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Piano Recordings, your approaches welcome.

Discussion in 'Piano' started by lorenzo gerace, Feb 9, 2003.

  1. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member

    OK, we all have our way of micing/recording pianos, but I would like to get some new ideas from you to try new approaches for a slew of piano recordings I've been asked to do.

    What do you use (mics, pres, recording mediums, micing technique...) in various contexts, like classical, pop, etc..

    Thanx for sharing your thoughts.

    L.G. :w:
  2. Violin Dan

    Violin Dan Active Member

    Hello Lorenzo...thanks for bringing this up...I was going to ask YOU this question ;>}
    My 2 cents worth is overpriced, but one thing I noticed recording our Yamaha 6' grand was that it helped to put a sleeping bag over the top of the open lid (short stick). The mic (Avlex tube condenser) was on a boom suspended over the pin block. Seems like it was just too live without the sleeping bag. This might look a little odd on stage...just kidding.
    How would you mic a violin sonata...vln and piano?
    Looking forward to your expertise.
  3. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member

    Hi Dan

    Thanx for your reply, I was getting hopeless about this post... :roll:

    Well, the sleepingbag over the lid is quite a curious thing, as I write this I'm just trying to figure out how it looks; don't know about the tube mic you used, could you expand a little on the positioning and rest of the signal chain (preamp, compressor if used, A/D converters ect..)?

    About the violin and piano sonata I'd go like this: I usually like to use a small diaphragm condenser over strings like violin and viola, but it depends on the instrument, some violas really need a larg diaphragm to sound good, so I'd go with a Neumann KM184, or as a cheaper (but quite good sounding) alternative a Rode NT5. For piano I like 2 AKG 414 B-ULS one over the bass strings the other toward the higher strings, adjusting the placement for phase consistency, a little spread apart in the mix; another really great solution for piano sounds is this: I once used a pair of AKG boundary mics (can't remember the model, but they're no longer in production, pity because they were killer mics) actually placed inside the piano, over the harp, one over the bass side, the other over the higher register, with some kind of rubber suspension (like a few mm thick piece of rubber) and a stereo pair (in my case a Sanken stereo mic) a few feet outside to capture the overall picture of the piano; mixing the boundaries with the stereo made for an optimal balance in definition and natural acoustic sound.

    For the sonata (I do quite a lot of these kind of duo and trio recordings) I'd place the violin player so that he can have eye contact with the pianist, but angle the mic (spot) at the maximum rejection angle possible (anyway some leakage from the piano will be unavoidable) and mike the piano in one of the ways I mentioned above; I usually supplement the spot mics with a main stereo pair (I favor ORTF pattern) to capture the stereo picture of the duo in the room (hopefully it will sound good), using a pair of large diaphragm (Neumann U87 if available, AKG 414, Audix CX111, Audio Technica 3035...) and try to find the right blend of room mics and spot mics in mixdown: in this case the stereo pair over the piano is not used.

    I hope somebody else has interesting approaches to tell us, I'd like them to chime in.

    Thanx for your feedback
  4. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    I use 2 at4050´s, facing bass and treble respectively. Hard pan left and hard right. A third mic closer to the tail, right to the center, some kind of Center info also.
    blend the three at the mix. Each with its own Pt track. For more budgeted tasks, I record into PT Mix 5.1.1/G4 800/02R mic pres. For simple registers, ADAT XT/01V.
  5. Violin Dan

    Violin Dan Active Member

    Thanks Lorenzo and Alécio...
    My wife and I were trying to remember just how we accomplished the last recording. Could be we used two large dia. condenser mics, one directly over the pin block about 24" up and the other in front of the open lid. The tube mic is the Superlux CM-H8D imported by Avlex. The other large dia. is the Avlex AVS 80. I have found these to be excellent "budget" mics, but the performance/price ratio is spectacular...listen up you guys mic shopping with little cash.
    I use the Roland VM 3100 Pro front end into a Pentium III 700 PC. Since it only has two mic inputs I also us my Tapco 6201 B mixer (can you say vintage?) for additional mic pres.
    I've been experimenting with the AT3525 where you would use the 414's and the AT4041 where you use the NT5. So far, so good. Anybody else using these?
    BOUNDARY MICS: I picked up two Crown PCC 160's and was wondering what to do with them...thanks for the hint! Do you consider their rotational position since they are directional?

    Alécio, what do mean by "facing bass and treble"?

    Lorenzo, when you mix down the sonata, do you pan the spot mics to match the stereo image of the stereo pair?

    Enough for now. Thanks guys.
  6. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member

    Originally posted by Dan Lawrence:

    I'm not sure about the Crowns, but the AKG I used are only directional referencing to their surface plane, being flat round panels 6" wide, so they just pick up a semi-sphere over them, like a dome.

    Yes, I bring the stereo pair up ( hard L and R) and then add the spots to match in pan and level so as to have a correct phase and definition. Sometimes the spots are just barely audible, but they add that focus to the picture.

  7. Violin Dan

    Violin Dan Active Member

    Regarding the boundary mics, I posted this on the thread about pzm's:
    "Jeff Lowes said: "As for the pickup pattern of a boundary mic, I assume that they all are hemispherical. I can't see that the placement makes any difference in the pattern since all signal is captured from the reflection off the plate. I suppose there could be some exceptions....."
    I just checked the Crown web site on the PCC 160 and it's described as having a "half supercardioid" polar pattern and the polar plot shows a good 10-20 db difference from the front to the back, in the plane of the floor, so this puppy is not hemispherical, but quite directional. I guess the 3d plot would look like a fourth of a football...think about it.
    This would make for some interesting situations in the "flying" scenario, not to mention setting them inside the lid of a piano ;>}
    What say???
    Dan "
    So...some of them are cardioid in the half plane making for some interesting scenarios,yes????

