Experimental Recording Techniques: How to Craft Ambient Soundscapes with an Acoustic Piano

In last week's installment of Experimental Recording Techniques, Noam Wallenberg of Chicago's Rax Trax Recording studio showed us how to get glitchy, alien beats by overdubbing drums to tape while adjusting the tape's playback speed.

Now, Noam moves to a new instrument, or, rather, an old instrument made new with a contact mic and effects pedals. Starting with a piano, Noam crafts dreamy, ambient soundscapes by adding delay and reverb pedals, as well as an Electro-Harmonix POG.

As Noam explains in the video above, using an AKG C411PP contact mic makes the piano sound like it doesn't exist in space. It also stops the issues with feedback that would arise if you tried to use a more traditional microphone, since the piano's signal will be amplified in the same room.

After going through a Neve preamp, the signal is re-amped, using a Little Labs Redeye passive direct box. An Ernie Ball VP Jr. volume pedal allows you to leave off the attack and keep the piano's residual sustain. The POG2 adds some shimmer on top with the addition of a high octave. Noam uses a Strymon El Capistan as his delay, but of course, you can use the delay of your choice.

The mesmerizing, glass-like textures are finalized with copious amounts of reverb and tremolo, courtesy of a Strymon Flint, which also splits the signal to two amps: a Fender Twin Reverb and a TopHat combo.

Be sure to check out the video above and check back for future installments in our Experimental Recording Techniques series.


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