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Mixing a Grand Piano in a Rock Mix with guitars, drums, bass, vocals.

Piano's are such a midrange eater, it starts out competing with everything else in the mix, so you gotta find its spot of course.
Sometimes it can be challenging to do so without taking the "classiness" and "body" out of its sound.
So I thought it would be interesting to hear from everyone what frequencies they give to the piano in that scenario and any tricks they use?
I'm always in a predicament to either high pass it around 125, or shelf it and let a little bit of lows seep down. Generally pianos also have a strong top end that will compete with cymbals and possibly vocals as well, so I generally Low Pass it to where it sound right and isn't competing with those.


KurtFoster Tue, 01/21/2014 - 11:57

ChrisH, post: 409870 wrote: high pass it around 125, or shelf it and let a little bit of lows seep down. Generally pianos also have a strong top end that will compete with cymbals and possibly vocals as well, so I generally Low Pass it to where it sound right and isn't competing with those.

there you go! try reversing the track so it plays backwards and then hitting it hard with a compressor at 2 to 1. then flip the track back.

audiokid Tue, 01/21/2014 - 12:14

I hear ya. In a busy mix, a rocking piano is a challenge, no two ways about it. I HPF and will use a sidechain with a wide curve to pull the freq out when other things need to shine through. My secret weapon is also the a Bricasti M7 for space but I suppose any good reverb will suffice. Also, you need to watch your mono on this but getting the keys out of the center helps. Every song is unique but these are the basics for me.

I may also mono the bass on the whole mix from around 150hz down.

pcrecord Wed, 01/22/2014 - 03:19

Before thinking of EQ settings, I'd start with mic/pre choice and placement combine with lid positions. In those occasions when an instrument is out of place sonicly, you have to challenge the basics and maybe break a few laws.. ;) Get the sound you want by any way possible. Remove the lid or place a mic inside and close the lid, try the preamp you like the worst or try those drum mics on the piano.. I'm sure you can go half way there before touching an eq. Have you thought of saturation or use no reverb or hi pass that reverb ?

Time to experiment !! (this is the best part)

anonymous Wed, 01/22/2014 - 06:02

I'm assuming we're discussing the real thing here, and not a digital sample...

Can you elaborate as to the type of song you're working on? .... is it more of a song where the grand is the main focus, like in a rock ballad? Or, is it a track where the piano is more of an added texture in an ensemble setting? (Think Journey's Open Arms vs. Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama...

What other instrumentation are you using in the song? Guitars, Bass, Synth? B3?

Mic placement is important, the closer to the hammers you place the mics, the more "tac" you'll get; where as mic'ing it from a distance away from the hammers and strings will result in a more "overall" sound, which would include the hammers/strings, the reflections off the lid, the sound emanating from the body of the piano itself, and, depending how far off the piano you place the mics, the room that you are recording in will become a factor as well.

Like Chris, I try to get it away from the center detente of the field, and you don't have to move it all that much to achieve separation. I also like his suggestion of doing a mix where you might mono the mix from 160 hz and down.

I'm interested in Kurt's suggestion of "reverse compression". I've never done it myself, but it's intriguing.

You can achieve more definition by rolling off the lows (say, for example, 160hz or so) and then adding some top end; maybe 2k - 5k, (roughly).

Now, personally, I wouldn't do this in solo mode, I would do it in reference to the whole mix with the other instruments. Solo can be helpful, but it can also be misleading as well... I guess what I'm trying to say is that the tonal changes you make might result in you thinking "Yuck!" when listening in solo mode, whereas the tonal changes may work just fine when referenced with the other tracks, the entire mix.

A sample of what you're doing would help...


JayTerrance Sun, 03/20/2016 - 09:31

When it comes to pianos, I'll start out with a disclaimer...that the music I typically am mixing may differ from what others here do. This stuff below works for me but may not work out for you. All of the below pertains to a real piano and not sampled/vst/stc:

1) Piano's are so different. I start out by listening closely to the piano Left, Right, Mid and Side; and get a gauge as to what it sounds like in those varying perspectives. I bring it up very slowly into the mix because the first piano sounds I hear usually trigger what my thoughts going forward will be. So what follows is very GENERAL info - certainly not definitive for each/every application.

