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Recording Grand Piano

Discussion in 'Piano' started by BajaRon, Oct 31, 2005.

  1. BajaRon

    BajaRon Guest

    Ok, I'm new. I know a lot of stuff about a lot of things but I don't know much about home recording.

    I'm good with a computer and have a fairly fast Shuttle-X system that I would like to use.

    I have 2 sons that have been playing classical, rag time and Gospel piano for many years. They've gotten good enough to make it worth the effort to record and I'd like to do this myself at home. They play a 7' grand piano.

    I don't need exquisite, professional quality but I want it to sound good enough so that friends and family will to listen to it because it is enjoyable. I don't want to take the time necessary to learn everything there is to know but I don't mind spending some effort getting to where I need to be.

    Spending what is necessary to get the job done is fine but there is no reason to break the bank at this point either.

    I have been looking into this and it is hard to know where to start. I would like to avoid as much trial and error as possible. If I could get some basic direction, hardware components, software, etc., that would fit my needs that would be a great help.

    I have become somewhat familiar with the components but the choices are endless and I know there can be compatibility problems as well.
  2. sumoculture

    sumoculture Guest

    do you just want to record piano on its own?
  3. Spy

    Spy Guest


    Greetings BajaRon,

    The following is my opinion so feel free to ignore/dismiss any/all of it if you want to.

    Any ('studio') recording will only be as good as the initial performance, the environment/space it's recorded in and the quality of the equipment used to record it - pretty obvious statement perhaps, but you'd be surprised how many people will overlook one of these aspects.

    In your case, the performance side of things seems to be taken care of, so that leaves us with the acoustic environment and recording equipment.

    Generally speaking, the larger the space the better the result, but there's more to it than volume. The materials of the surfaces surrounding the space are important too, (e.g. are they too reflective or not reflective enough, etc.). If you have the opportunity to move the piano around, try it in as many different places and positions as practicably possible until you find the spot & orientation that (most) satisfies.

    As far as mics are concerned, reading a few posts on here will confirm that some are 'more realistic' than others. Some 'add character'. Some cost a lot of money but are not expensive when you consider the quality and consistency of the results, whilst others don't cost a lot and are still not worth the price.

    I'd suggest that you spend as much as you can afford on some 'character' mics for this task, bearing in mind that unlike human hearing which involves the brain filtering and interpreting the sounds picked up by the ears, mics capture all the information (good & bad) that meets them, so any extra help here is a bonus.

    Mics require (pre-)amplification in order to change the signal that they produce into a level that can be used in the final recording. Mic pres are like the mics themselves in that they come in various & varying flavours and quality. In your case, a stereo pre (as opposed to a desk) will probably be your best bet, and if you get the recording bug you can always add to it later.

    The output from the pre(s) will feed the line inputs on your computer's soundcard. For best results I'd suggest you install a soundcard (often referred to as audio interfaces) that has been designed for recording - look out for terms such as 'full duplex', 'ASIO' and '24-bit'. Whether you need more than stereo in/out (i/o) depends on your future ambitions as far as recording/mixing is concerned, but for this particular project stereo will be fine.

    Once the audio is in the computer you'll need some software to record, mix and 'master' it. This, again, will depend on your budget/future ambitions, your choice of platform (OSX, Win XP, Linux) and the capabilities of your computer's hardware.

  4. GentleG

    GentleG Guest


    Already stated but I'll repeat:

    Good recording=
    1. Good performance
    2. Good room
    3. Good equipment
    4. Good knowledge of how to use it

    If you think you only want to record your sons twice every year,
    I'd suggest you hire someone.

    If you realy really want to learn, neverminding the quality of the first recording for now, then you need experience and equipment.

    Think again about hiring someone, it saves time, money and frustration

    Now should you really want to learn you'll need
    mics, cables, stands, micpreamplifiers (micpres), recorder
    if you'd like to use your pc as recorder you need a soundcard and software

    You can do it at a extremely low level spending only $100,-
    It won't sound pretty and there'll be no resale value:
    Cheap pair of small condensers and a minimixingdesk straight into the pc running audacity (google)

    Pair of Oktava mk012 ($400,-) some decent cables and a stand ($100,-) and an external soundcard with mic preamps with phantom (f.e. by m-audio about $200,-) again running audacity ($ 0,-) on your pc
    This version allows you to learn this trade and will have some resale value should you consider hiring a pro after all

  5. atlasproaudio

    atlasproaudio Active Member

    Feb 17, 2001
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Home Page:
    Get Samplitude Studio, it's a very intuitive program, and sounds the best in my opinion, I've been using it for 6 years. They have good support and are an active company, they release new versions on a consistent bases. You can record up to 64 tracks with Samp Studio. Or you can probably find some free recording program out there.

    I've removed part of my post, since you qualified your original requirements below, my comments would not be of any help.

