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Microphones: Recording suggestions for Upright Piano Condenser Microphones
Old 14th October 2015
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Microphones: Recording suggestions for Upright Piano

Morning guys/gals,

Hope you're all doing great.

THE CONTEXT:

I've recently just put a formidable budget together for the purchase of some high end studio gear- my first big buy! There is a thread I started somewhere on here which has finally helped me decide on a lot of things inc. monitors and converters so thank you to those who have contributed their valuable information!

I aim to primarily record my upright pianos at home, of which I have two. My compositions are piano centric- the pieces are mostly for solo piano, and if not then with some light string ensemble/pad accompaniment in the background. Either way the piano will always be in the forefront of the mix, so the recorded sound is crucial.

What is important to me is to capture an intimate piano sound, ie the noises of the hammers, pedal sounds (and all the imperfections per se) are all important to me. Think Olafur Arnalds/Nils Frahm//Keith Kenniff. My pianos have a very soft, almost muted timbre to them which I love and want to come across in the recordings. With this, I have selected a pair of Schoeps CMC6 Omni microphones as my first pair choice, as I feel they would be great for close miking applications in capturing those little details.

The reason for this thread is that I am also looking for a second pair of microphones to compliment my Schoeps, possibly some LDCs, I'm not sure? I thought it would be a great idea to record with two sets of microphones, and then I can blend the tones/sounds accordingly. My worry is that I may be missing a certain 'body' of sound if I was just to record with SDCs, although the detail won't be compromised, that's for sure. I'm no expert, hence the need for your advice(s).


THE ASK:

So to summarise, are there any microphones that you would suggest for this particular kind of recording application? Are you in agreement with my idea of recording with 4 microphones to achieve a full sound? And perhaps any relevant mic technique/placement suggestions for those respective microphones that you have suggested?

There is no particular budget limit per se, for the sake of conversation.

Over to you big dawgs.

Thank you!

Last edited by hahaha; 14th October 2015 at 12:20 AM..
Old 14th October 2015
  #2
Quote:
Originally Posted by hahaha View Post
Morning guys/gals,

Hope you're all doing great.

THE CONTEXT:

I've recently just put a formidable budget together for the purchase of some high end studio gear- my first big buy! There is a thread I started somewhere on here which has finally helped me decide on a lot of things inc. monitors and converters so thank you to those who have contributed their valuable information!

I aim to primarily record my upright pianos at home, of which I have two. My compositions are piano centric- the pieces are mostly for solo piano, and if not then with some light string ensemble/pad accompaniment in the background. Either way the piano will always be in the forefront of the mix, so the recorded sound is crucial.

What is important to me is to capture an intimate piano sound, ie the noises of the hammers, pedal sounds (and all the imperfections per se) are all important to me. Think Olafur Arnalds/Nils Frahm//Keith Kenniff. My pianos have a very soft, almost muted timbre to them which I love and want to come across in the recordings. With this, I have selected a pair of Schoeps CMC6 Omni microphones as my first pair choice, as I feel they would be great for close miking applications in capturing those little details.

The reason for this thread is that I am also looking for a second pair of microphones to compliment my Schoeps, possibly some LDCs, I'm not sure? I thought it would be a great idea to record with two sets of microphones, and then I can blend the tones/sounds accordingly. My worry is that I may be missing a certain 'body' of sound if I was just to record with SDCs, although the detail won't be compromised, that's for sure. I'm no expert, hence the need for your advice(s).


THE ASK:

So to summarise, are there any microphones that you would suggest for this particular kind of recording application? Are you in agreement with my idea of recording with 4 microphones to achieve a full sound? And perhaps any relevant mic technique/placement suggestions for those respective microphones that you have suggested?

There is no particular budget limit per se, for the sake of conversation.

Over to you big dawgs.

Thank you!
A big part of how your piano sounds will be the room you record it in. I have a very nice upright in a nice room but I can make it sound quite different depending on mic selection and placement. Some days its a pair of Josephson e22s, another day its just a pair of U87s, occasionally it's a pair of Coles 4038s. But most days I also put an M49 up for room mic. But really, it's horses for courses.
Old 14th October 2015
  #3
Here for the gear
 

Ah yes, a room mic would be quite nice...thanks for the suggestion buddy.

