Recorded famous pianist!

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by David French, Nov 12, 2005.

  1. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    I have no idea why or how, but recently I was allowed to record a pretty famous pianist. I will not mention his name here in case I might get into trouble for sharing his recording, but his name can be found in the MP3's ID3 tag. Please don't call him by name here.

    Scarbo from Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit

    I've included the entire work as this is something you're going want to hear.

    Please critique my work.
  2. drumist69

    drumist69 Active Member

    I like the way you put that... you were "allowed"...
  3. drumist69

    drumist69 Active Member

    Oh, yeah! The recording sounds nice, too! I've no experience recording piano, and don't listen to much classical, but yeah...sounds like it should, methinks.
  4. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Yes, it was a honor. :D

    Thanks drumist!
  5. dpd

    dpd Active Member

    Details? Nice job, David!
  6. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Not bad. Great playing. I find it a little close and woofly though, plenty of LF woof alright. Spaced omnis by any chance?
  7. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Yes, spaced omnis, MKH-80. They were nine feet out, seven feet high, and two feet six inches apart.

    Some specific questions:

    Does anyone know how to combat a wolfy piano?

    Do you think the imaging is to indistinct?

    I'd like to improve the clarity in the future. Spearritt thinks this one is too close. I find that it's already getting a bit verby in the LF so i'm wondering how to get extreme clarity with a nice bloom and without feeling like you're inside the piano. Any guidance?
  8. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Its one of the holy grails of recording IMHO. Trying to capture that rich brassy bass of the piano while maintaining articulate clarity throughout all freqs and also get sparkling highs.

    Somwhere in there you have to have a coincident pr and some omnis. The distances and positioning of these pairs I have been experimenting with a lot recently and have some things worked out.

    What do others think?
  9. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    David, have you some favourite piano recordings that you would like to emulate?

    Some of mine are:

    Murray Perahia, Handel & Scarlatti, SONY
    Pogorelich, Gaspard DG
    Pogorelich, Scarlatti Sonatas, DG
    Maria Joao Pires, Mozart Sonatas Complete DG
    Freddy Kemp Rachmaninov, BIS

    I used to like most of the Philips sound with Alfred Brendal and Claudio Arrau, but find it a little subdued now and prefer the colder but clearer DG sound. Maybe I am going deaf. :)
  10. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    Sounds beautifull
    I like the fuzzyness of the imaging

    Personally I like piano to be a bit more subdued and more room / verbed

    I haven't tried this yet, but I'm hoping to do so pretty soon:
    Omni's AB fairly far away as main sound, further away than this recording
    XY or ORTF (card.) fairly close and only very very soft in the mix, just to add a tiny bit of presence / clarity back into the main room sound

  11. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Gonna have to listen to this on my good rig (just listened on my laptop- doesn't do sound justice). Anyways, I find the MKH80s are a strange mic to work with. I find that I always need to move them further back than I would expect with any other microphone out there.

    When I use spaced omnis on a piano, I also space them a bit further apart and then move the individual mics a bit to compensate for the sound coming off of the piano (more to the left for more high end, to the right for low end, etc... If the high end sounds great and the low doesn't, I may even tilt the right microphone a touch to make it work....)

    It is fun to work with great pianists, eh? I recorded Earl Wild a few years back- what a spectacular recital the guy gave. Then to consider his age, it just made it that much more special.

  12. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Please, please elaborate. :D I like your recordings very much. In fact, I have your Carmen and Pictures recordings saved to my hard disk and play them back for reference every once and a while. I'd love to hear elaborations on those setups and the things you were thinking when your recorded them.

    Why do you believe you have to have a coincident pair? Do you believe the type of clarity and fullness I want is not possible with a single pair? I've often wondered how necessary more mics is for a single instrument, and i've come to the temporary conclusion that they are superfluous. I'd love to hear about the reasoning behind more mics on piano.

    Again, i'd love to hear more. :D

    Thanks so much for spending the time on me!

    And thanks GentleG for your input as well!
  13. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Ben, just saw your post.

    I totally agreee about the MKH-90 distance thing. Other mics (4006, 183) had been swamped at nine feet, but not these mics. Odd, huh?

    So, you space them even farther apart? Last time I tried that, it was an imaging snafu? How in the hell do you pull it off? I've had two little pools of mono in each speaker with this approach. two and a half feet was the limit on this recording. Still the imaging is a bit vague IMO. Please please share a recording you've done with just a single widely spaced omni pair. Also, why do you choose an omni pair over things like Spearritt is talking about?
  14. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I don't go a whole lot wider than 2.5' but I do go a bit.... (probably more like 3 or 3.25 feet).

    I find that for sessions, I don't use just a single pair either... I usually have a regular pair with a pair of outriggers (omnis) to open the sound up a bit. For concerts, I go with just a pair that depending on the instrument, player and room is either a 426/SF-24 in some sort of blumlein or M-S setup, or a pair of spaced omnis.

