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I have a jazz trio session coming up and was wanting a few tips on positioning within the room. They want to be in the same room with each other. It will be a piano (stienway upright), up right bass, and jazz drums ( K,S,H,T,FT,crash, ride). Vocals we will overdub. My tracking room is 25' X 30' with a 17' X 12' hardwood floor in the middle. No parallel walls, 14' ceiling. walls are soft so the floor is the only brightness in the room. Overall its a little dead for my taste but its done good so far. I have a 4'X 6' gobo, (2) 6'X 6' gobos, a drum shield, and all the packing blankets you could ever want. Were not going for the super produced, slick, isolated sound. In fact the piano player has complained about hearing isolation in recordings at other studios. I'm not completely sure what he means but I think he is hearing more close mics than room mics.

Hopefully thats enough info to get the thread started.

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vinniesrs Mon, 07/07/2003 - 15:18

It sounds to me like he wants a very old kind of errol garner sort of sound. If this is the case, then bleed is your friend. I did a recording of a jazz band like this a few months ago. They wanted it to sound like it was recorded in the fifties. No piano though, just guitar, sax, e-bass, and a 4pc kit.
I placed them all in the room, facing each other, put a close mic on all instruments, but the volume was loud, and there was also a pa going. The kit was miked w/two overheads and a kick mic, and the rest of everything(including vocals)was mikd with sm 58's.
When mixed, I used the same verb for everything, and put the kick mic in very subtly. In retrospect, I might have taken a stereo pair from the very back of the room, to capture natural ambience, but no biggie since they liked the result.

In your case I would mic the drums in the same way, and put the piano right next to the drum kit at a right angle. Make sure the overheads can "see" the piano just a little bit. Do not have the piano on axis with the kit mics. Mike the kick from inside, but if you use a blanket try not to kill it too much. I would put the bassist On the other side of the piano with the 6' gobo between the piano and the bass. Make sure they can see each other. Mike the bass, and if you can throw a piezo on the soundboard, just in case.

For the piano, I would start with a ld condenser a couple feet out, and place a gobo between the kit and that mic, and then i'd open up the top of the piano and stick an omni, or figure 8 inside. I might even put two in, but that could get tricky!

Just a thought. :c:

anonymous Mon, 07/07/2003 - 16:09

That might work, but might have problems with phase on the piano. You might need to play back a song to see if, in fact, that is the sound they are going for.

My feeling is the overheads will pick up plenty of "room" sound for the piano as well as drums. Think about using omnis as overheads so that the off-axis coloration doesn't get weird.

Then mic the piano fairly closely. (one foot or less). You can create a tent with sound blankets over the lid if it turns out that isolation gives a better sound after all.

The tricky part is gettting the acoustic bass heard over the other stuff bleeding into the bass mic. Definitely use the gobos to build a little two or three sided enclosure for the bass. Even throw a blanket over the top, and have the mic and stand inside the enclosure with the bass just outside of it, if that works. But whatever you do, make sure the bass mic is REALLY close to the bass. (I like to put it about two inches away from the strings just BELOW the bridge.) Use a cardioid mic, and position it to reject as much of the other instruments as possible. If the bass player has a DI, you may want to track that on a seperate track, as it may be useful to blend in slightly for more articulation.

The advantage you have is your room - you've got plenty of space to spread them out quite a bit. I probably wouldn't put anyone right on the hardwood, although it might do nice things to the bass sound.

vinniesrs Tue, 07/08/2003 - 06:59

With respect to the piano, if you want even tones from low to high, you can't "close mic it". If you just stick one mic inside It will pick up that area of the piano more than the others, and that will likely be the middle c area because thats closest to the center.

Maybe the piano should be overdubbed. If so, then you'll need to isolate it better from the drums.

As for omni micing he overheads, that might be cool, but I suggested using a directional mic there because the off axis tone is IMO better than an uncolored tone, because with no "direct" keys in the mix the piano would sound a little muffled. Once the keys are brought up just slightly louder than the level of bleed, you have a nice ambient mix, and only teeny tiny bits of fx are required.

I would be interested to hear what the omni's sound like.

anonymous Tue, 07/08/2003 - 08:24


close mic'ing pianos is done all the time, especially in live sound and broadcast situations. I've performed live as part of a trio or quartet on many radio stations, for instance, where the piano lid was almost completely closed with a pair of KM84's or something similar inside. The engineers were able to get a fantastic sound. You do have to experiment with positioning to avoid the very real problems you pointed out, but it certainly can be done.

an easy way to avoid too much proximity effect from the closest strings is to use omnis. I do it all the time with Earthworks QTC's.

But also, close mic'ing doesn't necessarily mean an inch off the strings. Even 12-18" away still qualifies by my definition - the point being simply to try and get more piano than drums in the piano mics!

