Recording a Grand Piano?

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Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby Drumstruck » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:54 am

Wondering what you t'rockers like for recording a Grand Piano?

Mics? .... Pre's? ....... Tricks of the trade?

I'm thinking of:
- 1 pair of MD441s at the sound holes
- 1 pair of ribbons (Blumlein) over the hammers (about 3/8ths up towards the lid)
- 1 pair of omni condensors with one (distant) for room sound and the other underneath

And pre's? ?? and ???

Compression? Limiting??
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby stosostu » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:26 pm

A pair of PZMs blue tacked to the underside of the (open) lid.
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby Chris H » Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:31 pm

What's the context, ie arrangement other instruments in the mix, jazz...sparse or busy mix.........other instruments in the room playing live when tracking? All these things wll impact the mic technique you use.
Out of those pairs you mention my approach would be to pick the pair that sounds the best as a stereo pair panned hard left and right. Then use a third mic for the room.
If it's a pop or rock mix i tend to favor a close mic option; two good LDC's about eight inches above the strings, one favoring the treble strings, the other the bass strings. Good clear highs will help the piano project in a busy mix. The 441's could work well for this as well.
If its a more acoustic sound I really like ORTIF placed out a few feet from the curve of the side. With the lid fully up i have the mics set at a height to avoid reflection from the lid , aprox half way between the lid and the top edge of the piano. Getting ORTIF right collapses to mono nicely too. Pick a pair of mics with good reach.
For room, just use a third mic. As a rule if you can get the sound you are after with fewer mics it will always be a bigger cleaner sound than blending a bunch of mics.
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby Drumstruck » Mon Oct 29, 2012 4:14 pm

For this context I have a pop song with the melody guide track played on a digital piano (plus a lot of other tracks already recorded). So I'm now planning to redo the piano. I was going to overdub another digital piano with a good pianist to play the melody line and add some big hits / lead-in / lead-out runs etc.... but he also has a Grand .... which is very tempting to record.... and will fit the orchestration of the song.

The GP is alone in a reflective room so the ambience of the room plus external noise may be a problem.... but we are in the country so it's not too noisy. Thus I was thinking dynamics and ribbons for close micing plus Little Blondies in case we are lucky and get a clean take.

Also using PT9 on a Mac and thinking of an Apogee Ensemble for the pres and ADC.
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby jasound » Mon Oct 29, 2012 10:32 pm

If the room is to live or doesn't sound good, I'd go for the omnis as the close mics, theres no proximity effect
and their more even sounding. Probably in AB setup in the bow? curve of the piano, perpendicular to the strings.
For pop piano recordings I always find myself adding lots of tops and cutting low mid, so I would stay away from most ribbons.
Parallel compression with not to fast a release time, season to taste.
Oh ,and a piano that's been tuned.
Hope it helps.
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby Gillian Lee » Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:38 pm

I like either a small diaphragm condenser MSpair about halfway between the bow (?) and the end of the piano, pointed at the keys, or a large diaphragm condenser at about the bow.
I wouldn't put too many mics on it, but see what sounds best. Lots of other good ideas here.
Agree with Jason in regards to cutting low mids, but not too much :)
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby Drumstruck » Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:11 pm

Yes, a lot of good ideas here - hopefully the sharing helps everyone :ymhug:
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby Hookemeister » Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:54 pm

Hi Ian

Jason makes a good point about the piano being in tune.

I remember a similar situation like yours where the client had in his lounge room a beautiful old Bechstein Grand that he wanted to overdub on a track he'd recorded.

This piano had a magnificent sound, it had been regularly tuned and was in great playing condition,

Only problem... it wasn't tuned to A440. The piano tuner when quizzed about it said it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to pull these older piano up to concert pitch.

So... before you spend too much time... get over there with a tuner and make sure the A above middle C locks in at 440Hz.
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby Drumstruck » Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:40 pm

I couldn't agree with you more Greg - and it will require my best diplomacy hat so i don't insult the gent by implying his goanna is outatoon :))

In fact, I'll check the toon before I go and buy an ensemble..... I'll lug that, an MBP and some mics, but I'm not lugging my DM console up there.
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby graemeh » Tue Oct 30, 2012 5:21 pm

I get good results with a pair of spaced cardioid condensers set in the waist of the piano about a third of the way up from the strings towards the open lid - about 300-500mm back from the piano's edge, 300mm apart and aimed at the top and bottom octaves of the keyboard. Beautiful stereo spread and folds well into mono. No compression or eq until the mix.
I also tend to think that we're all at the mercy of the pianists too - my piano has been slaughtered by more than one ham fisted thumper with his/her foot semi-permanently on the sustain pedal! And as many others have said make sure it's in tune - if necessary pay a tuner, it makes a massive difference in the piano's tonality...
Have fun!
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby rick » Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:05 pm

How do I mic grand pianos ?.?

Generally twice .. !
the first time in some sophisticated showy method that i dreamed up that should work ...

Until the guy playing piano turns up and makes a piano sound NOTHING like what it did when I played it !

and i find out immediately his sound doesnt fit in the song without eq
and if your eqing your grand piano to make it fit ..
sorry you miked it wrong

so then ( beaten again ) i quickly move the mics around to capture HIS sound For that song

and curse myself that i didnt remember that was going to happen AGAIN ..
and it always happens
and i always can do better then my first go

.. so read that as i have no idea or rules
depends on the piano and the room
and the part it pays in the song :)

but with an omni small condenser like an km83 on the highs and a large cardiod condenser - m49
on the bass and ldc stereo xy mic somewhere in the room usually aimed at the waist from up higher
then in the mix its either lot of close used and little room

or lots the room with a smidge of close ..

never seems to be equal of either though !
.. which it would be if i put the mics in the right spot for the song in the first place !

one day before i am too much older
i hope will own my own large concert grand and i will figure out whats what for that piano !

pianos , violins and tibeten bowls .. best of luck having a foolproof method !
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby stosostu » Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:56 am

Of course, Rick, you could surmise that you had the mics in the right place first time and the piano player is just playing it wrong. :lol
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Re: Recording a Grand Piano?

Postby AlCraig » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:14 pm

Notwithstanding Rick's excellent description of "there are no rules". I have one of these taped to the underside of the lid of my grand piano. It gives me a decent starting point and going from lid closed to short stick to long stick gives me 3 different sounds without touching the mic.

http://eu.audio-technica.com/en/resourc ... nglish.pdf

And if that doesn't work, there are a million combinations.
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