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EQ'ing A Spinet Piano

Discussion in 'Piano' started by lunatic, Dec 2, 2002.

  1. lunatic

    lunatic Guest

    Man, if the subject doesn't say it all...

    We recorded my friend's daughter playing a spinet piano in their living room using two MXL 603s into a Fostex D824 at 24/48. There tracks were then transferred into Cubase for editing, EQ'ing, etc.

    So... does anyone have any advice/tips on EQ'ing a solo spinet piano :(
  2. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Depends on whether you mic'd it high or low, inside or out, front or back, etc - I've not used those mics, but if they're close to flat your best bet is not to fix it if it ain't broke.

    Solo piano tends to expose any and all "warts" in the recording chain, so it's even more important that you get everything right going in. If you do that, I'd recommend not changing ANYTHING after recording, just burn a CD and enjoy.

    Every time you make a change in DAW software, even a .1 dB level change, you are creating artifacts. Even at 32 bit float (really only 24 bit with an exponent for more dynamic range) the sound will suffer some measurable amount with each and every change.

    In a multi-track pop arrangement, there are so many things going on that they will tend to mask these artifacts. In a naked piano track, it better be as pristine as you can make it.

    Unless the tone of the piano really sucks, I'd take the original WAV files straight to CD, and if you can't noticeably improve the sound with tweaking don't be surprised... Steve

    BTW, if you have the option of re-recording I'd try it at 24/44.1 instead. You can reduce bit depth for CD burning, and only have to choose a dither option. When you change sample rate from 48 to 44.1, there are even more chances for artifacts due to math rounding.

    Again, for solo piano you're looking for the closest you can get to a "straight wire with gain"... (meaning, record exactly what's there and cherish it)
  3. lunatic

    lunatic Guest

    For those interested, here are a couple of MP3s as an example: http://www.megapathdsl.net/~bsmalling/media_downloads.html

    I know MP3s aren't the best for samples... but whatchagonnado?

    Anyway, we openened the top of the piano and mic'd over the opening. This unfortunately yielded alot of internal noise from the piano.

    I wish I could go and re-record but it's not an option. They just want a disc to capture her progress and to maybe give out as Xmas gifts.

    Chances are, I'm trying too hard to make a spinet sound better than it really is becasue the tone does kind of suck. I just like to do my best at anything I do and I want to do a good job for these people.

    Thanks for the pointers and the input. It is truly appreciated!


    PS: Are you Kinghtfly from Homerecording.com?
  4. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Guilty as charged - BBS's are kinda like Fritos - ya can't eat just one...

    I have an old (ca 1948) Lester Betsy Ross Spinet that's been in my family since 1949, know what you mean about noise.

    If re-recording isn't an option and the recording has warts (noises), maybe some judicious EQ wouldn't make it any worse and might improve the feel. Since this isn't going beyond family and friends, the main thing is that they like it. I doubt anyone involved expects perfection, they're most likely just happy to have a CD (memories and bragging rights?)

    Just remember that things like sample rate conversion and dithering are best only done ONCE, and at the very end of the project since both add their own "warts". Also, for best quality I'd stay at 4x or slower when burning the final CD to be used for duplication. Some older consumer CD players don't like CD-R's very well anyway, and the slower speed usually gives lower error rates on the majority of players.

    Best of luck - I hope you're all still friends when it's over... Steve
  5. lunatic

    lunatic Guest

    Ah-HAH! I thought I recognized the screen name.

    Anyway, after a little tweaking I think it's going to work out. I know what you mean about recording at 44.1 too. I was reading about that here and on other boards. Now I know better.

    The good news is that I tested the SRC of Sound Forge 6 and found no noticeable artifacts. Actually, it seemd to do the down-conversion very well. Still, it's another conversion and next time I'll be recording at 44.1 unless I plan on testing DVD Audio :D

    It's interesting that you talk about burn speeds. I was looking into this last night, actually, and came across a great article at EMedialive.com:


    The article talks about high speed burning and if it indeed impacts audio. Now, I'm not doubting that some people can hear a difference but according to this article there isn't one. Still, I plan on testing my burner at different speeds and see which one sounds best to my ears.

    Again, thanks for you help. I may be starting to get the hang of all this!

  6. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    From the guys who actually have the time and gear to test these things, they claim that increased speed tends to increase jitter, which can smear the sound.

    The burn rate, if it becomes a problem, isn't apparent until it's too late. The deal is not so much a gradual change, as it is exceeding the error quantity threshold of the playback device. Once you do that, error correction is useless to cure it. All CD's have an average/peak error rate, know as BLER (Block Error Rate) which is only testable with multi-thousand dollar gear as far as I know. As long as you're UNDER that value, error correction works and you're not aware of it. Once you go over, error correction DOESN'T work, and nothing you can do about it.

    Slower burns make more pronounced "pits" in the dye layer, but too slow reportedly makes TOO big a pits which ALSO causes problems.

    The only way I know of to determine the best rate for a given drive AND media, is to test at every possible speed and take the speed that's halfway between the slowest and fastest that cause noticeable errors. Unless you're Roger Nichols, then you have friends that'll loan you a $6000 BLER tester and you can zero in exactly on the best combo for your drive/media...

    These guys have more info on this than most other sites, if your interested...


    Later... Steve
  7. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    In the future, when mic'ing a spiniet, try close mic'ing the back/soundboard instead of from the top. Put the mics about three feet off the ground, point them directly at the soundboard, about an inch away. Have one mic near the upper strings (maybe six inches in from the treble edge of the piano) and another one about in the middle to capture the middle and lower strings. This method minimizes mechanical noise from hammer, pedals, breathing, etc. while still capturing the best possible tone from the piano.

    The problem is, that "best possible tone" from a spiniet is kind of an oxymoron. Yur biggest problem is a complete lack of bass frequencies, because the strings are too short. (I am assuming a true spiniet, not a console which is a little taller and a little better on bass). This may be the time where a BBE 462 or Aphex (w/ "Big Bottom") Exciter may actually be very useful, as you can create low frequency harmonics which may greatly enhance the sound.

    I can't commment on your current recordings because I can't easily listen to MP3's on this computer.
  8. lunatic

    lunatic Guest

    Great advice LittleDog! This seems like it will be a once a year gig as they track her progress so for next time I am now EMPOWERED!

    What can I say, this has been a tremendous learning experience for me and I am greatful to all the suggestions.

    Another thing I have learned is to not look at everything so black and white. For example, we did mic the back of the spinet (it is a true spinet) with a large diaphram condenser (MXL V67). Alone this track didn't seem so great. Lack of bass response but the high end was clear. So, I thought to myself, it won't work well in the mix and left it to the side. Boy was I wrong. It actually had the higher end clarity I needed to help clear up the muddiness! Before I was messing with multiband trying to control the tone :-|

    So, I set that third track at center and the other two panned hard left and right. Then all I had to do was add a little compression (and I do mean a little) to control where she banged a couple keys, a little EQ to take out some remaining mud and add a little clarity and that was it!

    Thanks again guys. As hard as this has been, it's been fun. I look forward to my next "lesson".


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