Writing and Recording In Portmeirion

We recently had a holiday at the lovely and beautiful Portmeirion Hotel in Wales. It is one of my favourite places in the world, quite unlike anywhere else that I have visited. You may have seen it before because of the splendid television series The Prisoner that was filmed there in the 1960s. We have stayed there lots of times over the years, but this was the first time we had been there for a while.

We decided that we would like to use this holiday as a writing and recording trip, so I decided to take with me a few instruments, some bits of kit from my studio and a couple of things that I bought especially for the purpose. The room that we were staying in had a separate bedroom and living room, so I was able to set all the equipment up in the bedroom without disturbing Wanda, who could get on with her writing in the living room.

I didn’t really fancy carting my Mac all the way to Wales (and use up all the space in the car), so I decided that I would keep it simple and use our Macbook. I thought about installing Logic Pro on to it, as this is the recording software that I like to use in the studio, but again I thought simplicity was best so I decided to use Garageband. For those that don’t know, Garageband is a free application that you get when you buy any Apple Mac and it is basically and entry level sequencer and multitrack recording application. I say entry level, but you can do some very sophisticated and complicated things with Garageband, so it was perfect for this trip.

Garageband includes lots of loops, virtual instruments, guitar amps and effects built into it so the only other things I needed to bring with me where ways either making noises or playing these virtual instruments. I brought the Novation Remote 61SL from my studio as a master keyboard as it’s very light, but is also an excellent keyboard to play on. I installed on of my favourite virtual instruments on the Macbook, Pianoteq. This is an outstanding virtual piano instrument which uses physical modelling to create the piano sounds, rather than samples, which means I didn’t have to bring an external hard drive with me. I also brought along my Fender Telecaster so I could use all of the virtual amps and effect pedals within Garageband, some of which were very impressive indeed.

I decided to buy a new microphone to take along with me on the trip. I’ve previously written about how much I like the Blue Bluebird microphone which I have used a lot in my studio. I didn’t really want to take it with me as mics like that can be very sensitive to vibrations, temperature and moisture,  so I didn’t think travelling with it would be a great idea. However I noticed that Blue did another mic called the Yeti which is much more appropriate for travelling around with. It also uses USB to connect to the Macbook and so doesn’t need a separate audio interface, which was good news as that was another box that I didn’t have to bring along from the studio.

I set myself up in the corner of the bedroom with a lovely view looking out over the village, over the estuary and out to sea. To say that the view was inspiring was a bit of an understatement. I brought several unfinished songs and ideas with me and got down to some hard work. As well as recording keyboard, guitar and vocal parts I also indulged in my other favourite studio pastime – recording all the sounds that I could. I recorded the sash windows opening and closing, curtains being drawn, doors closing, lights being switched on and so on until I couldn’t think of anything left to record. I know I’ll have some fun later editing it all up and creating some interesting sounds and rhythms from it.

It was all over very quickly and soon it was time to leave and come back home again. We both agreed that we would like to do this kind of trip again as it really was very satisfying and we got a lot done.

Whether it will be to Portmeirion that we go to again next time, who knows?

I guess we’ll find out.

Stephen.

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