, not a good place if you want to do lieder demo.
from daily mail, 20 may 2010

to find a decent place to do a recording may be surprisingly difficult.  there are more sound around us than we realize. but boy it stings you in the ears when unexpected/unwanted- in the quiet passages, in the grande pause, end of a fleeting cadence, there it is, slamming doors, long-tone exercises, the streetcars...

most of my work happens in three places:
1. faculty of music- WH, vic chapel, FM + other rooms
2. conservatory of music- conservatory theater, mazzolini hall
3. local churches

notice that there is no 'real' studio? well, it's because i tend to do the 'away' events mostly, related to the school events, especially recitals and demo recordings (playing/coaching/rec).  and these locations have one thing in common: decent, real piano and 'friendly' feel to young budding musicians.

yes, many small scale commercial studios wont have a grand piano.  a few may have an upright piano. some will say that an electric keyboard IS an acceptable substitution (try to tell that to a lieder singer...) and hope you will overlook.  this is all fine until you have to do a classical music demo recording.  you want to make a recording that focuses on your playing rather than some ancient mistuning (or lack there of) heard from the piano.  and this is why i highly recommend 'school' facilities to students- as both schools mentioned do have professional staff maintaining the instruments; its visually neutral feel also helps (imagine doing a vid-aud in the backdrop of CNE or a big mega rammstein show... yeah... not the most efficient) along with 'savings' on the wallet. save the big bucks to do a studio recording (with editing), as most demos do not allow (or tries to discourage editing, see previous post).

if you decide to go and rent a studio, do go take a look and do plonk a couple notes. and yes, do ask for the equipment list and referral for the engineer, as pro studios tend to provide engineering services as well.  realize not all studios are design to do high-fi classical demos.  if they provide producers, do ask if they are familiar with classical music/your repertoire.  producers are to twick and fine tune things and this wont happen if they arent familiar with the 'ideals' of the discipline.

dont forget to check if you are comfortable performing in the space as well.  many of students probably have not had the pressure of recording, nevermind in dry 70s- style studios, laden with foams, carpets and even rockwool.  in such space, it will sound weird at first experience: usually awfully dry, horrid and soul-crushing.  this may sound entirely different on the actual tracks laid (an intelligent AI algorithm called reverb can remedy the situation), however, even knowing that, if you are not used to dry space, you may be discouraged too early in the game, hence not getting that max bang per buck.  also, in case of vid-aud, you want the place to be neutral- not a grunge space where you can see previous death metal bands' coffee stains and god-knows-what (the stones did alright though, in such debauchery).

after all this consideration, if you are renting, do ask them for packages/different rates that you may be able to negotiate- single hours are always more than a bulk.  if you are using their piano (which should be at an acceptable playing condition), do ask if they provide a tuning service (there'll be an upcharge). also your local churches may be able to rent you their worship space for a fee. if you been to a church to listen to a noon concert and liked their sound, do call and ask them. why not: the worst answer is: no, we dont.

if you are student, you can always try to book school spaces- this should be made through the appropriate office(s) of the school.  start inquiring- main desk can always direct you to the appropriate personnel. in some schools, they may have open-doored rec facility as well.  if you never learned what's avail, well, time to find out.  two contrasting cases:  at the conservatory, student can book conservatory theater, which as decent acoustic if appropriately recorded.  but if you want to rent walter hall, that'll cost you some pretty penny.

for all the public spaces, do get there early and post signs, big signs: recording in progress, please do not disturb.  the door shutting, next door neighbour practicing, recalling of the bar incidents between friends and roaring laughter- you may not want them in your tracks. and though it sound nutty, do check local events listing. i often have to tell people to look into a different date on the santa parade day.  you laugh but it happens more often than not.  same with st. paddy's parade, gay parade, caribana, veterans's, anything they block the road off and have a ghetto-blasters and marching bands: NO.
unless you are in a sealed room.

and try to pick the least busiest time of the day.  if you are doing a take in boyd neel (one of my go-to rooms for demos in EJ, as it's secluded, spacious, familiar and not connected to too many hallways; geiger torell gets loads noise from staircase/bathroom traffic in 330, you are often interrupted by curious peeps. same with all the other classrooms.  i do like 120, but the piano's often abused.  109 often gets bleeding in noise from office traffic.  130 is also nice if you are used to playing in a dry room.  both 'end' rooms in 2nd floors can be overly resonant and loud, losing details, calibrate accordingly), do not book the hours right before a band rehearsal.  or right after the band rehearsal.  if you are using classrooms, generally avoid the 'working hours,' to avoid people unknowingly ruining what couldve been your best take.

another example of a good space: vic chapel. it sounds great for guitar, flute and voice.  realize that the piano is a bit of a gruffy dog (still nicer than something you may find in a 'pro' studio) and if it's during the time of vic college classes, you will have bleedin'noise.  in the evenings, you will also pick up traffic noise from queen's park circle.  the best time in vic chapel is early early wknd mornings. if there's no parade.

keep your eyes open when you go to a concert in a new place.  ask others around if they know a space that rents for fee, has decent piano (if you need one), has a pleasant visual view (for vid-aud).

and do these searches early! multi-use spaces get quite booked up by november and probably is booked solid for dec, right through holiday.  and always gather a couple of dates among your staff so you dont have to lose the space on desperate circumstances.

next thing: time management (you kinda have to think this before booking a space, oops...)

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