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Mic array advice for recording solo piano
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 
Mic array advice for recording solo piano

Hi everyone,

I will be doing some solo piano recording in a resonant church and I wanted to get some ideas from all of you about mic arrays. I regularly record live concerts with a single pair of omnis but in this case I would like to experiment using at least 4 or more mics. In this case, it would not be for a live concert.

I will have the following at my disposal:

-Grotrian-Steinweg Concert Grand (bright and a bit harsh but still a beautiful instrument)
-Grace M802 preamp (recording into a Joeco Blackbox)
-MBHO 603/KA200 cardioid SDC (pair)
-Line Audio OM1 omni (pair)
-AEA R84 (single)
-RM Biv-1 Ribbon pair (Royer 121 copy)

I understand that this is impossible to answer without experiencing the space and experimentation, but what configuration(s) would you recommend as a starting point? I want to capture as much of the richness and warmth of the space as possible.

Thank you all for your insights!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
Lives for gear
Any way to sneak in there and grab some samples - especially with similar material & playing technique - to bring more context with the question?


Sounds like fun,

Ray H.

PS: Pictures, description of the space, etc.?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
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surflounge's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
if it’s possible not to smear a spot mic with a omni–cardioid blend. The AEA ribbon could be placed in the room outside the piano. You just roll that thing over, point it at the piano and hit record. Getting under the lid and angling mics is not that fun
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
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🎧 10 years
I would be using the ribbons. Combination of a bright piano and Grace preamps, you need to tame the high's,
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
Here for the gear
 
Here are two clips recorded in the space using a combination of the OM1s (Decca tail pair) and MBHOs (ORTF about 8 feet high and 6 feet in front of the piano) using a MixPre to give you an idea of the piano and space. The space is much more resonant in real life than it sounds here. I'd have to stop by to get pictures. Thanks for the insight so far!
Attached Files

Clip1.wav (11.20 MB, 733 views)

Clip2.wav (12.07 MB, 701 views)

Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
You haven't really said what you hope to achieve by using four or more mics, that you think you can't get from a single pair.

- Or whether your 'experiments' will also be of live concerts or not.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
Any chance to rent a pair of really good omnis (DPA/Schoeps/Neumann/Sennheiser/etc)? If the church acoustic is good, a really killer pair of omnis I find gives the best sound to build on.

In terms of specific array, it kind of depends on what kind of piano sound you prefer. What are your favorite piano records? Figure out who the engineers are, and what their approach is. It would at least tell you whether something like a wide AB or tail pair (or other) would best suit your tastes, and how to amend it with additional mics.

What is your taste in piano recording?

Last edited by king2070lplaya; 3 weeks ago at 05:53 AM..
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
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jnorman's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
I listened to your clips. Both too verby for my taste, so I would move my mains in closer - you can always add a touch more reverb if needed, but it is very hard to remove too much reverb. I prefer the imaging of the ORTF out front over the tail pair. I would suggest a Faulkner/boojum/jnorman 4-mic array on a single bar at around 4 feet out from the lip. Use the ORTF as the main pair, and slightly blend in the omni pair to support the low end, and to adjust room ambience as needed. Try to get your ORTF setup as close as you can to the specs (ie, not NOS or DIN) - you have a very bright instrument and you want your mains well off-axis that true ORTF gives you to help dampen some of that sharpness.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #9
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman ➡️
I listened to your clips. Both too verby for my taste, so I would move my mains in closer - you can always add a touch more reverb if needed, but it is very hard to remove too much reverb. I prefer the imaging of the ORTF out front over the tail pair. I would suggest a Faulkner/boojum/jnorman 4-mic array on a single bar at around 4 feet out from the lip. Use the ORTF as the main pair, and slightly blend in the omni pair to support the low end, and to adjust room ambience as needed. Try to get your ORTF setup as close as you can to the specs (ie, not NOS or DIN) - you have a very bright instrument and you want your mains well off-axis that true ORTF gives you to help dampen some of that sharpness.
This sounds very interesting and I will try it. What would the exactly spacing/direction of the omnis be? Also, what height would you suggest? Thanks!
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #10
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattG1987 ➡️
This sounds very interesting and I will try it. What would the exactly spacing/direction of the omnis be? Also, what height would you suggest? Thanks!
Ideally you will want the cardiods to point towards the strings and parallel to the lid (to avoid catching lid reflections). The height will be determined by the distance needed to get the right direct to reverberant balance AND allow aiming as described.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #11
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
i consider the lid to be an integral part of the grand piano not only in terms of functional aspects (projecting sound towards the audience) but also in terms of the instrument's overall sound, the way the pianist and the audience perceive it etc. - the lid makes it possible to easily achieve a nice blend of direct and reflected (and ambient) sound depending on mic position.

