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Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Mon Nov 11, 2019 9:41 am

John Willett wrote:My approach works well for me when recording a solo piano recital - which is what I do most. (and the question asked by the OP).

With more complex music and a less than perfect acoustic, other methods may be preferable.

But I *did* say that placing mics where it sound best to my ears is what I do first - I would alter that if listening proves it's needed.

But I do like the minimalist approach (yes, I know that's unusual for someone who sells microphones ;) ) but the more microphones you use the more multi-path distortion you get.

I have to take my hat off to you John, regarding your piano recordings, anyone that can record a good piano sound is a hero AFAIC.
I've never got a piano sound that I've been happy with, there's always something glaringly wrong. I've got the gear, good mic's etc, but it's always awful.
Now I just use the piano sound in Reason if I need a piano for my own music, it's simpler and less hassle.
I always tend to get unwanted resonances on my piano recordings, major humps in the frequency range, or the dynamics are all over the place, then you have to get into compression, sometimes I think I'd be better off not using mic's at all, it's one of those things that you've either got it, or you haven't, and I definitely haven't.
.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby blinddrew » Mon Nov 11, 2019 9:51 am

I've tried recording live piano a couple of times and given up. In order to get a real enough sound i had to move the mics quite a way back, at which point I got too much room, and not good room. VST was far easier and, in a busy mix, i'm pretty sure no-one noticed, or cared. :)
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Nov 11, 2019 10:44 am

Arpangel wrote:I've never got a piano sound that I've been happy with, there's always something glaringly wrong. I've got the gear, good mic's etc, but it's always awful.

It's really not the gear... Having a superbly well set up piano in a great sounding space with a very skilled player all have quite a lot to do with it... :-)

H
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:10 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:I've never got a piano sound that I've been happy with, there's always something glaringly wrong. I've got the gear, good mic's etc, but it's always awful.

It's really not the gear... Having a superbly well set up piano in a great sounding space with a very skilled player all have quite a lot to do with it... :-)

H

Absolutely :thumbup:

And then allowing the pianist to PERFORM - to put his/her heart and soul into the performance and to then capture that performance as best you can. :thumbup:
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:23 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:I've never got a piano sound that I've been happy with, there's always something glaringly wrong. I've got the gear, good mic's etc, but it's always awful.

It's really not the gear... Having a superbly well set up piano in a great sounding space with a very skilled player all have quite a lot to do with it... :-)

H

I think all the boxes you mentioned there Hugh are ticked.
The only one that isn't is a skilled engineer....

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Rob Kirkwood » Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:00 am

John Willett wrote:Though the Satie I recorded for John Lenehan and now in the Classic FM "Full Works" series I put the mics very close (which is what the producer wanted) and it's a very intimate sound and sounds very natural when played back on loudspeakers in a room. And it's still the very best Satie I have heard - not because it was my recording, but because of the wonderful heart-felt playing of the performer. :thumbup:

I'm nobody important, & It's a very long time since I recorded anything acoustic, so there's no point me even trying to comment on mics or placement, etc.. However I agree entirely that a true quality recording begins with the performer.

Back in 2000 I had the privilege of working for/with John Lenehan for 6 months - & I have to say that John is a fantastically gifted musician, but also incredibly humble & generous with his time & patience. That John was happy for me (essentially a pretty average guitarist who can't read music) to stumble my way through some stuff on his personal Steinway Grand speaks volumes about him, & I'm very grateful for the encouragement he gave me to further develop my own playing. I also appreciated the opportunity to be around when he swapped his old grand piano (a Kawai) for the Steinway - before then I'd never really appreciated the difference between a pretty good instrument & a really exceptional one.

Back then, John could sit down & play a classical piece on the grand piano that would make you cry, but equally could then sit down at his Yamaha Clavinova with a fully loaded JV2080 & Emu Proteus & produce a multitracked piece that would leave you in awe. I suspect if you sit him down in front of a Fisher Price My First Piano, he'd still come up with something beautiful! He's one of the few people I've met who can produce a truly moving performance from a score, but equally, when required, can busk & improvise in pretty much any style you'd ask from a completely blank sheet of paper. It was a pleasure & privilege for our paths to cross.

Sorry, derailed the thread a bit there, but I couldn't leave the mention of John's playing without adding something. If you're unfamiliar with John, do a search & have a look/listen!

