1. Register NOW and become part of this fantastic knowledge base forum! This message will go away once you have registered.

How do I make a piano recording sound like this?

Discussion in 'Piano' started by Edahall, Aug 12, 2014.

  1. Edahall

    Edahall Active Member

    What do I need to do to get my piano recordings to sound more like this?


    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAgoKHgWR7s



    This is what mine sounds like.


    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzcviVDa8qQ&list=UUUdaD04dFraLbEBGS4NGe3A&index=3
     
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    You've got the right microphones. Now all you need is a good piano and a fine arts performance Hall. You've got a baby toy piano. And that's what baby grands sound like. That's why they're not used for recording purposes. But you already knew that. Right? No? Sorry.

    Yamaha C 3, at the minimum.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  3. Edahall

    Edahall Active Member

     
  4. Edahall

    Edahall Active Member

    The piano is not the issue here. It's not a baby toy piano. I'm very familiar with the Yamaha C3.

    Instead of dissing my piano, please focus on what I can do to improve my recordings so it sounds more like the example I gave. I recorded a Steinway D concert grand not long ago in a concert hall and it did not sound like the example I gave. This leads me to believe that there is some trick that I'm missing.
     
  5. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    We've been discussing this in another topic, but Remy is right, in your comparison everything is different. It's a concert grade instrument, in an acoustically pleasant venue recorded with concert technique at a distance, and the sound is the combination of all these. Shorter grand pianos from all the major brands simply do not record as well as the specialist instruments. One big reason is that in a normal room, the room sound you capture is destructive, so you are forced to decrease the distance between instrument and mics, and with the shorter pianos, there is lots more string crossing, and therefore although the sound blends at a distance, closer in, you get overtones out of proportion and indeed, although the mic might be sited for a not bad sound on the higher notes, it's too close to the lower strings as they cross to gain length meaning that you could be near the central node, and get far too much 1st harmonic, which gives a kind of 'shimmer' to some notes. Long ago, in BBC studios, we would have a Blumlein pair (or more often just one!) in the cutaway, about a foot higher than the piano top slightly looking down, and in the fairly damped room pianos blended well for light music. Never anywhere inside near the works. Look for that other topic, there's plenty of experiments to listen too some good some bad.

    Piano recitals are 100% room and instrument critical. With a concert hall and a really expensive piano it's much easier. A compact piano in a normal room is not something that can be fixed with clever mic placement and expensive mics.

    Remy's always one to call it like it is - compared to the instrument in the clip, you have to admit it's hardly in the same league. Nice, and I'd like one, but at half the size, it's a compromise. FWIW even a C3 which I record frequently is not in the same league and they cost more than a decent car!
     
    Kurt Foster likes this.
  6. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    The biggest difference I hear is the amount of ambience. Maybe some nice reverb will do the trick.
    And maybe a slight treble boost.

    Though it won't sound the same, it might come closer to the sound you're after.
     
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    One obvious difference is that your reference has more bottom and less harsh hi frequencies than your recording and also on yours, I can hear the keys sometimes (that may come from proximity)

    It is possible that the player play softer so the sound is not so bright but they surely are using some warm preamps and/or some ribbon mics in their setup. Gimme some neve preamps !! ;)

    Why don't you try to contact them and have a gear list.. we can guess all you want, but I doubt it's a secret they woundn't share..
     
  8. Edahall

    Edahall Active Member

    pcrecord,

    Thanks for putting into words what I'm hearing. The attack on the referenced recording is smoother and not so harsh. I don't see the mics in the recording so they must be far away at a distance. This is the sound that I often hear in classical recordings and I would like to better achieve that. Yes part of it is a big massive piano but I think there is more to it than that. I could put a concert grand in my living room and I would still get that same harshness and it might be even worse because of the hard hammers for power versus the soft hammers on my piano.
     
  9. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    We've said it - the sound of the space is critical. As soon as you move the mics away, the sound (I believe the term is) homogenises. The piano produces sound from a huge area. If you had that piano in your home it would sound nowhere near as good. The physical size of the space means that early returns are delayed and low level. In a small space, these returns are shorter and higher in level, so distant mic techniques don't work that well, and the result is kind of boxy sounding. The piano tuners and technicians are very clever people, but the space is very important - maybe even more important than the instrument for the sound?
     
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Since we're on the subject regarding piano recordings, here is another issue that was not mentioned.

