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Setting up a Jazz Trio

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Hack, Jul 7, 2003.

  1. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    I have a jazz trio session coming up and was wanting a few tips on positioning within the room. They want to be in the same room with each other. It will be a piano (stienway upright), up right bass, and jazz drums ( K,S,H,T,FT,crash, ride). Vocals we will overdub. My tracking room is 25' X 30' with a 17' X 12' hardwood floor in the middle. No parallel walls, 14' ceiling. walls are soft so the floor is the only brightness in the room. Overall its a little dead for my taste but its done good so far. I have a 4'X 6' gobo, (2) 6'X 6' gobos, a drum shield, and all the packing blankets you could ever want. Were not going for the super produced, slick, isolated sound. In fact the piano player has complained about hearing isolation in recordings at other studios. I'm not completly sure what he means but I think he is hearing more close mics than room mics.

    Hopefully thats enough info to get the thread started.
  2. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    It sounds to me like he wants a very old kind of errol garner sort of sound. If this is the case, then bleed is your friend. I did a recording of a jazz band like this a few months ago. They wanted it to sound like it was recorded in the fifties. No piano though, just guitar, sax, e-bass, and a 4pc kit.
    I placed them all in the room, facing each other, put a close mic on all instruments, but the volume was loud, and there was also a pa going. The kit was miked w/two overheads and a kick mic, and the rest of everything(including vocals)was mikd with sm 58's.
    When mixed, I used the same verb for everything, and put the kick mic in very subtly. In retrospect, I might have taken a stereo pair from the very back of the room, to capture natural ambience, but no biggie since they liked the result.

    In your case I would mic the drums in the same way, and put the piano right next to the drum kit at a right angle. Make sure the overheads can "see" the piano just a little bit. Do not have the piano on axis with the kit mics. Mike the kick from inside, but if you use a blanket try not to kill it too much. I would put the bassist On the other side of the piano with the 6' gobo between the piano and the bass. Make sure they can see each other. Mike the bass, and if you can throw a piezo on the soundboard, just in case.

    For the piano, I would start with a ld condenser a couple feet out, and place a gobo between the kit and that mic, and then i'd open up the top of the piano and stick an omni, or figure 8 inside. I might even put two in, but that could get tricky!

    Just a thought. :c:
  3. Guest

    That might work, but might have problems with phase on the piano. You might need to play back a song to see if, in fact, that is the sound they are going for.

    My feeling is the overheads will pick up plenty of "room" sound for the piano as well as drums. Think about using omnis as overheads so that the off-axis coloration doesn't get weird.

    Then mic the piano fairly closely. (one foot or less). You can create a tent with sound blankets over the lid if it turns out that isolation gives a better sound after all.

    The tricky part is gettting the acoustic bass heard over the other stuff bleeding into the bass mic. Definitely use the gobos to build a little two or three sided enclosure for the bass. Even throw a blanket over the top, and have the mic and stand inside the enclosure with the bass just outside of it, if that works. But whatever you do, make sure the bass mic is REALLY close to the bass. (I like to put it about two inches away from the strings just BELOW the bridge.) Use a cardioid mic, and position it to reject as much of the other instruments as possible. If the bass player has a DI, you may want to track that on a seperate track, as it may be useful to blend in slightly for more articulation.

    The advantage you have is your room - you've got plenty of space to spread them out quite a bit. I probably wouldn't put anyone right on the hardwood, although it might do nice things to the bass sound.
  4. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    With respect to the piano, if you want even tones from low to high, you can't "close mic it". If you just stick one mic inside It will pick up that area of the piano more than the others, and that will likely be the middle c area because thats closest to the center.

    Maybe the piano should be overdubbed. If so, then you'll need to isolate it better from the drums.

    As for omni micing he overheads, that might be cool, but I suggested using a directional mic there because the off axis tone is IMO better than an uncolored tone, because with no "direct" keys in the mix the piano would sound a little muffled. Once the keys are brought up just slightly louder than the level of bleed, you have a nice ambient mix, and only teeny tiny bits of fx are required.