2) Not always, but a lot of times I start out with a couple cuts on the Left Mic/channel - say 1 around 150 and 1 around 400. Then a couple mirrored cuts on the Right Mic/Channel - say 1 around 100 and 1 around 250. What I'm doing here is setting the Piano up for cleaner imaging on the low end (& finding/purging unnecessary real estate). I also pay close attention to the 2k to 3k area as this almost always needs some cuts as there can be some nasty freq's up here. I'm not so concerned at this point if I make the piano sound a bit dull by making these cuts up here at this time because what I do in #3 and #4 next will brighten it back up.

3) Mids - This gets to be more detailed eq in this area (higher Q's). I usually look at both the 600 and 800. Lots of times I'll find some messy stuff in here, although it depends on how well the piano was recorded and how resonant the piano's natural tone is whether I find some gremlins in here. Most of the time I will. In fact I don't think I've ever "not found" anything in this area.

4) Mid/Side - I will HP the Mid channel. I high-pass piano mics with low slopes. HP'ng a piano with a normal HP slope will disrupt the tonality so greatly. I almost never HP the side channel of a piano - to me the sub info on the side channel of a grand piano is sacred territory. So even though I rarely HP the side channel, I almost always reduce the 100 to 200 area of the side channel very aggressively with 1 or 2 bell cuts. I also look at the 500 area on the side channel to attenuate - I might actually reduce this area enough so that the warmth of the side channel is reduced to just where I think I've pulled out a bit too much. Then I add just a hint of 500 to the mid channel with a very low Q to compensate. I finish out the side channel by sometimes adding more sub info (yes, adding 20 hz) with the Mammoth Eq.

5) This next one is not for the "faint of heart" - If I have a piano that is being very stubborn and is still taking over the mix with a full wall of sound that hits the ear all at exactly the same time, then I will break up the sound into 4 or 5 freq bands/tracks. I use the UAD Multiband Compressor for this (NOT for any compressing, just for frequency band separation) because it puts the "broken up" sound back into 1 piece much better than any eq does (to my ear anyway). Once the bands are broken apart and in separate tracks I will set a tiny delay (can be down to fractions of a millisecond) on the bands - the higher freq bands get progressively longer fractions. Then I play around with these extremely tiny delays (and some other things) until I have "phase-eq'd" my piano into the mix. If you want to pull your hair out for awhile - go ahead and do this one. Flip to mono often. It can provide some excellent returns, however you can also make an extreme mess out of your piano very quickly - so be careful with this one. In a way, your almost treating your piano as 4 or 5 diff components of sound to fit in the mix with this. If I get this one right, the piano will tend to sit in the mix with just as much sound as before, but not competing with the other instruments near as much.

6) I haven't touched on the additional mics - Room mics and Placement mics.

7) The other thing I'll add to this is that the half-pedaling technique can be used to greatly reduce the feeling of harmonics in the recorded sound. So if your musician uses this technique it can be of additional benefit to fit the piano in nicely.

8) Sometimes when I am mixing, I tell myself that if I had just placed this mic right here and that other mic right over there that this would have all come together much better. And so there are some times when I go back and know what I am after from a mic placement strategy only AFTER I have tried and failed on the first attempt. And most of the time it is better on the 2nd attempt.

Of course all of this info works (most of the time) for me - not suggesting that it works for others because I think the type of music is paramount to taking different paths for pianos. Of course having a great piano in a great room is a prerequisite before you start any of this.

DonnyThompson Wed, 03/23/2016 - 10:19

Kurt Foster, post: 437257, member: 7836 wrote: play it backwards (flip it in the daw) and then re record it with compression. flip back again. zero attack compression.

Okay, so first he gave us the "Foster Bump", and now we have "Foster Compression"!

I am soooooo gonna try that on the very next rock track I work on with a piano.

Man, I love this place. :)