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micing a grand piano

Discussion in 'Piano' started by kliffdog, Oct 29, 2006.

  1. kliffdog

    kliffdog Guest

    hey I'm new to all this forum stuff, but i read some of the entrees and all you guys are using some nice gear. all I have is a condenser mic (cad) and a vocal mic. (don't know what make, I borrowed it) for some practice I am doing some x-mas songs. my wife singing, and a grand piano. the piano is in a church sitting in the front of the room. baisicly on a stage. the room is a great sounding room. I just hope you guys have some ideals for me on where I should put my mic(s). any takers?
  2. DIGIT

    DIGIT Guest

    Well, there isn't much to go on here but, here's what I would do:

    Put the piano mic pointing at the open board (about 6ft away). Then have you wife stand in front of her microphone, to your right. If you want more of the piano sound leaking through her mic have her face away from you. Otherwise, the opposite happens (she faces you and less bleed will be heard).

    Without knowing the piano, the singer, the material, the room, the microphones and the barometric pressure :) it's hard to give more specific examples. But this should get you started...
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Well if all you have are 2 microphones, you'll need cable, a mixer, a recorder, headphones, a blank CD and a computer. Perhaps software du jour is also in order?

    But the condenser microphone on the piano about 3 feet in front of it at the crook. Put your wife on the borrowed microphone with a Radio Shaft foam pop filter it does not already have one.

    Don't play with any equalization, go flat. Flat is good. Flat is best. Flat can be corrected with breast augmentation surgery.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. kliffdog

    kliffdog Guest

    ok let me explain little a better. I am running Ableton live on my lap top, I have the chords, mixer, and what not. my plan was to record the piano then add the vocals latter on, back at my house. ( home made studio in back of my shed.) do you think it would be better to do it all live? or, could I use both mic's on the piano and maybe get better sound? I am new to allot of this stuff. and all I know is it took me a long time to find the right position to mic my guitar and get the right sound. so thank you for any hints you can give me. You are saveing me allot of time. out
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Kliff; first of all, good luck and congrats for going down this route; you'll probably learn a lot, have some fun, and even make your wife happy in the process. (Sounds like a win win win situation to me!)

    In most cases with voice and piano alone, you're better off doing everything together, live in the church/hall. Overdubbing is a lot of extra work, and perhaps not worth your time for what your doing. (Seriously: Will there be a click track? Solid, countable intros? Who leads, the singer or the accompanist? Are they professionals? Many non-pros can't handle overdubs in a free-form situation like solo piano and vocals-after-the-fact. It could be VERY tricky if your wife hasn't done this sort of thing before. )

    Any good accompanist will want to work with the singer LIVE, so they can breath & move together musically. The cues are sometimes visual, sometimes undetectable, but they ARE there live, and they'll get lost when trying to overdub. (Again, it MIGHT work, it might not.)

    If you really do only have two mics, then put one on the piano, one on the singer. (Don't know your mic choices, so I can't really say which goes where...) Hopefully it's a fairly large room so one wont be blowing out the other, sonically. Let them practice while you set up, and get comfortable with their blend together, IN the room. Have them position themselves recital-style, with the singer slightly out in front of the piano, with the crook behind her.

    Mic to taste inside the piano - with only one mic, you're going to have to split the difference in terms of best placement and get the best sound overall. If it's a cardioid, it will pick up the piano and reject the singer (who's back is to the mic anyway) behind it.

    I'd recommend opening the lid either full or 1/4 stick, even though there's a chance of bleed into the vocal mic. A good accompanist can work with this, and you can even try moving them a little farther apart. (Remember, you WILL get bleed, that's all part of the equation.) You may have to move the singer a bit farther away from the piano to get a clean (but NOT isolated) sound, and I'm betting they will want to be in visual contact with each other, however you position them.

    You may need a windscreen for the vocal mic (esp if it's a true condenser mic of either size - LD or SD) and where it goes will have to be according to taste. For traditional classical and jazz singers, I like 3-6 feet away, sometimes a little above the mouth/jawline (mostly to prevent pops and blasts, otherwise I'll use a popper stopper. Again, this is going to be according to taste. If your singer is using a music stand, there's another space issue there. (Watch out for harsh reflections off a metal music stand, as well.)

    Later, in mixdown/software mode, you'll probably find the mics/channels are a bit dry this way, so add reverb to taste, esp since this will have been a fairly close-mic'd situation on location. I'm guessing you'll want to create a sense of space around the performers, recreating the sonic environment - a "Live" sound, as opposed to a dead studio.

