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Recording/Mixing Piano - Wide or Mono?
Old 11th July 2005
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David R.'s Avatar
๐ŸŽง 15 years
Recording/Mixing Piano - Wide or Mono?

Just got a project back from the duplicator. Client is happy, sounds good, all is good.

Except...I asked the client if he got any feedback from the mastering engineer. I always like to check if I can, to see if there is something I can improve upon. He complained about the piano being wide, said he prefers a mono piano panned to one side for more separation.

The recording is a jazz trio, piano player's album. The piano is not panned so hard that the high notes are only on one side, but more from the perspective of sitting at the piano and being able to feel some movement when going up/down the scales. I tried to make it player perspective.

So what is your preference, wide or on one side?
Old 11th July 2005
Gear Guru
tINY's Avatar
1 Review written
๐ŸŽง 15 years

Depends on the project.

You did fine for a Jass album.


Old 12th July 2005 | Show parent
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DigitMus's Avatar
๐ŸŽง 15 years
Aside from the usual "it depends on the song/style/etc." disclaimer, I would have to say (as a long time pianist) that I tend to prefer 'narrow stereo'. I record the piano with 2 or 3 mics, giving me a full, wide stereo field, then at mixdown I pan it to a narrower focus (say, 7 and 10 o'clock, or 11 and 2). That way the dimensionality is still there, but it doesn't tend to eat up, or conflict with, everything else across the full soundstage.

Old 12th July 2005 | Show parent
Gear Guru
Drumsound's Avatar
๐ŸŽง 15 years
I think Id do a trio with the piano stereo like you did. I usually record piano in stereo and vary the width like DigiMus said. Unless its just a one off paino riff on a rock tune or something, then I treak it like any most overdubs and go mono.
Old 12th July 2005 | Show parent
Lives for gear
dave-G's Avatar
๐ŸŽง 15 years

Given your description, I probably would have taken a similar approach (and have on many occasions)

However, for discussion's sake, and from a mixer's perspective, I often find that people record piano with no consideration of its mono-compatibility... Not out of concern for mono broadcast (which otherwise would be reason enough), but for the prospect of image narrowing or "leaning" (panning) to one side or the other at mixdown. Often, the fully L-R spread image sounds spacious and wonderful, but as soon as you start moving the panpots together, or setting one to center and the other to the right, the phase issues, comb filtering, and tonal collapse begins...

In pop music, where the arrangement has a piano chugging against some guitars (or something), a well-done mono piano track can be a wonderful thing. XY or Blumlein for stereo is generally a much more "place-able" approach than spaced pairs or arrays.

Just as a tangent--for mono-mic'ing pianos: A single C37A or a C-800 (non-G) can be outstanding for this. Schoeps wide-cardioid (can't remember the capsule number), or a Sennheiser MKH80 are also favorites. A B&K 4003 is the rump-shaker -- bottom for days.

Old 12th July 2005 | Show parent
Lives for gear
jnorman's Avatar
3 Reviews written
๐ŸŽง 15 years
i just did a flute and piano duo doing classical material, and agonized about this same problem. i tracked both instruments individually in stereo. sitting at the console, i compared several arrangments of the mix, and personally preferred a mono flute panned slightly R, and mono piano panned slightly L. however, out inthe room, it sounded better when i used stereo tracks of each instrument panned out wide. listening to lots of commercial reference CDs, almost every one of them had a wide-panned stereo piano, and that is what i used on the final CD. but it certainly made me rethink mono piano. it really got on my nerves listening to a wide-panned stereo piano at the console - totally unrealistic and irritating. and yes, as soon as i tried to pan the piano in tighter to sort of compromise between wide-panned stereo and mono, i started running into phase problems that i did not like.
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