The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Grand piano tracking -- the lid is killing me!
Old 28th September 2010
  #1
Gear Addict
 
jsbeeth's Avatar
 

Question Grand piano tracking -- the lid is killing me!

I've been tracking a grand piano in a church -- good piano, good room sound -- but I've been having issues with reflections in the close mics, which I assume are due to the interaction of the open lid and soundboard. I've moved the mics all around, but it seems as long as they're placed anywhere in that wedge, I'm getting all sorts of weird low frequency buildup, phase cancellation (even on single mics), etc etc.

It's a solo piano record, so closing the lid isn't really an option, nor is removing it, since it's not my piano. Also, since I'm kinda going for that modern jazz/Brad Mehldau-esque close sound, or at least want that option come mix time, so I don't want to ONLY rely distant ambient miking a la classical piano records, though I am tracking room pairs as well.

Any thoughts on how to get the close mics happening? The ones I'm using are a C-414 and an SM81, though I also could use a pair of 81's, or a pair of Shure BG4's, which I'm currently using for the room.

Thanks!
Old 28th September 2010
  #2
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Grand piano tracking -- the lid is killing me!

Personally I would go back and use a pair of spaced omnis.

My starting position would probably be about 20cm spaced, about ear height at about 2m. But this would vary with room, piano and what is being played.


Posted via the Gearslutz iPhone app
Old 28th September 2010
  #3
Lives for gear
 
boojum's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
Personally I would go back and use a pair of spaced omnis.

My starting position would probably be about 20cm spaced, about ear height at about 2m. But this would vary with room, piano and what is being played.


Posted via the Gearslutz iPhone app
Sounds good to me, too. It is at least a starting point. You need a statring point.
Old 28th September 2010
  #4
Gear Nut
 
digitalolive's Avatar
 

The owner won't let you remove the lid?
Old 29th September 2010
  #5
urumita
 
7rojo7's Avatar
 

It's not a dust cover. Try standing up it up straight, somehow.
Old 29th September 2010
  #6
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Smile

How do an audience listen to the piano?

As I said above, I tend to go more distant and record the piano more as an imaginary audience would hear it.

Another thing to try, if you want to go closer, is to go higher so the mics are above and parallel to the lid - as shown in this photo:-

I think this is how Deutsch Grammafon tend to record piano (as the person who sorted the picture was a Tonmeister who used to work for them).

I hope this helps.
Attached Thumbnails
Grand piano tracking -- the lid is killing me!-aktualita_000044_obrazek_100510_113427_b.jpg  
Old 29th September 2010
  #7
Gear Head
 
CoreyL's Avatar
 

Everyone seems to understand miking and acoustic guitar from a foot away, yet we insist on miking the inside of a piano. When was the last time you actually listened to a piano from the inside?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
How do an audience listen to the piano?

As I said above, I tend to go more distant and record the piano more as an imaginary audience would hear it.

Another thing to try, if you want to go closer, is to go higher so the mics are above and parallel to the lid - as shown in this photo:-
I agree with this, get the mics out of the piano. If you were watching your album as a performance, your head would be outside the piano, and the lid would be on and open.

Good luck!
Old 29th September 2010
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
Nick A.'s Avatar
 

Dont you dare remove the lid. Forget the close mics. You are lucky, the room sounds good, take advantage of this.The goal should be to get a recording that represents the sound you hear in the room.
The picture is a good starting point, move the mics abit-left or right- till you hit the sweet spot.Pay attention so all dynamics are translated good on the "sweet spot". Do the same with the room mics. Combine them and enjoy=)
Old 29th September 2010
  #9
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by jsbeeth View Post
I've been tracking a grand piano in a church -- good piano, good room sound -- but I've been having issues with reflections in the close mics, which I assume are due to the interaction of the open lid and soundboard. I've moved the mics all around, but it seems as long as they're placed anywhere in that wedge, I'm getting all sorts of weird low frequency buildup, phase cancellation (even on single mics), etc etc.

It's a solo piano record, so closing the lid isn't really an option, nor is removing it, since it's not my piano. Also, since I'm kinda going for that modern jazz/Brad Mehldau-esque close sound, or at least want that option come mix time, so I don't want to ONLY rely distant ambient miking a la classical piano records, though I am tracking room pairs as well.

