Spitfire Audio is continuing its work at Abbey Road Studios by bringing you a sampled version of one of its most iconic instruments: the so-called Mrs Mills Piano.
Recorded in the famous Studio Two, the piano - a 1905 Steinway Vetegrand - has been at Abbey Road since 1931, and is named after pianist Gladys Mills, who recorded her popular music hall-style songs on it during the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Perhaps more importantly for producers, this is also the piano that featured on several classic Beatles songs, including Penny Lane and With A Little Help From My Friends. What’s more, the man who played on those records - none other than Sir Paul McCartney - has already taken Spitfire’s emulation to his digital bosom.
“Really exciting for me to hear Spitfire’s sampling of what we used to call Mrs Mills piano from Abbey Road,” said Sir Paul. “It’s great to have it on my computer.”
Known for its strong character, the Mrs Mills piano was tweaked by Steinway in the 1950s to give it an ‘older’ sound. The hammers were hardened with lacquer to emulate the bright, more metallic tone of a tack piano, and certain strings were detuned to create a distinctive chorus effect. The result is an ‘old-time bar-room sound’ that can cut through a mix.
Close and room signals were captured in Spitfire’s recording sessions, and there’s also a ‘Vintage’ signal that uses the classic Abbey Road recording chain. Here, the rare AKG D19 mic was placed above the strings in the middle of the piano and recorded using the all-valve J37 tape machine via the REDD.47 mic preamp.
You can choose between five presets: Close (a dry and upfront mix of the close microphones with the mechanical sounds of the hammers and pedal); Clean (the Close and Mid signals balanced for a controlled yet spacious sound, with minimal mechanical noise from pedal or hammers); All Together (with all three signals blended); 1978 (the Beatles-style Vintage signal) and Distant (the Mid and Vintage signals with the reverb turned up).
On top of this, you can tweak the reverb, tightness and volume of the piano’s hammers and sustain pedal noise.
Weighing in at 4.6GB, the Mrs Mills Piano is available now priced at $29/£29/€29. It runs on PC and Mac in VST/AU/AAX formats. Find out more on the Spitfire Audio website