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What's up with classical piano recordings these days? Condenser Microphones
Old 15th March 2017
  #211
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by apotheosis View Post
Sounds the typical advice people give for the 4-mic Faulkner array (47/67).
A tad too dry for the carioids, a bit too wet for the omnis, but the combination might just work.
I use this method on a regular basis, but its role is a bit different from the three pairs of mics at differing distances.

I think the reason some of the mic techniques mentioned here have been questioned is because some folk have felt that they were hearing the piano from several different perspectives, which initially brought this thread to the fore, but I don't think anyone is falling out, just sharing and exchanging opinions and methods really.

Last edited by Geoff Poulton; 15th March 2017 at 11:19 PM..
Old 16th March 2017
  #212
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boojum's Avatar
Like, "Don't criticize what you can't understand." There are many ways to record. No one is the only way. If it were our jobs would be a lot easier. ut it just ain't so. This forum, and perhaps the others, are master classes. We can profit from them.
Old 17th March 2017
  #213
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Poulton View Post
There was an attempt at humour (and truth) implicit in my comment, but I'm not quite sure what you mean by what you've written.
Sorry for coming across grumpy, I am just overworked.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Poulton View Post
I think many recordings that have spot mics could be said to be following the course you recommend, but this is usually on larger ensembles, perhaps in more reverberant rooms, to bring clarity to the score which might otherwise be lost. As long as it is done carefully and not overdone, the result can be better than leaving the whole thing to a front pair in those cases. In some cases it's essential.

The piano is one instrument in a room.
Again, I am sensing an assumption that a main system (in whatever form) would yield the most "realistic" representation, and that spots are only used to compensate for its deficiencies. This is, however, not the case. I have heard very impressive recordings made only with a main system, but the point I was trying to make is that it is mostly a matter of choice - each approach results in a certain sonic character. A carefully planned set-up with mains, spots and e.g. a "hall" system is a system in itself and will be used as such. Added to this, not all approaches work in every situation - therefore, as an engineer, one should make each approach one's own, so one can apply it to the situation at hand.

A grand piano is a highly complex acoustical source, just as an orchestra is. After almost 20 years of recording them, I have never encountered a microphone position that covers all aspects perfectly. Also, we should not forget that we are mostly speaking Steinway here - e.g. a Bösendorfer needs a different set-up as it projects the sound in a different way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Poulton View Post
Having said that, some reputable engineers use the multi mic position on piano - I think it boils down to what you feel comfortable with, and what has given you the best results.

I think it's fair also to say that, many people who record with a main pair in the sweet spot, have also tried the multi mic technique at some time, and yet returned to the main pair approach. I know I have.
I agree, but I'd like to extend it with what I wrote above - I do have clear preferences for how I work, as it usually delivers what the artists want to hear as well as what I find to be appropriate for the repertoire and their individual performance. However, I am more interested in being guided by the end-result and this requires understanding ALL techniques. I just recorded a baroque ensemble in Belgium and was forced to use only a main system (3 mics) with spot for the soloist. Even though it is not what I usually do, it worked really well.

Here is an example of a recording with 3 layers of systems, engineered by Dutch colleague Erdo Groot and produced by myself. Italian pianist Sandro Ivo Bartoli performing Liszt's Ave Maria S.182 (Die Glocken von Rom), released on Solaire Records.
Old 17th March 2017
  #214
Gear Maniac
 

Thank you for all of this information.

When you use this three pair approach, do you vary the choice of microphone and pattern for each pair? E.g., ribbons spaced for the close pair, MS or ORTF for the second pair and spaced omnis for the third pair? Or something along those lines.

I wondered if you extended the idea of each pair adding something different to the whole, with the varying choice of type, patterns, spacings etc.

I suppose circumstances alter choices.
Old 17th March 2017
  #215
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Poulton View Post
When you use this three pair approach, do you vary the choice of microphone and pattern for each pair? E.g., ribbons spaced for the close pair, MS or ORTF for the second pair and spaced omnis for the third pair? Or something along those lines.

