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Larger than life piano
Old 5th September 2019
  #1
Larger than life piano

I am to record the new solo CD of a world-class pianist who sent me a live recording in a small church of one of the pieces to be recorded on disc. Rather lush and long reverb tail.
The CD will happen in a larger concert hall, and I mare clear I am not up to close-miking and adding church reverb. So we decided to stay in the hall and that I would try to make things as as large as possible.

How would you proceed? I love the idea of a single omni pair but are there other options for solo piano? Without digital reverb?
Pairs available:
Rens-modded DPA4006TL with APE30/40/50/nose cones (prefered main pair)
DPA4006TL
KM183
DPA4011
NTR
AT4050
AT4050ST (MS)

Thanks!
Old 5th September 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
In general terms (before getting into miking specifics), plan to use multiple pairs at varying distances and positions and spacings....so that you have maximum choice of blends at mix time.

This is not the sort of project you can afford to be minimal or purist about...especially if, on the whim of the pianist or his producer or other key personnel, they decide to utilize (or abandon) the natural ambience of the space, many months later during mixing.

Try to cover all miking flavours from too close to overly distant and several in between....so you can change sound characters as they make up their minds
Note that I'm not saying to place mics carelessly or randomly: each mic pair needs to be given consideration to how it will contribute, both singularly and in concert with the other pairs.

Assume that, whatever they may say at the beginning, they actually have no fully-matured concept yet of how they want the final product to sound like...and will likely change their minds several times after the recording session is finished

How many discrete channels can you record to (please don't say 2......) ?

Record like you're employed by DG ....and cover yourself for all possibilities

I think I have some DG or Telarc miking plots in my archives, I'll post when I can locate them....
Old 5th September 2019
  #3
The good news is that I will be recording, producing, mixing and editing. Mastering is at discretion of the (US) label.
The other (not so bad) news thus is, that both the artist and myself have to find something we can stand for on the spot. During editing and mixing I can always adapt smal things, but the general image and aesthetics have to be set during recording sessions.

I have always hesitated for multiple pairs on solo piano. What with double attacs, pair width and thus image, perspective........
Old 5th September 2019
  #4
How do you usually record classical piano? Would suggest you stick to that unless you don’t like the way it sounds, and add some room mics.

If you’re starting from scratch, technique-wise, I’d suggest starting relatively simply with finding an AB pair placement for omnis that works with your and the artists’ taste. A good starting place might Be straight out from the middle of the instrument, 2-4’ spacing, 8 feet away from the instrument and 8’ in the air. Once you settle on a nice placement, if you still want more room, you could add another pair of omnis farther out for that. Or cards pointed away from the instrument. There’s so many ways room can be captured, it’s all down to taste what will work best.

You could try doing some research into how your favorite sounding or the artists favorite sounding records are made. In my experience, though, it’s best not to take on too much of a setup that you aren’t familiar with.

And remember, the most important factors in a good sounding piano recording will ALWAYS be the instrument and the player, and then the room. If the instrument isn’t well maintained or tuned, it’ll never sound right on tape, and the closer you get with mics the worse the effect will be on the final product. When you hear a beautiful Uchida record, or Lang Lang, whoever, it all started with an immaculate instrument and a very good tech.

Last edited by king2070lplaya; 5th September 2019 at 09:33 PM..
Old 5th September 2019
  #5
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by apotheosis View Post
How would you proceed? I love the idea of a single omni pair but are there other options for solo piano? Without digital reverb?
I feel foolish trying to point you in the right direction Korneel. I've listened enough to your superb recordings that I probably won't do more than muddy the waters. Sigh.... That said, the people at Sound on Sound did an exhausting look at recording piano. They used all kinds of interesting techniques, recorded them all, and made the recordings available. So you can listen your way around the piano, and compare real mic placements in a real room using a real piano. I remember spending days listening; it was fascinating. Well, I am an audio geek.

This will either help you think about innovative ways to record piano, or perhaps it will entertain you for a while.

The only real help I can give you is to tell you to use your ears. You have amazing ears, your recordings are usually just as spot on as it's possible to be. Trust your ears. Your pianist will be amazed, which perhaps will give him/her the confidence to produce some suitably amazing music to match.
Old 5th September 2019
  #6
Gear Addict
 
springer's Avatar
 

Speaking of foolish suggestions - I'll try....
Other than your main pair, maybe the other 4006's under the piano? and a 4050 at the tail?
Old 6th September 2019
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
Stradivariusz's Avatar
If you want to get larger then life sound maby you should try to use a wide omnis together with the classical approach. So one pair closer and one very wide for adding room sound. Mix to taste.