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Tue Nov 12, 2019 9:03 am

I'm not an engineer, as such, I know "a bit about stuff" out of necessity to make recordings of my own music. That's how it's always been.
Regarding piano, I have a rough idea about the sound I'd like, and it varies from peice to piece, but most of the time I don't get the sound I'm after. It's OK "it'll do" kind of thing, but it's not ideal.
But then again, my reference points aren't anywhere reasonable, this is other peoples music, recorded with different equipment, different instruments, in different rooms, so expecting my piano in my domestic living room to sound anywhere near those recordings is totally unreasonable. So I just make my own sounds now, and don't even think about it.
I have one SM57 plugged into a cassette protastudio, for the more rough and ready stuff, and a couple of high quality SDC's for when I want a more intimate cleaner sound.
My reference recordings for piano are early Deutsche Gramophon from the 60's, anything on the ECM label, a lot of the Brian Eno Daniel Lanois stuff recorded at Grant Avenue Studio, and Tom Waits. These are always a guide, depending on the mood of the piece I'm doing, but as usual, it's always a strange mixture of what I'd like and what I actually achieve.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Tue Nov 12, 2019 2:41 pm

Rob Kirkwood wrote:Sorry, derailed the thread a bit there, but I couldn't leave the mention of John's playing without adding something. If you're unfamiliar with John, do a search & have a look/listen!

Agreed - if you ever get your hands on John's "Satie" in Classic FM 's Full Works series - listen to track 25 - that's my favourite (the whole CD is superb, though).

It's HERE on Amazon UK - must be getting rare now as the price is high for a new one. But the fact that the price is high shows that it's an excellent recording that's still in demand. :thumbup:
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:23 am

John Willett wrote:
Rob Kirkwood wrote:Sorry, derailed the thread a bit there, but I couldn't leave the mention of John's playing without adding something. If you're unfamiliar with John, do a search & have a look/listen!

Agreed - if you ever get your hands on John's "Satie" in Classic FM 's Full Works series - listen to track 25 - that's my favourite (the whole CD is superb, though).

It's HERE on Amazon UK - must be getting rare now as the price is high for a new one. But the fact that the price is high shows that it's an excellent recording that's still in demand. :thumbup:

£52.72 :shock:

Is it delivered to my door by two lovely people (men/women I'll leave the reader to choose, don't want to appear sexist) in a Rolls Royce Phantom who will carefully place it in my CD player for me?
I'm sure it's worth it John, but that would be the most expensive CD I've ever bought!

:D: :D
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:42 am

I found a new one on Amazon for a slightly more acceptable twenty quid:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Satie-Piano-Miniatures-including-Gymnopedies/dp/B00002684E/ref=tmm_acd_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1573637992&sr=1-2-catcorr

...and there are used ones from £3 upwards...

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/B00002684E/ref=tmm_acd_used_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=used&qid=1573637992&sr=1-2-catcorr

It is wonderfully serene music, played beautifully.... and the recording's not bad I suppose... :lol:

H
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Wed Nov 13, 2019 11:00 am

I think the high price is because there are only a limited number now as it's out of print.

As Hugh says, it's a wonderful CD because of John Lenehan's excellent playing and interpretation and we let him "perform" while we were recording.

I still think it's the best performance of Satie I have heard and it's probably, at home, my most played CD - just because John's playing is so wonderful.

That's why it's important to get a "performance" - a recording may be note perfect, but if the performer is just playing notes, rather than playing music; you will listen once, say "that's nice" and never listen again. With a performer putting heart and soul into the performance you wil listen again and again and again - and that's what you want with any recording.

I recently recorded the world premier of several works by Peter Maundrell played by the composer, who is also an excellent pianist - and I got the job because the person who organised it used to work with Classic FM and knew my Satie recording. Hopefully to be released very soon, in the final stages now.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Wed Nov 13, 2019 11:15 am

John Willett wrote:I think the high price is because there are only a limited number now as it's out of print.

As Hugh says, it's a wonderful CD because of John Lenehan's excellent playing and interpretation and we let him "perform" while we were recording.

I still think it's the best performance of Satie I have heard and it's probably, at home, my most played CD - just because John's playing is so wonderful.

That's why it's important to get a "performance" - a recording may be note perfect, but if the performer is just playing notes, rather than playing music; you will listen once, say "that's nice" and never listen again. With a performer putting heart and soul into the performance you wil listen again and again and again - and that's what you want with any recording.

I recently recorded the world premier of several works by Peter Maundrell played by the composer, who is also an excellent pianist - and I got the job because the person who organised it used to work with Classic FM and knew my Satie recording. Hopefully to be released very soon, in the final stages now.