I wondered if you extended the idea of each pair adding something different to the whole, with the varying choice of type, patterns, spacings etc.

I suppose circumstances alter choices.
Hi Geoff,

It indeed depends a bit, but generally they are all spaced pairs with increased spacing as they are further away. EDIT: I do not know if the analogy really fits, but you could look at the separate layers as covering the direct sound, reflections and reverb. Of course, in practice, it does not work this way, but it does demonstrate you have good control over all aspects of the sound and can adjust for each piece (or movement), if needed.

The example I posted was made with 4011 close at the piano approx. 40 cm apart, then a 3-mic mains (LR= M50 and C= 4006TL+APE50) that was approx. 250cm apart and the center mic forward, and the hall system were MK2S with self-made spheres, pointing backwards, approx. 500cm apart.

When I returned to the same venue with the same pianist last August for a Bach album, I used omnis also for the close mics, as it suited the repertoire and artist.
Old 17th March 2017
  #216
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Roland's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
What I understand dtf to be saying is that the mic placements compliment each other.

So pair A might be placed to pick up clarity but sound thin on their own and pair B might be placed to sound warmer but not clear enough on their own.

When the two pairs are mixed equally, as a unit, the combined sound between the pairs achieves the desired effect, though on their own the individual pairs wouldn't be acceptable.

Am I getting this correctly?
This would be more likely to yield problems. You are often better with uncorrelated sets as those that are closer in relationship are more likely to produce unpleasant comb filtering, though not always.

Let me try a rock recording analogy. You will see plenty of recording articles where they talk about strange microphone techniques like putting a stereo pair in a stairwell adjacent to the studio, compressing them madly and ending up with this great drum sound. Though this might work, it's a 1 in a 100 situation, most times it will just sound bad. Solid techniques are often the way to getting good results, consistently.
Old 17th March 2017
  #217
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland View Post
This would be more likely to yield problems. You are often better with uncorrelated sets as those that are closer in relationship are more likely to produce unpleasant comb filtering, though not always.

Let me try a rock recording analogy. You will see plenty of recording articles where they talk about strange microphone techniques like putting a stereo pair in a stairwell adjacent to the studio, compressing them madly and ending up with this great drum sound. Though this might work, it's a 1 in a 100 situation, most times it will just sound bad. Solid techniques are often the way to getting good results, consistently.
To bounce off what Rolland is saying, what happens if you get to post and phasing turns out to be a mess as you are mixing the different pairs? It makes me nervous to not have at least one pair in a reasonably good place.

I suppose experience would mitigate this problem but I would probably put a pair up in a good location as a viable option if I were to try this.
Old 17th March 2017
  #218
Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
To bounce off what Rolland is saying, what happens if you get to post and phasing turns out to be a mess as you are mixing the different pairs? It makes me nervous to not have at least one pair in a reasonably good place.
Well, of course all pairs are in a usable and good place. I did not mean to say that when listening to them individually, a system sounds useless. They just don't sound ideal, because else they would not be able complement each other.

Phasing has never been a problem for me. The distances are usually large enough for any issues to arise.
Old 17th March 2017
  #219
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dtf View Post
Well, of course all pairs are in a usable and good place. I did not mean to say that when listening to them individually, a system sounds useless. They just don't sound ideal, because else they would not be able complement each other.

Phasing has never been a problem for me. The distances are usually large enough for any issues to arise.
Ok, that's a helpful clarification for me. Thank you.

Do you usually time align the pairs or leave them as is?
Old 17th March 2017
  #220
Quote:
Originally Posted by shosty View Post
Do you usually time align the pairs or leave them as is?
I have never been able to get better results by time-aligning them for piano. There are all kinds of other weird things happening that I usually very quickly set the delay back to zero...

