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Mic array advice for recording solo piano
Old 2 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 2 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 2 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 2 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 2 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, 359 views)

Clip2.wav (12.07 MB, 336 views)

Old 2 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 2 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; 2 weeks ago at 05:53 AM..
Old 2 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 2 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 2 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 2 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; 2 weeks ago at 01:32 PM..
Old 2 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 2 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?
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