Micing Upright Pianos

Discussion in 'Acoustic Keyboards' started by rofder909, Dec 2, 2003.

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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

  1. rofder909

    rofder909 Active Member

    Oct 9, 2003
    los angeles
    In my new humble abode – which I won’t be moving into for a few weeks yet – there is a sweet-sounding Yamaha upright piano. For recording, I’ll be rolling it away from the half-height wall it's against, then propping open the top and placing 2 mics pointed down at the strings (the treble mic will be placed closer to the strings, at least at first).

    The cables will be run about 30 feet up the stairs to my mic pre’s, which will then be patched directly into my ADAT. I’m considering a pair of the Oktava MK012’s, but I have to fess up to being tempted to try this with a pair of Oktava MK319 large-diaphragm condenser mics. Rode has similar options in their product line, for not a whole lot more $$$.

    Anyone have prior experience micing uprights, or with any of these mics? All help is greatly appreciated, and I hope I’m not re-posting a question that’s been asked recently.
  2. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    I seem to remember this being covered before. As always, it is worth a check of the archives using the search.

    No matter what you are told or what is suggested, these are nothing more than starting points. This is a chance to gain some real experience. Don't be lazy. Take the time to try as many different appraches as you can think of, record them and come to your own conclusions. Remember that the sound of the piano you are recording should also fit the song, song arrangement and the sound of any other instruments used in the song. What piano sound that sounds real good by itself may not be best sound for the song.
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    As AG has said, pianos are probably the MOST subjective instrument acoustically. In the past, I have had good luck recording a Yamaha Upright in this way. Crown PZM on a hardwood floor a foot in front of the soundboard.A Shure SM81 at approximately middle C and 8" off the soundboard in back.A Neumann U87i 2' over the open top of the piano in omni.The room was a bit lively and required two bass absorbers in opposite corners,and also a packing blanket was used on the bench to eliminate some extra sounds coming off of it and getting to the PZM. I have recorded a 'Tacked' upright with two PZM's taped to the soundboard.But this was a very specific kind of sound and was used in a ragtime arrangement.Uprights tend to be the hardest pianos to get a decent sound out of and seem very dependent on the room environment.More so than a grand.This is only my experiences speaking here.Others may have much different takes.I would like to add that moving the SDC in the back to other notes seem to play into the 'Key' of the song and had a very good result in doing so.
  4. davidl

    davidl Guest

    I got very pleasing results micing a century-old upright with a pair of EV RE 50 omnis, placed at the same height as my head, and 18" from it as I sat at the piano.

    Why RE 50s? Yes, I know they're designed for handheld ENG work, but I find that they're the most forgiving mics I have, much less finicky than all my condensers.

    The wooden front of the upright acts as a soundboard, radiating the sound smoothly.

    Watch out for piano action noise, pedals and the like. You may find it necessary to call a piano tech to go through the instrument first, just like studio sessions with grand pianos.

    Salutations, David L
  5. Marik

    Marik Guest

    As said before, uprights are the hardest pianos to record well. Whatever you do, they still sound like... upright. I would recomend to try to remove the wooden front board. It is not much fun playing for the pianist, but can help to make the sound more "grand" like. The board underneath the keyboard is also removable, and can help in bass response. As always, spend many hours for mic positioning, and try to find the best compromize between direct sound and room acoustics.

    Good luck
  6. rofder909

    rofder909 Active Member

    Oct 9, 2003
    los angeles
    Thanks, everyone. These tips are very helpful, and I look forward to seeing which ones work the best for my situation. I have called a number of piano techs re: tuning and other possible adjustments, and being the Los Angeles area, I have some real talent to choose from.

    I have a pair of ElectroVoice NDYM dynamic mics that I'll audition for this application after the piano is ready. I will also put my Marshall Electronics MXL large-diagphram condenser above and away from the piano to capture room ambience, if there will be any usuable: the ceiling is eight feet high and there is thick wall-to-wall carpeting on the floor. Someday I'll be able to try the PZM approach on a bare floor, but that day will have to wait. In the meantime, I'm weary of sampled piano and hope to come up with a clear, well-resonating sound with this upright. Maybe my current mics will bring some magic to the situation; they've never let me down yet.

    Thanks again!
  7. Marik

    Marik Guest

    Not the mics will bring the magic, but I am sure--you will... with their right positioning.


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