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Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Nov 05, 2019 3:38 pm

Ignoring the issue of damper noise, if it’s an issue at all, whilst I prefer to use a stereo Omni pair to record grand piano in a good acoustic, I’ve also recorded gorgeous grand piano recordings using a pair of TLM193s for non-classical genres - they are my desert island microphones - well TLM170s would be if I could afford them!

They are often described as dark, I call them neutral (with a sprinkling of fairy dust). They are dark relative to brighter microphones..........

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:26 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:(TLM193 / TLM170) They are often described as dark, I call them neutral (with a sprinkling of fairy dust). They are dark relative to brighter microphones..........

Agreed - not "dark" at all - just neutral and reasonably flat.

Only "dark" when compared to over bright microphones. :thumbup:

I have heard quite a few people say that the TLM 170 is the best mic. Neumann make. :thumbup:
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:32 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:They are often described as dark, I call them neutral (with a sprinkling of fairy dust). They are dark relative to brighter microphones..........

Indeed. :-)

I agree, the TLM193 is a pretty neutral mic (in terms of overall frequency response) -- one of Neumann's flattest LDCs, in fact -- the TLM170 being another, of course. And I also share your appreciation of the TLM170R -- it's a gorgeous mic. A friend has a pair which he lets me borrow, although I tend to use my own SM69FET more now which is also fairly flat when using the directional patterns.

I think the popular 'dark' reference comes from the inevitable comparison to the U87, not least becuase of their similar familiar styling. The U87 has a pronounced 'presence peak', though (like the TLM103 which was designed to sound much the same).

Regarding Tim's point about relative signal-to-noise... I don't think that argument is valid,. People don't perceive the note tone and noise as a single entity. They perceive noise elements separate from tonal ones.

The increased strength of tonal harmonics when using the brighter TLM103 is not perceived as related to the more exaggerated damper noises....

H
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Tim Gillett » Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:43 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
...Regarding Tim's point about relative signal-to-noise... I don't think that argument is valid,. People don't perceive the note tone and noise as a single entity. They perceive noise elements separate from tonal ones.

The increased strength of tonal harmonics when using the brighter TLM103 is not perceived as related to the more exaggerated damper noises....

H

Some people, perhaps many, don't notice that in increasing one, we've also increased the other, but as we know, that's at best a failure to notice, and at worst wishful thinking. "Reduce the unwanted elements at source". Isnt that the watchword here?
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Ariosto » Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:56 am

Sometimes it's best to ask the pianist to keep the sustain pedal down at the end of a quiet ending in a piece, rather than letting the pedal up as the pedal will be heard with the decaying notes, even on a well maintained instrument. I then fade the notes out to the required length.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Tim Gillett » Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:09 am

Yes a good point for all musicians to bear in mind when recording, no matter what the instrument. I've seen pianists get to the end of a difficult piece, play the last chord, lean back and the foot comes off the sustain pedal sharply, with a very audible bumping sound...
As some Yanks say," It aint over till it's over"!
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Wed Nov 06, 2019 9:06 am

Tim Gillett wrote:Yes a good point for all musicians to bear in mind when recording, no matter what the instrument. I've seen pianists get to the end of a difficult piece, play the last chord, lean back and the foot comes off the sustain pedal sharply, with a very audible bumping sound...
As some Yanks say," It aint over till it's over"!

I do that on all my piano recordings, to a certain extent, it's necessary, it's marking an ending, with a statement, and it in no way detracts from anything, it's another way of using the instrument. It's a problem that doesn't exist.
On a recording session as an engineer I've come across some uncooperative belligerent musicians, and it's annoying, but ultimately we are at their service, not the other way around.
If you're a great musician, truly great, you're forgiven and everyone thinks what a "character" you are, but if you're a rank amatuer with ideas beyond your ability you're an annoying prima-donna, and quite rightly so.

;)
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Wonks » Wed Nov 06, 2019 9:18 am

That's a personal preference, not a fact, so it will be an issue for a lot of people, and less of one or no issue for others. The very fact that it's been brought up by other people highlights this.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Wed Nov 06, 2019 9:31 am

Wonks wrote:That's a personal preference, not a fact, so it will be an issue for a lot of people, and less of one or no issue for others. The very fact that it's been brought up by other people highlights this.

True, but I don't know what those who get annoyed at damper noise would think of me, muttering "Nice" at the end of all my pieces...

8-)
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Wonks » Wed Nov 06, 2019 9:55 am

Everyone's different. It would be boring if we weren't. :)
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Wed Nov 06, 2019 10:23 am

Wonks wrote:Everyone's different. It would be boring if we weren't. :)

No it wouldn't! I'd love someone to agree with me all the time, I say this because when I open my mouth in front of my parter, obviously, no sound ever comes out of it, it's like I'm an invisible dumb entity, and I'm automatically wrong whatever I say....