Hack Tue, 07/08/2003 - 13:19

I am talking about an upright piano. So when you talk about opening the lid and mics inside, I want to make sure we are on the same page here. I do plan to play around with opening the lid though. And overdubing paino is not an option. The entire concept is to capture improvisation. My concern is in getting the right kind of sparkle from the piano. What do you think about opening the top of the upright and making something like a kick tunnel over the opened top??

vinniesrs Tue, 07/08/2003 - 13:57

Hack, I think if you place a mic or two in the right spot, you will get a good sound for the piano. The kick tunnel is a bad idea, as it will be hypersensitive to frequency in proportion to it's size. You can also open the bottom of the piano, at the front. There may be a nice sweet spot on the soundboard. Micing the outside from a distance will pick up the other things in the room, which at this point I think is what makes sense. This is, of course, totally irrelevant, if thats not what you want. Be mindful of phase issues, as was pointed out, but keep in mind that "vintage" recordings were not technically perfect,and that gave them part of their charm.

Little dog, you are correct in every thing you say, and I think omnis are an excellent suggestion for inside the piano. I think they would be a mistake for the kit, because they would pick up too much. I want to tell you though, that the technique I suggest for piano works very well too. I have an underwood upright, and a good friend of mine has a kawai baby grand, and multi mic techniques work well, with different patterns too.

With this setup we have a number of mic's which can be classed as room mics(for ambience), there are close mic's to provide presence and power, and multiple mics for stereo imaging. Also, using a piezo pickup on the bass bridge will eliminate bleed to that instrument too.
The goal with the setup I suggested was to capture the ambient and direct sounds of each instrument, to be combined at mixdown.

I think we are basically saying the same thing, littledog, but to me the setup you suggest may be more simple. This may be best for hack, I dunno, but I guess he will have to do what he is most comfortable with.

Hack, please be sure to post some info on what you did, and how it sounded. I am anxious to know. Good luck! :D


KurtFoster Tue, 07/08/2003 - 14:00

Micing an upright can be problematic but not impossible. A couple of LD condenser mics in omni, over the top with the top lid open will do nice. Perhaps you can set up the rest of the band so that these mics are pointed at them also, using these mics as the primary "room" mics, and then simply add some spot mics on the stand up and the drums (kick, snare, overheads) to bring them out. It does sound as if the piano player doesn't want that close miced, immediate, highly defined sound that you get with a lot of close micing. Kurt

Hack Tue, 07/08/2003 - 15:29

Kurt, I like your idea about omnis above the piano doubling as room mics. I'll have to come up with a piezo for the bass, that seems like the smart thing to do there with a mic also.

I noticed a proximity effect when we were listening to the piano. I stuck my head as far in the thing I I could get and there is a lot more low end just inside vs. just outside the lid hole. and right up next to the sound board is the same effect. When I am positioning the mics how much of this extra low end do I want? How far off the sound board is a usual starting point?

Also, I have access, for this project, to a major studios mic closet. So perhaps a few suggestions on omnis would help. I was going to get a handfull of 414s. I know they have a bunch of geffels also. And every Neumann you could want, but I dont think I can get many of those, maybe a couple though.

I have an AT 4060, a 451, M88, 421s, 57s, and a bunch of shure drum mics.(52, 98, 81)

Sorry for adding questions, but this project is real important to me cause the piano player is my brother.

KurtFoster Tue, 07/08/2003 - 15:39

I would go with a pair as close as possible to a U87 in omni over the piano and as room mics. No need to worry about proximity effect in omni. I would use a bass mic of some type on the stand up , or another U87 if possible (in cardioid). 414s in omni, will do nicely over the drums and a 451 for the snare and a suitable mic on the kick, like a RE 20 or D12 if possible, to get that vintage "poof" sound rather than the "tick" sound you would get from a D112 .... Kurt

anonymous Tue, 07/08/2003 - 18:38

Ah... I didn't realize we were talking about uprights!

The sound board of any piano is where much of the sound is produced, so on an upright, my tendency is to mic it from the back, or as Steve suggested, from the front on the bottom with the lower piece removed. Pedal noise might be an issue with the front scheme, however.

This is not to say that an upright can't be done as Kurt suggested. It's just that I've had better luck staying closer to the sound board. You lose something in having them double as room mics, but you can get better isolation.

If i can be so bold as to suggest that you take some time on your own before the session and do extensive experimentation recording yourself playing the piano with the mics in a variety of positions. (The suggested ones as well as others). I'm still constantly experimenting with mic positioning on my piano, which I've owned for years. There's no end to the quest for the perfect piano sound (just the same as the elusive perfect drum sound...)

