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record a piano, Omnis and MS

Discussion in 'Piano' started by bamballo, Jul 24, 2014.

  1. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    Hi. This my first post here. Greetings to all forum members.

    I have two plans to record a piano. The first is a recording with two omnidirectional microphones with an AB spaced pair (noc -1 wav) 1,50 mt until piano . The second is the same with an MS pair in the center of the piano, close to the harp, about 0.35 mt (noc -2 wav).

    I prefer piano recordings in some detail in the sound, without losing the overall image of the piano.

    The piano is a old Steinway Model D. The room has good acoustics, but the piano is not in the best condition and tuning, especially in the higher frequencies of the instrument. Do you think this piano has enough quality to make a classic recording and production? I have doubts and perhaps this forum could help me solve.



    The recording is a test and has some misinterpretation. Files: The first only Omnis. The second was recorded with Omnis and MS.

    A greeting again and thank.

    Francisco.
     
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Of the two samples, I prefered the first as it is free of the phasing effects that appeared when you mixed the two pairs of mics together. Can you tell us what microphones and what pre-amps, interface or recorder were used?
     
  3. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    Thanks Boswell.

    Omnis: C617 Josepson x2
    Cardiodes: 414 x 2 in MS tech. (only 25% total sound)
    Preamps: RME UFX (is a test recording) . (For final recordind Micstacy and ADDA RME)
    Logix X. Only SSL4000 in the compression process.
    Level recording -16 dB

    If you wish you can download the soundcloud file. 48 kHz x 24 bits .

    Francisco
    Tenerife
     
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    When you used the C414s as the MS pair, did you use the M in cardioid and the S in fig-8 or both as fig-8 (MS-Blumlein)?
     
  5. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    Mode MS: Cadiode +F8. (Not MS Blumlein Tech)
     
  6. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Mic technique wise, I also liked the first version. I did NOT however, like the piano at all. It responds very poorly to the rather heavy articulation - sounding as if the hammers have hardened, and are performing very badly. It sounds old and cheap - not something that is going to sound contemporary which pretty well CDs of piano now do - even when perhaps not appropriate. I think I'd be talking to a competent piano tuner/repairer to see if it can be improved simply.

    The Blumlein is a good technique for a decent piano in a nice sounding room, but close in they're very 'wide', with an overloud centre.

    With a couple of 414s, in a less than brilliant room, I'd be tempted to use them closer with the lid on full stick - and then do some subtle enhancement in post.
     
    bamballo likes this.
  7. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    Thanks for your detailed and accurate reviews. True, the piano does not have the seal of a Steinway. It is hard and very aggressive action firing uncontrolled harmonics. I agree with your point of view. I pick up your suggestion about placing the 414. Fortunately I have at my disposal one second Steinway with a rounder sound.

    Thanks again Paul.
     
  8. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    I have a Chinese version of the old large diaphragm stereo mics - omni-fig-8-cardioid, stacked one above the other with a 90 degree spin on the top unit. They sound really nice around 2-3 feet away, in the cutaway, in a nice room - but I do lots of recordings in less pleasant spaces, and the more 'pop' close miked techniques work well with some careful tweaking afterwards. If you have time to experiment, try close mic positions, but rotate the mics 180 degrees to face up to the lid - this works on things like Yamaha C3s, giving a more distant sound but with the clarity of being in closer. I discovered it by mistake, having the mics set up by a colleague and me not noticing until we were doing the pre-record tests. Cardioid, upwards! Not supposed to work, but it does!
     
  9. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    Paul, I will experiment with your technical. It is a very promising possibility. Before testing with MS tech, I tried various combinations with a pair mk4 cardioid. They produce a beautiful picture, although I preferred the overall balance of the omnis.

    Thanks for your feedback
     
  10. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    It can be very worthwhile to connect a cardioid mic to a pair of headphones, and while the piano is being played, move the mic around the instrument to hear what it sounds like at each location. Different makes have very different behaviours. Some have lots of volume, and midrange coming out of the sound holes around the string frame - while other makes don't. Some have a good sound near the dampers, but the same place has really prominent mechanical noise as they rise and fall. This position in another brand might be quiet mechanically but have a very dull sound. In my area, hired in pianos often come from one main dealer, and I have become familiar with quite a few of them. For stage use, they have two baby grands - one black, one white. The black one, with the lid up sounds very boxy and un-natural, and removing the lid is the only way to get a balanced sound, yet the visually identical white one is fine without removing the lid. For more serious pianists, playing within a louder bunch of amplified musicians, their C3 always caused me grief - volume before feedback was very poor, unless I eq'd it very seriously which compromised the tone severely. One show, the pianist - well known here at the time, asked if he could show me a trick. No mic on the top at all! He took a hyper cardioid from my mic box and pointed up at the sound board from underneath - cable went up over the big strut, then down again, where he taped the mic to it's own cable. He thought my face was interesting - and just said "wait and listen". Plugging in the headphones, I was amazed - it sounded amazing natural AND very loud, and best of all, being underneath put the mic in a quieter location. We chatted and then he warned me that it only works on this model. I did try another brand a few weeks later, and he was correct - on a Steinway, it sounds absolutely horrible. I guess the C3 has a sweet spot in just the right place. I'm not sure I'd record from underneath, but it does show that a piano is a proper stereo instrument - with sound coming from all of it, not just the strings.

    Always fun to experiment, but do expect odd looks from other experts!
     
  11. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    I think it's an interesting idea to make a record test with a cardioide moving to explore different points of incidence in closeness of the piano, periphery. I have to thank their practical ideas to build a sound image beyond schemes. It is clear that at some point there is a combination OK between the piano and the room, is hidden a beautiful spot. If do not searching then will not find. Big tip.