    I would be interested to hear what the omni's sound like.
  5. Guest


    close mic'ing pianos is done all the time, especially in live sound and broadcast situations. I've performed live as part of a trio or quartet on many radio stations, for instance, where the piano lid was almost completely closed with a pair of KM84's or something similar inside. The engineers were able to get a fantastic sound. You do have to experiment with positioning to avoid the very real problems you pointed out, but it certainly can be done.

    an easy way to avoid too much proximity effect from the closest strings is to use omnis. I do it all the time with Earthworks QTC's.

    But also, close mic'ing doesn't necessarily mean an inch off the strings. Even 12-18" away still qualifies by my definition - the point being simply to try and get more piano than drums in the piano mics!
  6. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    I am talking about an upright piano. So when you talk about opening the lid and mics inside, I want to make sure we are on the same page here. I do plan to play around with opening the lid though. And overdubing paino is not an option. The entire concept is to capture improvisation. My concern is in getting the right kind of sparkle from the piano. What do you think about opening the top of the upright and making something like a kick tunnel over the opened top??
  7. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    Hack, I think if you place a mic or two in the right spot, you will get a good sound for the piano. The kick tunnel is a bad idea, as it will be hypersensitive to frequency in proportion to it's size. You can also open the bottom of the piano, at the front. There may be a nice sweet spot on the soundboard. Micing the outside from a distance will pick up the other things in the room, which at this point I think is what makes sense. This is, of course, totally irrelevant, if thats not what you want. Be mindful of phase issues, as was pointed out, but keep in mind that "vintage" recordings were not technically perfect,and that gave them part of their charm.

    Little dog, you are correct in every thing you say, and I think omnis are an excellent suggestion for inside the piano. I think they would be a mistake for the kit, because they would pick up too much. I want to tell you though, that the technique I suggest for piano works very well too. I have an underwood upright, and a good friend of mine has a kawai baby grand, and multi mic techniques work well, with different patterns too.

    With this setup we have a number of mic's which can be classed as room mics(for ambience), there are close mic's to provide presence and power, and multiple mics for stereo imaging. Also, using a piezo pickup on the bass bridge will eliminate bleed to that instrument too.
    The goal with the setup I suggested was to capture the ambient and direct sounds of each instrument, to be combined at mixdown.

    I think we are basically saying the same thing, littledog, but to me the setup you suggest may be more simple. This may be best for hack, I dunno, but I guess he will have to do what he is most comfortable with.

    Hack, please be sure to post some info on what you did, and how it sounded. I am anxious to know. Good luck! :D

  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Micing an upright can be problematic but not impossible. A couple of LD condenser mics in omni, over the top with the top lid open will do nice. Perhaps you can set up the rest of the band so that these mics are pointed at them also, using these mics as the primary "room" mics, and then simply add some spot mics on the stand up and the drums (kick, snare, overheads) to bring them out. It does sound as if the piano player doesn't want that close miced, immediate, highly defined sound that you get with a lot of close micing. Kurt
  9. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    Kurt, I like your idea about omnis above the piano doubling as room mics. I'll have to come up with a piezo for the bass, that seems like the smart thing to do there with a mic also.

    I noticed a proximity effect when we were listening to the piano. I stuck my head as far in the thing I I could get and there is a lot more low end just inside vs. just outside the lid hole. and right up next to the sound board is the same effect. When I am positioning the mics how much of this extra low end do I want? How far off the sound board is a usual starting point?

    Also, I have access, for this project, to a major studios mic closet. So perhaps a few suggestions on omnis would help. I was going to get a handfull of 414s. I know they have a bunch of geffels also. And every Neumann you could want, but I dont think I can get many of those, maybe a couple though.

    I have an AT 4060, a 451, M88, 421s, 57s, and a bunch of shure drum mics.(52, 98, 81)

    Sorry for adding questions, but this project is real important to me cause the piano player is my brother.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I would go with a pair as close as possible to a U87 in omni over the piano and as room mics. No need to worry about proximity effect in omni. I would use a bass mic of some type on the stand up , or another U87 if possible (in cardioid). 414s in omni, will do nicely over the drums and a 451 for the snare and a suitable mic on the kick, like a RE 20 or D12 if possible, to get that vintage "poof" sound rather than the "tick" sound you would get from a D112 .... Kurt
  11. Guest

    Ah... I didn't realize we were talking about uprights!

    The sound board of any piano is where much of the sound is produced, so on an upright, my tendency is to mic it from the back, or as Steve suggested, from the front on the bottom with the lower piece removed. Pedal noise might be an issue with the front scheme, however.

