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Microphone for Grand Piano Recording

Discussion in 'Piano' started by bf2008, Apr 12, 2009.

  1. bf2008

    bf2008 Guest

    Hi. I need to record myself playing a grand piano. The repertoire is classical: chopin, beethoven, rachmaninov, etc.

    It will be recorded both at home and also when I play live in a variety of concert halls.

    Since I'm finding it very difficult to decide what to get, I was wondering if you could post extracts of recordings you did yourself of grand pianos classical concerts (post 30 seconds if you're worried about posting full recordings, that would be enough). You may need to post the link here to where the file is being hosted.

    These are the mics I'm considering at the moment, so if you've got recordings of these or similar mics that would be ideal!

    Large Diaphragm Condensers:
    Behringer C1
    Behringer C3
    Samson C01
    Samson C03
    Rode NT1A

    Small Diaphragm Condensers:
    Behringer C2
    Samson C02
    Rode NT5

    Thanks guys!
  2. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Scratch the Behringer junk, the rate of failure is ridiculous (hence the cost).

    I'll hazard a guess that the SDC's will do you better in your home, as they typically have less room sound meaning that you'll get better sound but in a nice space (such as a concert hall) you'd probably like the LDCs more.

    Also, asking for recordings, well... there's a lot of variables. The instrument, performance, room, preamps and other gear involved all change the recording so just the mics themselves would be hard to compare.
  3. jetsailsound

    jetsailsound Active Member

    Neumann U87 or KM184
  4. bf2008

    bf2008 Guest

    Hi. Have you got any samples from recordings made with these mics you could share with us?
  5. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The U87 is an industry standard option. I'm not wholly partial to the KM184 but it is a good mic as well (it's predecessor KM84 I like better).

    In your SDC price range judging by your list your best bet is likely the Rode NT5 or better yet the AT4051.

    For LDC, I think the AKG C414.

    Now if budget isn't as much of an issue as your list would indicate, and if we:
    1-had an idea of the concert halls
    2-whether it was a solo recital or chamber concert or full orchestra
    3-Steinway D, Bechstein 7', Mason Hamlin AA, Harpsichord? (brand really doesn't matter but the type of sound palatte and size would be helpful)

    4-what preamps are you using
    5-computer recording interface or field recorder or other?

    Capturing accurately the sound of a piano is very difficult to do accurately. Once you have decided to attempt the task then you start experimenting and trying find the best positions for microphones. Studio position and live venue positions are not necessarily the same though they could be. Read as many articles as possible.
    - http://www.dpamicrophones.com/en/Microphone-University/Miking-a-Grand-Piano/Microphone-Placement.aspx
    - http://www.doghousenyc.com/articles/piano1.php
    - http://www.saecollege.de/reference_material/pages/Piano.htm

    These are just a few articles with ideas. Some are more for the popular end of music than the classical but experimentation is the key.

    If you can have someone play your piano for you then you should walk around the piano and room-including sticking your head in the piano-and find the spots where it just plain sounds good. Once you have identified some of those points then you can begin trying out microphones in those positions. Every venue will be different but experience will begin to inform starting positions from which to tweak.
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Not to toss a wrench into the broth, but, while looking for a good price on a U87 ( I want one) I found this article.

    excerpt from Audio Masterclass

  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey Chris -

    Just a thought - Whoever wrote that article is retarded...genuinely. Of course altering the distance of the mic by 20cm is going to make a mic sound radically different. It alone is the reason why the dynamic sounded "better." (Of course, the Shure is a studio staple for a reason - it's a damn fine mic!)

    The appropriate thing to do would have been to insert a 20dB pad between the Neumann and the pre to assist in matching gain without overloading the pre.

    The other statement - "Dynamic mics will never work well with metallic percussion - they simply don't have the detailed high frequency response that is necessary." is a wholly unfounded and unintelligent statement. A well-designed dynamic does just fine with high-frequenccy information and often handles it as well if not better than a condenser mic.

    Also - Codemonkey -
    Just a quick note - A small diaphragm and large diaphragm mic pick up equal amounts of room sound with all things being equal. The off-axis response of a small diaphragm mic is generally better as due to the lack of physical interference fromt the housing as well as the shape and size of the diaphragm itself. Neumann tried to compensate for this a little with the spherical housing of the M50. They were largely successful - however, the mic is still a small diaphragm capsule.