    If your budget ever expands, you can always put up some ambient mics (spaced omni pair, etc.) and see if capturing the room sound around the musicians helps you any. (On a separate track, of course) Studio Projects (SP microphones) Makes some great stuff, the C4's are sold in pairs, with two capsules each; one cardioid and one omni, all for about $350 nowadays. (New pricing coming out, I think?) These are a GREAT pair of starter mics for you as you learn and grow.

    Good luck, let us know how it goes. :cool:
  6. antispatula

    antispatula Guest

    weirdly enough I seem to get a much better sound when you spot mic the piano, getting some room in the recording makes it sound bad, especially with sustain. It's like adding reverb to something that's already....reverbirated. :D
  7. TeddyBullard

    TeddyBullard Guest

    It totally depends on context. If you close mic a piano on a classical recording...well...I shudder at the thought.
  8. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    I'm feeling that shudder all the way down here in Sydney!

    And furthermore, if you try to record a classical piano using classical microphone techniques in a typical popular music studio (which is invariably full of acoustically 'small' rooms that mistake a cluster of early reflections for reverberation), it will sound terrible.

    I am not referring to antispatula's post here, but it has reminded me of a pet rant:

    I find it amusing watching pop or rock engineers take on a classical or similar acoustic recording job. Out they come with their Neumann U87s and so on, shoving a mic up the guts of each instrument, getting the sound as close and clean and dry as they can, and spending the rest of the tracking aspect of the job bathing in the juices of premature congratulation while convincing themselves they'll be able to stitch all the disparate parts back together in the mix with EQ, reverb and compression. As if those things can replace the wonderful sonic glue that we all sniff. (Er, I'm referring to *air*, the best mixer in the world. I've been sniffing that stuff for as long as I can remember, I'm totally hooked on it...)

    I love taking studio guys out on my classical recording gigs, if for no other reason than to see the look on their faces when I put a single stereo microphone 3m or more in front of an ensemble and say "Let's go take a listen"...
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Amen, Simosonic, Amen!

    I recall (about a decade ago) asking a certain touring sound engineer how he preferred to mic a concert grand piano as played by one of the world's greatest prog rock pianist. (Names left out to protect the guilty).

    He said they'd take an AKG 414, wrap it in foam, and shove it into the middel sound hole of the Steinway. They also had a couple of PZM mics for backup, and another 414 down near the tail, inside the closed lid of the thing. ((((Shudder))))
  10. mdemeyer

    mdemeyer Active Member

    I have (more than once) come across situations where I do need to spot a piano, generally accompanying a chorus in concert, where for logistical reasons (such as being in the way of the singers) I can't put a mic in a good 'normal' position. Any suggestions for ways to handle this case?

    I'm planning to try an AMT M40 the next time I run into this, but wondered if any of you have dealt with this successfully.


  11. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Brrr, I felt that one down here in Sydney, too. But, as Michael says, there are times when we have no choice:

    In one of a number of live concert recordings I worked on for the Australian Chamber Orchestra, I saw their live sound engineer miking up the grand pianos in a rather unusual way. Firstly, the lids were removed. I think this was primarily because there were two pianos, each tucked into the crook of the other so that the pianists (a brother and sister duo) could see each other. Obviously the lids had to be removed or the rear piano would not be heard by the audience at all!

    Each piano was miked with two AKG 414s held in place by a double or triple-layered length of gaffer tape stretched across the piano, from one side to the other, just above the vicinity of the hammers. The mics were horizontal, with their diaphragms parallel to the strings and at the same height as the side edge of the piano (where the lid would be if it were closed), held in place with the gaffer tape around the XLR part where the clip would normally go. The XLR and cable protruding out the other end helped provide some balance, with the cable tucked around and back onto the gaffer tape.

    It was bizarre to look at, but it did the job. The beauty of this approach, for Michael's application, is that to the audience the microphones and related paraphernalia were invisible - especially if the lid was still on the piano, but open, so there was less light getting inside the piano to illuminate the rig. All that could be seen from the audience point of view were two XLR cables hanging over the rear edge of the piano...

    How did it sound? Not bad, under the circumstances. But the sound reinforcement engineer on that job is, in my opinion, a local legend and always gets a good sound.
  12. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I've seen the gaffer-tape solution, yes. It does work well, in the right hands, etc.