    You have what appears to be Earthworks or DPA microphones? Likely Earthworks. And in many examples by both of those companies... What is shown are the microphones, placed tight, just inches above the strings, is what they recommend.

    These are not directional cardioid microphones. These are Omni directional. And as a result, from the distance miking, you're going to pick up a thinner more ambient sound of a less than stellar sounding room that you are recording in.

    So if you want more warmth and less lousy room tone sound? You might want to consider a pair of large diaphragm, cardioid directional microphones or even a pair of active ribbon microphones? I mean what you currently have is great stuff. But it's not getting you that tonality you obviously want. So there is nothing wrong with the microphones. Nothing wrong with your recording. Nothing wrong with your cute little grand piano. And nothing wrong with the bathroom like acoustics that your piano is in. You just have to choose the right kind of microphones and place them in the proper, most appealing sounding positions. Not what you've seen or think but simply to get the kind of sound you're looking for. Which ain't what you got.

    In the end, we all experiment with our bevy of microphones, their placement and the equipment in which we plug them into. And that's how real engineers do it. It requires a sizable investment in microphones, preamps. And maybe even moving your piano to a different position in the room? Our studios (When I had one) are large enough to relocate the piano to where the client and find the sound pleasing. Both while playing and on playback. Which is kind of tough to do in your living room, I know. Nevertheless, sometimes it dictates that you rearrange your living room, throw out that old couch and replace it with a La-Z-Boy or two?

    Now wasn't that easy?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I actually found it rather amazing at how defensive you immediately got. Sorry to say, that's usually the mark of an amateur. So while I couldn't afford a Yamaha C-7 nor a new Steinway, the room made the difference. So the C-3 Yamaha, was more than adequate. Baby grands never are adequate sounding. Not much different than a spinet or upright. Which don't sound like grand pianos. There is nothing grand about those. There is nothing grand about a baby that sounds like poop. So they should really call those baby poop pianos because that's what they sound like regardless of your equipment. But you seem to like baby poop? And wonder why your baby poop smells the way it does on playback. Now you know. You don't get a seven or 8 foot sounding piano from a 5 foot bag of crap. Stuffed into a 3 pound bag.

    Instead, you have to go the other route of tight miking. Then you need some good reverb algorithms, plug-ins, devices to re-create acoustics, that which do not exist. And that takes talent. And here you thought it took the equipment? So the equipment is right but the talent is wrong. It's like you want to get up on stage at Carnegie Hall and play chopsticks for everyone. Who do you think would stay? Because you told them you spent a lot of money on your stupid microphones? You know where it looks like those microphones could easily go, don't ya? They look like they were designed by Playtex? But they don't do anything to prevent bleed. All you've got is bleed.

    Bleed believe me I'm telling you the truth.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I've read his posts several times and at no point was he being "defensive". If anything, he was supporting what you were saying in regard to the scenario.

    Remy, sometimes I wonder if you are reading posts all the way through, or just picking up parts here and there - which is a sure-fire way to take comments out of context.

    You got pretty bitchy with a guy who was actually agreeing with you, and if you'd taken the time to actually read what he'd said, you would have seen it.

    You contradict yourself many, many times. At one point you mention that "the recording is nice, his piano is nice and that he's done a god job", and then suddenly turn around 180ยบ in the very next post and declare that
    " baby grands are never adequate sounding".... and that he's lacking talent.

    Get back on your meds... re-read the post, and apologize to Paul.

    d/
     
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    No, Donny, I wasn't contradicting myself. The piano recording was an ambient piano recording. The recording that he was listening to, wasn't as ambient. It was warmer. But that doesn't mean that the microphones, which were not visible, may or may not have been inside the piano as DPA and Earthworks has shown in their product lineup. And it's possible that a combination of both tight inside miking was done mixed with further out pair of other recording microphones may have been utilized together?

    I have also read through what you think I didn't read through. My interpretation may have been different from your interpretation? It is 100% subjective as you know. And just because something was not visible in that video, does not mean that there weren't microphones inside the piano. We not only have magicians that practice sleight-of-hand. We are magicians that practice sleight of ear. So what is not seen, may be the determining factor of what he's hearing? Which is all that I was bringing up.

    His ambient recording of the piano, was a nice ambient recording of piano. With good gear in a reasonable recording technique. But it did not have the warmth or the intimacy that he perceived in that video.

    Again I must apologize that my perceptions may have been influenced by my most very real and definitive brain damage from my obviously earlier, lifetime condition. But it is my perceptions that have made a huge audible difference, for a multitude of different studios, edit rooms, leaving educated engineers, scratching their confused heads. And while I might not always be right? I'm generally never wrong. And that's a fact Jack.