if you want to avoid reflections at any price however, you have to take off the lid...

in your situation, you may wanna try using cardioids (for main l/r pickup) in close position, add an omni (with a steep lpf) on low strings further down the grand piano and add whatever mic/system you like at some distance for ambis.

these pics here stem from an amplified live situation/broadcast in a fairly reverberant church (ca. 1200 capacity, rt around 3.7s); the instrument was a steinway d, mics a pair of mk21's for l/r, a tlm170r in omni for lfe, ambis (not pictured) a mstc-64 ca. 3m behind piano (for visual reasons) and a pair of tlm103's (sic!) in wide a/b at ca. 6 - 7.5m on each side of the piano.

some eq and dynamic processing was used on close mics (and of course on the broadcast mix); no additional efx though (iirc)...
Attached Thumbnails
Mic array advice for recording solo piano-20191211_174153.jpg   Mic array advice for recording solo piano-20191211_174209.jpg   Mic array advice for recording solo piano-20191211_174224.jpg  

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 3 weeks ago at 01:32 PM..
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #12
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattG1987 ➡️
Here are two clips recorded in the space using a combination of the OM1s (Decca tail pair) and MBHOs (ORTF about 8 feet high and 6 feet in front of the piano) using a MixPre to give you an idea of the piano and space. The space is much more resonant in real life than it sounds here. I'd have to stop by to get pictures. Thanks for the insight so far!
Of these two recordings, the second worked significantly better for me than the first because of the density of notes and playing techniques in the excerpts. But I would have also liked less intrinsic reverb on both tunes. . .expecting that would afford better clarity and balance across the board.

I would also have liked more strength from the lower half [more or less] and more tenderness from the upper half [more or less] of the instrument. Which, I think is asking for a wider effective distribution of harmonics into the presence frequencies over the entire range of notes and being able to better control the mix of bass vs mid vs. treble strings - once the room/reverb is reduced?

Gets back to preferences and articulating what you want to accomplish. I'm almost always less attracted to representing the sound of a performance as it would be heard by someone attending it. I always like more intimacy and closeness. I still love to hear the room, but more delicately mixed into closer mics.

So, in a similarly reverberant room, I'm probably going to want a dedicated omni focused on the bass. And several widely spaced ambients running as far out as is not muddy. And one of the following approaches for a main pair. . .
  • A widely spaced omni main pair an inch or two outside and below the lip - if the instrument, room, repertoire, and playing technique will let me get away with it.
  • A less widely spaced pair of switchable [omin/cardioid] capsules say 18 inches or so up above and sightly inside the lip. More narrowly angled and somewhat more widely spaced than ORTF or NOS. One focused toward the treble, one pointing toward the bass. Lid pretty far open 50 - 65 degrees, if I can. I stated switchable capsules because I would start with cardioid, but allow for that strategy to quickly fail over to a more widely spaced omni. . .if such struck me as better in the circumstance.

In any case, the objective would be to balance of the specific project circumstances and my own sense of balance and clarity. . .as alluded to above.


Wishing you the best.

Ray H.
A humble musician - who has a resolution to practice more this year.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
Lives for gear
Addressing an SDC question on another thread reminded me of a site you might find useful:

See piano recordings in the experiments section on: http://kazuyanagae.com

Off-topic, but the sister site is also a hoot: http://www.soundmedia.jp/nuaudk/


Best wishes,

Ray H.

EDIT: You may also benefit from Hudson Fair's [ @ Plush ] presentation of a low close-to-wood mic cardioid plus butt technique he presented at The Sound Summit last year, . . .no, the year before last:

https://youtu.be/Y72stmE1CmQ?t=7258
Plush will present at The Sound Summit

Not at all certain he would approve that I'm using spaced omni instead of cardioids?
Old 6 days ago | Show parent
  #14
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Hook of's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattG1987 ➡️
Here are two clips recorded in the space using a combination of the OM1s (Decca tail pair) and MBHOs (ORTF about 8 feet high and 6 feet in front of the piano) using a MixPre to give you an idea of the piano and space. The space is much more resonant in real life than it sounds here. I'd have to stop by to get pictures. Thanks for the insight so far!
Hey! Great recording. If you are interested, here is an example of practically your installation, only the other way around)). The omnis pair in front of the piano is 1 meter and 3 meters high. AB 80. And a pair of cardioid from the tail, but closer than Decca tail.
Best wishes.
Attached Files

Piano_2.wav (10.73 MB, 68 views)

