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Recording piano. Which position is best?

Discussion in 'Piano' started by chips, Feb 10, 2014.

  1. chips

    chips Active Member

    Hi, I'm relatively new to recording and producing and need a few opinions on setting up a mic (or mics) to record piano. I've done a few experiments recently moving the mic around inside the piano and recording myself play. Have a listen to them below and let me know which recording you think is best. Cheers

  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    To my ears, it sounded a bit muddy in the low mids, maybe around 300 or so. The top end wasn't bright - but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as it's relative to the style of music, and sometimes that "softer" sound is more pleasing than a piano with a more defined attack.

    Also, were you stereo miking? It sounded a bit mono... My apologies if this is what you were after.

    What mics are you using and what is your placement?
  3. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    For me - they sound a little 'pop' piano. They have a very close perspective. For music of this type, a better position is further away, with the lid on full stick, and the mics just far enough away to let the sound breath.

    I record classical piano music for one client, and it's for ballet, and will be played in big, live dance studios with all hard surfaces, and we always record his piano closer in than usual, so that it sounds cleaner in the dance studios - but it sounds 'wrong' when you listen in a more normal room.
  4. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Forgot to say - the most useful thing I have in Cubase, is the spectrum scope in the tools folder - I leave it across the stereo out and it's quite revealing on mixes when there are problems - making mono, or nearly mono mixes very obvious. If you use Cubase, and have never played with it, it's worth having a look.
  5. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    I'm not being harsh needlessly or for fun... but none of them are really that inspiring at all.

    There's no life to the piano... it just sounds like an upright grand that has a mic shoved in it, about halfway across the harp and about 6" away.... right above the hammer line.

    There's no depth to the environment... not having any room/environment cue only lends this type of mic set up/compression for a track sitting inside a guitar and synth track, just out of the vocal range in a pop song. But for a solo piano... sorry mate... either ad a verb/delay or back off the mic placement and get at least a little bit more room sound, and/or add a room mic(s) of some sort(s)... and/or all three... YMMV.

    IMHO, the piano is the one instrument besides drums, that the environment (room sound) can be equally important as close mic(s).

    You'll get there... don't be afraid to experiment!
  6. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Recording piano. Which position is best? Sit in a comfortable position to play ! thumb couldn't resist !! ;)

    As for mic position, it depends on the room on the piano, on the mic you want to use..
    Moving around with the mics is a good way to find the right spot..
  7. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I haven't listened to the selections but based upon the replies I might offer some suggestions. Piano is a very difficult instrument to record well and a small vertical piano is infinitely more so as it just doesn't sound as good due to it's size. There is a reason why grands are about 7' before they are considered concert instruments and it has to do with the bass strings. Also, the piano itself should be properly prepped and adjusted by a concert technician or at the very least it hopefully received some sort of initial setup and voicing when new but most don't get this. But I digress.

    Get the piano away from the wall. Some say middle of room but I don't always agree with that. Sometimes keeping the soundboard (back) about 4-6 feet can be ok depending on the particular piano and the particular room which I cannot observe. Second, even a pair of SM57's can do a decent job with a little experimentation. Flip the top lid up with a prop or fold it back if possible. Remove the kneeboard as well. Point one mic from the top by the left front piano leg with about a 60 degree down angle aiming at the G2 hammer. Do not aim this any further than the C3 hammer. Point the other mic similarly by the right front leg of the piano aiming at a range from the treble strut (usually about f5) to about c6. You might have to experiment with how close/distant you place the mic but generally you don't want to be too close.

    Make sure you are panning the left mic 100% left and the treble mic 100% right. Do NOT make the preamp too hot. You want a bit of the percussiveness of the hammer striking the string but mostly you want the developed sound.
  8. chips

    chips Active Member

    Thanks these comments are really helpful. I will try out the suggestions you guys have made. @DonnyThompson, these were recorded mono and I'm currently experimenting with creating a stereo sound in cubase (duplicating the track, panning and delaying etc.) Sounding a lot better already. Cheers
  9. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Rather than delaying - duplicate the track and eq them with a different slope, so left (or right) favours the bass end, and the other the treble - a touch of stereo reverb and it's pretty convincing.
  10. billybambam

    billybambam Member

    Get yourself a pair of Line Audio CM3 pencil condensers. These compare very Favourably with Schoeps, which are over $3000 a pair. You should be able to get CM3s for around US$150 each. Line Audio Design - Made in Sweden Place them a quarter of the way from each side of the piano and leave it open, and suspend them two to three feet above and a foot out from the instrument. You won't be sorry.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think you would be better off actually recording in stereo rather than manipulating the mono track into an "emulated" stereo. But, that's just my own personal preference.
  12. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    re-recording is obviously the best solution, but sometimes just not possible. I did one classical concert, and made a silly error - I messed up the routing and recorded one of the pair to BOTH channels. I'd spent ages adjusting the mic positions as usual, but after lunch I did a quick test, then forgot to put the routing back!

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