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Mic configuration ideas for 2-piano and 8-member classical ensemble Condenser Microphones
Old 28th March 2017
  #1
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Mic configuration ideas for 2-piano and 8-member classical ensemble

I have to record some music written for two pianos plus an 8-member orchestra ensemble in a relatively live sanctuary, roughly 1.5 sec. reverb time. There will be 2 violins, 2 second violins, 2 violas, a cello and a bass.

The two pianos will be two Yamaha C3 grands right next to each other to the left of the ensemble while the ensemble will be up front and center of the sanctuary.

Gear:
4 Line Audio CM3s wide cardioids
2 Line Audio OM1 omnis
2 Rode NT1 (black 2014 models)
4 Rode M5s (small condenser pencil mics)
1 AKG P420 (multi-pattern)

Behringer X18 Air Mixer/Interface

I was hoping to have purchased the RME Fireface UFX and DAV 8-channel pre-amp by now, but life happened.

I was thinking about putting a set of Line Audio CM3s on each piano in a spaced pair just outside of the lid and the Rode NT1 pair in an ORTF configuration to record the 8-member ensemble. I might use a spaced pair of the Line Audio OM1 to mix in some room ambience. Does anyone have any other ideas?

Last edited by Chrshv80; 29th March 2017 at 07:11 PM.. Reason: Updated instrument list
Old 29th March 2017
  #2
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Anyone??
Old 29th March 2017
  #3
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pkautzsch's Avatar
 

Short version:
Strongly depends on
A. style of music
B. what kind of sound you want.
Most probably you'll need a cello spot as the instrument is positioned lower than the other strings.

Long version with a few random questions:

Where do you want the instruments to appear? Is this a "ping-pong" between strings and pianos? Or more like a piano concerto?
What is the reason for the pianos to be next to each other sideways from the orchestra? Is this a performance reason? Do you want them to appear hard left in the stereo field? Does the room force that placement? Can you set them up in other ways too, and would there be a better way or not?

Do you want control in post production? (Spot mics yes/no)

Do you want a close, precise, and transparent sound or rather a more distant, blended sound? (Main pair choice, Spot mics yes/no)

Can you live with a lot of piano bleed in the strings pair? Can you live with that bleed coming from the left? (If you choose "no", it's gonna be spot mic heavy with your proposed setup)
Old 31st March 2017
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkautzsch View Post
Short version:
Strongly depends on
A. style of music
B. what kind of sound you want.
Most probably you'll need a cello spot as the instrument is positioned lower than the other strings.

Long version with a few random questions:

Where do you want the instruments to appear? Is this a "ping-pong" between strings and pianos? Or more like a piano concerto?
What is the reason for the pianos to be next to each other sideways from the orchestra? Is this a performance reason? Do you want them to appear hard left in the stereo field? Does the room force that placement? Can you set them up in other ways too, and would there be a better way or not?

Do you want control in post production? (Spot mics yes/no)

Do you want a close, precise, and transparent sound or rather a more distant, blended sound? (Main pair choice, Spot mics yes/no)

Can you live with a lot of piano bleed in the strings pair? Can you live with that bleed coming from the left? (If you choose "no", it's gonna be spot mic heavy with your proposed setup)

I was thinking a spot on the cello and bass and since there is a fair amount of reverb that perhaps spot micing would be the best way to go along with a main pair in either NOS or ORTF along with the two OM1s in an AB pair for room sound.

I'm not sure how much control I will have over the piano placement. The conductor/music director told me last night that it would be up to the two pianists.

The piece they will be playing is below but with a smaller string ensemble than shown in the video:


I am thinking that I might be wise to have just a mono Rode NT1 vs. stereo micing for each piano to avoid any phasing issues with the two pianos close to each other. I like it that the two pianos are centered with the ensemble to assist with overall balance.
Old 31st March 2017
  #5
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Let me try this again- didn't read the above post when I replied.

Start w/ a three point array- main pair and flanks. 90% of your sound should come from there. Mics in use for that? Personal preference.

With your rig, I'd probably use your wide cards as a main pair and omnis as flanks. Having the solos to the side is going to be odd. Will they have the lids off? I'd hope at least one would be off- in that case a single stereo pair for duo piano can work well. The pianists face each other and your set. Perhaps even your other pair of wide cards would be good there. If they are in a non-standard configuration, nothing you do will be great. I'd probably spot each piano with a stereo pair, making sure any bleed between the two works in the context of the recording.

-Ben
Old 2nd April 2017
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fifthcircle View Post
Let me try this again- didn't read the above post when I replied.

Start w/ a three point array- main pair and flanks. 90% of your sound should come from there. Mics in use for that? Personal preference.

With your rig, I'd probably use your wide cards as a main pair and omnis as flanks. Having the solos to the side is going to be odd. Will they have the lids off? I'd hope at least one would be off- in that case a single stereo pair for duo piano can work well. The pianists face each other and your set. Perhaps even your other pair of wide cards would be good there. If they are in a non-standard configuration, nothing you do will be great. I'd probably spot each piano with a stereo pair, making sure any bleed between the two works in the context of the recording.