    So regarding my commentary, I really have nothing to apologize for. He did a fine job of recording. It just wasn't what he wanted to hear. Which is why I recommended the tighter miking of the piano. Perhaps for greater intimacy along with greater warmth from close-up miking? Not that I have ever read the Bible, I haven't read either the old or new Testaments because I don't need to. I know what is contained in those books. And they generally all indicate pretty much, the same things. But in slightly different terms and terminology. To be interpreted by those who read them, their way. It's almost like trying to dictate to people how they should interpret a particular piece of artwork. That's just plain wrong to do. Art is as those who perceive the art to be what they believe it to be. Not what somebody dictates to you what it is supposed to be. That is up to the ear of the beholder. There is no right. There is no wrong. It's Art. But we all have the way we like to present our art, our ways.

    I really can't put someone down for making a reasonable recording. It wasn't distorted. It wasn't nasty. It maybe wasn't audibly pretty? But that's just me. It was still a good recording. Not the way I would do it. But a decent recording nevertheless.

    Unfortunately a baby grand piano does not have the physical resonance of a much larger piano. Even though a Volkswagen car, came from the same lineage as a Porsche, a VW is not a Porsche. Even though there are very close similarities to each other. And in some cases have parts that can be swapped between the two vehicles. It still won't make a VW a Porsche. So while you can soup up a VW it will always be a souped up VW. It won't be a Porsche even if you click your magic red slippers together. Which is really all I was saying. And if he feels bad by being corrected by an adult who knows what they're talking about? I can't help that. And it wasn't Paul, it was Ed that was the OP. But I forgive your mistake LOL. Since we both have a good sense of humor. I know you do. So don't take this the wrong way, please. Any of you. There are some things that work to get you what you want when you have the right stuff in place to begin with. And when you don't? You don't get what you want. And you can't get what you want. Because the conditions are wrong. Be it the piano, the microphones, the microphone placement or technique or the preamps and converters, along with the acoustic space it's being recorded. Yes in that respect both Paul and I agree. Just like Mick Jagger sang, "You Can't Always Get What You Want".

    My answers are not always as highly educated or refined as others but I'm right. There is a huge multitude of variables involved with this. And not many of his variables match up with the recording that was presented in the video. He heard it. Paul heard it. Everybody heard it. And now everybody knows how those variables affect the end product. It's like being given a box full of parts to build a console with no schematics. Everyone will come up with a variation using the same parts. No two will generally be the same. Recordings are not made A connected to B, connected to C, all of the time. Sometimes it's C, connected to A, connected to B. And you still get a lovely recording either way but they'll be different from each other, under the same conditions. But even here the conditions were different.

    In an additional similarity to this, I was contracted to make a recording of a local civic orchestra. Communications got crossed and so when I arrived to set up, I find one of our other former moderators, Jeremy, was also there to make the recording LOL. He had actually been a member of the orchestra on the French horn. But on this evening, nobody remembers if Sterling Productions Ltd. had said they were sending someone out, me. So Jeremy offered to dismantle his system in deference to me. But I told Jeremy not to tear down his system as we could both make simultaneous recordings. He actually had a student of his with him for this particular job.

    My setup and Jeremy's setup, were miles apart different. Different microphones. Different types of microphones. Very different preamps. Very different computer audio interfaces and recorders. The microphone placements and equipment differences, were extremely different. And the most incredibly baffling difference was that there was really no audible difference, in the actual sound both of us were getting. It was mind numbingly different but not much difference in the actual recordings. So how could that be? We both, along with his student got quite a chuckle over that job. So that rather proved it was more the acoustic structure of the environment than was the equipment. And this corroborates what both Paul and I said. Thanks Paul!

    Great ears, hear alike.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  14. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    All of this kind of moves on one of my 'discoveries' that in purely sonic terms, piano samples of decent instruments in excellent rooms are now an acceptable alternative to a technical competent recording of an instrument that doesn't record well. Back in the 90's Yamaha were sponsoring the college where I was teaching, and we had a concert grand on free loan. Every few months they would come and take it off to do a concert, then return it. Eventually they stopped borrowing it, and it stayed put. That year I was principle examiner for music technology, and needed some recordings to play to examiners to make sure their marks were standardised. I'd brought some of the best and worst of our work at college, and used those as examples to mark. Typical student stuff and all kinds of weird and wonderful mic techniques used including a Decca Tree - amazing because it seemed to consist of two cardioid mics!

