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Help with live mic'ing piano...

silverling_co

New Member
Hey all! I'm looking for some advice on how to mic this piano. It just sounds very roomy to me. This is for a live-stream for a local church—we've been struggling to get a good sound with the piano. The live stream is part of a worship band, so lead/backup vocals, drums, guitar, bass, keyboard/synth and piano. I've got everything else sitting really well except the piano.

We have two large diaphragm condensers in the piano with the lid at half stick. There is no reverb or FX on the track, this is the raw sound. Any help would be appreciated!

Here is a little audio snippet of the piano...
Cheers!
 

CGR

Pianist, Composer & Arranger
Hey all! I'm looking for some advice on how to mic this piano. It just sounds very roomy to me. This is for a live-stream for a local church—we've been struggling to get a good sound with the piano. The live stream is part of a worship band, so lead/backup vocals, drums, guitar, bass, keyboard/synth and piano. I've got everything else sitting really well except the piano.

We have two large diaphragm condensers in the piano with the lid at half stick. There is no reverb or FX on the track, this is the raw sound. Any help would be appreciated!

Here is a little audio snippet of the piano...
Cheers!
What space/room is the piano in, and what are the wall, floor & ceiling surfaces in that space? You mention large diaphragm condenser mics, but the polar pattern is important if you want to minimise the room sound, so a Cardioid pattern will focus on the direct piano sound more, whereas an Omni pattern will take in the whole space:

mic patterns.jpeg

Also, if you want to capture the attacks more precisely, often a pair of good quality small diaphragm condenser mics will give you a more focussed sound. We use a spaced pair of SCHOEPS MK4 mics on the Steinway D at the studio, but I've also had very good results recording smaller grands and large uprights with a Rode NT4 (placed about 30cm off the hammers and back a little in a small grand piano with the lid on the full stick, and on an Upright piano pointed at the hammers in the middle with the front panel removed). The Rode NT4 is a fixed XY configuration small diaphragm stereo mic, so captures a controlled stereo image without getting too wide (important for a band mix) and handles adding reverb nicely:

Rode NT4.jpeg


Hope that helps :)
 
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jaketanner

Senior Member
Might be out of phase too...sounds very thin to me and I've recorded many pianos. if you are using large diaphragm mics, with the lid almost closed, i would assume they are either 414's or similar....and if not, then you may very well be getting some cancellation from the proximity of the lid. Your better option is to raise the lid, position the mics so that they are pointing away from each other and use heavy packing blankets to drop over the lid to minimize the bleed.

Also...if the piano is "wet" in the room as you hear it, then it will be slightly wet in the recording. But those packing blankets will help isolate the sound.
 

Beat Kaufmann

Active Member
....
We have two large diaphragm condensers in the piano with the lid at half stick. There is no reverb or FX on the track, this is the raw sound. Any help would be appreciated!


Cheers!
Microphones "In the piano" is not such a good idea. The sound is caught and even very soft sounds are still very loud. The sound of a piano, as we know it, develops only at a certain distance. Therefore, whenever possible, a little distance with the mics should be chosen (> 1m).
Of course, there are room problems if you take the microphones out of the piano. Nevertheless, the recording will sound more "natural", I am sure. Also important: You should switch the recorder to manual. The automatic leveling causes an amplification of the quiet sounds, which would result in a roomy sound again.

It is best to use one of the classic stereo microphone methods. ORTF, DIN, AB,... Above someone recommends a Rode NT4 with X/Y. This method is not very suitable for a solo piano, because the sound is very "narrow" (little stereo). It's best to make a few test recordings with different microphone configurations and then choose the one that sounds best.

Beat
 

CGR

Pianist, Composer & Arranger
,... Above someone recommends a Rode NT4 with X/Y. This method is not very suitable for a solo piano, because the sound is very "narrow" (little stereo).
Yep, that someone was me, and I disagree with your comment about an XY mic setup not being suitable for solo piano. Not every style of solo piano calls for a wide stereo image. Also, the OP is aiming for a piano recording to sit in a mix of worship music with vocals, drums, guitar, bass & synth, so an XY mic setup with a more controlled stereo image would be my first choice for this application.
 
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silverling_co

silverling_co

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Thanks for the advice, everyone! I'll be working with some of these suggestions this week to play around and see what works! Will probably be back with more Q's!
 