Any thoughts on how to get the close mics happening? The ones I'm using are a C-414 and an SM81, though I also could use a pair of 81's, or a pair of Shure BG4's, which I'm currently using for the room.

Thanks!
One thing I notice is your mic choice. If you are having problems with reflections you may wish to reconsider: If you are using cardioids, you will want something with a very even off axis response to minimize the unwanted effects from reflections. I often use Schoeps with CK4 capsules or KM84's (yes the old ones). To completely do away with refection problems, use the lid itself. You can mount a pair of PZM's or use my favorite old trick:

I often use Countryman Isomax II omni's......
1) Fold a matchbook cover in half.
2) Place a Countryman Isomax II omni on the folded cover so that the element is completely in the clear
3) Tape two of these "assemblies" to the lid, one over the sweet spot of the harp and one over the best sounding hole in the sounding board.... the space created by the matchbook cover puts the mic element in the pressure zone of the lid.
4) Pan hard left and right.

I may get a lot of flack on the forum for this method, but have made some remarkable recordings this way. I prefer the sound of the Countryman to the sound of the PZM. I have done quite a few choir recordings in beautiful ambient spaces, where the piano needed a more direct sound to balance out the 150+ voices in choir. This technique sounds very natural, and is invisible to the audience. I always use a high quality black gaffer tape that does not leave a residue on the instrument.

Regards;
Danny
Old 29th September 2010
  #10
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Dont you dare remove the lid.
Why not (unless the owner really doesn't want this, which doesn't make much sense since it is completely safe and pretty easy to do with the help of 2 or 3 people)?

Quote:
Forget the close mics. You are lucky, the room sounds good, take advantage of this.The goal should be to get a recording that represents the sound you hear in the room.
I think the reverb time and strength really determines how close you need to be. It really depends on the room. If you need to be close to get the amount of ambience you desire, then you need to find a way to work around the lid issues you're having. Generally speaking you can get your mics out a bit further without increasing ambience if you use cardiod over omni.

Check out my recent recording here. The piano lids were off, and the cardiod mic pair was 2 or 3 feet above the pianos (between the pianos). As you will probably agree, moving the mics further away than that, in this room, would give too much ambiance -especially in the low registers. Your situation might be quite different.
Old 29th September 2010
  #11
Lives for gear
 

someone, please school me. why is removing the lid of a grand piano bad? thank you in advance.
-david
Old 29th September 2010
  #12
Gear Addict
 
jsbeeth's Avatar
 

Thanks for all the input!

Removing the lid is not an option since I'm going in to use the piano over the course of several days/weeks during the church's off hours, so I can't take it off and put it back every time, by myself. Plus, they just bought the piano, and I know they'd have a gut aversion to the idea, even if it were technically doable. Though 7rojo7 - maybe I can try getting it up straight somehow.

John -- I'll try that parallel technique. If it's good enough for Deutsche Grammophone, that should bode well!

I'll also try emphasizing the ambient mics more and seeing what I get, but I'm pretty sure it will be necessary to have *some* degree of close presence to get the sound I'm going for.

Jabbaz -- sounds good!
Old 29th September 2010
  #13
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Removing the lid is not an option since I'm going in to use the piano over the course of several days/weeks during the church's off hours, so I can't take it off and put it back every time, by myself. Plus, they just bought the piano, and I know they'd have a gut aversion to the idea, even if it were technically doable
You definitely need at least 2 people.

Quote:
Though 7rojo7 - maybe I can try getting it up straight somehow.
What about opening it up 180 degrees instead of just 90? Not sure if the hinges allow going this far, but I think they will. Stack a bunch of chairs (or something) underneath it to the necessary height to support it and if they are metal then make sure you have some foam sandwiched between to protect the piano finish and prevent resonant vibrations.
Old 30th September 2010
  #14
urumita
 
7rojo7's Avatar
 

Just make something to extend the stick a little further
if you insist on using cardioids
You'll have to be close to get some bass
with omnis, you'll get all the bass you need a little further away, and the lid problem will disappear, but it still might sound better with an 'extended stick'
if it's solo piano, many of the problems of recording the piano disappear
solo piano and orchestra is a horse of another color
I like 2 cardioids a foot out and a foot under the lid pointed parallel to the lid angle with an axis equal to the mid/ high strings, mixed to mono ((helps isolation of the 'bass' mic in respect to the orchestra more than getting a great piano sound) a half omni in the armpit could serve just as well)
Old 30th September 2010
  #15
Lives for gear
 
didier.brest's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
I think this is how Deutsch Grammafon tend to record piano (as the person who sorted the picture was a Tonmeister who used to work for them).
Very interesting! Thank you!
Which cap is used ? MK2 or MK2H ?
Old 30th September 2010
  #16
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Grand piano tracking -- the lid is killing me!

