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Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

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Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby DC-Choppah » Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:17 pm

I would appreciate any tips for recording grand piano and reducing the phasey sound from multiple microphones that I currently hear.

You guys helped me establish a method for recording my electric guitar that sounds great and uses multiple mics: https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/view ... 52#p572797 I use this with confidence now and can focus on the music.

Now I need a reliable setup for my grand piano. I have recorded the piano many times but always struggle to get he mics back to a place that sounds good reliably. It seems that very small adjustments matter. I also use the time correction in protools. But I am just doing it by ear.

What I need is a process I can use to align the mics in phase and get rid of the phasey sound that I currently hear.

With all the musicians locked down, we are going to record some jazz for the websites and maybe an album, remotely, and I am laying down the piano tracks and tempo maps now. I want these to sound right since these will be the reference for the rest of the musicians and I want to keep these tracks in the final mix too.


My current mic setup is as follows:
- Stereo pencil condenser mics (M-Audio Pulsar II) over the strings in a non-coincident XY. 15 cm spacing between heads, 15 cm from hammers. 90 degree angle between mics.

This gives me the close-in detail of the piano and a wide stereo image. I use upward compression on this track.


- Pencil mic coincident XY pair (Shure KSM137 and SM81) near where the stick meets the lid. Lid fully open. Mic pointed towards strings.

This gives a natural stereo image and good bass response in the center channel. I add reverb to this to simulate picking up a nice room. I record in a treated space with Auralex room treatment.

- Omni dynamic mic (Electrovoice PL-9 through a high gain tube preamp) inside the piano above the middle of the strings.

The idea is to capture all of the sound from inside the piano in mono. The tone of the dynamic mic compliments the more brittle condensers. This is like a warm tone to blend in at mix time with the brighter mics. Its a rounder sound. Less brittle. I like having this to eq the piano when mixing.


I have in the past got this to sound very good after trial and error, but I have no idea how to recreate what I did. I need a process.

What I hear now is phasey-ness when I blend the mics.

Any help?!
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:46 pm

I'm not surprised its a phasey mess.

If you don't want phase problems you either (1) put the mics in the same place (coincident XY or Ambisonic), or (2) you need to make sure that each mic hears something substantially different from every other mic (which means close placement and very wide spacing on different-sounding portions of the instrument, and careful angling of polar pattern nulls), and (3) you minimse the number of mics.

However, might I suggest that instead of adding more and more mics to try and compensate for the perceived sonic deficiencies of each previous set, you experiment more thoroughly with just two (assuming you want stereo*) -- unless you have a spectacular room in which case a spacious room pair could be added as well.

It's really just about choosing the right mic(s) and putting it (them) in the right place(s). Less is almost always more! But it takes time to optimise.

* it's often the case in complex music that a mono piano sits better in the mix, taking up less spatial width... And if that's the case recording in mono with a single mic is a whole lot easier than deriving decent mono from stereo mics!
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby DC-Choppah » Fri Mar 20, 2020 11:02 pm

Than you kindly for the reply.

My goal is a natural 7 piece jazz band sound (all acoustic instruments). So at mix time I want to place the instruments around on a stage like when we play live and try to recreate the sound of hearing us live from a good seat, but with a nicely recorded modern production sound.

My piano recording room is dead. You are not intended to hear the room when recording.

First I am going to try the 'close-to-source and wide spacing' approach with the mics I have. I like the your notion that they have to all pick up different sounds to eliminate phasey-iness between tracks.
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Mar 21, 2020 12:14 am

In that case, and recognising that you might want to have the option for a little stereo width to the piano in the mix, I'd experiment with the stock spaced-mic techniques commonly applied to a grand piano.

If you want a bright percussive sound, try miking over the hammers. For a smoother sound with more body try miking over a couple of different sound holes, experimenting with different combinations to find a good balance. Or you could try placing one mic down by the tail for the low end and another nearer the middle and high strings for balance. There are a lot of options and opportunities to fine tune the sound.

But sticking with Just two mics will make it quicker and less complicated to find the right sound, reduce the risk of phasiness considerably, and make it easier to reset the same rig for future sessions.