    We're getting off topic and out of most folks' price range, but there is also the DPA 3521 stereo kit (two matched 4521's in a cool kit with goosenecks and stereo bar). Pretty sweet if you have the $$.
  13. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    For choral as well as chamber I will put a pair of TLM193s on an Atlas bar at ZERO degrees (both facing forward) and may play with distance within the limits of the bar and shockmounts.

    I end up putting them on a "normal" stand (about 5ft) or shorter if short stick. If they are doing the "shut the lid" game I will put a book in between the body and lid and let the mics "peek" into the gap. I will aim the back side at whatever I do not want to hear, but stage visuals plays into this. Ignore the aiming thing if the piano is used with chorus.

    When mixing I delay those mics by ear (10-25ms). It is amazing how they help clarity, especially in chamber music. The TLM 193/170/U89 is unsual in that it can touch up an instrument without sounding really close. The goal is to aid the musical detail more than to actually boost piano sound.

  14. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I do this all the time when I use 414's in a PA application. Sounds great... The other thing that helps when the lid is shut (often happens when the pianist needs to use a keyboard as well), is to use the bass roll-off. On the low end, I roll off at 75 Hz, top end at 150 Hz. Helps keep things from sounding too boxy.

    This is a very nice kit indeed. At AES this year, they had a grand piano in their booth with 3 different mics inside to hear easy comparisons. They had cardiod and omni mics on the goosenecks and the 4061 lav mics mounted in their little mounts. For something at budget- the 4061 sounds really good (Rich Mays has done this on some of his jazz work and it sounds pretty incredible). If you want to use it like a PZM, they also have a boundary mount for it. Sounds a heck of a lot better than a PZM.

  15. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    We've been using one of those kits for a year or two, and love it. It is normally sold with two matched 4021s, but we requested two 4023s instead - same microphones but with detachable cables. I *really* don't trust fixed cables on any microphone; a real turn-off. You can be assured that one day that cable IS going to fail at the point where it enters the microphone body, and you're out of action.

    One of the best things about the 3521 kit is the 'pelvic bone' combined ORTF/XY holder. One simple little bracket that makes using ORTF or XY an absolute cinch. The only downside is that you can't alter the angle or distance between the mics for fine tuning. But for jobs where you need to get in quick and get on with it, the 4023/ORTF rig is brilliant. Great for choral work especially. And so small and easy to tote around.

    We hate the plastic box the kit comes supplied in - the latches are pathetic and fiddly.

    On Saturday we were using the individual 4023s in their gooseneck holders to mic up acoustic guitars and charangos for a live concert recording of Misa Criolla. They were doing double duty as recording mics and for the PA. Fantastic!
  16. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    We have the SMK4061 stereo kit for evaluation at the moment. On Saturday's performance of Misa Criolla, I stuck one on the end of a piece of bent wire (with black electrical tape) to make an impromptu headset mic for the main vocalist. With one of the supplied foam wind filters over the end it worked surprisingly well, for both the PA/foldback and the recording.

    I think we will have to add that kit to our arsenal. We haven't done anything else with it as yet, but hearing the vocal through the PA and on playback tells us a lot about the potential of those little mics.

    I'm keen to use them on their boundary plates, I can think of numerous situations where that would come in handy.
  17. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I forgot to add in my last post-

    On the subject of 414's on gaffer's tape. Another mic that does this really well (although a bit heavy for gaffer's tape to hold securely) is the Sony C48. Nowhere near as edgy and brittle as the 414 can be. Has a bright, present, but smooth sound.

  18. cusebassman

    cusebassman Active Member

    Looks like I am in a loosely similar situation to the original thread poster, but with a (possibly laughably) larger collection of mic's. I have a couple Sennheiser e609's, some decent MXL-series small diaphragm condensors, two Rode NT3s... and 16 tracks to play with. I need to mic a grand piano in a large church with a vocalist playing the piano and singing at the same time. I will probably use one of the NT3s on the vocals mainly because it sounds pretty good recorded (from previous live recordings I've done with it), and its a hypercardioid, so it blocks out just about everything not being sent straight-on into the diaphragm. By the time I need to record this, I will have around 400 dollars to spend on mic's, if need be. I'm not sure if I should buy a better single cardioid condenser to mic the open-lid from a couple feet away, or if I should get a stereo pair / stereo mic (like the NT4) to mic closer to the soundboard. Any suggestions for that price range would be much appreciated. The performer plays a fusion of pop and classical (that makes it sound awful, but it is actually very good - its original, so its not Britney Spears mixed with Mozart) Thanks again!

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