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SIngle mic solution for live upright piano plus vocalist?

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SIngle mic solution for live upright piano plus vocalist?

Postby sal- » Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:49 pm

Hi folks,

Our lovely, very infomal community open-mic stage has been gifted a nice upright piano. The problem now is that when performers sing whilst playing the piano, it's quite difficult for them to be heard, since they are facing away from our main stage mic. The piano could also do with a bit of sound reinforcement, though it's not so much of an issue as the pianist's vocals.

A quick illustration of our setup: It's a 2.4m deep x 4.8m wide stage, with a single Rhode NT1A condenser mic mounted at the front center of the stage, bluegrass style. The piano sits at the extreme stage left, side-on to the audience, so as to maximise space for other performers. We like this setup, as do our performers, so we want to explore how to make the piano sound better in its current location, rather than re-designing the stage. If you can visualise the situation you can see the problem is that folks playing the piano have their backs to the main stage mic (though it's led to some very entertaining situations with piano players howling at the the audience over their right shoulder!).

Our system is fully solar-charged battery powered. The FoH amp is a 12v 90w stereo amp, we have some small passive PA speakers mounted just forward of the extreme sides of the stage on stands, some minimal foldback via seperate 12v-powered speakers on top of the FoH speakers facing back at the performers, and a small mixing desk running on inverted 240v power (which also runs our beautiful array of decorative lights). Nobody touches the mixing desk - it's set once, then forgotten. We're 110% happy with things so far, piano situation aside. The sound is incredible, and we have so much spontaneous fun because we don't have to worry about sound technicians (err, no offense intended, knob twiddlers... <3 )

My thinking for the piano is that we could mount a mic on the top-right side of the piano frame with the top lid open (yes we can drill it if necessary) pointing back, away from the audience, at the piano player. This would capture vocals plus the sound of the piano. Remember we're not looking for a rolls-royce solution here - just a little bit of simple sound reinforcement. The main criteria are simplicity, fairly low cost (maybe up to $300ish?), and something that is completely fixed in place and unable to be grabbed/eaten/taken elsewhere/stolen.

Anyone have any thoughts on this - especially what type of mic would be good to use for this - or a different suggestion?

Thanks!
Sal.
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Re: SIngle mic solution for live upright piano plus vocalist?

Postby Dr R » Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:58 pm

I'll be honest, there are folks here who can answer the question far better than I, but here's a starter thought to get the ball rolling.

You've got no sound engineer, so the "pianist" mic will remain open all the time, as will the single "main stage/bluegrass mic". Reading the replies to the earlier post there is a long discussion about the more open mics there are the lower the headroom before feedback. Totally agree, been there done that, very painful. But two isn't too many, so we should be OK.
So my first thought is more about moving the piano to the other side of the stage, so it's between the pianist and the bluegrass mic. When there is no pianist it can act as a bit of a screen for the pianist mic, and when there is then the soundboard is facing across the stage rather than into the wings so it will sound better to the audience too. I guess it takes up a bit more space on stage this way, which is why you're not keen to change, but it might be worth thinking about again.

As for microphone choice. I reckon a SM58 or any nicer cardioid dynamic stage mic would be fine, mount it on a gooseneck, facing downstage and tell the performer to move it really close. Get a foam windshield if you find you have trouble with plosives. You've got a little mixer so you can adjust the balance and eq over a few nights and get something good enough. If you need more piano sound in the microphone, that's where the experts can help. I'm usually trying to avoid that on stage ;)

More importantly - where are you based? Your events sound like a LOT of fun! :D

Rich
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Re: SIngle mic solution for live upright piano plus vocalist?

Postby James Perrett » Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:18 pm

Personally, whenever needed I'd move the single mic closer to the singing pianist and to the side - as in the picture below

Image
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Re: SIngle mic solution for live upright piano plus vocalist?

Postby resistorman » Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:01 pm

James Perrett wrote:Personally, whenever needed I'd move the single mic closer to the singing pianist and to the side - as in the picture below]

This sounds good to me too. Or put some nice wheels on the piano and move it when needed. Once you get into more than one mic, the twiddling commences.
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Re: SIngle mic solution for live upright piano plus vocalist?

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:48 pm

Two mics, located as suggested (piano mic on a gooseneck so it can't be commandeered by a power hungry guitarist) and add a small mixer with Dugan style automixing (Behringer X-Air 12 for example). Normally used for interviews meetings the Automix reduces the gain on any mics not receiving a signal thus reducing the risk of feedback. But, while I have an X-Air 12 which has two channels of Automix I haven't used it so I can't say for sure how well it would work. If I get the chance I'll have a play at some point in the next few days and get back to you.

There's a video demo here :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQrVHU0AClc

Having watched that video I think that may well work. Obviously there are budget implications but the X-Air 12 costs £250 at present so is probably the cheapest way of doing it.
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Re: SIngle mic solution for live upright piano plus vocalist?

Postby MarkPAman » Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:54 pm

An Optogate could automatically turn off the piano mounted mic. Cheaper than a new desk, and once the range is set up, needs nothing doing to it.
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Re: SIngle mic solution for live upright piano plus vocalist?

Postby resistorman » Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:59 am

MarkPAman wrote:An Optogate could automatically turn off the piano mounted mic. Cheaper than a new desk, and once the range is set up, needs nothing doing to it.

Now that’s a cool device! I’ll keep it in mind, might get me out of a fix someday.
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