Mike Senior did one of his typically thorough explorations of myriad techniques with the piano here which might be informative.

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/piano-recording
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby DC-Choppah » Sat Mar 21, 2020 5:07 am

I heard phasey issues coming from the XY pair over the strings theselves. That was odd since I know they sounded good there before?

But then I realized that I need to remove the 'music stand' of the piano up AND put the lid on half stick. I remember going through this before. The XY pair sounds good with half stick AND the music stand removed! That fixed the phasey sound from the XY pair by itself. I also made it a coincident XY pair, but that didn't make much difference. But it is simpler with fewer variables to get right.

I still don't like the XY pair over the hammers by themselves. I need the darker sound of the other mics with less attack from the hammers to blend.

But blending with the other mics still sounded phasey.

So, I moved the KSM-137 to be over a sound board hole. Then I moved the PL-9 also to be over the other sound board hole. These two mics sound different.

I turned off the time alignment plugin. All the mics are about the same distance from the source now and close up to the source.

This setup is sounding good without phasey issues that was hollowing out the mid range before.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1WkphY ... 23luG3lZDA
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Imyiy ... ZWC6kiBzvV
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1qKC-W ... -xlF0oz1pE


I wish for now is more bass. I feel like I am not picking up the bass of the piano well (compared to how it sounds in real life).

What can I do to pick up the bass better?

One of the reason I used the KSM-137 is that guy really picks up bass well usually. Like on acoustic guitar it adds the nice natural bottom like no other pencil mic. It is not picking up bass on the piano in this setup though? The KSM-137 is over the forward sound hole.
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby Arpangel » Sat Mar 21, 2020 8:13 am

I’ve been experimenting with my grand piano, with varying results, but I don’t get phasey effects, I never have done.
I've settled on a pair of Sennheiser MHK40’s in an ORTF set-up, quite close to the strings, just behind the hammers. It’s the best I’ve found for my piano, and no phasing.
I have tried two omni's at the foot of the piano, just more acoustics, but still no phasing.
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Mar 21, 2020 10:51 am

DC-Choppah wrote:I also made it a coincident XY pair, but that didn't make much difference.

That will be because the thing you don't much like is the strong local reflections from hard surfaces. If you want the close mics above the strings sound an XY pair is probably pretty pointless, and I'd suggest spacing the mics out, positioning them to find a good tonal balance (lows/highs) instead.

But it is simpler with fewer variables to get right.

Always. ;-)

I still don't like the XY pair over the hammers by themselves. I need the darker sound of the other mics with less attack from the hammers to blend.

Then don't put mics over the hammers! It's not an obligatory requirement! Try placing a couple of mics close over two different soundboard holes. That will definitely give you a darker sound with less percussive attack.

But blending with the other mics still sounded phasey.

It's that blending wot does it...

This setup is sounding good without phasey issues that was hollowing out the mid range before.

yay!

I wish for now is more bass. I feel like I am not picking up the bass of the piano well (compared to how it sounds in real life).

What can I do to pick up the bass better?

Try a different low-end sound hole, or move the low-end mic somewhere where it gets more bass -- typically somewhere just off the tail of the piano -- or introduce a little eq.

It is not picking up bass on the piano in this setup though? The KSM-137 is over the forward sound hole.

It can only pickup the sound that reaches it... try it somewhere else!
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby Ariosto » Sat Mar 21, 2020 1:16 pm

Just to interrupt the experts! As I think Hugh has said, mono piano recordings can sound good, and using only one mic gets rid of phasing problems. I actually close mic our piano with two DPA 2006C omni mics, at the edge of the curve, and facing up to counteract any of the high frequency effects as I'm using these mics in the near field but they were designed for the free field. (With the lid up). This is a tip I got from the venerable Mr Willett and Hugh. It definitely works with them pointing at the ceiling, at least in our music room. I've also recorded with the AKG C414 XLR in omni mode (mono) and that works quite well. This was over the strings looking down at about 45 degrees.
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby DC-Choppah » Sun Mar 22, 2020 4:00 am

To get more bass, I moved the KSM 137 mic out from the sound hole. There is not a lot of bass there. I tried to get it inside the piano near the bass strings but then it is so close to the lid it starts to sound phasey in there to me. So I moved it outdside the piano, in front, pointed to the bass strings and found a spot that works.