Old 6 days ago | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattG1987 ➡️
Here are two clips recorded in the space using a combination of the OM1s (Decca tail pair) and MBHOs (ORTF about 8 feet high and 6 feet in front of the piano) using a MixPre to give you an idea of the piano and space. The space is much more resonant in real life than it sounds here. I'd have to stop by to get pictures. Thanks for the insight so far!
With this kind of music, I'd be very curious to try kludging* an Earthworks PM40 style mount with the OM1s, mixed with an NOS pair of the MBHOs, for room sound

https://earthworksaudio.com/piano-microphones/pm40/

*I put one together with a golf ball retriever and a pair of ATM35s (capsules replaced with omnis) - sounds brilliant. On dull pianos, I replace the ATs with Shure Microflex omnis.
Old 5 days ago | Show parent
  #16
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by M50k ➡️
With this kind of music, I'd be very curious to try kludging* an Earthworks PM40 style mount with the OM1s, mixed with an NOS pair of the MBHOs, for room sound

https://earthworksaudio.com/piano-microphones/pm40/

*I put one together with a golf ball retriever and a pair of ATM35s (capsules replaced with omnis) - sounds brilliant. On dull pianos, I replace the ATs with Shure Microflex omnis.
Can you post a picture of the one you made? That sounds really intriguing.
Old 5 days ago | Show parent
  #17
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrufino1 ➡️
Can you post a picture of the one you made? That sounds really intriguing.
Nothing very fancy - ball cup and handle cut off, bits of dowel bolted into both ends, aluminum angle screwed into dowel ends, foam pads on the bits of angle to keep from sliding around and to protect piano finish.

The ATM35s are slipped out of their foam, capsules replaced with omnis, and secured to the bar with hair elastics in the positions recommended by Earthworks.

The key thing for this rig to sound best is to use the smallest omni capsules, for true omni pickup into very high frequencies. I tried Senn MKEs, but liked the ATs and Shures better. The tiny capsules in the OM1 should be great, as long as the piano isn't dull-sounding; the OM1s have no top-lift at all.
Attached Thumbnails
Mic array advice for recording solo piano-dscn0803.jpg   Mic array advice for recording solo piano-dscn0807.jpg   Mic array advice for recording solo piano-dscn0809.jpg  
Old 5 days ago | Show parent
  #18
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by M50k ➡️
Nothing very fancy - ball cup and handle cut off, bits of dowel bolted into both ends, aluminum angle screwed into dowel ends, foam pads on the bits of angle to keep from sliding around and to protect piano finish.

The ATM35s are slipped out of their foam, capsules replaced with and secured to the bar with hair elastics in the positions recommended by Earthworks.

The key thing for this rig to sound best is to use the smallest omni capsules, for true omni pickup into very high frequencies. I tried Senn MKEs, but liked the ATs and Shures better. The tiny capsules in the OM1 should be great, as long as the piano isn't dull-sounding; the OM1s have no top-lift at all.
Oh cool, I see. So the golf ball retriever is just for the pole. The church where I work has the earthworks and I used it for a long time, but it developed an issue. I was emailing back and forth with their customer service, but things were slow, then COVID hit and the warranty repair never got done. Turns out the electronics box broke and I broke it further finding that out last week (they encase the circuit in epoxy to protect whatever secret they think they’re protecting). I’m going to look into building something that can replace their box.

I have the naiant omnis, which I have on a clamp with 2 goosenecks, and it sounds really close to the earthworks but just takes phantom power so less chance of an issue, and also have other mics I use inside at other times. The naiants are 6mm capsules I believe- they’re built into a neutrik xlr connector.

But I’m always looking at other methods so I have more tools at my disposal. I made magnetic mounts today that I’m looking forward to using tomorrow.

Thanks for the pictures, that’s very cool and makes so much sense- I like the dowel idea to fit in the tube.
Old 5 days ago
  #19
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Here’s the magnetic mic mounts I made, used them this morning and they worked really well. Not for recording classical piano perhaps, but great for amplifying grand piano in a group context.
Attached Thumbnails
Mic array advice for recording solo piano-1d0e6f9f-4da1-472f-93ec-a411d88aa537.jpg   Mic array advice for recording solo piano-de2c73cd-dd19-4bd3-87c6-895dd79a0dbc.jpg   Mic array advice for recording solo piano-f597f72a-7329-4882-9e13-a8dc648f5b51.jpg   Mic array advice for recording solo piano-5b997046-2310-46f6-be6f-ae2b29e70120.jpg  
Old 5 days ago | Show parent
  #20
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
here's my (conventional) setup from tonight (2x mk4, 1x mk21), used on a steinway d in a semi-ampflified situation.
Attached Thumbnails
Mic array advice for recording solo piano-20220123_214432.jpg   Mic array advice for recording solo piano-20220123_214509.jpg  
Old 5 days ago | Show parent
  #21
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
here's my (conventional) setup from tonight (2x mk4, 1x mk21), used on a steinway d in a semi-ampflified situation.
That’s going right I’m my library of piano miking pictures, most from this forum.