    When I use just the spaced omis, I use two mic stands so that they can be moved easily. I usually place them so that the mics are "looking" just over the top of the lid- not into the instrument. With my B&K's, I usually place them about 6 feet out or so (perhaps a touch further out depending on the room). I find that when positioning the mic looking into the instrument that it can become rather mid-rangy or woofy sounding. Capturing a bit less direct sound can help smooth it out.

    Another trick when recording pianos that are really nasty (or when doing concertos with orchestra), is to place the microphone fairly close in (a couple feet out) and low down facing the lid to capture all first reflection sound from the instrument. It can smooth out a harsh top end and save a recording. In a concerto, it also gives you a sound that is a bit closer to what the audience will be hearing in the hall.

  15. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    You see, this is exactly what I have done in the past, yet none of my recordings have been outstanding. This is why I would love to hear a recording where this approach has worked.
  16. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    It has been a couple months since I've done a piano recital.... Next one I do, I'll happily send you an example.

    I've got a piano session going on right now, but I'm not using spaced omnis for it... I have an ORTF pair of my Sankens, Schoeps MK21's as flanks (spaced way too widely, but they are flown in the hall and I can't move them closer), and a pair of KM130's as ambience microphones in the back of the hall.

  17. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Wow, lots of mics. I'd love to hear you reasoning on this.

    Thanks Ben.
  18. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    David, I am not going to give you measurements or rules to follow because there are none. Here are some of my observations:

    1. Spaced omnis on their own seem to rarely produce a satisfactory result. They often sound woofly and always sound image confused to my ear.

    2. If they sound woofly, you are too close, try moving back 30cm at a time until the ratio of direct to reverb sound is "correct", ie not woofly. :)

    3. A coincident pair seems never woofly and can provide the clarity and central image that solves the omni problem of the lack of clarity, but I still like omnis as outriggers for the LF extension and to add richness to the room sound. Even though the term outriggers implies wide spacing, sometimes I use 400mm on one stand.

    4. I have tried omnis both close to the reverb radius, ie behind the coincident pair and in front of the coincident pair.

    5. Behind seems to get a great room sound, but adds little to the main image.

    6. In front and positioned so both pairs get the same direct/reverb ratio is often the best. The theory says the coincident pair can be 1.7 times further back than the omnis, but in practice I find this puts the coincident pr too far back.

    7. I start with the omnis looking down at the soundboard, positioned just below the plane of the lid, ie avoid the first reflection. Adjust from there.

    8. I find the blumlein pair is best lower and horizontal or slightly angled, picking up the first lid reflection and avoiding floor reflections.

    BUT, there are no hard and fast rules and in all cases, you have to use your ears to adjust and make mods before deciding its all OK.

    Recently I have purchased a pair of MK21 caps and these have produced the best sound I have experienced as outriggers, having used 4003's, MK2s and KM130's. The AKG426 is probably the best central mic I have used, closely nipped in the heels by the SF24.
  19. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    David, I can vouch for both Dave and Ben's approaches, there's not much I would add or change to their suggestions. (Ben, your approach has always been surprisingly similar to mine. Are you sure we didn't work together somewhere in a past life? ;-) )

    Instead of beating yourself up, I would remind you that so very much of the end result depends on three things: The sound of the room itself, the quality of the instrument, and (more than people realize) the artistry of the musician. So many times during a "bad" recording, I will suddenly find my own "alarm bells" going off, and snap to attention, heart racing, wondering what's gone wrong, what's happened to my gear, or what "I" did wrong. Some day's it's a general feeling of doom and gloom, etc. .....only then does it hit me: It's the artist (as such!) messing up.

    As many of us are musicians as well, you may know what I'm talking about: there is one set of alarm bells that goes off for bad audio, and another similar alarm system that is triggered when bad notes (or just bad musicianship) happens. Sometimes when one is drifting along listening to the music in cans, etc., we can be snapped by to attention by one of these alarm bells, only to find out it's NOT the gear, it's the musician!

    When THAT happens, all the great mics and room sound doens't help a bit. Of course the opposite is very often true as well, when the magic happens, and all the parts gel; suddenly you've got a jewel on your hands. You can't always predict these things, you can only do the best you can, and be ready when it does happen.
  20. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Pretty simple actually...

    I'm doing the session at a hall with an installed system. (I'm a staff engineer at this place). They have MKH80's and the Schoeps installed going through Millennia Pres. The ambience mics are also installed. All installed mics have a pulley system to move them, but it is tough simetimes to get them in exactly the position you want.

    I want to be able to move the mains more to my liking so I used my Sankens going through the Pacifica (which I left on stage). The ORTF pair is still the main pickup. The flanks that are hanging are basically mics to make the image a bit wider and open things up a bit. I can't use too much of them, though, because they are spaced quite widely. Lastly, the ambience mics are being used because it is a pretty darned good sounding hall and if I can avoid digital reverb, I'd like to... I bring in the ambience mics like a reverb return. I can't use them in concerts because they pick up too much audience noise and too much air conditioning noise.


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