    There is a "budget" forum at Gearslutz called Low End Theory, you may want to also read there.
  6. BajaRon

    BajaRon Guest

    To answer one question, yes, just piano. I don't have any singers or drum players...yet. A few times they play with a violin but for those occasions we can go to a studio if we decide to record a piece that they might play together.

    The room we use for the piano is 15 x 27. Don't know if that is big enough or not. It's the living room, not a studio. It's carpeted, has plenty of window (which means drapes), an acoustic ceiling and soft furniture. I can move the piano around if need be.

    I think I'll be recording the boys about once every month or two. I know how it is with music, though, you always want it to be better than it is, no matter what your expectations were going in.

    I would like to keep the expenditure in the $1,500.00 range. From what I've been looking at I think I can get a decent start at that price. Used or last years model is fine with me. Though I don't have enough knowledge to know good used when I see it.

    Thank you very much for the usable help. I looked at several forums before posting on this one. Some of the respondents to questions on other forums seemed more interested in blowing the asker away with their knowledge than in giving them information that they could use.
  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    In a world with a myriad of choices and a myriad of opinions, its hard to discern between those that are being 'helpful' and those that are simply blowing their own horn...for whatever reason. Fortunately, around here, theres not too much of that.

    Without a grounded foundation of basic knowledge, it can be daunting to choose something out of all the parts and pieces to achieve what you think you have in mind on your quest.

    A small problem that occurs with much frequency, is after your initial purchase and some hours of learning, you find you are either in over your head, unsatisfied with your purchase, or you have contracted the disease we all suffer from here on these forums. There is no known cure for Gearlust. Be forewarned.

    For your budget, and I'm assuming its an ongoing budget, you could spend your initial monies hireing someone with decent gear to come over and do a couple of sessions. Make sure that you are upfront about the fact you are wanting to LEARN so you can make a knowledgeable purchase in the future, and in this you will see how your room works for you, what equipment will produce a particular range of quality, and (if you get someone whos good) you'll see whats needed as far as techniques to produce the type of recordings you've talked about.

    Going to school aint cheap. But in your case, you could spend a lot less money by learning initially than simply buying on suggestion and buying cold without a plan.

    Or you could simply buy all the gear in Nathans list and start your own recital recording company.
  8. jahtao

    jahtao Guest

    hello. sounds like you should invest in some gear rather than pay someone, i expect your sons will catch the recording bug and get alot of use out of the stuff.

    you could go to shops (stores) tell em your budget see what they recomend, then post what they recomend on here and see what we think about it. The thing is, if you really know very little it can be good to talk face to face with someone who can break it down and asnwer questions. They will probably for a small fee come round and spend a coupe of hours setting it up and getting you started if you think you need it.

    You dont need to go to a studio to do the violin, you'll be able to playback the piano on headphones and record the violin along side it, and then mix them together in the computer after, and then burn cds!

    Dont worry about the room size.

    I agree with the two mic concept (two the same for $100 - $10,000), you might wanna go for a left hand/bass end of the piano in the left speaker and the higher notes in the right. You hear this a lot on reocrds. Crudely speaking you arrange the mics around the piano (or in it) and point one at the bass strings and one at the high strings... the mid strings go into both mics and thus appear in the middle of the two speakers.

    Audacy sounds like a good idea as its free, never used it. Its not industry standard, this might be a problem in a couple of years if your sons get really into recording because they will out of step with the proffessional and semi proffessional world. They will talking a slightly different language. Few on this forum use it for example. But its free! Industry standard is protools, you can get entry level ones cheap these days (mbox 2 for example). Its a protools hardware box (includes mic preamps) and protools software. Logic Audio (mac only) and Cubase SX are the other most poopular softwares, they work with a plethora of sound cards (hardware, often with mic pre's) of varying quality.

    thats enough.
  9. BajaRon

    BajaRon Guest

    jahtao - The approach you suggest is what I had in mind. I hate going into a specialty shop and exposing my TOTAL ignorance.

    This forum, and other web research I've been doing, will give me some semi-intelligent questions and an idea of what I actually want to achieve. I live in East Tennessee in an area where there isn't too much in the way of equipment stores close by. I'll need to take a trip to the "Big City" to get the next phase of my project done.

    I will see what they say, take notes, then come back and bounce it off of the people here. I think that will work great.

    I must say, I am very pleased with the help I've received. A spectrum of ideas is always good. I like the different angles. That is what I was looking for.

    The advice to get professional help to come to my home is probably good but (for better or worse) not the way I want to go. I've always been a hands on guy. Not that this precludes getting a Pro to help me. But I like to do the research, get the stuff and see what I can do. I think I'm up to the task and if I'm wrong, well, that's called life.

    Thanks again to everyone. I'll let you know what the "Experts" say.

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