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Do you use spot mics for piano duos?
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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🎧 15 years
Do you use spot mics for piano duos?

When you are recording a piano duo for something like a college audition with video, do you use spot mics on the piano or soloist, or do you just use a single main pair?

I know we have had several threads related to this question, and of course if you are trying to do a CD project and no video is required, it can’t hurt to put up all kinds of mics to give as many options in post as you might want, but...

When doing this type of video recording I find that extraneous mics clutter up the visual aspect, and frankly, even when I use piano spots, I almost never use them, and even when I use them, it rarely adds to the realism of the recording. Even in my studio, where I have done numerous comparisons of single pair vs individual micing and blends of the two setups, I don’t often achieve any improvement in final result by using any of the closer mics.

I have been listening to lots of minimalist 2-mic recordings, even made in less than stellar environments, and I am feeling less and less inclined to use multi-mic setups.
Thoughts?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
I hope Harry Butler will share his experience with dealing with multiple pianos at his wife's Christmas programs.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Gear Guru
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman ➡️
When you are recording a piano duo for something like a college audition with video, do you use spot mics on the piano or soloist, or do you just use a single main pair?

(...) I have been listening to lots of minimalist 2-mic recordings, even made in less than stellar environments, and I am feeling less and less inclined to use multi-mic setups.
Thoughts?
i guess it's a matter of preference/taste and mixing technique (and repertoire/music era to some extent):

from solo instrument to small ensemble recording, i mostly set up as many mics and in a way that i can base my mixes entirely on spot mics plus processing (something i do quite regularly) unless i think the room sounds stellar which is hardly ever the case though and always limits options in terms of mixing...

even if i like the room, i mostly set up spots on all instruments (in addition to 'mains' and ambis) as i don't like balancing individual instruments with much different direct-reflected-ambient ratio against each other much, certainly not instruments which are at a much different distance from the mains; also, i prefer having some options when mixing rather than having some signals with the room baked-in vs more dry signals!

oh, and with the exception of tv work/some live broadcasts, i am not participating in the mic hiding game: either i get my way to set up the mics in a way which i think is best for the situation or i'll gladly recommend someone else.

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 1 week ago at 03:58 PM.. Reason: details added
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
I have been doing many audition tapes these weeks. I have been quite happy with a main pair, a pair on piano and a pair on the "soloist". The microphones doesn't bother me that much. I made this recording this weekend for my son who is auditioning for summer music class. (We also used it in the digital service that Sunday. For a normal audition tape I would only have a camera focused on the performer auditioning.)



All the best,

Knut
Old 1 week ago
  #5
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🎧 10 years
....can I be the annoying kid at the back of the classroom raising his hand for 'clarification please, sir'... ?

from wikipedia .....Piano duo often distinguishes a duet for two players at two pianos from a piano duet for two players at a single instrument playing piano four hands. It may also refer to:

classical piano duos (performers), i.e. a group consisting of two pianists...
or compositions for piano duo, i.e. a piece for two pianists
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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apotheosis's Avatar
Knut, your son has a wonderful voice. Beautiful!

My favourite piano spot method would be a Decca tail pair, which mostly falls off camera. If you have a soloist in front of the piano, often the mains (in the best position for the soloist) will pickup enough piano already, so no need for a spot pair in that case. With soloist at the keyboard side of the piano, a main pair often has the piano too much to the extreme left, so spotting with a Decca pair can help recentering the instrument.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman ➡️
When you are recording a piano duo for something like a college audition with video, do you use spot mics on the piano or soloist, or do you just use a single main pair?

I know we have had several threads related to this question, and of course if you are trying to do a CD project and no video is required, it can’t hurt to put up all kinds of mics to give as many options in post as you might want, but...

When doing this type of video recording I find that extraneous mics clutter up the visual aspect, and frankly, even when I use piano spots, I almost never use them, and even when I use them, it rarely adds to the realism of the recording. Even in my studio, where I have done numerous comparisons of single pair vs individual micing and blends of the two setups, I don’t often achieve any improvement in final result by using any of the closer mics.