It's also a good indication that your set-up is well laid out if you do not need to time align, unless the acoustics are very prominent or there is something else going on. Distances are usually far enough for the Haas effect to do its work.

EDIT: If you think of the analogy I mentioned earlier, of direct sound, reflections, reverb, it makes a lot of sense not to time align. You actually do not want to distort the time relationships between the individual systems.
Old 18th March 2017
  #221
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
Thank you, Dirk,

This offers all here a fascinating document of a classic recording technique heard on many famous and well-regarded records.

This is GS at its best!



Quote:
Originally Posted by dtf View Post
Hi Geoff,

It indeed depends a bit, but generally they are all spaced pairs with increased spacing as they are further away. EDIT: I do not know if the analogy really fits, but you could look at the separate layers as covering the direct sound, reflections and reverb. Of course, in practice, it does not work this way, but it does demonstrate you have good control over all aspects of the sound and can adjust for each piece (or movement), if needed.

The example I posted was made with 4011 close at the piano approx. 40 cm apart, then a 3-mic mains (LR= M50 and C= 4006TL+APE50) that was approx. 250cm apart and the center mic forward, and the hall system were MK2S with self-made spheres, pointing backwards, approx. 500cm apart.

When I returned to the same venue with the same pianist last August for a Bach album, I used omnis also for the close mics, as it suited the repertoire and artist.
Old 18th March 2017
  #222
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
A close pair that sounds like your head is in the piano and a distant pair that sounds too diffuse, out of focus and airy, somehow combining to give perfection ? Unlikely....

However I will take the recording from the omitted pair only...the set that would have been placed halfway between these extremes !
why not put your 'main pair' at a medium distance, add a close and a hall pair? That is 6 in total. If needed, you can add close or distant sound in post.
Old 18th March 2017
  #223
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dtf View Post
I have never been able to get better results by time-aligning them for piano. There are all kinds of other weird things happening that I usually very quickly set the delay back to zero...

It's also a good indication that your set-up is well laid out if you do not need to time align, unless the acoustics are very prominent or there is something else going on. Distances are usually far enough for the Haas effect to do its work.

EDIT: If you think of the analogy I mentioned earlier, of direct sound, reflections, reverb, it makes a lot of sense not to time align. You actually do not want to distort the time relationships between the individual systems.
This has been very informative. Thank you, Dirk.
Old 18th March 2017
  #224
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dtf View Post
Here is an example of a recording with 3 layers of systems
Beautiful tone, slightly blurry overall sound which works with the piece, intimate without sounding too close.
Old 24th March 2017
  #225
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
Hi Dirk,

Can you expand a bit on Erdo Groot's use of a 3-mic stereo array for the middle set of mics, as opposed to a simple stereo pair? Is this a setup that is used because it allows for surround and stereo mixing from a single setup, or does it inherently have sonic qualities as a stereo array that Mr. Groot prefers over a 2-mic setup?

I ask because, from what I understand about his orchestral recording technique, he uses a stereo pair of microphones in the center of his setup there, I presume to improve the pickup for stereo mixing. And I'm curious why a similar approach isn't necessarily followed for his piano 3-mic setup.

Thank you for your insights and your participation here. The non-Straus Philips techniques are an area of research for me right now, but information is difficult to come by as much of the information, as with most of these older house techniques, is very much privileged and proprietary.

Also, I found the youtube video of the piece you shared above, and think I caught a few glimpses of you, haha! Looked like a nice session there! https://youtu.be/fP4fjSdVrLk


Quote:
Originally Posted by dtf View Post
I have never been able to get better results by time-aligning them for piano. There are all kinds of other weird things happening that I usually very quickly set the delay back to zero...

It's also a good indication that your set-up is well laid out if you do not need to time align, unless the acoustics are very prominent or there is something else going on. Distances are usually far enough for the Haas effect to do its work.

