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Home Recording an Upright Piano

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Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby Lineres » Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:25 am

Hello SOS people!

I am very much a newbie in terms of home recording but I'd like to start getting better at it now. I have a full-size upright piano I'd like to use for recording, but I wonder which specific mics to choose from. I've read around that I should look for condenser microphones, preferably cardioid with small diapraghm (I hope I phrased that right..), but I'm not sure which ones specifically. I have a budget around £300, though I might be able to raise it a little higher if needed (I have another budget for video equipments).

So far my internet research has brought me to two choices: Shure SM81 or AKG C1000S, but I have no idea the difference between the two.

Some additional information on my "studio": it is a rather open room with direct exposure to outside around the ceiling. The piano itself is located in the middle of the room far from the wall, except on one side though there is still plenty of space in between.

If there are better options than listed above, especially in regards of the studio circumstances, I would very much love to hear it! Any feedback and help are much appreciated!
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby John Willett » Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:40 am

Welcome to the forum. :clap:

Line Audio CM4 if you want a cardioid - though I would use the OM1 omni if you can.

Nicely within your budget :thumbup:

And with a quality way above what you pay for them. :thumbup:

I would use these rather than the ones you suggested.
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:42 am

Welcome to the forum! There are quite a few people here who know more about recording piano than I* and I'm sure they'll be along soon but I just thought I'd jump in before anyone else does to warn you that the C1000s is held in general contempt (there's no better word for it) around here. Avoid!

I see the SM81 is a stereo mic, nothing wrong with that but you might find it a bit inflexible. I'd go for a matched pair of Rode NT5 mics which would be comfortably in your budget and would be able to do the job fine, in fact they can do quite a lot of instrumental jobs fine.

CC

* Edit to add this: and John's one of them.
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby Arpangel » Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:49 am

I'm with the Chap on this, Rode M5 pair falls within your budget. That would be my choice, the C1000 has a tendency to have a thin sound, and is slightly noisy IMO, it's just not a nice mic at all. The SM81 I haven't tried.
As far as positioning goes, you just have to try, and see what you like. I've been here with my previous upright, and what you think is the most unlikely position sometimes works,
I'd start with a spaced pair at the back, front cover off and in front of the hammers always sounds a bit brash to me, plus you can get a lot of hammer noise, depends what sound you're after, you'll just have to experiment, its a combination of the piano and the room, my Yamaha upright was a terrible recording piano in my room, sometimes it's a matter of compromise, and not having expectations that are too high.
Sometimes it can actually be better to use a really good electronic piano in circumstances where you're battling against a bad room or bad piano. It can save you a lot of hassle with mic's etc, I wouldn't have said that a long time ago, but honestly, it makes sense sonetimes.
BTW, what John says about Omni's is true, preferred, but don't always guarantee a better sound, depends a lot on the room.
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:11 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:I just thought I'd jump in before anyone else does to warn you that the C1000s is held in general contempt (there's no better word for it) around here. Avoid!

:D Well... it's certainly true that you can get a lot better for your money these days...

I see the SM81 is a stereo mic...

Shurely shome mishtake? The Shure SM81 is a fairly standard small diaphgram capacitor mic: https://www.shure.co.uk/products/microphones/sm81

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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:26 am

In your budget range I'd be thinking a pair of Line Audio CM4s.

SM81s are nice enough, but the CM4s are better value. C1000s make good door stops.......

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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby Arpangel » Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:27 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote: :D Well... it's certainly true that you can get a lot better for your money these days...

Has Boris offered you a job in the diplomatic service Hugh? :D

I must admit, I think we had a choice of loads of mic's one time, recording acoustic guitar, the C1000 really did sound the bottom of the list, I think we used it once on bongos, because we'd run out of mic's. Bet it's been on a lot of records though.
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:31 pm

TBF the C1000 was good value back in the day but there were no NT5s or CM3s or WHY back then and if, compared to an AKG C451/CK1, the were not great they were, IIRC, less than ¼ the price.

Definitely better 'reasonably priced' mics out there these days though.

By the sound of it your room and your piano will probably have a bigger impact on the recorded sound than the mics (though buying decent mics is always a good idea). If the piano is decent then some improvised acoustic treatment might be required, depending how big and echoey the room is. How big is the room?
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby John Willett » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:31 pm

The C1000 was one of those mics that was good value when it was first released, but has now been overtaken by virtually everything. ;)

I specialise in piano recording, though mostly grands.

If the room is right I will always use omnis as they pick up the bottom end much better than a directional mic.; but if the room is not good, decent cardioids are fine for an upright.