Might be interesting to check it out how these two work together. Wide omnis give a very beautiful sense of space. Especially in a good room, but not only Experiment with the width and height. I would start with 4m left - 4m right and 4m high to catch all the dynamics from the piano in the room.
Old 6th September 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
I'm not sure in which dimension the 'larger than life' aspect needs to be ?

If it's the width of an already big instrument, and you want it supernaturally wide, closely placed mics will convey an exaggerated sense of width, along with some 2-3 metre wide Omni ambience mics.

You'll probably get out of phase components which will push the apparent (phantom) image wider than the speakers are...together with a sense of a hole in the middle of the centre image. Perhaps not the sort of 'larger than life' you would be wanting ....?

Consider also some M-S processing to achieve a similar degree of wider than natural width. Maybe you want to use some dynamics adjustments, such as an expander, to intensify the dynamic contrasts that the piano already displays (depending on the material to be recorded of course) Close miking under lid will tend to emphasise these dynamic swings.

Be sure to engage in some early playbacks for the player, to ensure that what you're capturing is to their liking
Old 7th September 2019
  #9
Lives for gear
 

i'd go inside the piano with a pair (pseudo x/y or spaced), add another pair on the outside (m/s or ortf) or use l/c/r to get a wider picture and then use a third pair (very wide a/b) at large distance...
Old 7th September 2019
  #10
Lives for gear
As promised, some of those single and multi-pair German secrets revealed (from Teldec, not Telarc as originally stated)...just be sure to check your Neigungswinkels are correct
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Klavier1.pdf (629.5 KB, 58 views) File Type: pdf Klavier2.pdf (472.2 KB, 50 views) File Type: pdf Klavier3.pdf (596.9 KB, 44 views) File Type: pdf Musik4B-Huang-Plan.pdf (88.8 KB, 51 views)
Old 7th September 2019
  #11
Lives for gear
Or go Deccaesque instead...... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfiGPNYxPrM
Attached Thumbnails
Larger than life piano-decca-elizabeth-jr.jpg  
Old 7th September 2019
  #12
I'm afraid I did not personally like the sound of the piano (at least on headphones) - I felt I could hear too much ringing and a certain amount of mush. But that's maybe just my personal taste.
Old 7th September 2019
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
Stradivariusz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
As promised, some of those single and multi-pair German secrets revealed (from Teldec, not Telarc as originally stated)...just be sure to check your Neigungswinkels are correct
That's interesting to study a bit. Thanks!
I find the video sound very nice, but a bit like having a head inside the piano. Maby that's an idea.
Old 7th September 2019
  #14
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stradivariusz View Post
I find the video sound very nice, but a bit like having a head inside the piano. Maby that's an idea.
Yes, I find that that's not a typical Decca piano sound...and not what you'd reasonably expect from the mic placements shown in the photo or YouTube video either.

Maybe DeccaClassics are trying to mislead us with fake microphone decoys ?

Korneel, what is the volume of the large concert hall (cubic metres) or the reverberation time ?

Last edited by studer58; 7th September 2019 at 09:56 AM..
Old 7th September 2019
  #15
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fred2bern's Avatar
Hi,

I wonder why a "world class pianist" would like a sound "larger than life"... Is it something he/she can't give without extra treatment? Can you really define what is the repertoire and what is the goal?

A world class pianist should play on a world class piano in a world class concert hall... With world class sound engineering, it should not be a problem but probably the best conditions to work...

Take time to talk with the master and really define the goal. Sometime words are not the best way to communicate in music and maybe you can ask for a musical example on a CD of what is the goal, or at least the direction...
By experience you'll know what to use and where to setup things to reach the result.

A live recording from a church is probably not enough to get an artistic idea...

Fred.

Last edited by fred2bern; 7th September 2019 at 07:56 PM..
Old 7th September 2019
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
Stradivariusz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by fred2bern View Post
Hi,

I wonder why a "world class pianist" would like a sound "larger than life"... Is it something he/she can't give without extra treatment? Can you really define what is the repertoire and what is the goal?
Would be also actually interested in the idea of the player. What does "larger than life" mean to him/her? What does it mean to you? Is it a wider stereo spread at the larger than the natural perspective distance or just the sound which will imitate the someone's perspective of listening from very close distance? Player perspective maby - bass left instead of right?
Old 7th September 2019
  #17
Do you know what the intended repertoire is?
Old 7th September 2019
  #18
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Yannick's Avatar
 

If it is a good hall, rent two silent fig8 mics and use those as hall mics at a reasonable distance (with the nulls towards the piano). Eg in the blauwe zaal, you would be amazed how much hall sound you can add, while maintaining the integrity of your only main pair of choice.

