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Recording Cello and Piano

Hey guys!

Today I attended a dress rehearsal for a cello and piano concert that will take place this Friday. I did some basic recon, and played with positions a bit. Here's a couple little smippets of what I came away with:

[=""]Main Pair[/]=""]Main Pair[/]
[[url=http://=""]Main Pair with Spots[/]=""]Main Pair with Spots[/]

I used 4006 at 40 cm for the main pair, about 270 cm away from the piano and 230 cm in the air. Moving that stand 70 cm forward would have put the mics above the cellist's head. The spots were a Sanken CMS-7s on piano, about 140 cm high and 15 cm out from the case, and a Royer R-122 on cello, about 45 cm away, 30 degrees left of the front, and aimed at that f-hole.

Here's what I'm thinking:

Widen the omnis to 45-50 cm to get a better spread on the piano and hopefully improve the low mid tone (that usually happens the wider I go).

Move in closer on the cello to get a bit more heft to its sound.

General critique and suggestions are most welcome. Here are some specific questions:

Are the spots mixed in perfectly and doing their jobs?

Any idea for getting a better cello spot sound? Right now there's too much 2k, but I couldn't seem to get rid of it.

Should I switch to an SF12 in MS on cello for the concert? If so, what will I really gain from miking in stereo? Also, I'm worried about gain; It takes a bit mroe than half of the board's gain to get the R-122 up to where it needs to be, and the last time I tried it on solo piano, it was completely unusable as it took all of my gain and was quite noisy.

Do you think I could improve on the main pair with any obvious placement changes?

Thanks so much yet again!


Profile picture for user Cucco

Cucco Wed, 03/07/2007 - 06:23

Just looking (not listening yet) - I would think the following:

1 - Cello - move the royer away from the F-hole. Aim it at the bridge if you are wanting a darker sound, towards the neck (where the neck is above the body) for a brighter sound. Considering you're a Midwesterner looking for an American sound, base of the neck would probably be preferred.

2 - Main pair - I would think this is too close to be an "overhead pair."

When using an overhead pair on piano and soloist, I like to use that pair to get the "complete picture." This requires space for the two disparate sounds to merge and complement eachother. Then, I use the spots to bring definition where needed.

As such, I would pull the overheads out and up, continue to spot mic the cello with the Royer then use mics to spot the piano that have a decent level of rejection so that you're not picking up too much cello. Place these mics a little outside the piano (distance and height varies to taste.)

I'll try to listen in a little bit.

Cheers -

liuto Wed, 03/07/2007 - 07:32

Hi, I think the main mics are a bit too near to the cello. The piano has a nice ambience around it that the cello is missing. It seems too direct, not blending with the piano. I personally would set up the main pair for a nice sound of the cello with the piano already at the right spot but a bit too distant. Then I would mix in the piano spots (stereo) to give it a more direct impression (pull it forward) that fits to the cello. If you have room mics you can add additional ambience if necessary.
Best regards

David French Wed, 03/07/2007 - 11:47

To me, the piano is already too wet and the cello is a hair too dry. Usually when I'm doing solo piano in this place, a linear distance of about 250 cm is just right for the ambience; this recording is about 370 linear cm away. Making an ideal recording with a single pair seems to be impossible. If I had my way, I'd ask to move the cellist closer to the piano, thus solving the problem, but the way they're setting up, there's like 1.25 m between the cello and the nearest part of the piano.

Thanks for the input guys.

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Cucco Wed, 03/07/2007 - 12:08

still haven't listened...sorry.

one thought though -
as an engineer, I often listen to my recordngs and think they're too wet. then the client hears it and they love the ratio of reverb or evn ask for more.

perhaps in your awareness of the effect, you've become hyper aware.

David French Wed, 03/07/2007 - 12:16

Interesting... I strongly feel that this piano sound is too wet; everything below 800 Hz or so sounds like an indistinct blur. I'm interested to see what you and others think about this point.

hughesmr Wed, 03/07/2007 - 12:18


I just recorded a cello/piano duo doing Schnittke/Beethoven/Chopin sonatas in Cincinnati (CCM). I used a Schoeps MK21 wide-ORTF pair alone, and they love the results.

Interesting on the setup: "my" cellist set up virtually right in front of the piano (her chair back was maybe 1-2 feet from the front edge of the piano), in line with the hammers, but with her cello angled maybe 30-40 degrees to the left as heard by the audience (so the pianist is visible in her peripheral vision). My array was set up a touch left of piano centerline, angled slightly back toward centerline. The cello hangs a touch on the left channel, but that's the way it was heard in the hall, so that's how I preserved it, and that's the way they wanted it.

I find that the balance with cello/piano is REALLY dependent on repertoire. Wide dynamic range in the cello can really have it popping out of the texture or almost inaudible under the piano. Finding a happy medium with placement is a big challenge!

My only "wish" is maybe for an ever-so-subtle piano spot at times. (In this hall, they set the piano up only 3 feet or so from the rear of the stage. Here's a pic of the room: http:// (Werner Recital Hall at CCM))

David French Wed, 03/07/2007 - 12:45

Thanks for the anecdote, Michael.