The Line Audio OM1 and CM4 would be at the very top of my list for someone on a budget. Despite the fact that my normal mics cost about £2k each, I would be very happy to use the Line Audio mics as they do sound excellent for the minimal price you pay for them. In fact, even if you said you had a little larger budget, I would still recommend the Line Audio - though, in that case, I would probly suggest you get a pair of CM4 AND OM1. :thumbup:

Positioning - ideally get someone else to play the piano and you move aroiund and LISTEN - where it sounds best to your ears is likely the best place to put the mics.

If you can't do this, make a few test recordings of the same piece of music with the micrrophones in various different positions anbd choose the position that sounds best (that's what I did when I had to do a major recording in a "bad" room).
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:14 pm

Might be worth considering something like an Oktava MK012. A matched pair will squeeze into your budget but you then have the choice of buying additional capsules to expand your future options.
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:46 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Shurely shome mishtake?

Yesh. Oopsh.

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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:08 pm

All the key points have been covered.... CM4, OM1 or NT5s...

BUT as has also been mentioned, the room will be the key determinant. If it's bad acoustically then you'll probably have to go with cardioids to minimise room sound. The OM1 (and any decent omni mic) is very unforgiving of a poor acoustic space.
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby Arpangel » Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:15 pm

John Willett wrote:where it sounds best to your ears is likely the best place to put the mics.

John, I can remember saying this to our late friend Mike Skeet, he looked at me and said....

"MMMMmmmmm? That's an interesting concept my boy"

:D
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby hobbyist » Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:02 pm

Lineres wrote:Hello SOS people!

I am very much a newbie in terms of home recording but I'd like to start getting better at it now. I have a full-size upright piano I'd like to use for recording, but I wonder which specific mics to choose from. I've read around that I should look for condenser microphones, preferably cardioid with small diapraghm (I hope I phrased that right..), but I'm not sure which ones specifically. I have a budget around £300, though I might be able to raise it a little higher if needed (I have another budget for video equipments).

So far my internet research has brought me to two choices: Shure SM81 or AKG C1000S, but I have no idea the difference between the two.

Some additional information on my "studio": it is a rather open room with direct exposure to outside around the ceiling. The piano itself is located in the middle of the room far from the wall, except on one side though there is still plenty of space in between.

If there are better options than listed above, especially in regards of the studio circumstances, I would very much love to hear it! Any feedback and help are much appreciated!

Depends.

What is your budget. What are you trying to accomplish.

Our church as two SM57 under the lid. One on high end one on the low end. That sounds great to me. Some golden eared type might not like it.

You could record outside the piano using some stereo method.
And you could , if appropriate, have a distant mike to get room feel aka ambience to mix in.

I would suggest renting the mikes you note and perhaps some others to try and see what results you like best. Personally I would record at least 3 stereo options plus possibly room ambience. Coincident xy,
near coincident with the angle and spacing customised to your mike location and room size etc [NOT slavishly ASSume that ORTF or NOS or some other method is always correct], and I would use a spaced ABC pair.

Check this out to help you decide placement and angles.
http://www.sengpielaudio.com/HejiaE.htm
http://www.sengpielaudio.com/calculator ... ension.htm
http://www.sengpielaudio.com/calculator ... sAngle.htm
http://www.sengpielaudio.com/SRAflash.swf



Now if you were to have another instrument also, then I would use a figure 8 with the piano to one side and the instrument to the other.

After that the skys the limit if you want to try different miking techniques. For me the ones I noted are sufficient. Decca tree and some of the esoteric methods are not practical for my use.

The Shure looks like about 350usd and the AKG about 170usd.
Stereo would push you to the cheaper AKGs if your budget is a limit.

My preference would be the Shures. But my budget would lead me to buy Behringers:)
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby N i g e l » Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:44 am

Here is a good article by Mike Senior (with example sound files) on different piano mics & positions

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... ight-piano
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby Lineres » Tue Jul 16, 2019 8:41 am

Thank you very much for your replies!

I'm a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information given so forgive me for being slow. So far I've searched around for all the mics suggested above in the marketplace but the only one available is the Rode NT5 (I live in Indonesia and frankly the available equipments are all imported so there are limited options to choose from). So I guess Rode NT5 is the one I'll go for.

Again, thank you everyone for the replies :)
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Re: Home Recording an Upright Piano

Postby blinddrew » Tue Jul 16, 2019 10:41 am

They're good microphones, the critical thing will be to experiment with the positioning. Have fun. :thumbup:
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