EDIT: If you think of the analogy I mentioned earlier, of direct sound, reflections, reverb, it makes a lot of sense not to time align. You actually do not want to distort the time relationships between the individual systems.
Old 24th March 2017
  #226
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Yannick's Avatar
 

As an example of a (period instrument, Bechstein 1860) piano recording in a slightly too big hall for the instrument, but without bloated imaging and stereo spread.
Attached Files
Old 24th March 2017
  #227
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
As an example of a (period instrument, Bechstein 1860) piano recording in a slightly too big hall for the instrument, but without bloated imaging and stereo spread.
The slap-back from the hall in the opening notes is disconcerting but the capture and spread of the piano is very nice. Mics and placement?
Old 24th March 2017
  #228
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Yannick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
The slap-back from the hall in the opening notes is disconcerting but the capture and spread of the piano is very nice. Mics and placement?
The hall certainly has no slap-back, it is almost perfectly diffuse (Flagey Studio 4, you can google image it). I guess what you hear is the instrument & the way the pianist played those opening notes (they are often played "disconcertingly loud"). Remember, it is a 1860 piano (so it predates the "modern" piano by a fair bit), the strings were not even crossed yet, and the damping is far from what is currently considered "ideal".

The mics were MKH800twin + MKH30 in double MS (with the MKH800 serving as a flat omni, back side at -6dB).
Augmented by 2x MKH800twin as fig8 for hall pickup.

The main mic was about 3m far, 2m20 up, which is comfortably within the critical distance. I preferred an ambient pair because we had to match the sound of an older recording, done in another (smaller) hall, on which I put the IR of the new hall.
Old 1 week ago
  #229
Gear Head
 

Just a note of thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread over the years. I'm a piano tuner and an audio engineer, and I consider recorded piano to be a wonderfully delightful challenge! I'm fascinated by the perspectives which suggest that close mic'ing is sometimes too distracting... as a piano tuner, my experience with the magic of beautiful pianos is from the player position, and so my bias tends to be to diminish the room in favour of the detailed nuance inside the piano - bass left, treble right.

That said - it makes perfect sense to me that the audience might find that jarring as compared with what they normally "hear" - a piano in a space from some distance.

GREAT food for thought - thanks everyone!!
Old 6 days ago
  #230
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thehipcola View Post
Just a note of thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread over the years. I'm a piano tuner and an audio engineer, and I consider recorded piano to be a wonderfully delightful challenge! I'm fascinated by the perspectives which suggest that close mic'ing is sometimes too distracting... as a piano tuner, my experience with the magic of beautiful pianos is from the player position, and so my bias tends to be to diminish the room in favour of the detailed nuance inside the piano - bass left, treble right.

That said - it makes perfect sense to me that the audience might find that jarring as compared with what they normally "hear" - a piano in a space from some distance.

GREAT food for thought - thanks everyone!!
As a piano player, I have the same bias in my own recording: "diminish the room in favour of the detailed nuance inside the piano - bass left, treble right"

But it is definitely not a popular perspective or method.
Old 6 days ago
  #231
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Yannick's Avatar
 

I was always taught to make sound for the hall, not myself.
I never get the violin player that wants “that” sound, meaning what the left ear hears so close to the soundboard, and the right ear almost only the hall, as the head is blocking the entire instrument.

Imagine a trumpet player that wants to hear on a recording what he is hearing behind the instrument ?
Old 6 days ago
  #232
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick View Post
I was always taught to make sound for the hall, not myself.
I never get the violin player that wants “that” sound, meaning what the left ear hears so close to the soundboard, and the right ear almost only the hall, as the head is blocking the entire instrument.

Imagine a trumpet player that wants to hear on a recording what he is hearing behind the instrument ?
You would be surprised how many listeners in the “hall” have taken piano lessons and find that perspective familiar. Far more numerous than recording engineers.
Old 5 days ago
  #233
Gear Addict
 

For me the sound of the interaction between the instrument and the acoustic of a fine concert hall is a beautiful thing and worthy of capture.
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