Simple piano recording setup: opinions?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Keyboards' started by Canard, Sep 11, 2007.

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  1. Canard

    Canard Guest

    I'm looking to record music on a baby grand, and have been reading a good deal online about mics suitable for piano recording that won't nuke my budget (saving up for $1000). I came across a guide online that suggests an AMT M40 on the piano and a GT67 in the crook (I'll opt for the less expensive GT57). The samples of using that setup sound pretty good, aside from some heaviness in the lower register which I presume to be caused by the M40 placement (on the left music desk instead of on the soundboard).

    What are people's opinions of this setup and these mics? I want to especially avoid the tinny/bright, bass-less sound common to professional piano recordings in favor of a more rich and mellow tone.

    Thanks for any advice :)
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Personally, I would almost never use a PZM or contact transducer in favor of other mic choices. They don't do the resonance of the instrument as a whole the justice it deserves (if it so deserves...)

    But...answer these questions and it will help us to understand which direction to point.

    1 - Is this for rock, jazz, classical, etc.
    2 - Do you want a very forward sound (Elton John) or a very laid back sound (Liang Liang)
    3 - What mics and preamps do you have at your disposal
    4 - What is the room like? Is it a studio, a living room, a concert hall?

    For classical, I almost always use spaced omnis (given that the room is acceptable and it's a solo performance. If it's with orchestra, I'll use whatever I can to isolate it as much as possible while still getting a good/usable tone).

    For rock, I place a pair of cardioids inside the instrument over upper and lower strings. Or occassionally I'll place them at the lip aiming in.

    For jazz, I'll often start with a pair of ribbons in Blumlein behind the pianist aiming down into the instrument.

    Anyway...there's many different ways to skin this cat. The closer we can get to what breed of cat, the better chance we have of getting it right.

    Cheers -

  3. Canard

    Canard Guest

    Sorry for forgetting important details!

    1. It's for recording my personal music, but the style is much closer to classical than the other genres you suggested.

    2. What I want to avoid most of all is a forward, driving sound as it wouldn't match my style. But I don't want it to be too flat-sounding (i.e. too heavy on the mids and lows), either, but I presume this part could be helped by mastering.

    3. I don't have any mics yet :) Those are the two I'm considering. For a preamp, I'll be getting a Firepod unless you have other suggestions.

    4. The room I'll be recording in is a small church sanctuary, with a ceiling of probably 25 feet and hardwood floors. I'm not so interested in getting much room sound as much as I am the piano itself. I usually play (and will record) with the lid open only 10-15cm.

    Thanks :)
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Cool. I'll reply by the numbers -

    1 - No problem. I find this easier than the "forwrad" style.

    2 - See number 1. However, I wouldn't leave anything for the mastering phase. Strive to get it right during the recording - tone, EQ, etc.

    3 - Firepod is a good choice. IMO, there's very few in this price range that can compete for sound, quality and features.

    4 - It's impossible to record the piano without taking the room into consideration. The piano and the room couple to make the instrument. Take a $200,000 Bosendorfer and put it in my bedroom and a $400 Baldwin console and put it in a concert hall - the Baldwin will likely sound better.

    I would also suggest you consider micing with the lid on full stick (or even off). When we record the piano, we record for the purpose of picking up vibrations from the sound board, the strings, the room and the body. We do not aim for picking up vibrations from the lid which serves only two acoustical purposes - deflect some of the sound forward (not needed in a recording session) and to alter the timbre of the instrument by deadening its higher overtones (also not needed nor desired in a recording session).

    These are just my personal feelings on the situation. You may ultimately decide that I'm nuts and that's your right. However, I've never gotten positive results (or at least results that I could be pleased with) with the lid at short stick.

    As for microphones, I would urge you to look at the following: (most are under the $1000 point for a pair)

    1 -Shure KSM series (141s, 137s, 27, 32). These are excellent mics regardless of their price and almost all work quite well on piano. My preference would be foor the 141s as they are perhaps the most versatile of those listed and they sound darned nice!

    2 - AT 4041, 4051, 4050. Again, great mics regardless of price.

    3 - Neumann KM 184 (on Ebay for about $1k per pair) - not my first choice, but many use them and like them.

    I would personally lean towards a matched pair of mics instead of one for high strings and a different kind for low. This (to me) is a far more cohesive piano sound and works for other things as well.

    Also, you'll see most of the ones I recommend are small diaphragm condensers. This again would be my preference, however, a pair of AT 4050s would do quite well on piano and would give you one heck of a versatile pair of microphones. In addition, their higher sensitivity means you're less likely to have to deal with preamp noise if this becomes an issue.

    Cheers -

  5. Canard

    Canard Guest

    Thanks for your very informative reply :) I'm liking the price and reviews on the AT 4041s... I can't find any reviews on the 4051s, unfortunately. A pair of 4050s would be out of my budget, but I could swing just one if that would sound better than two 4041s or 4051s.

    Do you have an opinion on the M40 in my first post? A music shop by my house has GT-57s and AT 4041s/4050s/4051s that I could probably take home to try out before buying, but the M40 doesn't have any dealers in Oregon :(

    Thanks again :)
  6. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Sep 4, 2004
    Indianapolis, IN
    Home Page:
    As an FYI
    This is a Yamaha C7 recorded with a pair of Studio Projects C3 mics - cardioid, more or less XY just a couple feet from the crook of the instrument recorded in a smallish church. I used my A&H Mixwizard for mic preamps on this and recorded through a MOTU 24i - so nothing exotic anywhere.

    Closer than I would have liked, but space and ambient noise issues prevented me from getting any further out.

    Just for reference - not saying that this is the way to go, but for a bunch of budget bits I though it turned out fairly well.

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