Sounds pretty good to me now. This is all 4 mics now.
Pulsar II over the hammers (panned hard L and R)
PL-9 rear sound hole (panned hard right)
KSM-137 in front pointed at bass strings( Panned hard left) I am getting some natural bass tones now. I put a little reverb on this mic to simulate being in a live room.

Audio sample:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1qmwg7 ... 1hw-P86ruW

Picture of setup:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1aOIt3 ... LqHyhn7fRc

IMG_3029.JPG



It's still amazing to me how the recorded piano actually sound nothing like the real thing. I can play back what I play right away and hear the difference sitting at the piano. The recorded piano is pleasant, just completely different than the real thing.

I appreciate you guys giving this a listen with fresh ears and letting me know how it reads.

Getting ready to lay down a bunch of tracks.
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Mar 22, 2020 8:41 am

DC-Choppah wrote:..It's still amazing to me how the recorded piano actually sound nothing like the real thing. I can play back what I play right away and hear the difference sitting at the piano. The recorded piano is pleasant, just completely different than the real thing...

It shouldn't surprise, there are too many differences between how you've recorded it and played it back, and how your ears hear it while playing. To get it closer to how it actually sounds to your ears, maybe a dummy head type recording would be the way. The playback would need to be monitored on suitable headphones too.

Very hard to make a comment on the quality of the sample without a reference. There's also the contribution of the particular piano itself.
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Mar 22, 2020 8:50 am

A bit late coming to this, but as Hugh said earlier I'd be very surprised if you couldn't get a good sound using two good mics in optimum position.

Listening to the latest sample, and not being aware of how the piano sounds live, it's not that great. I'm hearing harsh middy string sound (on the right), bass is not as full as I'd expect and that softness of tone from the higher notes is lost beneath the 'stridentness' of those notes.

So, assuming the piano is well-tuned, I suspect you need to move the mics further away from the action. I don't suppose you have access to a pair of neutral omni mics?

My approach to recording piano is to use either a spaced pair of Omnis outside the body with lid on the long stick (for more classical styles, of an ORTF pair or A/B pair of a neutral condensers (TLM193) at closer quarters. Omnis will extend to capture any bass the piano can provide, and you could use them closer to the strings but being careful to not get close to the action.

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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby Ariosto » Sun Mar 22, 2020 9:02 am

Was that example without any processing in post?

It sounds a bit over reverberant to me so the acoustic is having some effect?

On the other hand it may be the sound of that piano. Pianos can sound very different even if the same make with sequential serial numbers.
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby Arpangel » Sun Mar 22, 2020 9:28 am

Pianos are like the human voice, you don’t really know how they sound until you’ve recorded them.
I can hear a tuning issue with that piano, that may be making the situation worse.
My ultimate advice would to use just a stereo pair, and experiment with positioning, if you want a darker sound, I’ve used omni's at the foot of the piano on a stereo bar, with good results in this respect.
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby John Willett » Sun Mar 22, 2020 9:43 am

DC-Choppah wrote:T
It's still amazing to me how the recorded piano actually sound nothing like the real thing. I can play back what I play right away and hear the difference sitting at the piano. The recorded piano is pleasant, just completely different than the real thing.

The pianist never hears the piano properly - he/she is sitting in the wrong position. :roll:

The piano is designed to be heard by the audience, not the player.

So if you get the recorded piano to sound like when you are playing it, it will be very wrong and nothing like the audience would hear when they are listenin g to you play.
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Re: Please help recording grand piano to eliminate phasey sound

Postby John Willett » Sun Mar 22, 2020 9:46 am

Oh - the reason that I have not popped in here earlier, even though I specialise in piano recording, is because I mostly record classical piano recitals and you are trying to do something quite different.

One thing I will say, though, is that you may find a pair of omni mics on the floor inder the piano can give a good sound - ie: on the floor making them boundary mics.

Worth a try. :thumbup:
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