Quote:
Originally Posted by didier.brest
Very interesting! Thank you!
Which cap is used ? MK2 or MK2H ?
The picture is a pair of Sennheiser MKH 8020 on the matching stands.

The picture was posted to give an idea of positioning, not to recommend a particular mic.


Sent from my iPhone using Gearslutz
Old 30th September 2010
  #17
Lives for gear
Sennheiser MKH20 omni mics, A-B spaced pair (around 15")...and the photo shows you approx distances. It sounded good, but use this sort of illustration as a starting point in being prepared to move the mics in/out/up/down to get a good balanced sound with even acoustic power across the octaves and no notes 'jumping out to attack you' !
Attached Thumbnails
Grand piano tracking -- the lid is killing me!-piano-mkh20-pair.jpg  
Old 30th September 2010
  #18
Lives for gear
If you trust your audience a lot...... tea light candles can be optional atmos/mood enhancers....but purely an accessory, not a recommendation ! Sennheiser 8020 stereo omni pair, IKEA (adapted) stand, A-B spacing (15 - 18")
Attached Thumbnails
Grand piano tracking -- the lid is killing me!-piano-edit-1.jpg   Grand piano tracking -- the lid is killing me!-piano-edit-2.jpg  
Old 30th September 2010
  #19
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Exclamation

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
If you trust your audience a lot...... tea light candles can be optional atmos/mood enhancers....but purely an accessory, not a recommendation ! Sennheiser 8020 stereo omni pair, IKEA (adapted) stand, A-B spacing (15 - 18")
I hope not a recommendation!

The lights are underneath the mics - what does the rising hot air do to the bass end? The 8020 are flat down to 10Hz.
Old 30th September 2010
  #20
Lives for gear
No, not a recommendation...most of the time I'm far too sensible to try this heh ! Sometimes though, you just want to push the boundaries of common-sense a little. However there's a fair distance from the candle to the mics, and the heat was pretty much dissipated (I held my hand up there for a long time to test, believe me !)
Old 30th September 2010
  #21
Lives for gear
 

You will not get any reflections from the lid if you align the mics with the lid. Bend down behind the piano and look along the surface of the lid, lid should hide the mics sighted along both top and bottom lid surface. Classical technique for grand piano: clear resonant sound. If the mics are low they have to be close, if high, further away.
Old 30th September 2010
  #22
Lives for gear
 

Refraction

Quote:
Originally Posted by Petrus View Post
You will not get any reflections from the lid if you align the mics with the lid. Bend down behind the piano and look along the surface of the lid, lid should hide the mics sighted along both top and bottom lid surface. Classical technique for grand piano: clear resonant sound. If the mics are low they have to be close, if high, further away.
There will always be refraction effects. Your point is well taken, though.

Best to learn to live with the lid, and the way you suggest is one option.
Old 30th September 2010
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Storyville's Avatar
The modern Brad-Mehldau sound is often accompanied by other instruments in the mix. For solo piano, I'm not so sure this will really be as pleasing.

However, if super clean and tight is what you want - you are better off with a pair of ribbons, like M88s, or a hypercardioid condenser like C414s. Aimed down at the soundholes, high and low, and placed in the sweet spot where you get the most tone and least washiness.
Old 30th September 2010
  #24
Gear Addict
 
jsbeeth's Avatar
 

Thanks again for the tips.

Petrus -- sorry for being slow, but can you (or someone else who gets it) explain this statement:
Quote:
Bend down behind the piano and look along the surface of the lid, lid should hide the mics sighted along both top and bottom lid surface
Are you saying the mics should be parallel to the lid, as in John Willets's pic above?