I have been listening to lots of minimalist 2-mic recordings, even made in less than stellar environments, and I am feeling less and less inclined to use multi-mic setups.
Thoughts?
Well, I just recorded a piano duo (duet?) last week, but it wasn't an audition - it was for a future Youtube release for a music society. We had a MK2S main pair and an M160 violin spot, both out of the frame. The piano was mic'ed Decca tail position with a couple of MKH 20. The main pair sounds very nice and would probably suffice for an audition, but I am glad we had the spots - for colour as much as anything - and the Decca tail pair was pretty innocuous in the video.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
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lukedamrosch's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
In situations where balance seems like it might be of extra concern, I like to:
  • Encourage the soloist move a little closer to the mains (if possible)
  • Adjust the mains a bit to favor the soloist
  • Use discreet spots on the piano (e.g. Decca Tail out of frame, if video recording too) to give more presence if the above makes it feel too distant and/or subdued.
Old 1 week ago
  #9
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🎧 10 years
Kevin Bourassa (king2070lplaya) made reference to a method used by Norsehorse (Christian Amonson) in post #4 of this thread: Portable setup to record opera soprano on-site

I'm pretty sure this following video is a sample of Norse's method...in the distant shots you can see the spaced cardioid pair at the lip of the stage...as well as a tail pair on the piano...ever so discreet !

https://youtu.be/Up-AkJwknaE

Maybe Christian will elaborate, but my guess would be that by elevating the AB distant cardioid pair somewhat, it would work just as well for violin, flute, clarinet etc ...and plenty of piano still finds its way in.

I'm not sure what you'd consider "visually intrusive"... but this coindent pair of CM3's, plus an overhead (not shown) main pair of AB Neumann omnis worked reasonably well for me some time ago, without using multiple spots on strings or harpsichord (there is a relatively hidden cello spot however !) : https://youtu.be/NO1FsN5g9Eo

Last edited by studer58; 1 week ago at 04:53 PM..
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #10
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tourtelot's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
oh, and with the exception of tv work/some live broadcasts, i am not participating in the mic hiding game: either i get my way to set up the mics in a way which i think is best for the situation or i'll gladly recommend someone else.
I am with you on this point. I will work with a camera department within the parameters that allow me to get the best sound I can get. Clamps instead of stands, skinny Schoeps booms, overheads on long booms from the side, that sort of things. But the mics go where the mics go. If they are in the shot, change the shot.

D.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #11
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot ➡️
I am with you on this point. I will work with a camera department within the parameters that allow me to get the best sound I can get. Clamps instead of stands, skinny Schoeps booms, overheads on long booms from the side, that sort of things. But the mics go where the mics go. If they are in the shot, change the shot.

D.
Yep I'm with you also...give and take (with non-negotiable bedrock on where the mics need to be)...the wiggle room is in how the mics are placed just so: skinny mouse-tail remote cables between capsule and preamp, thin stands, carbon fibre rods replacing thick aluminium...and on and on.

Generally a middle ground can be found...hopefully just on the right side of the video dept throwing an almighty tantrum and demanding that pzm's, lavaliers and cheek mics go all round !
Old 1 week ago
  #12
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
I don't think, if I were in an optimal recording setting, making an album or something like that, that I'd consider the mics I'd use for each piano as "spots" per se, because there'd be no "main" pair. I would probably mic each piano up with a pair of omnis or wide cards (if it were lidless and nestled together, I'd place the mics 2-3' over the harp, a bit back from the hammers and spaced 1" or so, if it were side-by-side concerto style, I'd use decca tail on each piano) and then a pair of room mics.

I'm sure you could get a great sound from a single main pair of mics, but i'm not sure how one would go about spotting in a way that would maintain the stereo image and perspective of that main pair. Volker Straus might've had a really nice approach to it but I don't know what it is. Maybe something like the 3-omnis in front and high up, with a hammer pair on each instrument? That makes some sense, but I've never had great luck trying to copy any Detmold setups arbitrarily by eye, or in this case by imagination, haha.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #13
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot ➡️
I am with you on this point. I will work with a camera department within the parameters that allow me to get the best sound I can get. Clamps instead of stands, skinny Schoeps booms, overheads on long booms from the side, that sort of things. But the mics go where the mics go. If they are in the shot, change the shot.