    To the OP -
    the stuff already mentioned is right on - let us know some more details.

    I personally prefer small diaphragm condensers for piano and if you have a great sounding room, nothing beats a great pair of omnis (Schoeps MK2 for example). Of course, these are way outside the price of what you mentioned. The closest a cheap mic has ever come to mimicking the higher quality mics is in the Rode series. The NT5 is a great mic and worth every penny. The NT55 is an even better use of the money due to its versatility.

    Josephsons are another great choice - they're a tad top heavy though, so make sure there's a little difference between the mics and the piano.


    PS - I can't post any samples - sorry. I need clearance from the artists to do so - it's tough to get that for the purposes of a forum.
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    "So, there is at least one worthwhile conclusion to this test - if you position a Neumann U87 at other than the optimum distance, it will sound worse than a cheap $100 mic."

    In what universe does a poorly positioned mic not sound like crap? Including the cheap $100 mic?

    "But to learn how to position mics well - now that is an art that is only learned over a period of years and not something you can just go out and buy."

    This statement I do agree with.
  9. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Ah, thanks Cucco.
    So the diaphragm itself isn't the core of the matter but more the shape of the housing.
    One more item for the corrections list.
    It all comes down to pickup pattern anyway.
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    amazing all the miss leading information out there. From a site called Audio Masterclass. Couldn't help post that and get indexed as a cross reference to help others in search of "help".

    Hey Cucco, the MK2 / S or H , (priced around $850 - 70 each) would these work well for acoustic guitar too? I'm looking for something I could use both for recording a grand and acoustic guitars ( nylon and steel).

    They don't make any reference to guitars for the MK2 on Schoeps web site. I'm guessing they would be great for all acoustic music in close proximity yes? I'm also thinking the most natural (MK2) of the three would be best for close to the source. I have good eq's if needed yes?
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    The MK2 (either S or H) works quite well for guitar - of course, you'd need the CMC 6 body as well. They're about $2K a piece when you buy the bodies and the capsules together.

    Of course, omni mics have limited use for guitar - the room has to be great and you have to be pretty close to the source. Of course, the good news is, there is no proximity effect so you won't have the excessive LF build up even if they are close to the sound hole.

    The flat "MK2" is fine for this application but the voiced caps work too. I do prefer the MK2S for most applications though.

    If you're looking for killer mics that work well on a variety of sources -
    Mojave MA-100
    Sennheiser MKH8040

    It's hard to imagine better values for the money than these two.

  12. bf2008

    bf2008 Guest

    Hi. Thanks for the input, and no problem you can't post samples, I fully understand. Though I was wondering if maybe you have some short samples of tests you were performing, maybe yourself playing? Something simple, just some scales would be fine, and if you could share them with us.

    The grand piano is a Kawai RX3 1.80m. It has a nice sound and I want to preserve it in the recording. The room is a 6m x 6m living room, with decent/balanced accoustics. Also, when playing in concerts I may for example play in a small concert hall (for 50 people) in a Bosendorfer 290. The music is classical, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Beethoven, Debusy. Don't know what else to say. They recordings have to be of good enough quality to be able to submit them for demos for competition applications, i.e. to get accepted to participate. They don't have to be of commercial quality.
  13. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Those two pianos of course have a much different sound from each other. The Kawai, though a nice sounding instrument, is going to be a much brighter piano and really won't have the bottom end of a Bosendorfer. I think you'll definitely want the most neutral sounding mic you can afford if you'll only have one pair.

    For that matter, no one asked how many mic's you were intending to use. I'm going to flat out tell you that a single mic won't get it done period. A pair of microphones is probably your best bet whether as a front stereo pair or positioned up close at the treble and bass breaks in the plate or whatever other positioning.

    If you go with the NT5/NT55's then you might consider also getting omni capsules with them for more versatility.
  14. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    The NT55 comes with both the cardioid and omni capsules (and the pad and bass rolloff). The NT5 comes with only the cardioid capsule. You can add the omni later.

    I don't have as wide a range of experience as many of the posters here, but these are my favorite condenser mics in this price range. Starting out with a pair of NT55s would be a very good way to go for someone recording classical music in that price range.

