Piano and Hammond at Valley Wood Studio

Piano and Hammond at Valleywood Studio

We spent a day with Barkley McKay at Valley Wood Studios near Leeds, recording piano and organ with the new Blumlein stereo ‘Valkyr’ ribbon microphone from Extinct Audio.

The piano at Valley Wood is a 1940 6’1″ Welmar grand. Welmar pianos were produced in London by Whelpdale, Maxwell & Codd Ltd, who were originally founded in 1876. These were the top pianos in their day in the UK, and only available from Harrods. 

UK piano manufacturing was decimated during WW2, as the iron foundries used to make piano frames were converted to munitions factories. This was the end of a brilliant era of quality British pianos.

Barkley played piano accompaniment for blues version of ‘Good rocking tonight’, with his band Soul Surgeons. The stereo microphone was placed about 6 inches back from the curve of the piano, pointing at the sound board.

The Hammond M100 organ at Valley Wood dates from 1962. It has its original Leslie 145 speaker which is exactly the same set up as used on Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum. This gives a classic overdriven sound which gets even dirtier through loud passages.

We recorded the Hammond with the Valkyr stereo microphone positioned about 1.5 meters back from the speaker at a height of 1 meter off the floor ,which captured the tone and grit of the organ and rotating speaker, including a few of the mechanical sounds. 

For both the piano and organ, we have shared the raw keyboard recording and also the tracks in the context of the mixes.

Finally, we recorded a version of Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’ on his Welmar grand piano, using two stereo mics at different distances.

Recorded and played by Barkley McKay, with assistant engineering by Simon and Louis, both students at York St John university. Photographs by Barkley and Stewart.

March 24, 2019