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Studio quality piano recording

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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby John Willett » Tue Jan 22, 2019 6:00 pm

If you *have* to record a grand piano in a domestic room - first move the piano to the room position where it sounds best in the room (which is likely to be different from where it would normally sit).

When you are happy with the piano position, get someone else to play the piano and you move around the room to find the place where the piano sounds best to your ears. Mark this point as it is likely to be the best place to put the microphones.

Although recording in a domestic room is hardly ever ideal, this will minimise any nasties and get the best possible recording in the room.

This is what I did when I recorded the Chopin Nocturne CD with Richard Meyrick for Cirrus Digital Classics.
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby mikrokozmos » Wed Jan 23, 2019 10:14 pm

Thank you all for very insightfull thoughts!

I will try to add some reflections of mine:

1) Room acoustics: the rectangular room is 4m X 12m, the piano stands 1m apart from one short side of the room (parallel to it), projecting the sound to the big remaining rectangle. The ceiling is standard 2,6m. The long sides are partly covered with bookshelves, there is wooden floor.

So, being just a musician, I cannot tell what the acoustics of the room is (actually I even don't know how good acoustics is defined at all), but I presume it is not up to any studio standard.

As one of the commenters put it vividly, I won't be able to treat the room in any way (for similar reasons as his), that's why I wanted to downplay the probable shortcomings of reverb/reflections/ambience by placing the mics under the lid or close to the piano.

2) Can the instrument (it is a Hamburg model) overwhelm the room? I actually did play both pieces mentioned by one of the commenters - Chopin fis-moll Polonaise and Bach Partita Nr1 - and the Polonaise was better with semi-closed lid as it is a very aggressive piece.

I also experimented with a friend playing Schubert's last B-Dur Sonate and Beethoven's Arietta from op 111, and, surprisingly, using 2 budget condensers AKG C3000 placed 30cm before the rim and 60cm apart (and 30cm above the rim), it sounded amazingly close to studio sound heard on CDs (and I've heard hundreds of those so here I can trust my ears). However, placing the mics just 1 meter away from the piano (and a bit higher), the sound was muddied/inarticulate and there was a lot of reverb, so the positioning is absolutely critical!

3) Omni vs cardioid: obviously, based on most comments, omnis are the preferred option, since the soundboard of the piano is so vast. However, since I fear that the ambient sound will probably be imperfect, I decided to go with Schoeps MK21 open cardioid (any counter-arguments?). (Unfortunately, in Europe (Slovenia) it is difficult to get Gefell/Josephson and I feel Schoeps is superior to Sennheiser).

I also found a comment on using more mics a very appealing proposal - maybe to place an additional different character mic (eg ribbon or tube LDC) at the tail of the instrument or somewhere in the room and to try to mix it with Schoeps pair to add some flair.

4) Chopin Nocturnes: I will try to get this CD to see what a professional could extract from ordinary conditions (private home). I think that Nocturnes are perfect for exploring the sound as they contain a universum of dynamics/articulation/tonal variations.

Regards!
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:03 am

It is a decently large domestic room and, I guess is in your house so that marital (other relationships are available) disharmony is at the root of your inability to install room treatment? However there are approaches that may help, and be aesthetically acceptable in some domestic environments, in the form of heavy drapes hung a short distance from one or both of the end walls (or a temporary solution of a couple of duvets) which combined with moving the piano further from the end of the room may well give better results allowing more distant miking?
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby John Willett » Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:19 pm

mikrokozmos wrote: I decided to go with Schoeps MK21 open cardioid (any counter-arguments?). (Unfortunately, in Europe (Slovenia) it is difficult to get Gefell/Josephson and I feel Schoeps is superior to Sennheiser).

Schoeps is good and it comes down to personal choice.

Personally I would not say that Schoeps is superior to Sennheiser and I have used Sennheiser in the past.

If you take: DPA, Gefell, Neumann, Schoeps,and Sennheiser I would say that they arte all pretty equal in quality.

But they are all different in design and concept.

DPA - quality electret based on a B&K measurement capsule (original series).

Gefell - AF condenser based on a nickel diaphragm measurement capsule where the diaphragm is actually "grown in place" on the housing. (M 221 and new M 102)

Neumann - AF condenser with a Mylar diaphragm.

Schoeps - AF condenser with a Mylar diaphragm

Sennheiser - RF condenser with a Mylar diaphragm - completely different technique from an AF condenser with far lower levels of distortion and lower self-noise. (MKH symmetrical series).
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Ariosto » Sat Jan 26, 2019 2:42 pm

mikrokozmos wrote:I also experimented with a friend playing Schubert's last B-Dur Sonate and Beethoven's Arietta from op 111, and, surprisingly, using 2 budget condensers AKG C3000 placed 30cm before the rim and 60cm apart (and 30cm above the rim), it sounded amazingly close to studio sound heard on CDs (and I've heard hundreds of those so here I can trust my ears). However, placing the mics just 1 meter away from the piano (and a bit higher), the sound was muddied/inarticulate and there was a lot of reverb, so the positioning is absolutely critical!