    This is not to say that an upright can't be done as Kurt suggested. It's just that I've had better luck staying closer to the sound board. You lose something in having them double as room mics, but you can get better isolation.

    If i can be so bold as to suggest that you take some time on your own before the session and do extensive experimentation recording yourself playing the piano with the mics in a variety of positions. (The suggested ones as well as others). I'm still constantly experimenting with mic positioning on my piano, which I've owned for years. There's no end to the quest for the perfect piano sound (just the same as the elusive perfect drum sound...)

    Let us know what you end up doing. We can all learn from it...
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Not to be argumentive or to flame anyone, I have recorded uprights off the soundboard with good results but there is a lack of attack. If you put the mics where I suggest, over the piano, they will be about two or three feet off the hammers but far away enough to get the whole sound of the piano and act as room mics for the whole ensamble. In a jazz set up, isolation is not necessaraly a good thing. Spill can be your friend. I think littledog has an excellent idea to have the musicians play a bit and listen before you finalize you mic set up.
  13. Guest

    yes, we can certainly agree that pianos are one of the most complex instruments to capture well (along with drums). Stuff where the whole sound comes out of one single hole (like trumpets and vocalists) are certainly much easier!

    every engineer will give you a different variation, and each instrument in each room will require it's own idiosyncratic adjustments. Not only that, but the style of music will be a factor as well!

    so just think, once you have mastered getting a great sound on your piano in your room, you will have accomplished one of the more difficult feats any engineer will ever face!

    congratulations in advance! :c:
  14. sosayu2

    sosayu2 Guest

    a little trick i learned a long time ago on uprights to get an old ragtime sound was to put thumbtacks in the hammers. yes it's not good for the piano but man.... what a sound :) great attack. also consider using 451's as overheads in an x-y pattern for true stereo effect and nice room sound as well. for the upright take a small hand towel and wrap either an re-20 or a 421 and place it right on the bass right above the tailpiece, you'll get very little bleed this way. also a nice pair of 87's for room ambience is a good idea.

  15. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    This is the stuff good threads are made of!
    Lots of good ways to get sounds.
    Something I've never tried, but I thought I would mention, is.....
    What if you took one, or more than one piezo and taped it to the soundboard on the piano? Maybe the time difference from piezo to mic's(1ms to no more than 5ms)would create some nice body? You would still need something to pick up the hammers, but it might be a neat effect. :roll:

    Hey hack! If you get a piezo for the bass try it on the piano for the hell of it! see what gives. :tu:

    Just a thought.

  16. sosayu2

    sosayu2 Guest

    i would say for the upright piano, a nice pair of km 84's or 184's and throw a blanket over the top. you'll have a great full piano sound
  17. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Drums: OH's, Kick and snare (you'll mostly use the OH's)

    Line up the players (left to right...thier left): Drums, goboe, UprightBass, Piano.

    Bass DI & Mic near the bridge (either an U67, U47,47fet, U87, 421, etc)

    Keep the players close to each other...like they rehearse and play. The reason id the bleed from the drums into the piano mics will have a pre-delay that doesn't slap.

    if you don't eq (too much if at all) you'll get a great old school jazz sound with this....you might not need a blanket on the piano...listen without first. I'd put the mics in as a spaced pointing down from the top. Sometimes an unmatched pair on Piano is the ticket...Large Diaphram Condenser on the Lo/Small DC on the hi.

    Have fun...and "let it bleed"....
  18. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Has anyone here tried a PZM either on the back of the upright or under the carriage? This has worked for me in the past to add attack to the piano in conjunction to a couple of SD's in omni above the top. Also since you have so much hardwood floor, you could do a PZM in front of the kick on the floor and simply add an overhead of your choice for that.I dont kow how many old pictures I've seen of Ray Brown playing that gigantic upright and see a mic wrapped in what looks like a sock stuck right onto the body right behind the strings below the bridge...Havent done it but someone knew it worked...good luck
  19. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    :) Thanks Recorderman, I gotta hear those words, Listen First, every now and then to be reminded. Sounds like a fun session! Remember an upright has it's own unique piano sound. You could also try the player perspective, mics at ear level facing the keyboard area with the lid up and front open. I like hearing finger nails too!
    Just a suggestion,
  20. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member


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