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Grand Pianos again - some different ideas

I've been experimenting with finding the right mics for a grand piano and before I finish the video, I thought I'd shar some of the recordings so far.

We have a G2 Yamaha Grand, and my favourites are still a pair of AKG 414s - one favouring the left hand and the other the right.

I also tried a single Neumann 87, for a mono recording - the idea being to add artificial reverb, but I thought it would be interesting to try a ribbon facing left/right, just above the strings to see how that worked give the Neumann a left and right component - usual technique, copy the track, invert one and pan hard left and right. balance the side against the mono mic for the mid.

Next pair of mics was a pair of dirt cheap Chinese cardioid goosenecks. These have a rubber magnetic mount which I attached to the frame favouring the mid/high strings and the other I clipped to the lid, on full stick, pointing at the bass side.

Finally - there's a single mono AKG451 which I intended to treat like the Neumann to give it some width, but it is a thinner sound. Random bits of tunes - some high, some low and some quiet, some a bit louder. I've laid them out in cubase and recorded the screen so you can hear the result in vimeo. https://www.limelight.org.uk/all-joined-no-eq.wav     I added a stereoscope - which is really interesting to watch as the stereo field is very active!

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Comments

Thomas W. Bethel Wed, 10/12/2022 - 02:57

I like LDC for piano and have used AKG414s and AT4060s in the past. My favorite piano setup for "classical piano" has always been a DECCA TREE with three AT4060 matched microphones. I sold the DECCA TREE and the mics about a year ago along with my mixer as I am not doing any "on location audio' recordings anymore. 

Best of luck in finding microphones you like.

Paul999 Wed, 10/12/2022 - 06:52

Great Post!  I have miced my grand piano 9 ways from sunday and it really depends on what I will be using the piano track along side.  In dense mixes I typically prefer a mono mic.  Often a single 57 will yield surprising results. For stereo I generally prefer an ORTF placement often with mismatched mics to accentuate the differences between the two channels.  Currently I have an eve re-20 aimed at the low strings and an sm-81 aimed at the high strings with an ORTF pair of pencil condensers in the room. All of the examples you demonstrated have merit. 

Bertel37 Sun, 10/23/2022 - 06:56

Recently I designed and built a number of ribbon microphones that avoid the common mistakes found in most present types. I had the chance to record a piano recital of a pianist lady we know as a friend for long time. The recording was a good proof of the mics capabilities and the result is sounding very present and fine detailed without any processing, having spectral components up to 30 kHz. However it is not the usual reproduction as from a good listeners place but rather from the pianist at the keyboard, despite having respected the usual distance of 1.5 … 2 m. There are some timbres of the pianos interior. An audiomaster friend of mine was amazed about the sound quality, but told me, he would never record that way. What is your opinion ?

  • 21_variationen_fur_klavier_-_a.karamanov.mp3

paulears Sun, 10/23/2022 - 10:16

Interesting - the thing that is clearly evident is the left-right separation. It's quite dark. I'm not sure my hearing is up to 30K, and even if the mp3 could cope with the extended frequency response, my ears can't. I get the feeling I'm hearing the pianist perspective rather than the instrument? How were the mics placed to get this particular perspective as the pedal noise was very low, and like my piano, the seat noise replaced it!

I'd love some pics of the mics?

Bertel37 Mon, 10/24/2022 - 02:52

paulears wrote:

Interesting - the thing that is clearly evident is the left-right separation. It's quite dark. I'm not sure my hearing is up to 30K, and even if the mp3 could cope with the extended frequency response, my ears can't. I get the feeling I'm hearing the pianist perspective rather than the instrument? How were the mics placed to get this particular perspective as the pedal noise was very low, and like my piano, the seat noise replaced it!

I'd love some pics of the mics?

30 kHz is also far beyond my hearing – I am happy to be close to 11 kHz at 85. The dark color of the recording is true and the result of a number of facts:

  • The proximity effect is most pronounced for figure 8 types. This may be enhanced further by the typical low frequency resonance of ribbon types.

  • Ribbon mics by principle have no high frequency resonance other than all condenser types. Although this typical resonance in the range of 3 ... 10 kHz is well tamed by the prominent brands, using mechanical or electrical damping, some artefacts in phase and delay rest for condensers.

  • The ribbon with a weight approx. 10 times lower than a condenser diaphragm results in superior transient response without high frequency peaking.

  • There is evidence that the vertical directivity off axis picks up less high frequency contents. A mathematical investigation of this fact is on the way.

I agree that the recording reproduces rather the pianists view than that of the listener.

Concert Hall of Constance music school – test recording situation - picture

Microphone arrangementOuter pair of mics are the ribbon prototypes under test (figure 8) – common A-B setting. They are of modular construction for fast and easy change of motors, transformers and preamplifiers by pluging them. The arrangement shown has 25 dB line pre-preamplifiers attached to the transformers as visible. For comparison a pair of Behringer B-2 PRO (U-87 clones) were recorded simultaneously. The left side B-2 is hidden behind the ribbon prototype.

paulears Mon, 10/24/2022 - 03:13

That's quite interesting? I had not imagined that mic position at all! The lack of the 'space' and the difference between left and right hands made me imagine a closer placement with more crossing. Do these mics have reduced capture at the rear, because the room sounds very different to the image? Or maybe just a 'darker' piano?