3) Omni vs cardioid: obviously, based on most comments, omnis are the preferred option, since the soundboard of the piano is so vast. However, since I fear that the ambient sound will probably be imperfect, I decided to go with Schoeps MK21 open cardioid (any counter-arguments?). (Unfortunately, in Europe (Slovenia) it is difficult to get Gefell/Josephson and I feel Schoeps is superior to Sennheiser).

I have been experimenting with mic positions and alternative setups in an untreated room approx 18 feet by 12 feet with a ceiling height of about 12+ feet, recording a model "O" Steinway grand which has just recently been re-built by Steinway.

I have good results from having the mic's at the rim curve of the piano (with lid up of course) and I had one take in mono using the AKG C414 XLS set to omni, and another good take using DPA 2006C (Omni) mic's in stereo.

I then moved the mic's out to approx 2.5 feet into the room with mic's looking at the piano (before the DPA were pointing at the ceiling). OK sound but not nearly as good.

I then moved the DPA mic's back to about 6 feet and pointing more at the piano's bridge area. Really bad sound. Early reflections and possibly some comb filtering and/or phase problems. The mics were on separate stands and 40cm (16 inches) apart.

I will further experiment (when I can get the pianist back) and try close miking under the lid over the strings and particularly nearer the piano bridge on the bass side.

But what I have found helpful with this instrument is some EQ - raising the lower frequencies by about 8 dB and slight 2dB increase around the mid/top frequencies.

So you might have to also use some tweaking of the frequencies using EQ, but then maybe not with a Model D.
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby forumuser840717 » Sun Jan 27, 2019 4:22 am

Ariosto wrote:
mikrokozmos wrote:...
But what I have found helpful with this instrument is some EQ - raising the lower frequencies by about 8 dB and slight 2dB increase around the mid/top frequencies.

So you might have to also use some tweaking of the frequencies using EQ, but then maybe not with a Model D.

Isn't the model O one of the miniature/malnourished ones? About 6ft rather than the full fat 9ft of the D. If so that's probably where you're finding the LF EQ boost helpful - the O simply doesn't have the weight in the lower octaves, no matter how hard one hits it. Not necessarily a bad piano; just without the LF power of the D. I've also found them a bit soft in the HF unless you get really close and then the damper/hammer/pedal noise can be an issue. More suited to smaller spaces.

Either way, close up, in a small room, a D can be pretty uncomfortable to listen to/record (they can be tricky enough in a concert hall!), especially if played hard, and the more restrained sound of the O can actually come off better, particularly with a touch of EQ.
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Ariosto » Sun Jan 27, 2019 8:04 am

Yes, the "O" is a little light in the bass but is in fact quite brilliant in the highs and some EQ on the low end is useful, at least to my ear. The new strings in the upper register have made it much more brilliant even to the point where I have to tame it a little. The instrument is only just about played in after the re-build about 16 months ago.

I agree that the model "D" can be difficult unless in a really good acoustic and it is probably a bit too hard to record in a small room.

One of the problems with a large model "D" (or any grand piano) in small rooms is also the low ceilings in most houses, which are usually between 10 feet and 15 feet. You really need 20 feet and even more to be able to get the results we hear on studio recordings.

I notice in the excellent videos on piano recording in New York recorded for SOS that the studio has a fairly low ceiling, (or it appears that way) but as he close mic's the main mic's he manages to tame any early reflections. He certainly used a lot of mics - ten in all - and recorded onto ten tracks. Three tracks is my limit!
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:29 pm

Ariosto wrote:I notice in the excellent videos on piano recording in New York recorded for SOS that the studio has a fairly low ceiling, (or it appears that way) but as he close mic's the main mic's he manages to tame any early reflections. He certainly used a lot of mics - ten in all - and recorded onto ten tracks. Three tracks is my limit!

Yes I'm going through that SOS video myself at present. I was thinking for the OP that a pared down version of that multi miced, three tiered approach could be a good middle path. That is, capture the piano with a close stereo mic pair, but also capture to separate tracks perhaps another two more distant mics with the aim of capturing the room reverb. Perhaps a total of four separate recorded tracks. This would allow a much wider range of balance possibilities in post.
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Ariosto » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:06 pm

Here is a photo of how I record piano - three tracks (stereo and mono - the AKGC414 set to cardioid - and stereo with DPA 2006C omni mics).

Image
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby John Willett » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:28 pm

Ariosto wrote:Here is a photo of how I record piano - three tracks (stereo and mono - the AKGC414 set to cardioid - and stereo with DPA 2006C omni mics).

Image

Interesting, though, personally, I would not let the cables touch the piano as vibrations can carry up the cables into the mics.

I always use the short Rycote XLR flexible cables to help decouple the mic. from the main (and often inflexible) cable.

Image

Mic positioning depends on the room, especially in the home and you choose what works best for you with the repatoir you play. :thumbup:
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Ariosto » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:30 pm

John Willett wrote:
Ariosto wrote:Here is a photo of how I record piano - three tracks (stereo and mono - the AKGC414 set to cardioid - and stereo with DPA 2006C omni mics).

