Storied C7 Grand Piano to Call Tonioli's Studio Home
While our new recording studio in Northern Utah won’t officially be finished until the end of 2021, we felt that finding the best possible instruments for the space with a unique history would make all the difference. Our goal is to not only provide a space to allow artists, especially pianist to have a place they can come to to capture their musical performance but to provide an opportunity to give back and mentor up and coming musicians.
We will record all types of acoustic music, but when we designed the studio, the entire concept was built around the piano as our core instrument. We knew that just any piano wouldn’t do for our space. We wanted a piano a history. A piano who’s wood has had time to stretch and grow up so to say. We wanted the space to feature the piano and allow us to not only capture the sound but also capture video that would add to the performance.
We contracted with award winning Haverstick Design to assist with the sonic design of the the studio but more important than the design was finding the right piano.
After many months and years or planning and searching for the right piano, we found what we think is one of the best pianos in the world. It’s a seasoned piano with a 10 page list of well know artists who have used it to create their music. (See the list below…) When you play on it, we think you’ll agree.
Made in 2001, our C7 Disklavier Pro was originally handpicked from a large group of pianos by John O’Brien, one of the top piano technicians in the United States. O’Brien maintained all the pianos for Paul Allen, the Microsoft billionaire, including all of Allen’s superyachts and mansions. O’Brien also maintains the pianos for Daniel Lanois (producer of U2 and Bob Dylan), Roberta Flack, the New Orleans Jazz Festival and many others.
Our piano started its life by going to a top jazz recording studio in New Orleans where Herbie Hancock, Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis and Allen Toussaint recorded on it. Toussaint wouldn’t use any other piano for recording.
In 2013, it moved to Water Music in Hoboken, New Jersey (the greater New York City area) where Patrice Rushen, Lenny White, Esperanza Spalding, Wallace Roney and Pulitzer Prize winners Henry Threadgill and Julia Wolfe recorded with it.
Patrice Rushen – who was Quincy Jones’s session pianist – told a label executive that it was the best studio piano she had ever played. For its first 20 years of life, it was maintained solely by O’Brien. It is an astonishing instrument.
In 2021 after the Water Music Recording studio was moved following a real estate sale, it then was moved across country and found its new home at Tonioli Music Studio in Utah. It is now used for recording some of the most intimate and relaxing piano music, instrumental duets and vocalists and continues its tradition as being a favorite instrument of the great piano artists of today.
Yamaha Disklavier PRO History……..
The year 1998 marked an important historical moment in the evolution of the Disklavier. The new PRO Disklavier—with a Mark IIXG control unit—offered unprecedented recording accuracy and playback realism.
With improved solenoids and a new moving magnet sensor and key sensor servo, the Disklavier PRO was capable of recording and playing back performance data with greater resolution than the MIDI spec normally accommodates.
Prior to the Disklavier PRO, all models of Disklavier were somewhat limited with respect to their playback dynamic range. Thunderous chords would be played back a bit softer and whisper quiet playing would be played back a bit louder.
The Disklavier PRO, on the other hand, was capable of reproducing the full range of dynamics—and it did so with 8 times the resolution of normal MIDI data, recording hammer velocity, key down velocity, and key up velocity on a high resolution scale of 0-1023. The instrument used normally unused MIDI controller messages combined with key aftertouch messages to store the extra bits of resolution in a Type 0 Standard MIDI File. This high-resolution performance data was called extended precision or XP data.
With the introduction of the Disklavier PRO, pedals were no longer limited to 16 increments but were recorded on a scale of 0-127, thus taking advantage of the full granularity of the MIDI specification. The PRO even recorded and accurately reproduced brushed notes, keys that were moved slightly during the performance without the hammers actually hitting the strings.
Curious about the history of Water Music where the piano was used?
When you operate a commercial studio that is as busy as this one and you’re running every day, the priorities are simple: Creature comforts come first; Maintenance is a close second, meaning every piece of equipment has to work first time, every time; Third: you make friends for life by coming through for people no matter what; Fourth: we Water Music team are all British butlers.
This is 180 degrees from where Water Music started.
The doors were thrown open by a solo album by Chris Stamey of the dB’s recorded in 1982. The record was cut with Stamey, producer Scott Litt and Rob Grenoble working on a 16 channel EV/Tapco PA mixer, a Scully ½” 4 track and a single Urei 1176LN compressor. They used mono ¼” guitar cables for patch cords. The record made almost every Top 10 List in the country. Chris went on to A&M Records and Water Music was born.