Was looking at M150 for this.

Would you suggest miking two by the hammers and two under the keyboard?
Old 14th October 2015
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by hahaha View Post
Ah yes, a room mic would be quite nice...thanks for the suggestion buddy.

Was looking at M150 for this.

Would you suggest miking two by the hammers and two under the keyboard?
I'd suggest getting someone to play it and using your ears to find the spot that gives you exactly the balance you want in that room. That's where to put the mics. Experimentation is king!
Old 15th October 2015
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
Remy Leloup's Avatar
I am just in love with my pair of ribbon Sandhills 6011 A > pair of NPNG or V76's for a tube sound , both pres do miracles with these mics

Accuracy , full of details , a Whole sound , body , presence ...


other fine alternatives : Josephson C 700's , SM 69 Tube , or a pair of C 37 tube Sony

But I would choose the pair of Sandhills over other mics from what you're looking for to achieve this detailed sound

My 2 cent
Old 15th October 2015
  #6
Lives for gear
 
KIDBILL's Avatar
 

Hmmm you talk soft, noises, pedal, intimate...
Nils Frahm which mean 2 X ribbon big time!
2XRCA44 or 2X4038
Old 15th October 2015
  #7
Lives for gear
 

I don't know those Schoeps but it's a good pedigree so will possibly be very good. One technique you could try is with the piano out in the room ( not close to the wall) a spaced pair a couple of feet off the ground on the back side of the instrument , - experiment with distance apart / height and distance from the piano - can be quite organic as opposed to the sometimes unnatural and bright micing from the keyboard side.
Cheers, Ross
Old 16th October 2015
  #8
Gear Addict
 

a pair of neumann km54's in a nice stereo spread sound fabulous on my yamaha ux 52

never felt the need for any more but a mono ldc tucked in the middle could be cool
Old 29th March 2016
  #9
Gear Nut
I know I'm a little late to the party. I just recorded an upright piano last night. I use a stellar Cm-6 set to omni about a foot away from the strings <gap pre73<gap eq1081<Motu ultralite

I was very pleased
I did get a little stool noise though. But it didn't bother me.
Old 29th March 2016
  #10
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
I agree, room mics with close mics can be quite nice.
Old 29th March 2016
  #11
Brauner Valvet and Phantom can sound pretty great on upright pianos too.
Old 30th March 2016
  #12
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studiostuff's Avatar
 

Spend your money on a better piano.
Old 30th March 2016
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
musicalnyc's Avatar
 

Aea r88
Old 30th March 2016
  #14
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I use a pair of newer schoeps (not sure the model) on Piano a lot at a certain Manhattan room I work out of a bit. They are excellent. I usually do a spaced pair inside over the hammers.

Since its an upright, you might want a pair back into the room. blumlein can work nice for this to keep the image true and not wide with no center. Ribbons do a blumlein.

4038s are pretty much the opposite of the schoeps it terms of color. If you had a pair of both you should be good to go.

FYI, I like to couple either a schoeps or km56 with a 4038 with acoustic gtr and blend them to tape (DAW). Just make sure the elements are aligned perfectly!
Old 30th March 2016
  #15
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toneguru's Avatar
A pair of Neumann M49s. You will not regret it.

BTW, from your description of the piano and the goal, I'm thinking Grace preamps. I'm a big fan of 1272, 312 and v72 and 76, but for what you describe, maybe not the best choice.

Also, EAR 660 comps are some of the best dynamics for piano (imho).

Lots of variables and unknowns... Just one mans take.
Old 30th March 2016
  #16
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toneguru's Avatar
I notice folks recommending KM54s and U87s.

I have a pair of both for sale or trade if you are interested.

Any chance that you are in So Cal?
Old 30th March 2016
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toneguru View Post
A pair of Neumann M49s. You will not regret it.

BTW, from your description of the piano and the goal, I'm thinking Grace preamps. I'm a big fan of 1272, 312 and v72 and 76, but for what you describe, maybe not the best choice.