As long as the trains or planes do not pass, it sounds larger than life...

I would avoid using multiple pairs capturing the direct sound. There are already too many bad piano recordings out there. I was looking for a good recording of Philip Glass etudes last week. I found none
Old 8th September 2019
  #19
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stradivariusz View Post
Would be also actually interested in the idea of the player. What does "larger than life" mean to him/her? What does it mean to you? Is it a wider stereo spread at the larger than the natural perspective distance or just the sound which will imitate the someone's perspective of listening from very close distance? Player perspective maby - bass left instead of right?
I'd be looking the pianist in the eye and suggesting that he play 'better than life'...and leave the piano to be simply 'life-sized'. I think that would make a bigger impression upon the CD listeners than a Botox-enhanced sound...and his request perhaps belies an uncertainty in being able to play at the necessary level of excellence ?
Old 8th September 2019
  #20
Lives for gear
 
fred2bern's Avatar
I'm a bit with Yannick, I find there are really bad piano recordings, even with great players.

One aspect, considered by some folks almost as a detail, is the quality of the technician in charge with the instrument.
Great Steinway technicians are not so much on earth... Even with guys working in big halls.
A really perfect tuning with a best prepared piano will give to the microphones so much more than a standard piano tuning!

Another "world class" man to find.

If you can, give a look to the "Pianomania" video doc about Stefan Knüpfer.

Fred.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #21
Update: recordings took place this week in NL. We talked a lot and I got the time to try different things. As I hoped for, we ended up with a single lair (Rens Heijnis modded 4006TL with 40mm spheres). I added a Decca pair of 183 for safety but no need actually. Plenty of room in the main pair, and the Fazioli 308 is a beast with plenty of detail and 'string' even at distance. Excellent tuner and technician.
See photo. 40cm AB, slightly angled outwards. Around 3m in front of the piano and around 2m50 high. Positioned to taste for balance. CD will be released in January or February, will post links.
Very happy with the result, and the repertoire and pianist are a-ma-zing if you ask me.
Attached Thumbnails
Larger than life piano-img_20191017_125447_2.jpg   Larger than life piano-img_20191016_114024.jpg  
Old 3 weeks ago
  #22
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Or go Deccaesque instead...... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfiGPNYxPrM
Coor ,she's lovely.
Like the sound too.
Roger
Old 3 weeks ago
  #23
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didier.brest's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by apotheosis View Post
CD will be released in January or February, will post links.
It would be so nice to listen now to rough samples from 4006 and 183 pairs.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by didier.brest View Post
It would be so nice to listen now to rough samples from 4006 and 183 pairs.
Sure, and I am listening, very instructing indeed, but until I have clearance to post anything, I won't share alas...
Old 3 weeks ago
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by apotheosis View Post
Update: recordings took place this week in NL.
Hi,

I love that hall, studio 1 at the MCO in Hilversum. I recorded there frequently when I was still living in The Netherlands, about 15 years ago...

Would be curious to hear the result, too. Your project description reminded me a lot about a past client company of mine from the US. Let's say be careful what happens in Mastering, or in other words, make sure that your sound remains your sound.

Enjoy editing!

Dirk
Old 2 weeks ago
  #26
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hughesmr's Avatar
Simpler is so often better.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #27
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Haigbabe's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Coor ,she's lovely.
Like the sound too.
Roger
I’d feel much more comfortable if comments like this were not posted on this forum.

Thank you.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #28
Lives for gear
'Coor she's lovely' is offensive?
From someone called Haig Babe?
Surely some mistake.
She is a beautiful and gifted musician.
Roger
Old 2 weeks ago
  #29
Gear Maniac
 
Haigbabe's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
'Coor she's lovely' is offensive?
From someone called Haig Babe?
Surely some mistake.
She is a beautiful and gifted musician.
Roger
Yes Roger,

It’s time we all moved on and became respectful and inclusive. The world is asking that we do this.

Thank you.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #30
Lives for gear
Definition of babe. 1a : infant, baby. b slang : girl, woman. c slang : a person and especially a young woman who is sexually attractive.

Wiki definition Haig.
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