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Hello! I need help
here's my story: I have to record a young solo pianist (classical) to make a portfolio CD, the pieces are some of late Schumann's work, some Chopin etudes and some Scriabine. ( basically romantic but very virtuose with lots of dynamic)
the first option is to do it at his home, where there is a steinway babygrand, room is quite small (two meters around the piano)
woodenfloor, walls are wood and mirrors. I think it would be possible to get this room sound better by putting sheets or blankets on the relective parts
but this room is still small for the power of the piano (especially when the piano lid is open).
the second option is in a location (but time is restricted to one or two days) with a stage and a full size steinway)
I m going to rent a pair of mikes and a preamp (I 've got 2 cardioid condensers myself but they're not matched and not the best)
I know its better to mike from distance for classical (if the room sounds good enough) but i m a bit lost between the possibles techniques ( AB spaced omni, ORTF, BLUMLEIN), especially because the the type of mikes (small or large diaphragm,omni,cardio eight) i will rent depends of the technique i choose. (which depends of the room I choose)
here is the choice of mikes I have:AKG 414 ULS, Neumann TLM 103 (cardio only), Neumann KM84,OKTAVA 012 +3capsules , AKG 451+ck1, Shure SM81, AT4033
choice of preamp: bellari tube stereo, dbx786 blue,Avalon 737 and (both a bit more expensive to rent) neve33115 stereo and Focusrite red1.
i know its kind of hard to help cause you cant hear how the rooms really sound, but I really need
advices about all that... Thanks a million in advance...


anonymous Mon, 07/21/2003 - 22:05

my experience has been great doing x/y miking from about 4 feet away. if you could get a matched pair of the KM84's that would work out great. OR use to C414's one on the bass side and one on the treble side. depending on the sound of the room you might want to add room mics too. i'm not as experienced with the preamps, but the dbx 786 has sounded good before. ideally the neve or the red series would be nice but if its a lot more expensive i'd just go with the dbx

lorenzo gerace Tue, 07/22/2003 - 00:55


I recorded classical piano several times (classical and contemporary music is my main gig) so this is how I'd go:

Definitely try to record in the large room/hall with stage, as it would be better than the small room in the pianist's house: acoustic instruments need space to develop their whole sound, and when you put a whole spectrum instrument like a piano into the picture, you definitely need space, more so for classical music where close micing isn't the best solution (almost);

depending on the sound of the room I'd go with two possible solutions:

a) 2 mic approach, a pair of 414 TLII or Neumann TLM 103 or KM84, but I also like AT4033, either mic will work fine, and you'll only get different flavors, be sure to have the transients well defined as lack of definition will turn the sound into a mush for virtuoso pieces; ORTF pattern at approx 2 m from the open lid (full stick); for preamps the best you can get, the better, Avalon or Focusrite sound good to me, never tried the Neve. This approach if the room isn't good sounding or too reverberant.

b) 4 mic approach, this has proven to be killer for most situations: stereo pair (XY or ORTF) at 2 to 3 m in front of the open lid, plus a pair of PZM boundary mics placed directly on the arp "inside" the piano (put them over tiny bits of rubber to tame vibrations), one over the bass side, the other over the high strings; recording multitrack if possible, or submix to stereo getting a good balance between the two set of mics; the big plus of this method is that it gets the full natural stereo sound of the piano in the room from the stereo pair, while you get added definition by the two spot mics (I like AKG...forgot the model now...), with almost zero phase issues, and if multitracking, with adjustable level. Preamp, same as above.
This method will cover all of your needs, in a good room it's really killer, if the room isn't too good sounding you can alter a little the direct/reverberant ratio with the two sets of mics.

If you go with the 2 mic approach. be sure to not get too close in (like a pop piano sound )as the sound will get boxy and will lack "air" and space.

Try to record 24 bit (you didn't listed what medium you'll be recording to).

Hope this helps


niconic Tue, 07/22/2003 - 11:37

Thanks for replying!
I'm gonna try your suggestions...
What do you guys think about the spaced omnis AB method, and the Blumlein
method (crossed fig.of eight patterns)? I've heard these are supposed to give
the best results for classical piano ( more realistic stereo image) but maybe they only are worth it if the room is exceptionnal.
(which is not the case if choose the pianist living room, but for the hall maybe it might work ...)

I'm recording with a pc, audio interface is Aardvark q10, the converters
may not be as good as apogees or... but they're decent, comparable to motu,
definitely better than an average DAT machine.
the q10s pres are not too bad but I think for this job it' ll be great to get some real nice sounding and quiet pre.
Im gonna record at 24bits, 48khz or 96khz (depending of the free space on my HD), maybe 96khz might be worth it for once.

I was thinking of a pair 414's for the mics cause with their multipattern facilities I can try different micing techniques, but you're right Neumann's are great and Im sure AT's would work fine too.
If I have to do it in his living room (after having damped it a bit) and the final result is too dry... I don't know if I should add some digital reverb, I use Nuendo and I have tons of plugs TC, Waves, Timeworks.. but I'm afraid none of these would
sound good enough (even the trueverb or Rverb) in that particuliar case.
I'd prefer natural reverb... so maybe ill try to push the hall option.
So Blumlein, spaced omnis, ever tried these ?
Thanks again ! :)

lorenzo gerace Wed, 07/23/2003 - 01:10


The AKG boundary mics I was referring to are those flat round plate like mics that are usually placed to pick up a "dome" like area around them, they sound very natural, and have really few phase issues.

About those other quastions: AB spaced pair is usable when you have a large soundstage to record, like a choir or an orchestra, but I think for a piano recording you'll end up with a too wide and undefined image of the instrument (unless you supplement it with a third central mic, this is known as A/B center fill); Blumlein is said to be good if you have a large space available beneath the mics, and a good sounding room, in the case of the large hall it could be worth trying.

As for the recording medium, I don't know the quality of Aardvark converters, but I'd record 24bit 88.2 instead of 96KHz: if your final target is a CD release the translation from 88.2 to 44.1 is simpler and will generate less artifacts than from 96KHz.

I'd try to record in the hall: if you record in the pianist's living room there'll be no way to remove the short predelay and "small room sound" out of the track, no matter what reverb plug-in you use, unless you get a very dry and damped sound out of the recording, if you're aiming at a classical piano sound the small room isn't your friend; IMO you'd be better off recording in the hall, even if you have less time, just let the pianist train and practice the pieces untill he feels ready then move in and record everything, get a few takes of each and then edit them to get the best piece.

Hope this helps


niconic Wed, 07/23/2003 - 04:06

The beta 91 mics I could rent are in fact PZM boundary mics too.
I just don't know if they'd do the same job as your Akgs.

The Aardvark converters are the same as the ones used in the Layla 24 or Mona by Echo (AKM
forgot the exact ref.)I'd say they're better than the digi001 converters for example. ( or the 888)
I think they'll be allright
You 're right im gonna have to dither from 24bits 96khz to 16bits 44.1, so using 88.2 might work better.

I've decided to go for the hall, and will try there your 4 mics solution (I'll rent the focusrite Red1 which includes 4 pres), and maybe Blumlein too.
Your way with 4 mics seems too be less risky in the way that I can still play with the balance between
the spot mics and the stereo distanced mics after its been recorded, to get the right amount of ambience/definition
Lorenzo, grazie mille for these good advices!

lorenzo gerace Thu, 07/24/2003 - 00:35


Glad I've been helpful :)

Good choice about the Focusrite pre, and I guess you're going for a pair of AKG 414 too right?

You should be fine with that setup :cool: .

Good Luck with your project and post back your results to let me know how it went,




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