Image

Interesting, though, personally, I would not let the cables touch the piano as vibrations can carry up the cables into the mics.

I always use the short Rycote XLR flexible cables to help decouple the mic. from the main (and often inflexible) cable.

Mic positioning depends on the room, especially in the home and you choose what works best for you with the repatoir you play. :thumbup:
Thanks for the tip about not letting the mic cables touch the instrument. (It was a quick test and I also wondered about the mic cables). I think I will record from just outside the piano in future to lessen the risk.

I don't know what happened to my link to the photo, I think it worked for a while and you obviously saw the photo. I thought we had to use outside sources for hosting on here. It has worked OK on Gearslutz. (Perhaps I shouldn't mention that ...)

I see from your added photo I should maybe have used the "IMG" tag.
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:06 pm

Ariosto wrote:Thanks for the tip about not letting the mic cables touch the instrument... I think I will record from just outside the piano in future to lessen the risk.

There is no risk. You just need to fix the cables neatly and tidily to the bar/stand using velcro wraps or tape. It ain't rocket science, just good sound engineering practice!

I don't know what happened to my link to the photo, I think it worked for a while...

No, it didn't. The link you posted originally was only accessible externally by visiting dropbox. I subsequently altered the link to make it viewable directly within the SOS forum post (by changing the dl=0 to dl=1 at the end of the link).

I thought we had to use outside sources for hosting on here.

You do.

I see from your added photo I should maybe have used the "IMG" tag.

The forum software automatically recognises some types of image, but not all, so by bracketing within the IMG tags you can remove any possible confusion.
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:32 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:No, it didn't. The link you posted originally was only accessible externally by visiting dropbox. I subsequently altered the link to make it viewable directly within the SOS forum post (by changing the dl=0 to dl=1 at the end of the link).

Will changing the dl=0 to dl=1 work with any images hosted on dropbox? I use dropbox daily but have been hosting images for posting in the forums on tiny pic since dropbox stopped hosting them.
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:39 pm

I think the correct form is actually rewrite the link with a download command at the front. so instead of:

Original link: <http://www.dropbox.com/s/4eyqH/MyFile.jpg?dl=0>

It is changed to become New Link: <http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/4eyqH/MyFile.jpg>

However, that's a lot of effort and changing the query to ?raw=1 instead of ?dl=0 does exactly the same thing... the only issue is that some forums don't allow a query statement (?) after the link... hence the <http://dl/...> format.

But ?dl=1 (which forces the download to the browser's forum window) seems to work reliably in the SOS forums with dropbox image files, and it's only a single character change to make.

H
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:11 pm

Ariosto wrote:Image

Forgive the irrelevance but I'd have loved to have a go on that - it looks very similar to the John Broadwood & Sons that I learned on as a child :)
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Ariosto » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:29 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:
Ariosto wrote:
Forgive the irrelevance but I'd have loved to have a go on that - it looks very similar to the John Broadwood & Sons that I learned on as a child :)
It is in fact a Steinway model "O" which has recently been re-built here in our music room by Steinway, so it sounds like a new piano. We originally bought it 33 years ago, when it had then been re-furbished. It's a German Steinway and we thought 1924 but Steinway has said it is in fact 1923. So in about 4 years time it will be 100 years old (except for all the working parts which are new in 2017).
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Feb 08, 2019 7:15 pm

Ariosto wrote:It is in fact a Steinway model "O" which has recently been re-built here in our music room by Steinway, so it sounds like a new piano. We originally bought it 33 years ago, when it had then been re-furbished. It's a German Steinway and we thought 1924 but Steinway has said it is in fact 1923. So in about 4 years time it will be 100 years old (except for all the working parts which are new in 2017).

Good to know it's in good hands. A good piano is really something special (and that one particularly so by the sound of it!) :thumbup:
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Feb 08, 2019 10:22 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I think the correct form is actually rewrite the link with a download command at the front. so instead of:

Original link: <http://www.dropbox.com/s/4eyqH/MyFile.jpg?dl=0>

It is changed to become New Link: <http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/4eyqH/MyFile.jpg>

However, that's a lot of effort and changing the query to ?raw=1 instead of ?dl=0 does exactly the same thing... the only issue is that some forums don't allow a query statement (?) after the link... hence the <http://dl/...> format.

But ?dl=1 (which forces the download to the browser's forum window) seems to work reliably in the SOS forums with dropbox image files, and it's only a single character change to make.

H

Thanks Hugh, will try it next time since I only use tiny pics for the SOS forums.
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Re: Studio quality piano recording

Postby CS70 » Fri Feb 08, 2019 10:41 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:But ?dl=1 (which forces the download to the browser's forum window) seems to work reliably in the SOS forums with dropbox image files, and it's only a single character change to make.

H

Indeed - I've used that method for some time here. Tried to explain it in the old "Display Images" thread at https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=57399&start=14 but guess it got lost in the noise :)
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