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

Postby John Willett » Thu Nov 07, 2019 1:24 pm

Arpangel wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:Yes a good point for all musicians to bear in mind when recording, no matter what the instrument. I've seen pianists get to the end of a difficult piece, play the last chord, lean back and the foot comes off the sustain pedal sharply, with a very audible bumping sound...
As some Yanks say," It aint over till it's over"!

I do that on all my piano recordings, to a certain extent, it's necessary, it's marking an ending, with a statement, and it in no way detracts from anything, it's another way of using the instrument. It's a problem that doesn't exist.
On a recording session as an engineer I've come across some uncooperative belligerent musicians, and it's annoying, but ultimately we are at their service, not the other way around.
If you're a great musician, truly great, you're forgiven and everyone thinks what a "character" you are, but if you're a rank amatuer with ideas beyond your ability you're an annoying prima-donna, and quite rightly so.

;)

I have had similar on a session where a performer says "that was a good one" immediately after the last note and while the note was still dying away.

My reply - "yes it was, but your talking spoilt the ending, so we will have to do it again".

My rule is - silence for ten seconds after the last note to allow for it to die away and not to talk until the red light goes out (after the 10 seconds).
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:51 am

John Willett wrote:
guillome2k wrote:Thank you all for your reactions!

First: i agree to embrace the sounds. It makes the recording feel real.

The first recording i used Neumann 103 mics, and there the sound was really too loud to embrace. It was bumpy (low bass noise) and also high frequency string noise.
This made pp and ppp passages very a-relaxed to listen to.

Fortunately, i could also use the Neumann 193 mics, and as a miracle, this mics nearly doesn`t record the noise! I don`t know how, but the sound is perfect:
You still hear some pedal/damper noise, but very subtile and soft and real, and not annoying or blocking your ppp feeling.

But still weird that a Steinway from 2011 in top condition makes such noise. You really hear the string noise while playing p pp or ppp passages.

The 103 has an HF lift (about +6dB) and the 193 is pretty flat - so the 103 would accentuate any HF noise.

When I record piano (especially a concert grand) I always use flat-response omnis as these gat the low end which a directional mic misses. My "go to" starting position is about 20cm spaced at about ear height and about 2m in front of the piano - but I will vary this depending on the piano, the room and the piece being played.

I hope this helps.

The lack of bass issue is important, John, the reason our mutual friend Mike went over to omnis on grand piano in fact. Like you 20cm spaced, but he would place them at the foot of the piano, about 1m away. Always seemed to work well in a big acoustic, like a large church.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby The Bunk » Sat Nov 09, 2019 1:25 pm

You could always try something like this....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuzpyuzCgBU
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Nov 09, 2019 1:34 pm

Nah... well damped, but the action is too heavy... :-D
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Sat Nov 09, 2019 1:48 pm

Arpangel wrote:The lack of bass issue is important, John, the reason our mutual friend Mike went over to omnis on grand piano in fact. Like you 20cm spaced, but he would place them at the foot of the piano, about 1m away. Always seemed to work well in a big acoustic, like a large church.

Interesting - but there are more ways to record a piano that recordists doing it. :bouncy:

My own thinking tends to be along the lines of - where would the audience be sitting when they hear this being played? I then place the mics in that general direction.

But the piano and the room will affect the sound, so I would move the mics until I get the best sound.

Though I *do* listen with my ears first and would put the mics first in the place where it sounded best to my ears.

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:
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Nov 09, 2019 2:49 pm

John Willett wrote:My own thinking tends to be along the lines of - where would the audience be sitting when they hear this being played? I then place the mics in that general direction.

A very reasonable philosophy. Particularly for binaural listening - which is rapidly becoming the norm for many consumers.

But sometimes we can do BETTER than a 'best seat in the house' recording. Maybe more than sometimes?
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Nov 09, 2019 4:06 pm

John Willett wrote:
...My own thinking tends to be along the lines of - where would the audience be sitting when they hear this being played? I then place the mics in that general direction.

But the piano and the room will affect the sound, so I would move the mics until I get the best sound...
The sound varies enormously depending on where people sit. So we end up making subjective judgement s at time of performance as to which is the best balance between direct and reflected. I'd much prefer to defer such an important choice till post. Not only can I assess it more leisurely but so can others including the performer. Its easy these days to record the instrument fairly isolated and record the venue and audience response on separate tracks. Pro's do it for maximum flexibility. I see their point.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Sat Nov 09, 2019 4:25 pm

I know that results speak for themselves, and John is one of the best when it comes to recording piano. But I'm not sure about this approach of put the mic where it sounds best to our ears. In some situations this may work, but I think sometimes we have to consider making a sound that translates well through various playback systems, we have to make "recordings" and these aernt in the context of listening in a hall at a live performance, in recordings things may have to be enhanced, or spotlighted to come across realistically.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:01 pm

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.
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