    I don't have any solo piano clips, and all of the clips I have done with piano and other instruments have used other mics as part of the mix.
  15. ahavill

    ahavill Guest

    I'll second the Rode recommendation. Sound great, incredible value, and they are built well.
    It sounds like you are not working with an engineer. I know it seems like, if you want a really good recording, you get a good mic, plug it in, & hit record. So I see why you keep asking for samples of recordings using the various mics. But (as all these other engineers have said) there are many factors other than the mic that may be as important, or more so, to the final recording.
    Imagine this: I give you 3 recordings, one with a $100 Shure, one with a $500 Rode, and one with a $3000 Neumann. UNLESS they are recording the same person playing the same piano in the same room, with the mic set up in the same spot, with the same outboard equipment, ...how could you know what part of the tone is being caused by the mic?
    As you can see from Cucco's note, simply putting a Neumann in the wrong place will make it sound worse than a Shure. I recommend finding an pro engineer; any one worth his salt should have ideas about techniques, and a few mics for you to check out. And, depending on where you are in relation to a major city, you can rent things like Neumanns & Schoepps mics for reasonable prices ($20/day.)
  16. bf2008

    bf2008 Guest

    Thank you! Your points are very well taken and very true indeed. And I understand the issue with samples as well.
    However, maybe I didn't make it clear that I'm looking for an informal recording. It doesn't have to be of proffesional quality. It has to be good enough so that then I can listen to myself, and also with my teacher, and analyse how I performed in a live concert. Hence it doesn't have to "blow my mind" with the recording, but it has to be transparent enough to show what I did well, and what I did wrong. Also I'll use it to send demos to competition applications, but actually I've found in the past that they don't really have high expectations for the quality of recordings. I have submitted in the past recordings made with a cassette walkman with built in mic for example. But also it could be that in more advance competitions that will not suffice anymore. Hope this helps!

    Also, regarding the use of samples to choose mics, I believe that although they may not show the full potential of a mic, at least they show of what they are capable of in a particular context. That's why I'm asking for samples of inexpensive mics, because if I get a sample which sounds good enough for me I'll go for those mics. I understand that maybe this idea of samples would not really work for choosing expensive mics because as you said it could be that they are not being properly used. Using the example you mentioned, if that recording of the Shure is good enough for me I'll go all the way for that Shure. And coming back to the list of the mics I've mentioned, if someone posts me a sample of one of the cheapest mics, like the C2 and I'm happy with it, I'll go all the way with them,

    Hope this helps
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Actually - the new crop of digital recorders with built in mics work quite well for exactly your purposes. Most of my colleagues have one of these that they throw on a stand in the concert hall or give to their significant others to hold during a concert to record their performances.

    Granted, it won't sound as good to them as our full-blown recording rig, but it certainly sounds pretty darn nice.

    If you grab something like the Korg MR-1 or the new Zoom H4 or similar and position it well, you'll be really surprised at the quality.

  18. ahavill

    ahavill Guest

    More good calls from Cucco. I am a huge fan of the Zoom H4, and I know many pro engineers who agree with me that the internal mics sound really, really good. They just came out with a new model, the H4n, which means that the original is now even cheaper. Sweetwater has the H4 for $270 brand new.
    As the posts reflect, there are many complicating factors in getting a good recording, & we engineers make a point to address them all. The portable recorders help by minimizing these factors. With something like the H4, you can find a "sweet spot" in whatever room you're in just by using your ears. Then, set up the H4 where your head was, and hit record. You get a CD-quality recording that can be drag-and-dropped into your computer. Easy. Since they are digital & use much better mics than the old-school cassette recorders, the sound quality will be drastically better.
    Here's a link that compares audio clips from several different portable recorders, on piano & other orchestral instruments. They use the Zoom H2, which is a lower-priced version, but it should give you an idea.
  19. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    No link? :cry:
  20. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I do strong arm all my horn students into getting digital recorders for learning purposes. For that matter, I encourage my orchestra peers to do the same.

    CD quality is a stretch unless you hit everything just right, but I'm liking the H4n for your purposes. You can get a mic stand adapter for it as well so you can place it right at the front of the stage-higher is better though. Too low and you'll be muddy.

    Be careful though. Once you start down the dark path of recording you'll find it difficult to stop 8)

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