    I found the other post about mounting one on either side of a piece of plexi quite interesting also...
    Thanks for the additional info.
  8. I use three or four mics on a grand. In my case, I've used three AT-4047 large condensers like this: (the 4047's are a very "honest" uncolored mic..)
    Lid open full, each mic is in the same plane and on a diagonal line from the high keys:
    1st mic at far right of soundboard (high end), perhaps 8" or so above the closed lid level, the third mic would be at the far end of the left of the piano (low end), and the 2nd mic between 1st and third mic.
    I'll also place a room mic somewhere where it sounds good, normally at the far low end of the soundboard. In this case, my Lawson L47MP (tube multi-pattern large condenser)

    Upright is different, I'll start with a spaced pair of omni's (I've used both 414's and and SP C-3's with good results) looking forward and down at the open top.. moving these slightly up, inward or frankly, in any manner will make the piano jump out at you if the sound is not at first shot, "OK" .. and it rarely is.. depends on the player's touch and material.
  9. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    as many approaches as there are members of RO....to be sure.

    Here's a few ideas to fill out everybody else's tips:
    1. Tack UpRight Piano...just a pair of '57's on either side of the paler facing the soundboard (with the Lid up).
    2. Jazz Grand Piano(combo/big band/ect) piano, with the piano next to the drums & UpRightBass.
    Large Diaphram Condenser over one of the holes in the frame at the low-end side pointing down to the soundboard below; with a small diaphram condenser doig the same on one of the top-end holes. Usually one hole in from each end works fro spread and harmonic balance. Lid on short stick to minimize bleed a hair more that full open.
    3.Rock/Pop Piano. '57's or 421's work great for this...focuses sound into the midrange. Can try mic position's listed above for Jazz Grand. Mono is even more focused with this technique.
  10. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member

    Wow, This is starting to become interesting... :D ;)

    Anybody tried using small dia only on pianos? I guess it could be good for higher register but what about the low end? I'm asking because I've seen pianos recorded several times with a pair of KM184 and the sound was great, but they were set up as a stereo pair, and not too close in.

  11. sign

    sign Guest

    Tape a pair of PZM's to the lid, open it more or less and be HAPPY!!
  12. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member

    Originally posted by Han:

    What you said :D :D
  13. Violin Dan

    Violin Dan Active Member

    Experimented a bit with the Crown PCC 160 boundary mic on piano. I first tried it sitting on the treble end about 2/3 of the way away from the keyboard. Lots of top end and bottom end (probably conducted directly into the frame of the mic) and little in between. Not a pretty sight. Today I placed it on the harp near the hammers on the bass end, pointed toward the far end. Nice balance, and excellent presence, but still a little on the bright side to use as the only mic. Mixed in another small dia. cond. about 4' out from the open lid and I could get just about anything I wanted by balancing the two.
  14. I have a few main techniques to record piano.

    First, dont underestimate the power of a mono piano recording, with the right mic, and placement, (and the right song of course), you can get great results. Typically, i mic piano in mono when i dont want it to take up a ton of space in a song, or when i want it focused in a very specific place in the mix and not really spread out. Often a piano is much more defined and clearer in mono when the mic is fairly close in. I will pull a mono mic back if i just want a dark, rich ambient sound.

    In mono. typical signal chain might be Sony C800G, or a C12 thru an avalon or neve mic pre (or whatever's good). I'll often EQ it to tape unless i love the way it sounds coming in. I'll often also compress it a bit. again, specific EQ boxes and compressors depend on what studio i'm at, i'm not too picky, but i usually have access to nice stuff. For a tighter sound, I'll usually keep the lid on with a full stick, mic in about 14 to 18 inches off the strings roughly in the middle, cariod or omni, depending on what i'm going for. For more ambient sounds, back about 2 feet off the curve works nice for me, full stick on the lid.

    For stereo micing i do two different things. If i'm dealing with a song with alot of low end content, i might choose to keep the piano brighter and not emphasis the low end. for this i'll put 2 small diaphragm condensors kind of spaced XY pair centered roughly over middle C, usually 10 to 16 inches up, one facing hi strings the other facing low strings. Mics, usually 451's, sometimes KM84's or B&K 4011's. whatever your best pair of small diaphragms are. Mic pre's i'll use the best ones i have handy.
    This placement gives the piano nice attack and brightness and presence, not too much body, but great imaging.
    If i want a fuller sound, I'll keep those two mics where they are and put a 3rd mic at the far end of the piano at the narrow end over the bass strings, in cardiod, and about as high up as my small diaphragms are placed. Mic's for this, either a good large diaphragm tube mic, or condensor mic. C800G, C12, U47, U87, even an AT4050 or Shure KSM would probably work well. I keep the hammer mics panned hard left and right, and bring the bass mic up the center. Just mix it in til it feels right. It adds great richness and body to the sound while keeping it tight and focused. I rarely ever have noticable phase problems adding this mic (although the hammer mics are often a problem being spaced). I blend all three together and print it as a stereo pair. Most of the time i like to record with the lid completely off if i'm going for more present sounds and this technique works well with the lid off. lid on is ok too.
    -Ken Lewis
    Full Time Dreamer

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