-Ben
The conductor wants to have at least one of the lids off on the piano but I am going to shoot for two as I don't want to mic one piano with the lid on and one piano with the lid off. I think it would affect that sound too much between the two. I may end up purchasing two matched pairs Shure KSM141s so I can run an omni pair on each piano. It would be more than I want to spend but I don't have time to wait for two more sets of Line Audio OM1s to ship from Sweden.
Old 2nd April 2017
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fifthcircle View Post
Let me try this again- didn't read the above post when I replied.

Start w/ a three point array- main pair and flanks. 90% of your sound should come from there. Mics in use for that? Personal preference.

With your rig, I'd probably use your wide cards as a main pair and omnis as flanks. Having the solos to the side is going to be odd. Will they have the lids off? I'd hope at least one would be off- in that case a single stereo pair for duo piano can work well. The pianists face each other and your set. Perhaps even your other pair of wide cards would be good there. If they are in a non-standard configuration, nothing you do will be great. I'd probably spot each piano with a stereo pair, making sure any bleed between the two works in the context of the recording.

-Ben
This may not be a bad arrangement for the pianos:
Old 2nd April 2017
  #8
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Having a lid off for duo pianos is a standard way to work. You'll actually get a better sound with nested pianos (ie pianists facing each other) with one lid on and one lid off. Put a stereo pair out in front of them and you'll be fine. Bugallo-Williams is the only piano duo I know of where they pianos are next to each other with the lids on. Every other solo duo I've worked with goes with one on and one off... Here's a picture- (pay no attention to the micing- it was for an outdoor amplified performance- hence the extra mics)
Attached Thumbnails
Mic configuration ideas for 2-piano and 8-member classical ensemble-piano-small.jpg  
Old 3rd April 2017
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrshv80 View Post
The conductor wants to have at least one of the lids off on the piano but I am going to shoot for two as I don't want to mic one piano with the lid on and one piano with the lid off. I think it would affect that sound too much between the two.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel or be a renaissance man/solution creator in this, 2 pianos nested together, with only the rear (furthest from audience) lid up and the other piano with lid off is a very common approach. The 'rear lid up' throws the sound of both pianos forward very well indeed, and is an established tradition.

However, you haven't said if this is an audience-free, dedicated recording session or a concert ? If the former then you can get a nice open, 'breathing' sound on pianos with both lids off, and an AB pair higher above the pianos (with mic stand somehow squeezed in the interface zone between both piano curves)

Experiment with AB mics either notionally 'above' each piano, or rotated 90* to be in line with the curve meeting zone. Listen to see which gives the best blend of both, with a little separation as well

If it's a concert..... then what Ben describes is perfect
Old 3rd April 2017
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fifthcircle View Post
Having a lid off for duo pianos is a standard way to work. You'll actually get a better sound with nested pianos (ie pianists facing each other) with one lid on and one lid off. Put a stereo pair out in front of them and you'll be fine. Bugallo-Williams is the only piano duo I know of where they pianos are next to each other with the lids on. Every other solo duo I've worked with goes with one on and one off... Here's a picture- (pay no attention to the micing- it was for an outdoor amplified performance- hence the extra mics)
Thanks for your feedback everyone! I shot a video with my iPhone tonight showing the preliminary setup but I'm going to see if there is enough room between the first stair and the front of the pews for the two pianos to be in the last suggested position you suggested with the lid being removed on the front piano so that I can just use a stereo pair in the front. The string octet would be up on the stage in front of the candles.

Old 3rd April 2017
  #11
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If the composer is living, contactable and interested....they may well have some significant preference about the piano arrangement.

The sort of sound you'll get in this situation (last pic) vs the twined/nested arrangement is likely to be quite different....separated vs melded/combined.

Ask the composer...or consult them via ouija board
Old 3rd April 2017
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
If the composer is living, contactable and interested....they may well have some significant preference about the piano arrangement.

The sort of sound you'll get in this situation (last pic) vs the twined/nested arrangement is likely to be quite different....separated vs melded/combined.

Ask the composer...or consult them via ouija board

It is a piece by Bach, so a composer that is decomposing. I'd prefer the nested idea if the space in front allows. The pianists did not want their benches to be half on the carpet, and half on the wood floor in front as it would be an uneven seating position.
Old 3rd April 2017
  #13
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I apologize, I should have paid more attention to the videos above ! The logistics of these things on relatively confined stages are tricky, or often a compromise. The strings might be a little distant back there, but at least they won't be blasted by the pianos (if the placements were reversed)

Both lids off may not be a bad idea after all, as it will ease up on the 'forward gain' projection of both lids up, as per your iPhone video, and make the pianos more a part of the overall ensemble (and less like the front-line stormtroopers !)

