Dan McKinney
I've been a studio engineer for about 20 years in eastern PA, having recorded about 400 bands/artists over the years, with groups running the gamut from screamy hardcore to classical wind ensembles. Blues, jazz, rock, spoken word, and occasional audio production for MTV & other lesser-well-known corporate entities, plus some music production for TV and film. Notable musicians include Pissed Jeans, Arlen Roth, Mad Conductor, Dave Gershen & Brother JT.

I also played keys with The Original Sins, Jim Weider, and countless other bands live and in the studio back in the day, and logged many hours behind the grand piano at a handful of local venues.

The studio boasts a Baldwin Grand and a Hammond A100, along with an assorted pile of mics, preamps, wire recorders, a cat named Colby, worn-out Leslie cabinets and ancient synths and computers in various states of disrepair.

How Whole Sounds started
Somehow idle morning thoughts over coffee one morning led me to the idea that it would be such a cool thing to create a virtual instrument using my own much-loved piano. And simple, too! I have great mics & preamps and a great piano! What could be easier? Three years later, it has turned out to be much cooler than I first thought it would be, but way less simple. Things always seem much easier as random thoughts in the morning...

I'd been operating a recording studio for local musicians for years, and had used my piano in countless sessions. It was a great sounding instrument, with power and majesty in a really resonant low end and low-mid range, a wonderfully sparkling top, and a beautiful breathy tone on its softer side. Since it's a mid-sized piano, it didn't have that sometimes too-imposing concert low end, which I preferred in the studio. It's a more accessible mid-size instrument, hitting a sort of sweet spot between a concert grand and your usual living room piano. The size made it perfect for blues, jazz and rock bands that came into the studio, and the occasional hard-core band that needed a melancholy piano intro.

This was also the piano I grew up with; my mom had bought it for us when I was about 13 to replace the old Emerson baby grand we'd had before. The Emerson was a decent little piano, but couldn't possibly compare to the majesty of a Baldwin, which we bought used from a Philly area concert pianist in 1974. To other kids, maybe the thought of being in a Lamborghini or a Bentley, or meeting an NFL player or rock superstar (yes, kids still liked rock when I was young!) would be something to dream about, but for me, the idea of playing a Steinway or a Baldwin was something I longed for. 

I had started lessons a few years earlier, and while it took me a little while to get my footing with the piano (I remember being totally incensed at the idea of my left & right hand having to do two different things), soon the piano was everything to me. In a 5th grade art class, we put together a project consisting of a box, decorated inside and out with items that told the story of who we were. My box was covered with sheet music, and inside was my little plaster bust of Beethoven along with a tiny, plastic grand piano.

While I loved playing our little Emerson baby grand,  playing a really great piano was an almost ecstatic experience for me. I would creep onto school stages, auditoriums, into churches, hotels, check out the pianos at friends' homes - wherever I ran into a piano, I had to play it, feel it out, see what it was. The deep thrill I felt when the hammers struck the strings of a beautiful piano is difficult to explain, although I'm sure other musicians reading this know what I mean.

As a kid I loved the Narnia stories more than any other books, and fell in love with the idea of being able to access a totally new, unfamiliar, and magical realm through something as mundane as a wardrobe, or a painting on a wall. The idea that a world more real than the one we lived in lay just beyond our fingertips was more than just a fantasy to me; my magic wardrobes were pianos - they had the ability to dissolve that thin barrier between the everyday and the awesome, and the better the piano, the wider that door would swing open.

So, for me, the day my mom bought the Baldwin, that door swung open really wide, and I've been able to walk through that door from that day on, whenever I want. My very own magic wardrobe.

So, my aim with this project is to open that door for whoever uses the instrument. Kind of an impossibly lofty goal, I know, but that's what I'm setting my sights on, that's what leads me to build and improve. More instruments on the way!

--Dan McKinney