    Tomorrow will record a test session in another Steinway, in perfect condition.

    Thank you again.
     
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    What's odd to me about this recording is that - to my ears, anyway - it almost sounds like a really nice sample of a Steinway. I don't know whether it's due to the slight tack sound (on the right hand), or perhaps the mic positioning... and while I love that the performance itself is dynamic, what I'm not hearing is that "woody warmth" that these classic pianos are known for, and the sound that they pick up ( favorably so) as the years go by.

    This could be caused by any number of factors....by the piano itself, the room, miking, the preamps...or any combination thereof, as all of those things are of equal importance.
    Although, your list includes some very nice gear, so my personal inclination would be to look at mic positioning and the type of array - for example, if perhaps you experimented with another type of array - (Blumlein, ORTF) you might find that the overall sound would be more natural, although "natural" is very subjective.

    Perhaps a good place to start would be to locate some piano recordings that you really like the sound of, and to the best of your ability, try to emulate those particular things about the recording(s) that you like so much.

    From a personal view, when I think Steinway, this is the sound that comes to mind:

    ( The video also explains and demonstrates some different mic arrays that might be helpful )


    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V9qidXgTdw



    IMHO of course. ;)

    d/
     
    bamballo likes this.
  13. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    Danny Thanks for your comments,

    My view is that piano lacks the natural surround in the middle and upper part. However, the instrument has some nobility. Microphones recorded piano sound accurately. I modified pair distances omni recording, mt between 1.25 - 2.00 mt. Not disappear because the twitching sound is inherent in the piano, as Paul said.

    I appreciate your comment about the recordings references. My reference is C. Arrau recordings for Phillips in the 70s. Likes the sound and just presence. While Mixes like to compare. It would be perfect with a detail of the innermost part of the instrument, very slight.

    I did not know the video. We will study carefully.

    Thank you again.
     
  14. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    Great video. There are very intelligent choices in the video. I will experiment with it.
    Ok, Thanks
     
  15. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    Thanks to all the suggestions I have corrected the MS image recording piano. I tried to improve the level of correlation, a chance to correct others. I think it has improved positively.

    C617 - 40% AB spaced pair
    MS 414 - 60% (M = Cardioide and S = Figure 8 )

    I have put more weight in the next image with MS. I think I have to clean the resonant frequencies between 8000-9000 Hz of the mechanism of piano.


    View: https://soundcloud.com/bamballo/nocturno-test
     
  16. Edahall

    Edahall Active Member

    I happen to be a piano technician so maybe I can help answer your question. You've got several issues going on. As you pointed out, the piano is old and that is very evident in the recording. Based on what I hear in your recording, the piano has lost tone / sustain with the higher notes. It sounds strident. To mask this issue, the hammers have been juiced (with hardeners) to bring out the tone but this also creates harshness / brittleness. The next issue is you're trying to close mic a piano that was designed and voiced to fill a huge concert hall where the audience is sitting far away from the piano. It doesn't sound so bad to a person who is sitting far away from the piano but were the piano placed in a small room, that probably would not be the case.

    The piano is not bad tuning wise but the tone is not clean due to other issues (such as overly hard hammers). The close mic-ing picks this right up.

    That said, I think you need to look for another piano for what you're trying to do. Try to look for a piano that is clean and warm sounding rather than powerful. You may see if you can get your hands on something like a Sauter, Boosendorfer or Shigeru Kawai.
     
  17. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    I'm a production manager for theatrical shows quite often now, and have a stream of people through my summer venue and sometimes they do very odd things. Yesterday we did a show with Des O'Connor (a UK light entertainment veteran). Grand piano (hired in Yamaha baby grand), acoustic bass, drums and jazz guitar. Easy listening stuff and a bit of Sinatra. MD played the piano with lid down, and the sound guy who toured with them simply used two SM57s either end of the sliding music panel - facing down at 45 degrees - both on simple floor stands. This seemed crazy - one for the placement, and two for the mic choice, when his mic collection had AKG 414s, 451s and other nice condensers sitting there. However, the mix he got was rather nice. I appreciate it's not what we're talking about here, because its very different in aim - this is for PA use not recording, but the non-typical mic setup just added another useful trick to the memory cells. I wouldn't have liked this piano to record - it had a VERY light action and playing loud worked as expected but as you played quieter, it would just stop responding, so it was best played loud.
     
    bigtree likes this.
  18. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    Thank you for yours very interesting comments Edehall and Paullears. I have declined to record on this particular piano. Now I'm testing with another Model D, nicer. The keyboard is well leveled and the action of the hammer is good, very balanced, more Velvet. I am also convinced that is desirable the sound quality, not volume. The small pianos can offer fantastic sound. The combination with the room is also crucial. Thanks Paul and Edahall for reminding me. My dream is to play in a "small" Bosessendoffer 225.
    I'm recording with sound more farthest, with less presence, reduce some annoying higher resonances. I will do a test with other microphones, less aggressive between 5000 and 9000 Hz, with a more classical sound like neumann TLM 67. I would also like to try a Royer 122 par.
     
  19. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    If I get a chance I'll see if I can knock up something using a variety of piano samples and post these up so we can compare a real, but perhaps 'worn' piano against a sample of a good one. I don't think we've done that before. I'm not quite certain what the result will be. My plan is to scour through my recordings and the. Mix between pianos and different mic placements as it plays, and then caption the video?
     
  20. bamballo

    bamballo Active Member

    I'll try. It is a good idea. Count me Paul.

    The plan I like is recording with an pair AB two omni microphones to two meters. I would like to combine them with a next nearest sound, but very soft. I will record a video session.
     

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