It’s often a requirement to mic a grand piano in such a way that the mics aren’t visually too obvious, and although there’s a variety of possible approaches most engineers compromise the mic positions or types for the sake of convenience and invisibility. Some people use contact mics under the sound board, some fix boundary mics to the inside of the lid, some mount mics on short table stands and place them on the edges of the soundboard, and some use cunning magnetic mounts and miniature mic capsules on long goosenecks. But an approach I adopted nearly 20 years ago involves a removable mounting rail spanning the piano case and supporting mics directly above the strings.
The system I still use today is sadly obsolete and unavailable, but was called the Piano Barre, made back around the turn of the millennium by an American company called Slider, who are better known for their instrument straps. The Piano Barre is built from a telescopic square-section aluminium tube with adjustable end bars that straddle the sides of a grand piano, with a couple of movable brackets which can be positioned to support mic clips wherever required. Its simple elegance and practicality has often attracted enquiries from fellow recording engineers, but until recently the only close alternative has been the Earthworks PM40 PianoMic (reviewed in SOS January 2009: www.soundonsound.com/reviews/earthworks-pm40), but that has integrated mics and, excellent though they are, many engineers naturally prefer to use their own mic selections.
Happily, I can now recommend a very similar and highly versatile alternative designed by an American, Leonard Mirizio, who has applied for a patent on his elegant product. Called the Mirizio Microphone Mount, the concept is very similar to the Piano Barre, although Mirizio’s design uses two flat black-anodised aluminium bars clamped together, rather than tubes. Each bar has a long slot machined out of it, so that a couple of threaded bolts with large plastic knobs can be positioned to clamp the bars together at the required length, which can be anything between 940 and 1575 mm (37 to 62 inches).
At the end of each bar is a captive rotating L-shaped plate, lined on the inner surfaces with black felt to protect the piano’s woodwork. These are designed to sit flush against the sides and top of the piano’s case to give a secure and tilt-resistant mounting base.
A pair of adjustable mic-mounting bolts is included, which comprise more threaded bolts with plastic knobs, which fit through the slots in the rail bars and can be positioned anywhere along their length to place the mics as desired. A large knurled locking ring on each bolt allows the angle of the mic’s clip to be adjusted and locked precisely in place, and a couple of long Velcro straps are also provided for neat cable dressing and to keep the various pieces of the mount together when stored. The design is such that there’s no need for clamps or sticky tape that could damage the piano’s woodwork or its lacquer, and although the unit has to be installed with a little care, it’s a quick-and-easy one-person job.
If using heavy mics, it makes sense to mount one on either side of the bar, to minimise the tendency for it to try and tilt or rotate — although the end plates are wide enough to give a very stable platform in most situations, and I could mount small-diaphragm mics (Neumann KM84s) on the same side of the bar without problems. For situations requiring more than two mics, Mirizio can supply additional mic-mounting bolts as a cost option.
European customers might find the standard 5/8-inch threaded mic mounts a little inconvenient, as the use of adaptors for 3/8-inch mic clips will increase the distance between mic and bar, and thus increase the tendency of the bar to rotate. However, Leonard Mirizio tells me that he is working on a dedicated 3/8-inch variant of the mic mounts, and these should be available soon. In the meantime, I simply removed the 3/8-inch inserts that are in most of my microphones’ clips.
I found the Mirizio Microphone Mount extremely quick and easy to install and adjust, very stable in use, and visually extremely neat and discrete. It is very well machined and constructed, should last an eternity, and not only does it allow close mics to be positioned accurately above the hammers, bridge, or strings, as required, but it still allows the lid to close if necessary (assuming appropriate mics are rigged upon it!).
The Microphone Mount will seem an expensive and specialised mic stand to some, but for anyone regularly needing to mic a grand piano it’s a very elegant and cost-effective solution and I am extremely impressed — to the point that my long-serving Piano Barre may well be retired!
$199 ($226 with a storage case), plus shipping, import duty and VAT.
$199 ($226 with a storage case).