It was a creative time. The Feelies, Yo La Tengo, the dB’s, Joe Jackson’s band, Chris Butler from the Waitresses and Freedy Johnston all camped out in the studio. The list included Marshall Crenshaw, Matthew Sweet, Bob Mould of Husker Du, Mitch Easter, Kevin Salem, Overkill and many more. An API console was shipped in from Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. Rob and his band were signed to RCA Records and they were out of town playing more than they were in town, so John Siket (Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Soul Asylum) came in as a young staff engineer to keep the studio humming.
In those days, the Water Music team did all the tracking and mixing. They made great records but they weren’t experienced at hosting visiting producers and engineers. One day Marshall Crenshaw remarked that his coffee was delicious but that there was at least a half an inch of soap in the bottom of his cup. That put John Siket over the top and from that day on, the Water Music staff was TRAINED.
Early one morning, the band came in off the road; Robert Miller was trying to fall asleep by watching a show on the training of British butlers. The candidates were standing in front of mirrors, fully dressed in butler uniforms, practicing speaking with enthusiasm: “Right away, Sir.” “I’d be delighted, Sir.” “I’d be happy to.” “Consider it done.”
“Rob, come look,” Miller called. “This is it. This is how we have to train our people.” Enter the British butler. The transformation had begun.
In 1992, George Augspurger designed the current installation at 931 Madison Street. Ken McKim of Bearsville Studios was technical advisor. Rob wanted a classic room (meaning a hanger) like A&R’s A1 in New York and Abbey Road in London. George wanted clean sight lines and lots of iso rooms. Ken found a way to do it all, putting his foot down when it came to the choice of console. No one has ever regretted installing the mint Neve 8088 that graces the control room today.
Water Music had a lot of help from producers who knew there was something special going on. John Agnello, Michael Barbiero, David Bendeth, Joe Ferla and Lou Giordano brought album after album to the studio. Warren Haynes booked month after month. This institution was built on friendship, respect and a common need for a great tracking room. Ultimately, the clients won. The studio that started as a tool for a songwriter and his band grew into a buttoned down, professional place where everything works first time, every time.
What the founders didn’t anticipate was that the residences would turn the studio into an international crossroads for talent. Today artists fly in from all over the world to work in the Big Room and eat great food from Hoboken’s incredible restaurant and club scene.
The rest is history: Dave Matthews Band, Shakira, Beyoncé, Allman Brothers Band, Sonic Youth…the list goes on and on. But the studio never let go of its roots. On any given day, there will be a cutting edge band right off the street to be found somewhere in the building. And for almost thirty years, Water Music has recorded every private and public school around, free of charge. Even the Hoboken cheerleaders.
Some of the groups that passed through the studio and may have used our C7 Grand piano during recording sessions…
ROCK, POP & R&B
Dave Matthews Band
Allman Brothers Band
Ben Folds Five
Taking Back Sunday
Bob Weir (Grateful Dead)
Yo La Tengo
Tokyo Police Club
Dillinger Escape Plan
The Bacon Brothers
Andrew W. K.
Jets to Brazil
Sarah Lee Guthrie
Guided By Voices
Buffy St. Marie
Elena & Boo
Armor For Sleep
World Inferno Friendship Society
The Mooney Suzuki
Jimmy Eat World
Lamb of God
Steuart Smith (The Eagles)
60 Ft. Dolls
You Am I
William Hart Strecker
Richard Lloyd (Television)
Mary Lou Lord
From Good Homes
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The Hold Steady
JAZZ, WORLD, LATIN & BLUES
Martin, Medeski & Wood
Will & Anthony
Duke Ellington Big Band
Red Bank Orchestra
Peter Buck (REM)
Fred Schneider (The B-52’s)
My Morning Jacket
Peter Buck (REM)
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Robert Randolph and the Family Band
John Popper (Blues Traveler)
John Cale (Velvet Underground)
The Living End
Carter Beauford (DMB)
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Belle & Sebastian
Nina Perssons (Cardigans)
Shudder to Think
Girls Vs. Boys
Victor Arturo Barrientos
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Felix the Cat
Imperial Brass Band
Michael Hill and the Blues Explosion
Mayumi TomokaneChainsaw Kittens
Robbers on High Street
Vision of Disorder
Down By Law
2 Skinnee J’s
The Bottle Rockets
Boys Night Out