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Recording piano and vocals - help!

I'm a piano teacher and composer and am exploring the options of investing in some technology to record both my own compositions and my piano lessons.

I've got my eye on a super bit of mixing kit but am completely stumped as to the best way of setting up mics so that they pick up both the piano and myself and the student's voices. I don't even know which mics would be the best.

Could someone offer me some advice?!


RemyRAD Sat, 11/08/2008 - 12:49
Budget is only half the problem. What genre of music are we speaking of? Pop? Gospel? Operatic? Church choir? Death Metal?

And so I'll assume your speaking in terms of Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Carole King?

Nice vocal Mike, super cardioid pattern for good off axis rejection. It has a little extra top octave which gives you a lot more "air" on the female voice Shure Beta 58.

On the piano, grand? Or upright? A couple of nice small capsule condenser microphones. Especially if it's a grand. A nice inexpensive pair that would work out well is the OCTAVA's or the Rode's won't break your bank and provide you with a quality sound on the piano.

Anybody's reasonable 4 microphone input, USB or more preferably FireWire computer audio interface. All will be in a similar price range. All will have a similar quality microphone preamp which will be more than adequate for your purposes. Most every audio interface will also include a quality piece of software that is easy to learn & use. You'll be able to do things you only could do in a recording studio before. And all for under $1000, interface, microphones, microphone stands, cables, couple of headphones.

I'm sure they'll be more incoming suggestions.

If you'd like specific recommendations, I'm happy to offer more.
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member Sun, 11/09/2008 - 20:55
Fabulous many thanks Remy.

I intend to record my baby grand piano in my living room which has a lovely high ceiling and therefore super acoustics.

Vocally, this will be initially spoken word during my piano lessons, but hope at some point to get some song writing done and then I will have more specific vocal recording needs.

Have a low-ish budget to be honest but reckon that the kit will recoup itself over time. Looking at the Alesis Imultimix 8 that can record straight to IPod - any thoughts?

BobRogers Sun, 11/09/2008 - 22:10

I'm going to recommend that you consider a hand-held flash recorder. I have an Edirol R-09, but I've had it for over a year, and there are a lot more items in this category on the market at different prices and with different features. The advantage of this type of unit for your current application is that it is self contained and small. The mics are included and are surprisingly good. Positioning the unit so that it picked up the spoken word and the piano well might be a bit tricky. I'd put it on the music stand to start and move it around the room to see what's best. For lessons, I'd record directly to .mp3. If you have a card reader in your computer, you can take the flash card out of the recorder, plug into your computer, attach the .mp3 to an email, and send to the student. A couple of minutes tops.

Now, I had not seen the Alesis unit before, and that has a lot of features that make it simultaneously better/worse than the handheld units. The main thing is that you can/have to buy microphones, cable, stands and learn how to set these up and mix and record. If you have the budget and interest, this (or something with these features) might fit you perfectly.

If you go this route, I'd recommend that you'd consider starting off with a pair of mics that allow you to switch between cardioid and omnidirectional pickup patterns. (I have the Rode NT55's. I think Octiva makes similar products.) My reasoning here is that while Remy's mic recommendation is great for a solo singer, an omni mic would be better for picking up the conversation between a teacher and student. You could start out with one mic for spoken word, one for the piano. Then when you got around to recording your songwriting, you could look for a mic that suits your vocals best and use the pair in stereo to record the piano.

The Alesis has some limitations as a "serious" interface for recording your songwriting, but it would definitely get you started. And even if you got a better interface some day, you'd probably keep the Alesis (or the handheld flash recorder) around to record lessons.