    The point, that I'm getting to is that the general view was they were all very average recordings, on a poor instrument. I was a bit confused but that certainly was what the recordings indicated. Iffy technique or even good technique on a poor instrument. All was revealed on my return. Yamaha had not taken the piano any more because it was two feet short! Not one of us had noticed it was not our concert grand any longer, but in the corner of the curtained room, the extra length had not been noticed, and none of us heard the difference on casual listening, but the recordings had significantly changed.

    Ears and mics reveal diff end things it seems.
     
    pcrecord likes this.
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    There can even be a substantially different sound, coming from the same make and model of piano. Over a career spanning more than 40 years, I've made my share of piano recordings. One of my more fascinating jobs recording piano was for a local Washington, DC, highly regarded jazz pianist, back in the 1980s.

    We have a great piano dealer here in the DC area. And at their downtown store, they had about one dozen 8 foot concert grand pianos, mostly all Steinways, in their demonstration room/concert performance Hall. So John Eaton had 12 concert Grands, to choose from in the same room.

    I set up my pair of U-67's, XY, about a foot over the hammers for the record of listening tests, into my API 3124 mixers. Playback was done through a Crown, DC 300 A mark 2 into JBL 4408's. These of course, weren't cheap pianos. And the differences from piano to piano was extreme. Along with their physical action, touch. Until John found the one John wanted to use, for the recording. The entire recording was not going to be done on that single day. It was going to take place over a matter of weeks. Where I would be utilizing the same setup for the consistency, each and every time. There was only one hitch in the get along midway through. They sold the piano we had been using. And none of the other 8 foot Steinway concert grands, even when we rolled them into the same position that the other one had been in, that we had been using in this fine sounding hall, even came close on the sound! The differences on the recording were more than obvious. With the same equipment. The same setup. The piano in the same position in the hall. In the same hall. In a carefully temperature and humidity controlled environment. It was mind boggling! And regardless of the selection of the grand pianos, John preferred the feel of the action, more so on his initial selection than with any of the others.

    In a similar scenario, the Yamaha C-3, I own and have, since 1978, has its own issues. An issue that makes it substantially different than any other identical Yamaha C-3. I don't play piano. But we needed to pick out a piano for the new studio I had just designed and built. So I took a friend with me who was a fine pianist, to pick out the one he liked best. He personally had and used Steinways. He told me he did not like the action on the Yamaha's. He felt they were too light in their action. He told me you could blow on a key, on the Yamaha and it would play. He said his Steinway and other Steinways were not like that. But they had more feel, feedback, response. But when he touched this particular C-3, he immediately looked at the name again printed above the keys. He said this was the one! He said it was like no other Yamaha and that it felt very much like his Steinways that he liked to play on and owned. So that's the one that we bought for $12,500 in 1978.

    Everyone that came to the studio that played this piano were mostly Steinway folks. And while they were hard-core, dyed in the wool Steinway lovers, every one of them offered to buy this Yamaha C-3. And it was because it had a different feel to the action. Which allow them to articulate their playing and resulting sound, to that which reminded them of their Steinways and not Yamaha's. What made this piano so special? It was an assembly flaw. Every channel technician/tuner, indicated that there was a problem with the action. What was the problem? The distance of the hammer throws, to the strings, was too far. As a result, any piano bangers, might pop a string? Requiring a service call and repair. So what was wrong with this piano is what made it right. Oh so right. And I assured all of the piano technician/tuners, to keep their lousy hands off the action of my piano. Just tune the sucker and leave it alone. I will not be having anyone in my studio, banging like a moron on my grand piano. Ever! So I always ask my clients if they want to use the piano? And if so? I inform them... if they want to bang on the piano, they can do it on their own electronic instrument and not my C-3. And I'm right up front at the beginning of the session, with that one stipulation. So, this difference in the action not only made people feel differently who played it and loved Steinways. It changed the way this C-3, sounded, in relationship to correctly assembled, identical models, at the same place, under the same conditions. And that's because these Steinway musicians would now play my Yamaha without fear of the much lighter action touch. Yielding a different sounding performance.