Also, EAR 660 comps are some of the best dynamics for piano (imho).

Lots of variables and unknowns... Just one mans take.
Yes. Also, buy a Rolls Royce, a football team, and a private jet if don't already have those.

I joke of course. Obviously any engineer would love to use the gear you mentioned because its amazing and you have killer taste but damn dude, a pair of 49s is gonna be $20k, a pair of those EAR 660 comps are $24k and 1 V76 is like $5k now. So, yes, definitely use those things if you have $55k laying around for piano front end.
Old 30th March 2016
  #18
Gear Addict
 
Pred80r's Avatar
 

Upright Piano Micing

So without going off the deep end on budget...

1. Keep the lid open.

2. Good Condensers like an SM81, MD21, KM 184's etc will really bring out the high to high mids.

3. An SM7 or RE20 will capture the lows you want and reject any transient sub bass that muddies up your mix, you can also gain these up for a bit more clarity and percussive hit on the strings.

4. Track it all through good pre's like 512's, avalons, Neve etc.

5. Hit it with a fast attack compressor like the 525, 1167, purple etc. give it a medium release, gain it up a bit to capture the chamber transients.

Track it all , neat and clean...then worry about EQ an verb on the way out. Depending on the room and mic placement you may not need either.
Old 31st March 2016
  #19
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jmikeperkins's Avatar
First of all, there is no one answer that will always work in every situation and what works great for someone else may not work for you. Upright and spinet type pianos can be a challenge to record. I have tried mics in the back on the soundboard, opening the lid and putting mics in from the top, taking the bottom front lid off and putting mics down there and using different types of room mics. I've used U87's, Neumann KM74's, Neumann 184's, EV RE 20's, EV RE-200's, and several other mics. I get the best results by first putting the piano in the middle of the room (never sounds as good when stuck up next to a wall), opening up the top, and then putting a spaced pair of Neumann KM74 mics aimed at the strings slightly above the hammers, one near the treble strings and one near the bass strings and then panning the mics hard right and hard left. Any of the small diaphragm Neumann mics will work great (KM54, KM64, KM74, KM84, KM184). Schoeps mics are also excellent for this application. So are some of the better AKG mics and other top shelf small diaphragm condenser mics as well. Large diaphragm mics like a U87 will work OK in mono, and as room mics, but there is simply not enough space to put 2 U87 mics inside an upright or spinet because a large diaphragm condenser mic's pattern is just too wide and you will get strange phase issues which probably don't sound very good. I have never been able to just use mics on the rear soundboard alone as the sound is too dark and muddy sounding (but I do mic from the rear in a live setting as it works best controlling feedback). You can sometimes open up the front and put a spaced pair there, but when I have done that, I get too much pedal noise.

I tend to compress the stereo pair of small diaphragm mics with an optical compressor like a Manley ELOP, LA-2A etc. sometimes using some eq either before or after the compressor. Adding room mics might help or might make it sound worse. Rooms mics alone have never worked for me as you lose focus. The sound you want will also vary depending on if the track is solo piano, acoustic music group, or if the piano is to be mixed into a rock band type track.

You have to be willing to experiment a bit and move the mics around to taste. Even with close mics on a small piano, much of the sound will come from the room and all rooms sound different. If possible, you don't want the room to be too dead sounding as the piano needs space to "bloom." That's why you always need to move the piano out from the wall and toward the middle of the room if at all possible.

Some people think uprights and spinets are not worth recording, but I think you can get some interesting sounds out of them. Too many people just use piano samples and while these have greatly improved over the years, to me they still tend to sound kind of generic, but a real piano always has a sound of its own that no one else can ever copy since the don't have the same piano in the same room as you do. I also point out that a number of classic Beatles songs featured both an upright piano (Abbey Road's "Mrs. Mills" Steinway upright) and many others featured a small Abbey Road owned spinet piano made by a company called Challen. The Beatles used these uprights and spinets even when a large Steinway grand was available in the same studio because they wanted to vary it up and not have the same piano sound on every record. So break out a pair of your best small diaphragm mics and get to it! Just be sure to have a piano tuner available to periodically keep things on pitch.
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