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Home recording piano and flute advice please!

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Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Siejen » Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:29 pm

Hi all, amateur recorder here looking for the standard advice....
I've been invited to record a piano and flute duet in someones home. They have a baby grand piano in a front room of a good size, and want to record Schubert and Bach flute sonatas for their own happiness, maybe sell some self funded cds at concerts.

My main concern is that the acoustics here may preclude the preferred 'dominant pair of mics recording naturally balanced performers in a decent acoustic space' advice.
I've requested some photos so I can see if it's carpet or wooden floor, full of furniture or an art gallery style. We can move the piano inside the room, but not to a decent sounding hall! Piano has just been tuned as well.

I've spent a week reading these forums and particularly Mike Seniors excellent recording a grand piano article and sound examples. This really is a fantastic resource! Regards the piano, I happen to prefer the 'inside the piano' spaced omni setup type sound (note: this is maybe self affirming as I'm so concerned about the sound of recording in a front room). Call me a coward, but I feel like a pair of inside mics for the piano and separate flute mic is the way to go. I've been practising flute recording here with my daughter, following best forum advise, so am learning loads before I turn up!

So what advice do I need?
Is it really worth fighting the acoustics of the room to get a dominant pair of mics of the musicians together, especially when I don't really like the 'concert hall' sound of most classical recordings I've been listening to for reference.


Kit available: Pair of Line Audio CM4 (thanks again to this forum for the point; they sound great) in piano
Groove tubes GT1B (smooth valve LDC) for the flute.
Pair of SEelectronics SE1 (SDC) as backup....

Thanks for your thoughts in advance! Iain
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Arpangel » Sat Aug 17, 2019 2:41 pm

Hi, I've been having similar problems recording grand piano and Marimba in a domestic living room, I've found, after experimentation, and advice from people here, that it's best to use seperate mics for each instrument close in, rather than a stereo pair, like you I would rather do it with one pair, but as you say, it's not worth fighting the room acoustic.
It's best to make sure they are well rehearsed, and put each mic/pair on a seperate track, isolation will be an issue, but at least it will give you some control over level if you need it later.
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby hobbyist » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:10 pm

Siejen wrote:Hi all, amateur recorder here looking for the standard advice....
I've been invited to record a piano and flute duet in someones home. They have a baby grand piano in a front room of a good size, and want to record Schubert and Bach flute sonatas for their own happiness, maybe sell some self funded cds at concerts.

My main concern is that the acoustics here may preclude the preferred 'dominant pair of mics recording naturally balanced performers in a decent acoustic space' advice.
I've requested some photos so I can see if it's carpet or wooden floor, full of furniture or an art gallery style. We can move the piano inside the room, but not to a decent sounding hall! Piano has just been tuned as well.

I've spent a week reading these forums and particularly Mike Seniors excellent recording a grand piano article and sound examples. This really is a fantastic resource! Regards the piano, I happen to prefer the 'inside the piano' spaced omni setup type sound (note: this is maybe self affirming as I'm so concerned about the sound of recording in a front room). Call me a coward, but I feel like a pair of inside mics for the piano and separate flute mic is the way to go. I've been practising flute recording here with my daughter, following best forum advise, so am learning loads before I turn up!

So what advice do I need?
Is it really worth fighting the acoustics of the room to get a dominant pair of mics of the musicians together, especially when I don't really like the 'concert hall' sound of most classical recordings I've been listening to for reference.


Kit available: Pair of Line Audio CM4 (thanks again to this forum for the point; they sound great) in piano
Groove tubes GT1B (smooth valve LDC) for the flute.
Pair of SEelectronics SE1 (SDC) as backup....

Thanks for your thoughts in advance! Iain


Consider using figure 8 with piano to one side and flutes the other.

A pair of mikes in the piano [Our church has two sm57s in the piano and they sound fine to me] and one cardioid close to the flute is not a bad option.

My intuititon says to place them so no mike is aimed directly at a wall.
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:52 pm

It all comes down to the room...

Photos are fine, but you really need a visit to assess what it's like acoustically.

A domestic, reverberant room is bad news.

You haven't mentioned what else you have/will be in the recording-chain, but assuming you have access to decent reverb plug-ins then I'd be tempted to go for as dry a recording as possible (duvets etc) and then put some reverb in afterwards.

That will be anathema to some, but IMHO better that than try and spend ages fighting the room. This is especially true if the performers aren't professionals or used to recording.
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby CS70 » Sat Aug 17, 2019 6:14 pm

There was a long detailed thread on a very similar piano-recording-in-regular-untreated-room some weeks ago. Can't find it now in a hurry but maybe google helps.
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:16 pm

Pretty much impossible to tell until you hear and experiment with mic choice and position in the room. My approach would be to explain this to the artists and book a first session the purpose of which is to sort out technical aspects, including temporary room treatment (duvets and the like). It’s worth bearing in mind that even when you’re in the room, it can be hard to second guess mic positions unless you’re very experienced with recording acoustic instruments in compromised spaces, so be prepared to spend time experimenting, make good notes and lock in positions (mark if possible) when you find them.

Regarding your view on ‘concert hall recordings’ - actually it’s the client’s call on what sound they want on the recording ;)

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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby hobbyist » Sat Aug 17, 2019 8:11 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:Pretty much impossible to tell until you hear and experiment with mic choice and position in the room. My approach would be to explain this to the artists and book a first session the purpose of which is to sort out technical aspects, including temporary room treatment (duvets and the like). It’s worth bearing in mind that even when you’re in the room, it can be hard to second guess mic positions unless you’re very experienced with recording acoustic instruments in compromised spaces, so be prepared to spend time experimenting, make good notes and lock in positions (mark if possible) when you find them.