Storyville -- it's true the ensemble mix plays a big part in his sound, but I do love his unaccompanied stuff as well. Unfortunately, I don't really have any more mic options at this juncture, though I do have a C414 (but not a pair). Incidentally, I remember a while back you posted a mix of a Uri Caine record you were working on with a phenomenal piano sound.
Old 30th September 2010
  #25
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JEGG View Post
There will always be refraction effects. Your point is well taken, though.
I assume you mean diffraction?


/Peter
Old 30th September 2010
  #26
Lives for gear
 

Imagine that the plane of the open lid extends out and up. Mics should be on this imaginary plane. They do not need to be parallel to the plane. I have mine pointing down a bit usually. The mics should not "see" the top or the bottom of the lid, only the strings & soundboard.
Old 30th September 2010
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
... I tend to go more distant and record the piano more as an imaginary audience would hear it...
I know, from experience, that this works, but the phrasing of your response always triggers this thought:

You are not asking the eventual playback system to recreate the sound that hit the audience-- it's much more the case that you are asking it to recreate the sound that emanated from the piano. Put another way-- the speakers should pump a sound into the air, the way the original piano did.

Is this in any way sensible, or am I missing a big chunk of theory or something?
Old 30th September 2010
  #28
Gear Addict
 
jsbeeth's Avatar
 

Petrus -- gotcha. Thanks.

Joel -- I think I know what you're getting at. It's like otherwise you're adding a 2nd level of detachment whereby the listener is auditing the audience's perspective, whereas a live audience is simply auditing the piano itself. Perhaps this why I'm partial to a closer sound. And also of course, as a player, I favor the sound from the bench over the sound from 10 rows back in even the finest concert hall...
Old 1st October 2010
  #29
Here for the gear
 

My own experience is that specific placements can be better suited to specific mic types when trying to record piano. With the caveat that I'm far more accomplished as a pianist than I am as an engineer, here are a couple of ideas I've used:

If you want to use cardioids, you might try an X-Y pair just outside the rim at the tail of the piano. I've found that some pianos -- like my own Kawai RX-3 (Kawai RX-3 Professional Grand Piano – Professional Grand Piano by Kawai) -- have a nicely integrated sound right there (which is kind of funny when you consider no audience ever gets that angle), and that angle with respect to the lid can help manage/minimize reflections.

I've had some good luck with a mid-side combination a couple of feet out in front of the piano (in the direction of the audience in a standard setup). You get the full, integrated sound of the entire instrument, but you get a bit more percussive sound and "presence" (for lack of a better word) than you might if you mic from a distance. Plus the side mic can give you some of the room. I think mid-side is in general great for that "like you were there" sound.

Having said both of those, for a close-up, percussive jazz sound, it's hard to beat an sdc omni pair right over the harp. For some reason that someone else can probably explain, omnis in that situation don't seem to give a lot of lid noise, but I've had exactly the same problem you describe when trying to do it with cardioids.

Best of luck!

Kevin
Old 1st October 2010
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Storyville's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
I know, from experience, that this works, but the phrasing of your response always triggers this thought:

You are not asking the eventual playback system to recreate the sound that hit the audience-- it's much more the case that you are asking it to recreate the sound that emanated from the piano. Put another way-- the speakers should pump a sound into the air, the way the original piano did.

Is this in any way sensible, or am I missing a big chunk of theory or something?
This is an interesting philosophical question. My feeling is this. The environment of the listener is unpredictable. You can opt to allow the direct sound of the piano re-live itself in wherever the listener is... well... listening, or you can attempt to transport them.

Remember that we have the ability to focus our ears - and convince ourselves of illusions - especially when multiple senses imply this falsehood simultaneously (if you were to say hear the sound of a piano in a concert hall while watch a video of someone playing it in a concert hall, you will believe it).

Lastly, the total sound that a piano produces comes from all around the piano - from the hammers, to the lid, to the sounding board. In order to catch the truest to life sound of the piano, one must find the area where all of these sounds come together - which is usually a few feet in front - where ultimately you are going to get some sound of the room (whether it's desired or not).

As for Brad Mehldau's unaccompanied material, such as Elegiac Cycle - there's certainly a low and hi capture off the sounding board - but it's coupled well with a capture of the overall piano and the room - and it's not nearly as tight as the ensemble work. The lid reflections are definitely present in the mix (in a good way) - I think playing with position, and making sure one of your supporting mics, like a room, or a distant tail, is capturing the whole image of the piano.
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump