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Solo piano... here we go again

Discussion in 'Piano' started by David French, Oct 27, 2006.

  1. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Hi guys! It's been a while. :shock:

    Here's my lastest offering for the chopping block:

    Rigaudion from Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin [MP3 / 1.55 MB]

    MKH-80 in Blumlein
    - 170 cm out from front leg
    - 100 cm high
    - centered across length
    - angled up at lid

    4006 in AB
    - 122 cm out from front leg
    - 250 cm high
    - 70 cm apart
    - centered across length

    Pairs were mixed with equal volume. Also, these placements left both pairs equidistant from the center of the piano.

    Here's a picture of the setup [JPEG / 64 KB].

    Here are some links to the multitrack from this excerpt:


    OK, now here come the questions. 8)

    When soundchecking this, I first tried the Blumlein pair up higher. This gave a nice tone, but I found that to get the piano to balance, I had to move quite a bit to the left. (So what?) Well, when I moved the omnis to the left so that the two pairs had the same central axis, the omnis were now very right-heavy. Turning down the gain on the right omni seems like a no-no since then the pair would have different ambience levels, and that would not be good. Having to different pairs without a common central axis also didn't seem like a good idea. Anyway, I know people (Spearritt) have done recordings with a high Blumlein and high Omnis and had balance at the center of the piano, so it got me wondering... how to solve this problem? Is it because of the close distances I'm having to use?

    What are your opinions on the overall sound of this recording? Please be as critical as possible. Too dark? Too dry? Imaging? Tone? Please, tear me a new one.

    Listening to the multitrack, what you you think of the sound of each pair individually? Am I getting what I need out of each of them?

    Again with the multitrack, could this recording be improved with a different mix? Different balance between the tracks? EQ? Reverb?

    OK, that should get things started. Thanks in advance, especially to David Spearritt who has helped me so much in the past. 8)
  2. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    David, this is going very well. Listening to the multitrack, I felt the Blumlein pr was a little far away and the omni pr a little too close still. I would not get hung up on keeping the pairs central to each other, but make sure the image is centred in both.

    The Blumlein pr seems to lack body or bass (both), perhaps because they are too low. I have found, and logic/physics tells me that the main mike needs to look down at the sound board. It should not rely only on largely reflected sound from the lid, which will be distorted and diffused compared to the better mix of direct/reflected sound coming off the soundboard. At only 1m high, the capsules of the Blumlein pr are probably not seeing the soundboard, except maybe with very glancing incidence.

    Incidentally, I had to realign the multitrack files, they are not the same time slice as each other. I also felt a better mix was the omni track 3dB or so down on the Blumlein track.

    Nice looking hall! Well done, this is an excellent effort and is sounding more like a live piano in a good hall.
  3. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the reply David!

    Interesting. I remember you saying that you liked it when both pairs had the same direct/reverb ratio. Are you no longer of that opinion? I totally agree that the Blumlein pair is a bit too wet. But, if that's the case, since the pairs were equdistant from the center of the piano, you'd think that the omnis would be significantly more wet, but this is not the case. Any idea why?

    So you think it would be OK if I had the Blumlein toward the hammers and the omnis centered? Won't this cause time-based problems?

    I thought the Blumlein lacked bass because it was figure eight. I tried it up higher and the same distance from the piano's center, but it had even less fundamentals.

    So you don't like reflected lid sound? Maybe it's just me, but I, so far, find it to be warm and full compared with the more clinical, cold sound that I got with the Blumlein up high. Now i'm wondering if anyone uses lid reflections on purpose with success... My idea was to get two different sounds from the two different locations and combine them to try and get the best of both worlds, but what do I know?

    I'm pleased to see that we both came up with the same Idea for a better mix... I thought -2 dB, but your'e probably right. Think any EQ or verb would help? I'm not sure yet.

    The time alignment issue is odd. I haven't looked at the files I posted, but I can tell you that in my original multitrack file, the two pairs are razor-aligned. I made sure of this with very careful placement. Must have been a problem with the exporting process.

    All in all, I think this recording is OK, nothing to really complain about, but I'm still not satisfied. It's just not special, and I'm not sure where to go next. Any advice on this matter from anyone would be heavily appreciated.

    Thanks again.
  4. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I haven't been home long enough to actually listen to this recording so take this with a grain of salt, but looking at the picture, I'd make a couple brief comments.

    First of all, your A-B pair looks pretty good. For B&K's, I usually am a bit lower for a similar distance out. I try to go a touch above the top of the lid with the mics angled down a touch towards the strings. At that point, tweak to taste.

    Second of all, as David said, bring your blumlein pair up a big and aim towards the soundboard. When I set up any coincident or near coincident pair, I try to have each side of the pair aim towards one end of the instrument so that they are equidistant. That means it will be aimed in from a bit outside of the crook of the instrument. If you start with a centered pair like your A-B pair, you'll find the distance between the top end of the instrument and the mic will be less than the bottom end and the mic.

    I usually start at about 5-6 feet tall and about 5-6 feet out depending on the mic, hall, pattern, etc...

    Look forward to listening when I get a chance (need to finish rebuilding my DAW, though...)

  5. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the input Ben.

    I feel stupid, but the following did not make sense to me. Could you please rephrase/elaborate?

  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    David my Frenchly friend, I thought it was a lovely sounding recording overall. Yes there is a problem with stereo imaging but that is one of the main reasons why for a recording like this, I prefer MS. You are always going to get a solid center and if the stereo is not centered, it's easily fudged. Omni's to only supplement the ambience. I did find your omnis quite warm, possibly too close? Almost sounded like cardioids to me? But if they were the B&K's?? Strange? I didn't find any timing problems in the multitrack timeline? Not sure why David found that? So what's wrong with using 3 microphones and having left, center and right?

    What about three dollar bills?
    MS Remy Ann David
  7. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Just ignore me, I am stupid sometimes, the way I inserted the tracks was the reason they misaligned, when I checked again, it is all fine.

    Sorry Remy and David for this red herring. Will listen more tomorrow and answer your other points David. My ears are shot after 12 hours, today, of recording a big schools galah performance, of big band, orchestral, you name it. :(
  8. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Let's see.... I'll try to rephrase. Basically what I was saying is that with an A-B omni pair, because of the separation, you get a pretty equal distance between the right mic and the low end and the left mic/ top end. With a coincident pair, that difference is much greater given an identical position. Your left side is close to the top end than the right is to the bottom. The results in a presence in the top that you don't have in the bottom- and thus a less even sound.

    I'll place the coincident pair either closer to the end of the instrument to even out that distance (especially if close in- ie in a piano concerto) or I place the pair out a bit further but off axis of the instrument so that the relative distance between the microphone and the hammer/tail of the instrument are pretty close to the same. This results in a more even sound.

    I could sketch it out easily, but without being able to post a picture easily here, it will be tough to post and share.

  9. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks Ben, I think I see what you are saying now... like this [GIF / 56 KB].

    I have never tried it, but assuming your piano is in concert position (parallel with the edge of the stage), doesn't this create a lop-sided representation of the ambience? I have always tried to keep my pairs symmetrical with respect to the hall, but I may not have good reason for doing this. Please educate me.

    Also, since I have the 3D modelling program, I looked into it, and the situation is no different with the spaced pair; the difference in distances will be about the same as with the coincident pair.

    One more thing, your first technique for dealing with the distance problem and your second sounded like the same thing to me. Did I miss your point?

    Thanks again for your input.
  10. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Your .gif is spot on.... I find that with omnis, the difference really isn't as noticable. On occasion, though, I will move the right omni in a touch or re-angle the mic to compensate for high-low issues. With a directional mic (or even bi-directional), I find it to be more of an issue.

    As for audience perspective- I don't want to say that I don't care about the applause, etc... but it really is pretty low on the list of priorities when I make a recording. This is also making the assumption that the audience has set up symetrically. I find that with many solo piano recordings, the audience tends towards the keyboard side anyways. If I need to ballance out applause, I do it in my post process.

    Well, gotta get to putting my DAW back together. I have a card going bad. Ugh....

  11. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Audience? I meant ambience as in reverb. Now what do you think about that question?

    Also, did I miss your point about the two "different" methods of dealing with the distance problem?
  12. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Sorry- this is what I get for writing shortly after I wake up.... :?

    I've never noticed an ambience problem with the mic off axis of the instrument. I suppose it really depends on your hall, but I've never had an issue. Ambience is by its nature indirect sound (your mics are not near any walls) so as long as your levels are the same from left to right, there won't be a difference.

    I wasn't really trying to make a big point on A-B versus a coincident (ie blumlein pair). I use both and the music and hall dictate which I use. One of the concert halls where I work has a 3 point array hung permanently- MK21's in a wide ORTF-type array and MKH80's in omni as flanks. When I go out into the field, I usually will pick a single pair to use and stick with that for the entire performance- no 3 point arrays (unless it is a session) for live work when mics are on stands.

    BTW, that hall that the photo is in sure looks great. Where is it?

  13. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Cool, thanks for the input on ambience.

    The hall is Sursa Hall.

    BTW, the point I was referring to was your two supposedly different methods of dealing with the distance problem. In the quote below, you implied that you had two different ways to deal with it when using a coincident pair, but to me, it seemed like they were actually the same thing. Both suggest moving the mics as per my graphic. Thoughts?

  14. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    When I'm micing for a piano concerto (which is, of course, a totally different thing than a solo piano), the mics are usually pretty close in. If I'm at the edge of the instrument in the crook, the distance between the top and bottom ends and the mic is pretty much the same by default. The pair moves off axis the further out I get.... That was the only point...

  15. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks for clarifying.

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