    So to my dear friend Ed, who made a lovely recording, that's why you don't like your recording. There are so many reasons. So many other variable possibilities. You think it's only one thing? Or two things? Or three things? It's none of those. It's everything! It's the whole 9 yards. And if you are such a simple Simon of a musician, to believe it's only one thing or your equipment? Or where you have your stupid microphones placed? Or any of that proper crap? It ain't! It's the whole thing. There is no mathematical equation. There is no precise recipe to follow. That's why we're not just recording engineers are musicians. We are expert culinary chefs and scientists that were high school dropouts. So without a proper education, it was obvious to me, to be a recording engineer/producer, broadcast engineer, I better be one of the best in the world of what I do. So I am. Now you can be also. Now you know. What you need to know. I'm not selling you anything. And I'm not saying you're bad at what you did. You have made a fine recording within the limitations of what you have. And for that you should be proud of yourself and please with your recording. So you didn't get for Christmas what you wanted? Does that mean you don't want to play with the toys that you have been given? You want to throw them down in the corner and break them in a rage of disappointment? You don't need to do that. That's not grown up. That's not what real engineers do. You roll with it. And you don't tell people that you're recording is compromised, in any way shape or form. Because it's not. It's a crappy baby grand Toy piano, recording in your living room, featuring you. It's a piece of you. It's a gift of you. It's you. That's what matters.

    Basically what I'm saying here is anybody with the passion, who's made a modest investment in their equipment, their instruments and especially themselves. You are making perfectly wonderful professional recordings. The only you know what you don't like about it. And if somebody doesn't like the sound of your recording? What the hell do they buy it for to begin with? Do you think your piano is going to keep anybody from wanting to purchase your recording of you? No. Don't be ridiculous.

    I gave you the information you needed as to why your recording did not sound like the video you presented. I wasn't here to grade your work. Or for that matter grade your piano. I just really can't stand listening to crappy toy imitation grand pianos. So I wouldn't buy your recording of you, if you were trying to sell your recording, to other engineers. Like me. Because I don't like listening to Toy instruments in someone's living room. I like to hear instruments and recordings that sound like the video you presented. And there's only one way to get that. And you were looking at it. It was your instruction manual. So put your glasses on LOL. It's the room, the place, the space and the instrument. Then throw in a couple of microphones and maybe a couple of extra microphones. Maybe XY? Maybe ORT F? Maybe a Decca Tree? Maybe spaced omnis? Maybe MS? Maybe condensers? Maybe ribbons? Maybe dynamics? Maybe discrete transistor preamps? Maybe tube preamps? Maybe integrated circuit chip hybrid transistor and tube preamps? Maybe an equalizer? Maybe an inductor equalizer? Maybe an RC equalizer? Maybe a gyrator equalizer? Would you like that constant phase or variable phase? Or for really obsessive-compulsive disorders, will some simple Belden microphone cable do? Or should it be Monster Cable? And do you use goldplated XLR's? Wait... are you using silver solder or that nasty poisonous stuff out of lead? What about metal film 2% resistors and polypropylene capacitors that are non-polarized electrolytic's? Did you want to go transformer was microphone preamp? Or do you want a transformer coupled microphone preamp with a 6:1, 10:1, 15:1, or a higher turns ratio transformer? How fast do you need the slew rate of your IC chip, operational amplifier to be if you have output buffer transistors? Would 1.5 V per microsecond be adequate instead of 15 V per microsecond? And please tell me... what all of that has to do with the sound of the piano recording?

    If you can answer yes to any of those questions? Please tell me where I can get some of those drugs also?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  16. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    I like that story - I'm not so certain about the piano bangers (although if it was my piano, I'd probably agree 100%). The first time we had our 'real' concert Yamaha grand, Yamaha wheeled in a German guy doing a series of Schubert piano recitals across the country, and he sat behind the piano and beat the classical crap out of it - my God, hands like a karate expert in the Olympics. At the end he sat back and said "It is not yet played in, but it 'vil do!" Wow! I'd have to admit that after it was returned it did actually sound warmer when played by much less violent hands.
     
    DonnyAir likes this.
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL.... I guess I never thought of a classically trained pianist pulling a Jerry Lee Lewis on a grand. He didn't play with his foot or lay on the piano and play upside down did he? ;)

    Jerry+Lee+Lewis.jpg

    I'm sure that when this pic first came out, somewhere in Hamburg, there was a little old German craftsman whispering to himself "Ich werde diese Stiefel in den Arsch schieben!
    translation: "Acht! Vee vill shove dat boot up his ass!"

    :)
     
  18. Edahall

    Edahall Active Member

    Remy,
    Would like to hear a recording sample of your Yamaha C3.
    Thanks,
    Ed
     

Share This Page