Let us know what you end up doing. We can all learn from it...

KurtFoster Tue, 07/08/2003 - 19:36

Originally posted by littledog, jr.:

This is not to say that an upright can't be done as Kurt suggested. It's just that I've had better luck staying closer to the sound board. You lose something in having them double as room mics, but you can get better isolation.

Not to be argumentive or to flame anyone, I have recorded uprights off the soundboard with good results but there is a lack of attack. If you put the mics where I suggest, over the piano, they will be about two or three feet off the hammers but far away enough to get the whole sound of the piano and act as room mics for the whole ensamble. In a jazz set up, isolation is not necessaraly a good thing. Spill can be your friend. I think littledog has an excellent idea to have the musicians play a bit and listen before you finalize you mic set up.

anonymous Tue, 07/08/2003 - 20:26

yes, we can certainly agree that pianos are one of the most complex instruments to capture well (along with drums). Stuff where the whole sound comes out of one single hole (like trumpets and vocalists) are certainly much easier!

every engineer will give you a different variation, and each instrument in each room will require it's own idiosyncratic adjustments. Not only that, but the style of music will be a factor as well!

so just think, once you have mastered getting a great sound on your piano in your room, you will have accomplished one of the more difficult feats any engineer will ever face!

congratulations in advance! :c:

sosayu2 Tue, 07/08/2003 - 21:07

a little trick i learned a long time ago on uprights to get an old ragtime sound was to put thumbtacks in the hammers. yes it's not good for the piano but man.... what a sound :) great attack. also consider using 451's as overheads in an x-y pattern for true stereo effect and nice room sound as well. for the upright take a small hand towel and wrap either an re-20 or a 421 and place it right on the bass right above the tailpiece, you'll get very little bleed this way. also a nice pair of 87's for room ambience is a good idea.


vinniesrs Tue, 07/08/2003 - 21:33

This is the stuff good threads are made of!
Lots of good ways to get sounds.
Something I've never tried, but I thought I would mention, is.....
What if you took one, or more than one piezo and taped it to the soundboard on the piano? Maybe the time difference from piezo to mic's(1ms to no more than 5ms)would create some nice body? You would still need something to pick up the hammers, but it might be a neat effect. :roll:

Hey hack! If you get a piezo for the bass try it on the piano for the hell of it! see what gives. :tu:

Just a thought.


RecorderMan Wed, 07/09/2003 - 00:59

Originally posted by sosayu2:
i would say for the upright piano, a nice pair of km 84's or 184's and throw a blanket over the top. you'll have a great full piano sound

Drums: OH's, Kick and snare (you'll mostly use the OH's)

Line up the players (left to right...thier left): Drums, goboe, UprightBass, Piano.

Bass DI & Mic near the bridge (either an U67, U47,47fet, U87, 421, etc)

Keep the players close to each they rehearse and play. The reason id the bleed from the drums into the piano mics will have a pre-delay that doesn't slap.

if you don't eq (too much if at all) you'll get a great old school jazz sound with might not need a blanket on the piano...listen without first. I'd put the mics in as a spaced pointing down from the top. Sometimes an unmatched pair on Piano is the ticket...Large Diaphram Condenser on the Lo/Small DC on the hi.

Have fun...and "let it bleed"....

Davedog Wed, 07/09/2003 - 06:13

Has anyone here tried a PZM either on the back of the upright or under the carriage? This has worked for me in the past to add attack to the piano in conjunction to a couple of SD's in omni above the top. Also since you have so much hardwood floor, you could do a PZM in front of the kick on the floor and simply add an overhead of your choice for that.I dont kow how many old pictures I've seen of Ray Brown playing that gigantic upright and see a mic wrapped in what looks like a sock stuck right onto the body right behind the strings below the bridge...Havent done it but someone knew it worked...good luck

realdynamix Wed, 07/09/2003 - 07:20

Originally posted by RecorderMan:

...listen without first.

:) Thanks Recorderman, I gotta hear those words, Listen First, every now and then to be reminded. Sounds like a fun session! Remember an upright has it's own unique piano sound. You could also try the player perspective, mics at ear level facing the keyboard area with the lid up and front open. I like hearing finger nails too!
Just a suggestion,

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RecorderMan Wed, 07/09/2003 - 08:47

Originally posted by Rick Hammang:

You could also try the player perspective, mics at ear level facing the keyboard area with the lid up and front open. I like hearing finger nails too!
Just a suggestion,

Great one Rick. Did this with a piano set up for Tack Piano.
I had lots of mics to choose from. Started with a pair of C12's...but would yyou believe it? a pair of sm57's sounded best. The cool thing about dynamics for me is that they are "stiffer"/"deafer" than condensers and kinda act like compressors. Anyway...yes front lid off...although at the ear position you'll probably get too much drums.