Where is that? Looks like a beautiful space.
Old 4 days ago | Show parent
  #22
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrufino1 ➡️
That’s going right I’m my library of piano miking pictures, most from this forum.
lol - thx.

Quote:
Where is that? Looks like a beautiful space.
this small room is actually rather terrible (as there is NO damping available when needed)...

...but the large room is nice (as long as we're talking about acoustic music) - here's a link to the venue:

https://www.stadtcasino-basel.ch/de/
Old 4 days ago | Show parent
  #23
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
lol - thx.


this small room is actually rather terrible (as there is NO damping available when needed)...

...but the large room is nice (as long as we're talking about acoustic music) - here's a link to the venue:

https://www.stadtcasino-basel.ch/de/
No damping? Here, I have one for you- this was while we were setting up for a wedding gig in Pennsylvania about 7 years ago, I’m glad I filmed this. We then found out that the groom was road manager for LMFAO and worked with Clair Brothers. Not the time to battle that echo!

https://youtu.be/lb2Mg7fNUg8

Although funny enough, to be on topic, our keyboardist used the grand piano onstage and she was very happy about that. I miked it up with one of my little omni
Mics and it worked pretty well. I think I taped the mic to a little cardboard box or something in order to get it in a place I wanted since that wasn’t planned.

I wasn’t able to read anything on the site because I don’t speak the language, but the pictures were beautiful.
Old 4 days ago | Show parent
  #24
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrufino1 ➡️
No damping? Here, I have one for you- this was while we were setting up for a wedding gig in Pennsylvania about 7 years ago, I’m glad I filmed this. We then found out that the groom was road manager for LMFAO and worked with Clair Brothers. Not the time to battle that echo!

https://youtu.be/lb2Mg7fNUg8

Although funny enough, to be on topic, our keyboardist used the grand piano onstage and she was very happy about that. I miked it up with one of my little omni
Mics and it worked pretty well. I think I taped the mic to a little cardboard box or something in order to get it in a place I wanted since that wasn’t planned.

I wasn’t able to read anything on the site because I don’t speak the language, but the pictures were beautiful.
i'm sure that some folks would be prepared to pay a lot to record in a room with such a mighty (drum) reverb!

___


maybe you wanna check the link again: historically speking, it's quite an interesting place; infos are also available in english...
https://www.stadtcasino-basel.ch/en/

...and here are a few pics from a (re-)install:
reinstall before restart

(i'm working on fixing a few details this very week and will face the challenge to mix a concert/(live) broadcast of a jazz trio, big band and a symphony orchestra later on this year... - not yet sure how to fit them all on stage?!

too bad that promotors far too often set up concerts in places which are simply not suitable for the music - this imo goes for all genre, regardless of whether music gets amplified or not...
Old 4 days ago | Show parent
  #25
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Sharp11's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
here's my (conventional) setup from tonight (2x mk4, 1x mk21), used on a steinway d in a semi-ampflified situation.
That’s more or less my standard everyday set up, on a smaller piano (Yamaha C5), reliable and fast, and sounds good.

Two or three mics, sometimes two SDCs with an LDC (room), or vice versa.
Old 4 days ago | Show parent
  #26
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharp11 ➡️
That’s more or less my standard everyday set up, on a smaller piano (Yamaha C5), reliable and fast, and sounds good.

Two or three mics, sometimes two SDCs with an LDC (room), or vice versa.
indeed rather standard - mics may vary but since i have a bunch of schoeps, i have no reason not to use them! ;-)

to have more options (mainly in terms of distance and hence the wet/wry ratio straight from the mics, i might use additional mics and position the differently (looking into the piano from the side) and for ambi/room pickup, i vastly prefer stereo pickup over mono and of course things depend on the room, desired results, preferred mix technique etc. but...

...with three mics as pictured, i get everything i need, pretty much regardless of genre and situation.



[well, on very loud stages - be that due to an orchestra behind the piano or a hot backline/wedges etc. - i do occasionally want the typical '57-in-hole' for monitors (or even to push though the piano at foh) and/or a yamahiko or two but then, i stay away from getting a pair for years (and my most recent experience with russell ferrante convinced me NOT to waste any money on pickups...]

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 4 days ago at 05:07 PM..
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