Six years ago, I welcomed a long-desired addition to my growing musical family: a 1983 Yamaha U3 upright piano. My parents had me take piano lessons when I was young, but much to my later regret, I didn’t practice nearly enough and mostly stopped for around 15 years. While I do play a fair amount now, my limitations can be quite frustrating considering the amount of time (30+ years) I’ve had to hone my piano skills. Necessity is the birth of invention though, as they say... which leads me to Pummeled Piano.
Weapons at the ready
The piano is technically a percussive instrument, as its sound is generated by hammers hitting strings—so I thought that perhaps we should take the percussive categorization a tad more literally. I essentially struck every corner of the piano with my hands, drumsticks, brushes and brooms, mallets, and sometimes even using the piano to strike itself. Friction mallets when dragged slowly across the bridge of the hammers created a guttural whale like groan which really is quite something when you add some distortion or pitch shift it. Of course, recordings were made with the sustain pedal on and off, and the reverberation you get with a sustain pedal engaged is truly magnificent. If you haven’t before, next time you’re at a piano, hold down the sustain pedal and yell into the piano strings... it’s a “string reverb” if you will.
A big part of the sound of Pummeled Piano was the recording chain, which consisted of a pair of Neumann KM184 microphones set about an inch off of the hammers, Heritage 1073’s, an SSL Ultraviolet EQ, and very importantly, a pair of Audioscape V3A’s. The V3A’s were absolutely SLAMMED to take what might sound smaller by nature (it’s a piano, not a taiko after all) and blow it out to a gigantic proportion. The samples and loops in Pummeled Piano sound like big drums, simple as that, but with a different flair. I also created a set of FX out of the recordings, including impacts, risers, ambiences and so on. This is without a doubt the most cinematic library in the Sonic Drop, and I’ve been using it constantly in my own work.
Also, please don’t do this to your own piano.
Like all Pro Tools | Sonic Drops, Pummeled Piano is FREE with your active Pro Tools annual or monthly subscription or current Updates + Support Plan (for perpetual license holders). Check the Sonic Drop tab in Avid Link (version 2023.3 or later) for a list of all the latest Sonic Drops. This is also where you can play audio samples and manage your content downloads. Watch this video to learn more.