Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Laurence Payne » Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:30 pm

Bane wrote:As far as dropping a mic down behind the piano, do you mean without the mic stand? Should it stand up or lean against something? I have my doubts about wedging the mic between the piano and wall because of what kind of funky reverb effects I might get.
I doubt you'll find room for a stand! Wrap it in a piece of foam if you like. Just get it close to the sound-board and make sure it won't rattle.

A very common way of miking a grand piano is to stick a SM58 on a cloth or piece of foam into one of the circular holes on the sound-board. You'll see them stuffed under the bridge of a double bass too. It's hardly a purist technique! But it captures the sound of the instrument close-up, with good separation and minimal mechanical noise.

Don't tell me why it WON'T work! Just try it. Only takes a few seconds.

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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Bane » Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:17 am

Wow, interesting suggestions. :)

@ Laurence Payne, I do think this is a pretty standard technique, as the SOS article I was reading suggested something similar. I will try this with several variations to see if I can't get a unique sound out of it. I wonder if we will get the effect Woodcrest Studios described in his second post in this thread.

@Woodcrest Studio, I need a professional like you at my house!! :lol: I really like the idea of lowering the mic to the floor and pointing it up, thus capturing the ambient feel I have in that recording as well as the piano's power that's noticeable in the other. Also, louder audio will take out my mic's hiss and it will be far enough to minimize the key clicks--obviously, the best of all worlds. I actually have been placing it roughly 5-6' away from the hammers and all. Do you think it would be a good idea to compress it? I wasn't really planning on it in order that I could emphasize changes in the dynamics of the performance. This is indeed going to be the only instrument in the mix (no vocals either).

@ Mr. Larry, like Split said earlier, you'd think by info online that I was getting a Cardioid pattern, but once you look in the manual you find out that it's hyper. I actually thought until I looked it up I was getting an omni, because I didn't know that cardioid was a pickup pattern. Indeed I might should've studied a little bit more before making the purchase, but as Woodcrest said, no time for regrets. I may actually get a unique sound with less than ideal equipment.

I might actually have time to try some of these new ideas as soon as the Super Bowl goes off. :mrgreen:
Then-it's play time!! :twisted:
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Bane » Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:48 pm

Alright, as you can see, I finally joined soundcloud! Here is the alternation of the ambient test I did, except this time I used Woodcrest Studio's suggestions. Next time I set up, I'm gonna give the back of the piano a shot. :)

[disabled]

This is a private track, I hope you can get in!
Last edited by Bane on Sat Feb 11, 2012 12:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Split » Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:51 pm

Oops, looks like we can't find that page!
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Bane » Wed Feb 08, 2012 12:02 am

I think you have to right click then open in new tab and log into your soundcloud account. Give that a shot! Otherwise, I'll have to make it public.
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Strophoid » Wed Feb 08, 2012 12:16 am

I'm logged in and it can't find the page ;)
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Bane » Wed Feb 08, 2012 12:59 am

Alright, should work now. Had to make it public. :(

BTW, I'm followin ya Strophoid! :D
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Woodcrest Studio » Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:59 am

Sounds interesting.

Distant and roomy. Pretty bright room too. Is it me or is it right-hand heavy? Since it is really roomy sounding, I would put a pillow behind the mic to protect the rear node from getting reflections as a precautionary step.

You didn't have to take my suggestion :) I was just asking since upright pianos are about 5' wide, if your fav spot was 6-8 feet away is because hyper-cardioid mics have a centered pickup pattern of 80-90º. So, if you pulled the mic back 6-8 feet, you would capture the entire instrument in balance (theoretically) depending on the microphone and preamp's response.

It's a starting point I use for a barometer.

Another approach, which may change the dynamics of your playing, is to play to the room. The room is your audience. I know this may sound weird, but ask the room in your head (not out loud for god's sake) how it wants you to play and play "feeling" that. If you can get into it, you join the room with your piano. You should feel it too, the room's sweet spot with the dynamics of your playing and still be expressive in the performance.

For instance, here, I have a lot of gobos, wooden accordion walls, plate glass, ceramic tile boards and other things more esoteric to affect the room's response to whatever is playing in it. The room sings with trumpets when the tile boards are down. Acoustics like an accordion wall set at certain angles for an open roomy sound or quarantined with strategically placed sound absorbers, poly-diffusers and glass plate for a cool sounding early reflection sound.

Every room has a sound that can be exploited. And to exploit it comes down to what you have on hand to do so. If you have no materials, you do have the dynamics of the playing or where the instrument sits in the room and these relationships with where the mic is sitting.

Listen, I am not the end-all be-all super hero recording dude. I learn stuff all the time and a large part of that comes from experimenting and doing crazy sheit (sober!) almost daily. I read about the placement over and behind the head in the thread and that's a good idea :) Split is a really knowledgable person and a goof too, so watch what he says closely. :lol:

If I were you, I would work on a straight-line plain with your mic. Keep it at a set height and move it forward and back on a single line. Make big distance changes and note the sonic differences (as many as you can) then refine to smaller ones till you find the sweet spot. The big moves will show your ear major differences and this will increase the sensitivity of your ears to hear smaller differences.

Yup, that was a lot! Oh, and play to the room too :mrgreen:

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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Split » Wed Feb 08, 2012 9:23 am

Yup what Woodcrest says :)

Are you going to post the mic down the back test? that would be interesting.

The room is very obvious and like we said earlier, if you can tame it with whatever comes to hand (blankets and stuff) may have beneficial results.

And like Tom says the more directional mics do have a pronounced pickup from directly behind the mic so just to reinforce the advice of a pillow or whatever directly behind.

