Recording Concert Grand Piano

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by TheAmpNerd, Mar 9, 2005.


  1. TheAmpNerd

    TheAmpNerd Member

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    Hi,

    Anyone done this? I'm new to it.

    I was going to go with a couple of SM57s on
    booms, to get the left (bass) right (treble)
    sound. Pianists point of view.

    Then use a condenser for the direct sound
    wave from the piano lid at 45 degrees openness.

    I'm trying to avoid the symphonic hall standoffishness.

    So thoughts opinions any one?
     
  2. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    I'll first admit that I've never recorded a grand piano. My first impulse would be to use a pair of small diaphragm condensors (Octavas, Neumanns, whatever your budget allows) and use a stereo mic technique (XY, ORTF, etc) centered between the bass and treble strings. I'm not sure you'll be pleased with the SM57.

    I've read a bit about how to capture a piano in the literature on either the AKG, Neumann, or Shure websites. I'm sure you could find a ton of perspectives at gearslutz.com or the other recording discussion sites.

    I'm curious, is the piano going to be a solo recording or is it going to be in a mix?

    Bryan
     
  3. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    Big subject, with many recipes for success (and failure!).

    Never tried anything but condensers and ribbons. I'd be surprised if you had much luck with the 57s, but you've gotta work what you've got. I'd personally be more inclined to find a really nice spot with the condenser and go from there. (I'd think a nice mono recording would be preferrable to an iffy stereo one in most cases).
     
  4. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I've had good results using a pair of Earthworks cardioid condensers. Just behind the dampers, about 12" above the strings, one on the treble side and one on the bass side, aimed down and slightly across the strings. Move them around till you find the sweet spot for each.

    I agree with Basso that one well-placed condenser would probably be preferable to the 57s.

    Just out of curiosity, what does "trying to avoid the symphonic hall standoffishness" mean in this context?
     
  5. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    I've used a pair of Neumann 140s and 184s, a pair of AKG 451s, a pair of 414s, and a pair of B&Ks, as well as a single condenser.

    My experience has been that the matched small diaphragm condensers are your best bet, set up exactly as Michael suggests, depending on how much room you want in the sound.

    This is for pop/rock, etc.

    For classical or even jazz, I might want to mic the piano in stereo from the audience's perspective, using either a spaced pair of small condensers, or an x-y configuration farther back, say 5-10 feet or so.

    I've done it both ways, and the way to go depends on your own tastes, what you're trying to accomplish, etc.

    I know engineers who've also taped boundary condensers to the lids of the pianos. There are no real rules, just things to try.

    PS - Michael and I are both piano players, so we are biased. ;)

    I mic up grands all the time, so does he.
     
  6. KungFuLio

    KungFuLio Senior Member

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    Find out what your client wants to hear!

    If it's a classical session many times you'll end up further away than you may expect. Work a good mic rental into the budget if possible (M50's, U67's etc.)

    There may be a close spot mic on the pianno for clarity, but a nice pair of OMNI condensors will serve you well for the bulk of the sound.

    If it's a jazz session, throw everything out I just said and look at the earlier posts. Lately, I've been taking the lid off the piano and placing two well spaced B&K 4011s about four feet above the sound board at the bridge of the strings. Then I place a couple of large diaphragm mics (U87, 414, 103, SCX-25, etc.) in an X-Y near the middle of the bridge about one foot high. Blend to taste, YMMV.

    If it's a rock session, tell 'em to get a different piano:D

    As always, work on xplacing the mics, that's, beyond the mic used, is the most important element in the equation.

    Good Luck!
     
  7. drbob1

    drbob1 Silver Supporting Member

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    First of all, what are you doing it for? We have two pianos at home and it does require decent mics and some experimenting to get a good sound-if you're doing a pop recording just use a decent sampled piano/synth. If you have some time and a piano and the sound matters ;) then all of the above advice is good. I've had very lifelike results with a single small diaphragm or large diaphragm condensor aimed at the strings, a pair of omnis, a pair of large diaphragm or one large and one small. Surprisingly, with our pianos, you do get a lot more of the mechanical sound of the piano close micing (the pedals and dampers moving). The main thing I'd do is get the best mic or mics you can afford and a decent preamp to run them into (Oktava or Studio Projects make very cost effective mics, and a pair of RNP or similar preamps).
     
  8. TheAmpNerd

    TheAmpNerd Member

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    Wow,

    Okay, I might try the smaller condenser mics.
    It is more classical/jazz piano than pop/rock.

    I did find these mics intriguing:

    http://www.helpinstill.com/

    Thought I cannot offord them.

    However, I am the client, and the Higher Power (HP)
    has sent me a message that I'm supposed to record
    some of my older compositions. So it is 30 days of
    practice, the I start recording sessions.

    I found a Steinway Concert Grand that I'd love to
    record on, just not sure if I'll have access at the time.