D.
you've put it in far kinder words than i ever could...

[reason is that i've just come back from a meeting that gave the slogan for the upcoming broadcast: 'no mics!'
hell, IF i'm going to do it (and i might do so, mainly because i know the conducter quite well), i'll insist on using an alias!]
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #14
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wildplum's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I've started a campaign to convince the video people that really cool mics are "bling" and should not be hidden; indeed, they should be featured.

I'll let you know how it goes...
Old 1 week ago
  #15
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jnorman's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Thanks for all your excellent responses.
Jim and Knut - both your samples sound very well done. It is always so helpful when people post actual examples.
Studer - I think we can all agree you are quite annoying :-). My subject line started out using the term “sonatas” and I changed it to “piano duos” because I thought that might be more widely understood. My wife assures me that “sonata” is the correct term for piano/single instrument performances, though Wikipedia very effectively muddles the waters with vagueness, indicating that originally the term meant simply a work that was played rather than sung. I admit that “piano duo” was not the best choice - however, the term “piano trio” gets used here, and I never thought it meant a piece for 3 pianos...
Old 1 week ago
  #16
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🎧 10 years
I'm pretty sure we've all addressed your query from a variety of perspectives and assumptions anyway...so any conceptual strictness has already vanished...but your answer lies somewhere in the middle of all these approaches...lol !

What light does the new Decca book throw upon the subject ?
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
What light does the new Decca book throw upon the subject anyway ?
Decca was always a fan of tail-miking pianos... a microphone pair at chest height at the end of the piano pointed at the performer. This gives a pretty natural piano sound especially in a crappy room, but needs a little ambience to be added to it.

I'm generally not a fan of that at all, I would rather mike both pianos with a single pair and then include some spot mikes that could be brought in if needed to balance and make things forward. If you get the main pair right, you don't need the spots, but getting it right an an unknown room with limited time is usually not going to happen. If you get it close you'll hardly need any of the spots. But in a bad room this is unworkable.

If you have to get in close and don't want it to sound like the piano is wrapped around your head, the Decca tail-miking method is a useful one that everyone should try just to see how it works.
--scott
Old 1 week ago
  #18
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🎧 10 years
"No mics!" means no audio. Excuse me while I peace out.

D.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #19
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot ➡️
"No mics!" means no audio. Excuse me while I peace out.

D.
lol - no mics to be seen i should have added...



[...but i came to the conclusion that i'll use your interpretation as an excuse to not participate :-)]

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 1 week ago at 08:07 AM..
Old 1 week ago
  #20
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks apotheosis and jnorman! My son also has excellent ears, so it is a real joy to work on these projects together. He is very fond of the tonality in Neumanns and has convinced me that we try out a U89 for his voice:-)

The problem I often face when trying to capture everything with a single main par is that the piano often sounds more distant on the recording than in real life. Adding just a bit of piano spots often solves this problem. It also depends a lot on the acoustics. I did a job in the conservatory´s concert hall. There the problem was much smaller than in the church I often record. The room didn't sound that nice, though:-)

All the best,

Knut
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #21
Gear Nut
 
Really nice video, beautiful voice and excellent pianist! Thanks
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #22
Gear Nut
 
Really liked the recordings, clear and natural sound
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #23
Gear Nut
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman ➡️
Thanks for all your excellent responses.
Jim and Knut - both your samples sound very well done. It is always so helpful when people post actual examples.
Studer - I think we can all agree you are quite annoying :-). My subject line started out using the term “sonatas” and I changed it to “piano duos” because I thought that might be more widely understood. My wife assures me that “sonata” is the correct term for piano/single instrument performances, though Wikipedia very effectively muddles the waters with vagueness, indicating that originally the term meant simply a work that was played rather than sung. I admit that “piano duo” was not the best choice - however, the term “piano trio” gets used here, and I never thought it meant a piece for 3 pianos...
Ahahah Terms in music are funny....if you say "piano duo" it means two pianos or 4 hands.
"Duo piano and violin / cello / clarinet " its exact but it doesn't include every possible instrument. "Duo with piano" is less exact but includes everything else.
Never write "Duo with piano and soloist"; you'll end up with the pianist saying "Ah, Beethoven wrote sonatas for PIANO and violin, I'm a soloist AT LEAST as the violin player"
Piano trio is ok, as the piano is indeed the most important instrument.
Pianist here......Ahahaha
(I'm joking, of course)
Old 1 week ago
  #24
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
Oh.... we aren’t talking about piano duo, but rather piano and soloist.