I actually quite like it, but its probably a bit ott, oh and does that piano need a tune?

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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Strophoid » Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:15 am

I am not the end-all be-all super hero recording dude.
Nonsense, of course you are 8-)
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Laurence Payne » Wed Feb 08, 2012 12:10 pm

Yes, there's lots of room in there! Can we hear a closer recording with that mic (even if you do feel there's too much mechanical noise)? And what about the dynamic mic you mention in your very first post? Can we hear a recording using that?

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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Bane » Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:12 pm

Thanks again for the suggestions. Probably what is sounding like "the room" is probably the little bit of reverb I put on it. Do you want the raw recording instead? Since I know the effects I'm going to put in
there, I normally go ahead and monitor the different positions with the effects on. I hope to have some more recordings for you by the end of the day.

Just got an email that Strophoid's followin me now. 8-) Stalkah!!
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Laurence Payne » Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:25 pm

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/25954546/piano%20test.zip

Four rapidly recorded wav files. Normalised to -1, otherwise un-processed. First three are my Bechstein upright, against the wall in a carpeted and furnished room. Nice tone, recently tuned, but rather noisy action. Recorded simultaneously through three different mics that were handy.

1. SM58 dropped down the back.
2. Rode NT1, 6ft in front.
3. Cheap Chinese valve mic set to omni, 1 ft in front.

The strange noise is me humming as I play. I find it very hard not to, and it can be the deal-breaker when deciding where a mic goes :-)

4. is a Kurzweil PC2X

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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Bane » Wed Feb 08, 2012 5:19 pm

Cool. I'm gonna put those in Cubase to get a closer look, or listen rather. Nice and very quiet (no hissing) except for your humming. :P My piano was last tuned about 7 months ago, does it need another round?
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Laurence Payne » Wed Feb 08, 2012 5:28 pm

Could have been quieter, but I played VERY safe with recording levels , and though the noise floor is pretty low with today's gear, it's still there!

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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Bane » Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:24 am

Okay. I just finished doing some of the tests you all have suggested. Take a listen and let me know what you think. You’re going to hear this in your sleep tonight. :P

1) [disabled]

2) [disabled]

3) [disabled]

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5) [disabled]

6) [disabled]

7) [disabled]



All of these files are Wave, with no effects added except normilization to zero on those recorded with the dynamic. Once again, you can’t stick a metronome to this, but I think it will work for analyzing mike positions. In all of these, the mike is 47" off the ground. Feel free to download and import into Cubase, Wavelab, Nuendo, or whatever for further analyzing. Thanks!!
Last edited by Bane on Sat Feb 11, 2012 12:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Strophoid » Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:46 am

Mic at the back bass side sounds best to me, clear tones, not too much blurring from the room and an even balance between high and low notes.
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Laurence Payne » Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:58 am

I think we can agree the close-miked examples are best. Now it could be fun to try different close positions, front and back, with different microphones.

It also matters whether the recording is going to stay as piano solo, or will be part of a mix. Do you want mellow, or to cut through a rock 'n roll song? Too much bass can be an embarassment.

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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Bane » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:19 am

The end result will be a piano solo. I think I agree, the room I'm recording in doesn't seem natural in the ambient recordings. Interestingly, the key clicks aren't very noticeable are they? Do you like the condenser mic or dynamic best? I will have to play with these with effects in Cubase and see if reverb goes well on the ones in the back. Those I recorded in the back sound very clean and not so muddy as the other ones, but really I have to ask myself, is that what I want the piano to sound like in the end? And does that really sound like the typical upright piano? It actually feels a little more electric to me. :|

Edit: Please let me know your specific favorites like Strophoid so that I can see where I want to go with this. Thanks!!
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Split » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:09 am

Mic behind centre is good, does seem a tad to close sounding, I think I'd prefer the behind your head one for sounding more natural but that room reflection is just not nice.

How about Dynamic mic dropped down the back and your condenser behind your head, then blend a bit of the condenser in just to take away the dry closeness of the Dynamic?
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Bane » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:15 pm

That sounds great, but I won't be able to do that until I get another mic cable. The one in the back centered really sounds good with reverb and EQ, so I'll post that later. As I said on Soundcloud, I really had to turn my gain down on the ones in the back, I guess it really gets loud back there. On the ones behind my head, why am I getting more bass with the dynamic than the condenser?
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Laurence Payne » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:34 pm

Or more treble with the condenser?

If I was restricted to owning just one microphone it would be much more likely I'd choose a SM57 than a cheap LDC.

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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Bane » Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:07 pm

Okay, I'm going to post the condenser in the back centered with reverb and EQ here in a few hours. Give me a few days to get another cable, if we still think Split's idea would sound better (even though I too would rather drop the condenser down the back and keep the dynamic behind my head). Meanwhile, how would we go about doing that for easiest manipulation? Stereo input bus on a single track or two mono busses on different tracks? Also, phantom power won't damage my dynamic, will it?
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Strophoid » Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:27 pm

2 mono tracks is easier, if you want to mix the 2 signals seperately.
Phantom power shouldn't harm your dynamic mic.
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Re: Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Post by Laurence Payne » Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:35 pm

Probably easier to use two mono tracks. You wouldn't want hard L-R panning of the two mics. A little separation could sound good, though anything that came across as an "effect" will rapidly become tiring. Theory says that for every foot of distance the track should be aligned forward by 1ms. I wouldn't worry too much about the actual numbers, but a little delay on the close mic could be worth experimenting with.

I suspect you'll end up with using just one mic. But play with it!

Phantom power won't hurt a properly-connected dynamic mic.

Main issue, of course - work on your piano playing until you COULD put a metronome to it. All this is pointless until you have something WORTH recording :-)

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