The drums and bass are no brainers have them set up fast, and you can spend more of your experimentation time on the piano; quickly place the mics toughly a a few of the places you want to try why they run doen a song...a few runs back and forth and you'll have your magic spots.

Nate Tschetter Wed, 07/09/2003 - 09:05


I just did an upright overdub. Granted, it was more of a "character" (meaning, "saloon" or "somewhat out of tune") piano. We had a nice sized room, probably 25' x 20' x 20' and stuck a Blue Baby Bottle over my head about 3' back pointed kinda between the keyboard and music rack. Then we had an RE15 back in the room halfway about 10' in the air.

Its a pretty cool sound but this was for an overdub rather than recording with a live jazz group.

A friend of mine did his latest jazz album with the following chain: Royer SF12 -> pre (dunno what it was) -> CD recorder. The instrumentation was piano, bass, drums and sax. He stood closest to the mic (he plays sax) and other than that, they did it like a live set.

Now _that's_ jazz!

Treena Foster Thu, 07/10/2003 - 03:38

I've seen of Ray Brown playing that gigantic upright and see a mic wrapped in what looks like a sock stuck right onto the body right behind the strings below the bridge...Havent done it but someone knew it worked...

Dave in 1971 Carol Kaye recorded and produced the "Better Days" album at Poppie Studio's LA. Ray Brown is the upright player on 10 of the 12 cuts...Rik used a shure 545L and placed it right in the f hole on the upright bass man that tone is round, warm and fat, the best I have ever heard Rays bass recorded and using something that simple to mic those tracks..... :roll:

Treena :h:

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Hack Mon, 07/14/2003 - 12:06


I went out for 5 days and came back to more great ideas than I can keep up with. I'll be printing this thread out and keeping it handy!

What exactly do you mean by "stuck to" the bass. On a stand or gaff taped to the inst.?

I'll go with recorderman on the line up for sure... Drums, Gobo, Bass, Piano. Seems like I might want something between the bass and piano also. I'll listen first.

I will be spending the night before the session playing with the piano. I'll try all this stuff!

I will keep everyone posted and it will be on my website to listen to when its done.

You can hear the drummer, bass, and piano player on another recording that they did in mississippi here web page

anonymous Mon, 07/14/2003 - 16:22

I think my very favorite Ray Brown sound was captured on the Pablo Record "This One's for Blanton", recorded in 1973. Ray Brown and Duke Ellington playing duets! If that isn't the closest thing to heaven on earth...

anyway, I'd REALLY love to find out how that one was recorded. No info on album cover other than "Las Vegas".

"Do Nothing 'til You Hear from Me" - one of the greatest things ever recorded!!!

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Hack Mon, 07/28/2003 - 08:21

This session happend this weekend. This setup was like I said in my last post. Its worked great. The band said they have never setup that way in the studio. And they loved it. The bass player, was in the middle and didnt even wear headphones. I wish I had more time to play with the piano mics, but I think its ok. The stereo image came out a little wider than I thought it would, but I had one omni for a room mic that really helps tie things together.

I used a version of recordermans overhead setup with a pair of 451s, its the best I could come up with. I added a M88 to the front of the kit kinda low to get some ride out of it. And then threw a beta 91 under the floor tom. I dont know if I really need that mic in the mix. The overheads sound great. So I will try it as a 3 mic thing first. The Upright bass got an AT4060 at the F hole. It was tricky to get the right woof to bleed and finger noise ratio right, but it sounds really great. He had a piezo on it already so I took that line also. It sounded like shit by its self but with the mic it gives a lot of deffinition to the sound. And the piano got a pair of KSM32s above the keyboard facing the strings. Since I didnt have the night before to play with the piano sounds I just went for how the player hears it. Like I said before the image came out a little wide, but the room mic makes all the difference.

We are adding vocals next weekend and then I will have some clips up on my website. Thanks again for all your help!

Treena Foster Mon, 07/28/2003 - 10:14

Originally posted by littledog, jr.:
I think my very favorite Ray Brown sound was captured on the Pablo Record "This One's for Blanton", recorded in 1973. Ray Brown and Duke Ellington playing duets! If that isn't the closest thing to heaven on earth...

anyway, I'd REALLY love to find out how that one was recorded. No info on album cover other than "Las Vegas".

"Do Nothing 'til You Hear from Me" - one of the greatest things ever recorded!!!

Ray Brown, every upright players dream! Have you heard Summertime, Ray Brown Trio with Ulf Wakenius on Guitar.....great sound.

Hack, I listened to the sound clips from the Chad Anderson Quintet and I am looking forward to the new Cd, these guys are great fine jazz players!

:h: Treena