Generally, I don’t think young players en masse benefit from spotting beyond level balancing, as the added detail can highlight technical flaws. I try to record audition tapes with a single AB pair 8-10’ from the piano and similar height, and position the camera so that it can’t see the stand, but still gets a full shot of the performer and piano. Move the performer forward a little bit from the piano to control balance.

I use that lower pair Studer refers to, which Christian showed me, for live voice recitals where hanging isn’t feasible and a tall stand would be too obtrusive (as seen in the video Studer posted, which I recorded). It works for singers, and to a lesser extent for solo piano, but because of how different instruments radiate sound, it’s not a universal technique for all live chamber w/ piano situations.

In an album situation, totally different for me, and I’ve written about that before.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #25
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot ➡️
"No mics!" means no audio. Excuse me while I peace out.
And that is, by far, the best piano sound I have ever heard in my life. Unfortunately we can't invite Rubenstein over to play in our living rooms anymore.
--scott
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #26
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by knuttta ➡️
The problem I often face when trying to capture everything with a single main par is that the piano often sounds more distant on the recording than in real life. Adding just a bit of piano spots often solves this problem. It also depends a lot on the acoustics. I did a job in the conservatory´s concert hall. There the problem was much smaller than in the church I often record. The room didn't sound that nice, though:-)
That's how these things go. These days we have plenty of channels so it never hurts to add spots. If you don't need them later on, that's fine. But the spots shouldn't be too clangy or have a lot of hammer and damper sound. They shouldn't have a weird upper midrange dip from resonance off the lid. So you don't just need spots, you need spots that sound good, but don't have too much leakage from outside either.

Because of this... I try to avoid spots if at all possible. It's too easy to make everything too bright and too forward. But... sometimes you do all you can to avoid it and you still need a bit more detail.
--scott
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #27
Gear Guru
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio ➡️
That's how these things go. These days we have plenty of channels so it never hurts to add spots. If you don't need them later on, that's fine. But the spots shouldn't be too clangy or have a lot of hammer and damper sound. They shouldn't have a weird upper midrange dip from resonance off the lid. So you don't just need spots, you need spots that sound good, but don't have too much leakage from outside either.

Because of this... I try to avoid spots if at all possible. It's too easy to make everything too bright and too forward. But... sometimes you do all you can to avoid it and you still need a bit more detail.
--scott
hm...

different experience here: since many places have become more noisy (concert halls in downtown areas, audience's behaviour, broadcasts from locations not normally used for concerts), i depend on spots to a much higher extent than ever - to keep out room/audience noise (to some extent), i'm almost exclusively using directional spots.

i've come to like (and mostly prefer) the soundfield which can get achieved with modern means, including amplification (which is a bit of a challenge but lots of fun when given the appropriate gear and a bit of time to rehearse with the orchestra)...
Old 1 week ago
  #28
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wildplum's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
In his book on recording classical ensembles, Richard King has a brief discussion on just this situation (sonata recording in non-concert settings).
He writes that “the best option is to have the {soloist} facing the piano and to place the main microphone system between the two instruments”. The exact placement is adjusted to achieve the correct balance and perspective (this might even mean having the omni main pair facing downwards!).

In addition to a main [air of omnis, he uses two pair of cardioid mics, one pair in the piano curve and the other pair facing the soloist.

Attached is a diagram from his book.

Very interesting.
Attached Thumbnails
Do you use spot mics for piano duos?-king-sonata-vio-piano.jpg  
Old 1 week ago
  #29
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🎧 10 years
I wonder if the Richard King method shown above might not be a recipe for getting altogether too much piano sound into the equation, despite the spot pair for the violin, and the main pair seemingly placed to balance out the levels overall ?
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #30
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
I have tried this a couple of times, but didn't like it. Preferred a "concert style" set up every time.
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