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Budget Mikes for Recording Upright Piano

Discussion in 'Piano' started by lambchop, Aug 13, 2007.

  1. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    Hi guys!

    I was hoping that I could get some suggestions for mike(s) for recording the upright piano in my project studio. I just finished spending a sizable amount of money on some home improvements so I only have about $200 to spend. I record mostly jazz. I've read here that the Oktava MK012's are a good mike and was wondering if anyone had any experience with the MXL 603's or 604's. I've also read on the net about people using old Tandy PZM mikes and getting some decent results. Best case scenario would be to get a setup that would work well with both my upright in the studio and my grand that's in our great room.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts/suggestions.
     
  2. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Rode NT-4 or Rode NT-5 matched pairs is about as cheap as I would go.

    Save your money and get something that will be useful instead of getting something cheap and never being happy with the sound you are getting.
     
  3. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    I'm very happy with my oktava mk012

    cheers
     
  4. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    Yes, I've read that the MK012's are very nice. Has anyone heard anything about the MXL 603's and 604's. as far as the Rode's go, has anyone ever done a side by side comparison with the other mikes mentioned?
     
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    If you are in the market for Octava Microphones you might want to look at this

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Two-Oktava-MK012-Cardioid-Condenser-Microphones-w-pads_W0QQitemZ320145227939QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item320145227939
     
  6. JesterMasque

    JesterMasque Active Member

    I must whole-heartedly agree with the Oktava choice. I used them to record an entire classical piano album with just a matched pair. Of course it was with a concert grand, but the sound turned out just how we needed it. Just remember to watch your phase deletion because I assume you will probably use a spaced pair? Keep to the 3:1 rule!
     
  7. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    Well, so far there's two votes for the Oktava. I guess that's a good thing. Does anyone have any experience using PZM or boundary mikes? I read a detailed article where this one guy swore by them in conjunction with a condenser mike for recording a concert grand.
     
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    You can record a piano with any microphone, from an inexpensive ceramic hi impedance microphone to a pair of the most expensive vintage microphones in the world. The choice is up to you and what you want from the recording, We have used PZMs on pianos in live sound situations with the lid closed, we have used them on upright pianos for recording and they sound OK in both applications. If you like what they do for the piano then use them. Would they be my first choice NO, would there be something that sounds better for the price YES. The best idea would be to borrow a pair of PZMs from someone and try them to see if you like what they do.

    Anyone can write anything on the web and if this person says they are the "cat's meow" for recording and you believed what he says then do what he says. You have gotten a lot of good suggestions so far from people who do recordings and are sharing their experiences on this forum. If you don't believe what they are telling you and you believe that someone else is giving you better advice then do what you want.

    It seems to me that you really want to use PZMs and are trying to get people to agree with you.

    Best of luck~
     
  9. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    Thomas, thanks for your thoughts on the matter. Specifically speaking, I do not have any preference at this time. I have valued the information I've received from these forums in the past and am trying to build on my knowledge to make an intelligent choice within my set parameters. However, it appears that you have a preconceived perception of my goal.

    As I stated at the beginning of this thread I have a limited amount of money for this purchase and I'm simply trying to get the best "bang for the buck". I have just finished building a new project studio in a new house while at the same time supporting a son going to a university out of the country.

    I suspect that you have very respectable credentials and I do not mean to demean you in any way, but considering as you have stated yourself, "Anyone can write anything on the web". For your own reference this is the article that I referred to about using a boundary mike and single condenser for recording a grand piano.

    http://innig.net/music/recordings/method/mics.html

    Please remember that my purpose is simply to gather knowledge in hopes of making an informed purchase and I thank everyone who has kindly provided me with their experiences and information.
     
  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Good article and he brings up some vary valid points.

    However not everyone records the piano the same way.

    My best suggestion is to borrow a couple of microphones that you are interested in from a friend or a music store. Take them home. Experiment with them and then make your own decision.

    I just got though recording three Beethoven Sonatas for a competition. I used two AKG blue line cardioid microphones some distance from the piano. The piano I recorded was a $120,000 Hamburg Steinway and was tuned each and every time we recorded. I have also recorded piano with a Decca tree setup using three Neumann M-49 microphones in omni pattern and with two B&K 4006s in the 2nd and forth sound hole. It all depends on the application and the sound the pianist and the producer are looking for. I have also done different setups but so much depends on the hall, the style of the pianist, the piano, and the producer's and pianist's wants that it is hard to generalize what works and what does not.

    FWIW I have been in audio for 50 years and in professional audio - meaning I get paid for what I do and it is my full time job since 1969. I was the Director of Audio Services for Oberlin College for 26 years and I have operated my own mastering studio for the past 11 years so I do have some professional chops.
     
  11. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    Tom, thanks again for your response. You're obviously working with exceedingly higher quality components than what I personally have to work with these days. I can still appreciate what you are saying as I have had some experience working with and owning quality gear; both from my days as a Mercury recording artist and as part owner of an operating studio that did a significant amount of production work for Brunswick Records. However, that was back in the 70's when I was a full time musician way before the introduction of DAW's.

    The work that I do now is mostly for a music library house whose market is basically the TV networks, NWBA, and a number of individual TV series; and my own weekend gigging purposes. With TV, good but not pristine quality is acceptable. I don't have any visions of grandeur with my jazz as that is a small market and I don't have the time or desire to be a full-time travelling musician again.

    I'd love to borrow some mikes for trial purposes, but at the price range I'm talking about I think that I would be embarassed to even ask.

    Still, thank you very much for taking the time and energy to share your thoughts.
     
  12. JesterMasque

    JesterMasque Active Member

    Great idea Tom. I forgot about the Decca tree... I used it to record a small ensemble for my old school and for a couple projects in my last class. However whenever it comes to MY studio it always seems to be a lost technique! I love how it just makes things sound so open, especially in large halls and auditoriums...

    But as it was said before, it depends on the application and the room being recorded in. For example if I was recording rock piano I would have microphones closer to the piano's hammers to get more attack as opposed to the ambiance that is almost required for classical piano.

    Also, do not discount the Shure SM81s... They seem to be the lead contending SDCs with the Oktavas. However I have grown to really love the character of the Oktavas.
     
  13. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    Hey guys! Showing my ignorance here, can you explain what exactly a decca tree configuration is?
     
  14. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decca_tree

    http://www.tonmeister.ca/main/textbook/node800.html

    http://mixguides.com/microphones/basics/audio_decca_tree_september/

    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/1997_articles/mar97/stereomictechs2.html

    That should get you started.

    Basically three microphones in a triangle pattern.

    Used for years by Decca engineers

    Most commonly used with M-49 Omni microphones in the olde days.

    It is a VERY good system and we have recently used it to record a marching band (seated not marching) a chorus and a glee club. I have also used it for piano.

    AEA has more information on their website.
     
  15. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decca_tree

    http://www.tonmeister.ca/main/textbook/node800.html

    http://mixguides.com/microphones/basics/audio_decca_tree_september/

    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/1997_articles/mar97/stereomictechs2.html

    That should get you started.

    Basically three microphones in a triangle pattern.

    Used for years by Decca engineers

    Most commonly used with M-49 Omni microphones in the olde days.

    It is a VERY good system and we have recently used it to record a marching band (seated not marching) a chorus and a glee club. I have also used it for piano.

    AEA has more information on their website.
     
  16. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    Very interesting! Thanks for the education.
     

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