Regarding your view on ‘concert hall recordings’ - actually it’s the client’s call on what sound they want on the recording ;)

Bob

Good idea if you can do it. Often you do not get a chance to practice with a dry run to see which mikes where would be best.
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Siejen » Sat Aug 17, 2019 8:23 pm

Hi all, and thanks for your thoughts on this.
A dry run is definitely a good idea. We're borrowing someones house for the piano, so I can ask. I'm definitely not experienced enough to get it right without some practise time.
I think I'm still happy multitracking and mixing in post. Waves had a sale on one day, so I've lots of lovely plugins! I'm practising placing a flute recording against the SOS piano mic position examples in cubase, so will have some kind of pre-mix to compare on the day.

I'll respectfully wind myself back on the concert hall comments: better to say the 'inside the piano' examples had an an intimacy that I loved, but that was missing from some of the distance mics.
And as I'm in no danger of getting paid, I don't mind having a little say in how it sounds too :)
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Aug 17, 2019 8:30 pm

You're assuming room acoustics will be bad. Not necessarily. This is their music room, presumably they aren't too unhappy about how they sound in it. Give it the benefit of the doubt. If it's a bit lively for YOUR taste, refrain from saying so.

Have you got four channels to record into? Put the CM4s up in front of the whole thing as a stereo pair. Spot the piano with one SE1, the flute with the other. Not too close, breath noise and key clatter will be your enemies here. I think the LDC stays in its box for this one.

This sort of session often turns into two. Make sure at least a rough mix is delivered on the day. Give them a chance to hear their performances, scream loudly, then book another session after a week's practice. This doesn't ALWAYS happen... :-)

Above all, remenber this isn't about you. It's about the music. Your primary job is to enable a great performance.
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Siejen » Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:40 pm

Now there speaks the voice of experience!!

Plenty of channels available to set that up. Any suggestions on placement of the flautist to retain eye contact while not being so far away it’s dominated by the room sound? Curve of the piano is normal, but that pushes the main pair at least in line with the keyboard, ie back from pointing ‘into’ the strings. I’m guessing experimentation is key here. A couple of test recordings may let me know which way to go.

Cheers
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:48 pm

Wombat makes a good point. If the artists aren’t that used to recording and hearing what they sound really sound like, again an informal first session is a good idea. You imply they want to record a number of sonatas, so you’re most likely looking at multiple sessions anyway.

Another thought to consider is what standard are the musicians trying to achieve? Will they be recording multiple takes/part takes? Can you follow a score? You’ll certainly need to make notes.

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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:50 pm

Yes, priority is to have the musicians comfortable with good sightlines - then you have to optimise mic placement around that.

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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Siejen » Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:04 pm

Hi, the pianist is comfortable with recording, but I believe this will be the flautists first time.
I’ll be following the score and have been doing homework listening so I’m familiar with the pieces. I’ve chatted through multiple takes of each piece, but warming them up to a second days recording sounds sensible. We’re meeting up again Tuesday.

Thanks again, Iain
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Aug 18, 2019 3:23 am

Sounds like it’s shaping up well.

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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Arpangel » Sun Aug 18, 2019 9:22 am

Domestic rooms almost always sound boxy, we got around this by adding just a small amount of hall reverb, almost imperceptible, just to give it a sense of playing in a small hall, it worked really well, and all were pleased. It makes the recordings breath and you'd never know it was recorded in a living room.
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby ef37a » Sun Aug 18, 2019 9:44 am

I shall follow your progress with great interest Siejen.
I hope you will be able to post some clips? If a CD does materialize, put me down for a copy.

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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Siejen » Sun Aug 18, 2019 12:38 pm

:thumbup:
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Ariosto » Sun Aug 18, 2019 1:35 pm

Lots of good advice as usual. All I can really add is that you may need to be sensitive to good separation between the flute's register and the same register on the piano keyboard. It will also depend on the works being recorded, early sonatas by classical composers may be OK but later works with 19th and 20th C composers may be a bit more problematic. In this situation you *may* need a suitable mono mic fairly close to the flautist, but not too close as you may get breathing sounds and some air sounds as the flautist will be passing air over the mouthpiece. Good positioning is therefore essential. Of course some people like the sounds of the keys and the breath sounds, it's really a personal thing, but something to be aware of.

Edit: I should add that the separation will depend also on the sound of the room. And also that the musicians may be extremely good at balancing themselves, so in that case less need for the extra mic.
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Aug 18, 2019 4:17 pm

Ariosto wrote:Lots of good advice as usual. All I can really add is that you may need to be sensitive to good separation between the flute's register and the same register on the piano keyboard. It will also depend on the works being recorded, early sonatas by classical composers may be OK but later works with 19th and 20th C composers may be a bit more problematic.

Surely the opposite? Later works will have been conceived for an instrument pretty close to a modern piano. Earlier stuff may not have been conceived for piano at all, or for a piano with a much lighter tone than a modern one.

But the musicians will have addressed this issue. You shouldn't need 'remedial mixing' on this sort of session.
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Re: Home recording piano and flute advice please!

Postby Ariosto » Sun Aug 18, 2019 5:38 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:Surely the opposite? Later works will have been conceived for an instrument pretty close to a modern piano. Earlier stuff may not have been conceived for piano at all, or for a piano with a much lighter tone than a modern one.

But the musicians will have addressed this issue. You shouldn't need 'remedial mixing' on this sort of session.

Fine if using a clavichord or a similar early instrument but if you read the earlier posts, this is being recorded on a modern piano. Modern works will have possible challenges. The early works may have too, but as you might know, early keyboard works are less thickly scored.

And how do you know the musicians have addressed the issue?
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