    A buddy of mine offered is digital recorder and
    I've got 8 tracks to record onto.

    Any thing else I should be aware of?

    You'll are great and thanks for you advice. : )
     
  9. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    >> I did find these mics intriguing:
    http://www.helpinstill.com/

    I learn something new every day. Thank you for that link!

    Now that I know you're doing a one-shot session, I suggest you use several mics and methods, then choose the best or mix and match. Rent the mics, don't buy.

    Here's what we did for a one-shot session on a Yamaha C7:

    We opened the lid to the highest position. I would have preferred to remove it entirely, but it wasn't mine.

    We recorded six tracks. I used all six in a blend.

    Tracks 1 & 2, a pair of Neumann KM-84s in "Y" stereo configuration behind the dampers angled toward upper bass and lower treble strings respectively. These were the dominant tracks in the mix.

    Tracks 2 & 3 (this is hard to explain but I hope you can visualize it), a pair of Neumann TLM-170s set in a figure-of-eight pattern in XY stereo configuration, one above the other, just outside and to the right of the piano at the innerpost center point of the curve. "X" (upper) was parallel to the angle of the curve (about 30 degrees to player), facing front to back. "Y" (lower) was perpendicular to that, one side facing piano, the other out to the room. I tried making the "Y" cardioid but it didn't blend well. I mixed these in about 1/4 as loud as tracks 1 & 2.

    Tracks 6 & 7, a pair of Earthworks omnis pointed at the upper corners of a vaulted ceiling. I only blended these in a little.

    Just some ideas. Good luck!
     
  10. drbob1

    drbob1 Silver Supporting Member

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    OK, this is serious stuff, a Steinway, one shot, digital recorder (read questionable preamps) and serious, classical sound! Tough assignment. Is it possible for you to rent gear? If this is only happening once that might be the least expensive way to do it. I agree with 6 tracks:
    2 large condensors
    2 small condensors
    2 omnis

    6 channels of decent pre (if you're renting, maybe you can afford Focusrite or Manley/Langevin or Earthworks or Truth Audio or something higher end like that).

    Preferrably outboard AD convertors (but use the ones in the multitrack if you have to).

    The other thing is after recording, you're going to want to mix it down with some serious gear-compressor, EQ, reverb, limiter (or get it professionally mastered).


    OR:
    Check out the local studios: ours has a decent upright piano, all the mics, pres, effects and a fair mastering engineer-and they basically rent for amateurs at $40-60 an hour. If you're in a larger center there'll probably be someone with a good grand, and it'll be cheaper and easier to get someone who knows what they're doing to do the recording....
     
  11. partytrain

    partytrain Member

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    I've recorded some piano, but mostly it was for background, deep into the mix. I just used a pair of condensers in a stereo setup.
     
  12. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Just one last thing then I'll shaddap...

    If you only have the budget for one set of mics, I'd recommend a pair of small diaphragm condensers. Neumann KM-84 or KM-184 would be easy to rent almost anywhere.
     
  13. TheAmpNerd

    TheAmpNerd Member

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    I'm not sure where to begin, with my questions.

    I sent Charles Helpinstill a letter asking for
    assistance.

    Otherwise I'm not sure about the mics
    nor the way to focus/situate them.

    What is the XY config?

    Can you recommend a book that discusses
    the basics?


    Purpose is to get that grand piano sound.
    HP sent me the message after my mom passed
    back in October. I'm supposed to create music
    that will help other folks pass from the material
    to the spiritual world. I finally know what to do
    with those 30 year old compositions.


    I found a guy who has a studio in home and he
    has some better mics (than mine). He has
    some AKGs. Not sure what the model number is.

    I'll ask. The cool think is he told me just do it
    and don't worry about the playing and such.
    He told me some of the mistakes or mis keys
    etc, will just make it all the more real and lively.

    It is also my first shot at recording something.

    What are some good outboard ADs to look at?
    I know they have to be a lot better than the
    ones that come in the recorders.

    Thanks y'all, I get by with a little help from my friends.
     
  14. trisonic

    trisonic Member

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    Les might remember this:

    I visited Nimbus Records in Wales in the early '80's - Nimbus were famous for fastidious recording techniques (on Classical products) and a fanatical hatred of edits - just do it again.

    To record piano they had this beautiful room in this huge mansion they owned, virtually a castle and natch, they hated close micing. They had this human head shaped device with mics in its ears seated about twenty foot away from a Bosendorfer. They asked me to try it out thusly. I sat in a chair next to the mic whilst the pianist played a piece then listened to the playback in the control room.

    Well, in the room the piano sounded fantastic (it had had a piano technician go over it the previous day) - when I listened to the playback it sounded like it had been recorded in a big old Victorian Public House! I told them so and was never invited back.

    This doesn't really help but this thread brought back memories I thought I could share.

    Best, Pete.
     

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