Playing with sensitivity, and paying attention to the conductor, will hopefully evoke a good balance between strings and pianos...although the pianos in this piece are very much free agents with respect direction by the conductor.
Old 9th April 2017
  #14
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Here are the first two quick and dirty test mixes of one of the movements. One has a full x\y panning with a wider pan on the solo piano and the second version has a narrower pan of the x\y with a narrow pan on the solo piano. The outrigger omni Line-Audio OM-1 mics were kept panned full left and right. I ended up using the Shure KSM 141 on the Yamaha C-3 that was used for the the solo piano passages. The x\y pair was a pair of Line Audio CM-3s. I used Rode M5 on the second piano as its timbre was quite different than the Yamaha C-3 anyway. Both pianos are tuned but unfortunately the Yamaha C-3 had a somewhat loose tuning pin in one the upper register keys so you may hear a sour note here and there.

Which panning scheme do you like better, the wide panned x-y or the narrow panned? I was afraid the middle violins may get lost in the center of the ensemble with too wide of an x-y pan.

I still need to maximize the final stereo mix for extra loudness.

Wide: https://soundcloud.com/chrshv/bach-c...minor-bwv-1052

Narrow: https://soundcloud.com/chrshv/bach-c...wv-1052-adagio
Old 9th April 2017
  #15
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Thread Starter
Here is a screenshot of the wide pan:

Narrow pan:
Attached Thumbnails
Mic configuration ideas for 2-piano and 8-member classical ensemble-narrowpan.jpg   Mic configuration ideas for 2-piano and 8-member classical ensemble-widepan.jpg  
Old 24th April 2017
  #16
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Here is a SoundCloud playlist of my final mixes. I'm definitely limited to a certain extent by the resolution of the Behringer X18, but all things considered I don't think it turned out too bad. There were some definitely tuning issues and strings being played out of unison as the players only had two evenings of rehearsals but they started to sound better as the show progressed.

Old 24th April 2017
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrshv80 View Post
Here is a SoundCloud playlist of my final mixes. I'm definitely limited to a certain extent by the resolution of the Behringer X18, but all things considered I don't think it turned out too bad. There were some definitely tuning issues and strings being played out of unison as the players only had two evenings of rehearsals but they started to sound better as the show progressed.

https://soundcloud.com/chrshv/sets/c...sebastian-bach
I like it. At first the pianos seemed two "wide" to me - it sounds like one piano is left and the other right with the ensemble in the middle. Normally when I think of two pianos they are more centered when they are the stars of the piece.

But (the videos aren't up any more) if they were widely spaced on stage, then this makes more sense. And it's all subjective preference anyway.

The blend is nice. I agree with you about the performances, but it sounds like an "accurate" recording, so you did your job and did it well.
Old 24th April 2017
  #18
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Thanks for your feedback! Regarding the spread of the pianos, I was not able to put one piano in front of the other so based on the configuration, I spread the pianos out a bit. I stereo miked each piano, (Shure KSM141s) on the left piano since it also served as the solo piano for the solo pieces, and the right Yamaha had pencil condensers. When I tried narrow panning both pianos it got confusing to what piano was speaking as some of them were playing the same pitch in unison so I decided to give them space across the stereo image. On the solo pieces, I spread the black yamaha out around 60 left and 60 right for some space and stereo separation. I had to add about 1.27 seconds of verb to get the pianos to blend with the orchestra as there was no bleed at all when they were being used on the half-stick. On the solo pieces the black piano had the lid up full-stick to allow for more projection to the audience. I could definitely hear more string bleed into the mics at that point.

Rehearsal night (mics configured slightly differently) ignore the stray mic on the stand to the right of the right piano, did not have it on the piano yet.

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=vHn2ChrLqzo

Performance night:
https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=Hu_3hXuXXIM

I'm getting ready to upgrade my interface and I'm really torn between what to get. I was originally thinking the Antelope Audio Goliath but there is already an HD version coming out that will be much more pricey. I'd still want to be able to use outboard pres like the Line Audio MP8 and the D.A.V. BG8, which would give me a grand total of close to $7,000 with current Goliath pricing. I'm worried that if the Goliath is rendered obsolete as far as plug-ins go that it will be a waste of the money spent on its additional 16 built-in mics. I had also been eyeing the Antelope Orion32HD (for most up-to-date DAC) or Orion+ but neither have built-in headphone monitor outs. It would however, allow me to save about $1500 that could be put toward my external pres. I assume I could run a DB25 connector from the analog out to an external headphone amp for monitoring. Also, when the Orion is eventually obsolete, I would still have some good outboard pres.

I do like the fact that the Goliath has a separate controller app to be used on iOS or Android. I do a lot of video work so it's nice to be able to adjust recording levels on the fly as I move around with my SLR. The Orion does not have this app. I'm siding more toward the Orion HD at this point.

I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with the quality of Antelope Audio pres and how they compare with D.A.V., Grace or Line Audio.
Old 18th June 2017
  #19
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Video of the performance

Here is video/audio of one of the pieces from the performance:
Topic:
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