I know, I'm being churlish, as Satie is my favourite composer of "all time" so I should investigate.
I once thought that I was Erik Satie reincarnated, as our lives were almost identical in how we were living. I wrote a piece in homage to him, I'll post it as soon as I can upload it.
Another absolutely amazing Satie "interpretation" is on this record, which I still have, this completely blew me away when I first heard it. And it's recorded at the old Decca studios in Broadhurst Gardens, near my old flat.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LXSIEkOKkiI
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Nov 13, 2019 3:18 pm

Oooh er...

Because of the discussion above, I've just been playing John's Satie album... and discovered it has a fairly hefty (-46dB) DC offset on some of the tracks... Don't see that very often these days! Dodgy converter or mastering process somewhere along the line.

A 1Hz high-pass filter cures it.

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Rob Kirkwood » Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:28 pm

Perhaps John L wasn't sitting dead centre on his piano stool? :lolno:

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:34 pm

:lol:
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:49 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Oooh er...

Because of the discussion above, I've just been playing John's Satie album... and discovered it has a fairly hefty (-46dB) DC offset on some of the tracks... Don't see that very often these days! Dodgy converter or mastering process somewhere along the line.

A 1Hz high-pass filter cures it.

H

I recorded it on a Sony PCM-F1 system with Sennheiser MKH 20 microphones in the Maltings at Farnham is Surrey.

I did *not* do the editing or mastering, that was totally outside my control - first release was on Earthsounds in 1992 - 27 years ago. The Classic FM CD was a re-release in 1998.

If the DC-offset is only on some tracks, it sounds like it was introduced in the editing or mastering.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Nov 13, 2019 5:01 pm

I've only played through the first few tracks. I'll check the rest later when I get a chance.

It could well be the PCM-F1's converters -- that recorder was notorious for DC offsets (and the PCM-701 that I had wasn't much better) -- but it really should have been spotted and corrected during mastering. It is trivially simple to correct with a 1Hz filter, after all. I'm surprised it wasn't spotted during editing/mastering as it would have created clicks (unless they used slow crossfades everywhere).

Having said all that, it's only me being a nerd... no one else is ever likely to notice, and any normal CD player or streaming box will remove the DC anyway on replay.

I only spotted it because I have a DK Technologies MSD600M++ goniometer strapped across the digital recording bus of my mastering console, and a DC offset is instantly revealed by the 'ball of string' display drifting away from the centre. Firing up RME's Digicheck toolbox quickly confirmed and quantified the DC offset, and patching in a digital high-pass filter set at 1Hz cured the problem.

As Mr Spock would have said... Fascinating... :think:

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Wed Nov 13, 2019 8:27 pm

It was an original F1 system with an F1 Betamax recorder that I bought in 1983 - straight after Mike Skeet showd me how you could overdub using one converter and two Beta units. :thumbup:

And I never looked back.

One thing the session did throw up was that one of my MKH 20s (and one MKH 40) was manufactured reverse polarity to the other - but I will say that my MKH 20s and 40s were of the pre-production series with no serial numbers (only sticky dots with a number on) and were the limited pre-run before they were put into proper production.

I took them to Sennheiser in Germany in person and Manfred Hibbing himself checked and corrected them for me - so they are all fine now - though one channel was polarity reversed on the Satie recording in the editing to correct the issue.

Mike Skeet's "The Box" showed up the polarity reverse instantly (after the event) - so I immediately bought one and have used it on every session since.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby The Elf » Wed Nov 13, 2019 8:29 pm

I recently recorded bro-in-law playing his Yammy piano in his work room. I had half an hour to do the job - Zoom H5 peeking under the lid... lovely recording!

Given sufficient time I would probably have over-complicated things - a good re-learning experience for me!
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Thu Nov 14, 2019 9:06 am

The Elf wrote:I recently recorded bro-in-law playing his Yammy piano in his work room. I had half an hour to do the job - Zoom H5 peeking under the lid... lovely recording!

Given sufficient time I would probably have over-complicated things - a good re-learning experience for me!

But have you checked it for DC offset? it can turn what you thought was an excellent Grammy award winning masterpiece into a worthless piece of plastic.

Sorry :blush: ...... :D

I've got lots of PCMF1 stuff, ooer.....I'd better go and check. Also lots of stuff I did with Mike Skeet, overdubbing two machines.
I've got The Box Hugh, would that show DC offset the same as the display you have, as a shift in image?
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