Beat Kaufmann

Active Member
Yep, that someone was me, and I disagree with your comment about an XY mic setup not being suitable for solo piano. Not every style of solo piano calls for a wide stereo image. Also, the OP is aiming for a piano recording to sit in a mix of worship music with vocals, drums, guitar, bass & synth, so an XY mic setup with a more controlled stereo image would be my first choice for this application.
Hi CGR
Everyone is allowed to use the microphone setup he think is good. And yes, if a piano doesn't play alone, it doesn't have to appear particularly wide in the stereo field.
Even if stereo is basically not important or if you don't like stereo. Sure then use X/Y or only one microphone at all - why not.

silverling_co's case: He already owns two microphones, so he doesn't need to spend another 400 EUR for a NT4. Therefore, my recommendation was to try all the microphone stereo methods. This is something silverling_co must find out for himself - what sound he likes...

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Hi silverling_co
Some additional information about the stereo setups:
Each setup has advantages and disadvantages. Ideally, one should take this fact into account. That's why it often depends on which setup you choose best.

X/Y: Stereo only by volume difference.
Advantage: No phase shift between the channels = mono compatible. The room influences are relatively small.
Disadvantage: No spectacular stereo image. The image of the instrument is quite focused on the center direction of the microphones. Locating instruments in the stereo field is not really good because the stereo width is not exploited.
So X/Y is good when stereo is not so important and an instrument or voice should be captured in focus.


ORTF: Stereo by volume difference and time delays.
Advantage: The stereo effect is similar to our hearing. So the stereo image sounds natural and gives a nice spatial image. The localization of instruments in the stereo field is not excellent but good.
Disadvantage: Not totally mono compatible due to the time delay of the signal between the mics (microphone distance = 17cm). The spatial influences become more apparent. The microphone configuration is a bit tricky to assemble.
ORTF is good for spatial stereo results similar to how we hear ourselves. Suitable for smaller ensembles or solo instruments - aways depending on the distance "music-microphones".

AB (distance of microphones > 30 cm): Stereo mainly due to temporal differences of the signal between the microphones.
Advantage: Good spatial imaging. This method is very suitable for recording choirs, for example, because the individual voices are pleasantly blurred.
Disadvantage: This method is the least mono compatible. In mono, the large microphone distance results in lots of phase cancellations. The localization of the instruments is not good (can also be an advantage >> choir). Since the room influence is large, the recording room plays a big role.
AB is good when a great stereoimage is important, so for choir and organ recordings, or also to add room information for a dry recording. A piano can be recorded with a kind of AB miking: For example one microphone for the low strings and one for the high strings...

There are lots of videos at Youtube about recording a piano with all these stereo setups.
This Video with music "steps" through all the mostly used stereo technics. You can directly compare the different sounds.

personal Recording Examples:
- Piano Solo ORTF ca. 1,5m distance, 2x Neumann KM184, Venue: Church
- Piano with Orchestra, Mini AB (20cm) (as spot), 2x Earthworks M30, Venue: Tonhalle Zürich

-----------------------------

A few more tips on recording a piano:
You should have the piano tuned before. You react more sensitively to an out-of-tune recorded piano than when you hear it directly.
Pianos sometimes sound a bit "boxy" - because they are in a box. If you remove all the covers, this sound disappears but the piano no longer sounds so voluminous and you also hear all the not wanted noises better...
This means: It is not easy to find the right distance and positions for the microphones. More distance more room influence, less distance more noise (damper, pedal, keys,...). Piano recording therefore means weighing up between many compromises.
So if you need a "Piano Signal" for the Internet, as a Playback or what ever, a solution could be as well to rent a good stage piano with a nice Piano sound, then you don't have all the recording problems. It is your decission.
 
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CGR

Pianist, Composer & Arranger
Hi CGR
Everyone is allowed to use the microphone setup he think is good. And yes, if a piano doesn't play alone, it doesn't have to appear particularly wide in the stereo field.
Even if stereo is basically not important or if you don't like stereo. Sure then use X/Y or only one microphone at all - why not.

silverling_co's case: He already owns two microphones, so he doesn't need to spend another 400 EUR for a NT4. Therefore, my recommendation was to try all the microphone stereo methods. This is something silverling_co must find out for himself - what sound he likes...

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Good point in terms of the OP experimenting with various mic setups to find the sound he's after. The reason I mentioned the NT4 was it's a pre-configured XY stereo mic which is very easy to setup and I've found works well in a band mix. The main thing is to experiment with what works best given each particular piano, room and musical context.

When micing solo piano in the studio (Hamburg Steinway D) we use a spaced pair of Schoeps MK-4 mics about 60cm back from the soundboard, which gives a full stereo image without any phase problems, and also handles additional reverb well.
 
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