Jeremy: Hell yeah! Anything you want, just let me know and I'll cut them right now before I go and record harp, piano, and flute (oh my).

liuto Wed, 03/07/2007 - 13:01

The different ratio of ambience for the two instruments seems to be a problem of the perspective seen from the main microphone. One way to work around this, that means to even out the differences of distance, would be the use of cardioids (also nice for audience rejection). You can position the main pair at a greater distance, so you will have a more uniform level of ambience for both instruments. You could use the omnis for piano spots to add a little low bass if needed.

David French Wed, 03/07/2007 - 13:11

Hey Hermann, I had the exact same idea... I treid cardiods at the dress rehearsal, but the overall tone from the omnis was just so much better. I may stick both on one stand for the concert.

liuto Wed, 03/07/2007 - 13:36

David French wrote: Hey Hermann, I had the exact same idea... I treid cardiods at the dress rehearsal, but the overall tone from the omnis was just so much better. I may stick both on one stand for the concert.

Yes, that's what I feel most of the time (omnis so much better... :roll: )

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Cucco Wed, 03/07/2007 - 13:38

David French wrote: but the overall tone from the omnis was just so much better.

I almost always prefer the sound of omnis over carioids. They seem more tonally balanced in general.

That doesn't mean I won't use em, I just agree that in general, the tonal balance from omnis is usually far more open and realistic.

Zilla Wed, 03/07/2007 - 15:58

Comments based on listening to samples via internal G5 computer speaker....

The main mic balance favors the cello too much. The cello is dry and the piano is very wet, giving the incorrect perspective that the piano is 25 feet behind the cello. The spot mics are not helping. If anything, they are net negative because they over-exposing the limitations of the player.

Where is the soloist with relation to the piano?

My initial impression is that you need some distance with that cellist. Let the acoustic help its tone and mask undesirables. The piano has the opposite problem. Maybe a directional main mic (royer?) in front but further away from the cello, and the omni's acting as piano spot mics?

RemyRAD Wed, 03/07/2007 - 19:32

David, I really loved to hear everybody's response here because everybody hears things differently from each other. All quite valid. And all professionals.

I like my fine arts recordings, highly flavored and not necessarily to reproduce "sonic accuracy". I like cardioid microphones for their intimacy and greater warmth from proximity effect. Omni's for their ambience and freedom from proximity effect. Ribbons to impart a darker quality (excluding the Royer) on the cello. MS ribbons on the cello. Close-up. Sure! You bet! And a ORTF condenser pair, close-up for the piano. And your omnis, for the hall ambience and the main floor flavor.

Otherwise, I really liked your example of just the main pair if I had to choose one or the other. As opposed to your second clip with the spot's. It was all very nice stereo on both examples but I thought that the cello lacked a more centralized mono, front and center sound on both clips. Sure, it was nice. Sure, it was stereo. But I like my soloists mono, center. LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU! (I really didn't mean that. It's just an example. I find it's really difficult to talk to somebody that is crossed eyed or walleyed. See? Just an example of the same perception.) I don't necessarily always want the way "they" appeared visually onstage, although I generally do that more for rock-and-roll when video is involved but not always and generally not for solos.

My recording and mix, appears on my "sound stage" and in my head first, beyond the confines of the hall. What you've done is all beautiful stereo, expertly executed but I like that feeling of greater "center focus" and intimacy, for the instrument and/or vocal that is to be the center and point of interest. After all, we are trying to take people on "our journey" and not necessarily to a specific venue or some kind of technical blah blah thing.

Come with me on my magic carpet ride. And please don't step on the wolf.
Ms. Remy Ann David

David French Fri, 03/09/2007 - 22:09

Here's a sample from the Shostakovich sonata that was played, if anyone wants to hear it.

I think I made a good attempt at solving the problems that we identified.

hughesmr Fri, 03/09/2007 - 23:00

Thanks for the pic, David. Nice result. Can you provide measurement or mic choice changes you made from your earlier recording?

It appears "your" cellist likes to sit about two feet further to the right (from the audience perspective) than does "my" cellist .... 8)

RemyRAD Fri, 03/09/2007 - 23:44

David! That sound is exactly as I was trying to express to you, of what I like to hear. Much more Mono Center focus on the cello with a great degree of presence. Beautiful piano accompaniment almost ethereal in its aural content. How beautiful! Just enough of that beautiful hall reverb to truly make you anxious to hear the next trailing reverb.

I wish I had something nasty, stupid, ridiculous to say, but I don't.

A+ + in my book
Ms. Remy Ann David

David French Sat, 03/10/2007 - 00:11

Michael: The changes were backing the mics up by 40 cm or so, raising them up by about 30 cm, moving the cello spot to the other side of the cello, adding a bit of EQ (cut at 450, boost at 5 k) to the piano spot, and using less of that spot.

Remy: Thanks so much. This means a lot to me coming from you.

I might be getting a session with this player to record the same material...