Bertel37 Mon, 10/24/2022 - 05:21

paulears wrote:

That's quite interesting? I had not imagined that mic position at all! The lack of the 'space' and the difference between left and right hands made me imagine a closer placement with more crossing. Do these mics have reduced capture at the rear, because the room sounds very different to the image? Or maybe just a 'darker' piano?

Since the mics are in an early prototype stage, I have no measurements but the principle is such as to accept front and backside sound the same way. From earlier recordings in the same room I know its particular characteristics, namely to have almost no acoustical qualities. Means almost no reverberance and a rather dead feeling. I can rate the properties of my design only by comparison to my existing condensers. So far I think, they behave well, although they call for very careful handling since the ribbons are only 0.5µm thin and a real pain for mounting.

paulears Mon, 10/24/2022 - 05:35

ah - so the lack of room sound is, well, because it doesn't have one! Have you determined how delicate foils this thin actually are? It would frighten me - and also make me wonder if they'll perhaps sag with age?

Bertel37 Mon, 10/24/2022 - 06:35

paulears wrote:

ah - so the lack of room sound is, well, because it doesn't have one! Have you determined how delicate foils this thin actually are? It would frighten me - and also make me wonder if they'll perhaps sag with age?

Saging is not a problem since the air gap is very wide. Age ? I am 85 and my horizon is limited !

Boswell Mon, 10/24/2022 - 09:32

That's a nice recording of a piano and its mechanics in operation. I guess that the excess mechanical noises in the recording were due to it being made with the ribbon microphones in the position you described (in line with the pianist) and not in the more conventional position shown in your photograph.

Allowing for that, the spatial image is not quite as well defined as I would expect. That may be due to your using the pair of fig-8 ribbons in an A-B spaced configuration. Normally the A-B configuration would be used with omnidirectional microphones to give a spatial image through the sonic time delay between the capsules.

If you have the opportunity to make further recordings with this pianist in the same hall, it could be worth using the stand placed as in your photo, but trying the fig-8 microphone pair in an X-Y configuration (Blumlein) and then also in an M-S configuration (MS-Blumlein). The very dry acoustic would allow direct comparisons to be made, knowing that the microphone configuration was the major difference. Note that MS-Blumlein needs the pair of recorded signals to be put through a sum-and-difference process in the mix to decode them to an L-R stereo image.

Bertel37 Mon, 10/24/2022 - 11:46

Boswell wrote:

That's a nice recording of a piano and its mechanics in operation. I guess that the excess mechanical noises in the recording were due to it being made with the ribbon microphones in the position you described (in line with the pianist) and not in the more conventional position shown in your photograph.

Allowing for that, the spatial image is not quite as well defined as I would expect. That may be due to your using the pair of fig-8 ribbons in an A-B spaced configuration. Normally the A-B configuration would be used with omnidirectional microphones to give a spatial image through the sonic time delay between the capsules.

If you have the opportunity to make further recordings with this pianist in the same hall, it could be worth using the stand placed as in your photo, but trying the fig-8 microphone pair in an X-Y configuration (Blumlein) and then also in an M-S configuration (MS-Blumlein). The very dry acoustic would allow direct comparisons to be made, knowing that the microphone configuration was the major difference. Note that MS-Blumlein needs the pair of recorded signals to be put through a sum-and-difference process in the mix to decode them to an L-R stereo image.

The photograph shows the actual position the recording was made. I agree that the arrangement used normally calls for omnis – figure 8 are not a good substitute. I used A-B spaced omnis for other sessions before with my LDC condensers.

I am not at all a friend of one point microphones such as M-S and X-Y as it contradicts our audio sensation. For piano there is no need for an exact directional localisation such as these arrangements provide for large sound sources. There is rather some ambiance desired that distant placements provide. Since my design has rather large cages, it would also be diffcult to place a Blumlein pair close enough. I have succesfully made Jazz recordings with M-S as a main pair, but supported with additional mics placed close to the different instruments to monitor the balance and get some more space. But all this is highly subjectiv matter – the main purpose of my recording was to confirm the usability of my design ! So far I like it !

paulears Mon, 10/24/2022 - 14:53

I think that recording pianos actually breaks plenty of 'rules' we traditionally use because pianos simply don't produce their sound from where we assume they do. On my grand, it's very clear that while the area around the hammer/string contact produces sound, it drops off very, very gently as the sound board component, along with the entire top frame add their components. A/B and X/Y closer in than normal produce a very similar result - hence my experiment with a cardioid and a fig-8 used sideways. It didn't give the expected very close perspective - and perhaps the 1 foot(ish) separation helped here. 

Your experiment with the new microphones appears to generate a closer perspective, when logic dictates that it should produce amore distant one, so maybe that's the room. It will be interesting if you get the chance to use them in a more reverberant space at the same distance?

dross Tue, 11/01/2022 - 20:51

I can hear everything but the piano clearly. It sounds dark and muffled. I dont think it's your mics.

They seem way too far away, get em down in there! Scrap that idea and try something different.

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