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Acoustic Piano Questions
Old 9th April 2009
Lives for gear

Acoustic Piano Questions

I'm thinking about getting a piano for my facility... currently I have a couple of synths - one of which is a Yammy S-08, which has weighted keys, and which seems to be satisfactory for a good percentage of players who are used to the action of a real piano. Between the two synths' various piano patches & a few VSTi's, I can generate a good variety of piano sounds, but of course, some players prefer a TRUE piano for various reasons, and sonically-speaking, there's also nothing like the real thing recorded in a real room - especially in the case of something like a piano, so here's my two-part question:

Part 1: As I've started looking around recently, I've been noticing that gently-used baby grands can often be had & come up for sale at pretty reasonable prices, but never full-size grands, it seems.

Part Deux: In all my years of recording, I have NEVER ONCE recorded a baby grand (!!! - Which is kinda strange, in retrospect, now that I think about it - considering all the conventional AND weird instruments I've recorded - never once tracked a baby grand amongst all that crap! lol), full-size grands, yes, but never a baby... now, I've PLAYED baby grands (I'm mainly a guitarist, but I do play a li'l bit of keys), and so I know the difference from the players' perspective, sound-wise, but I have no clue as to the differences from a mic's perspective, so: Let's assume there's a full-size grand & a baby grand from the same manufacturer, in the same condition & state of tuning.... how much of a difference will I notice, assuming they were recorded in the same room with the same signal chain, etc.? Or, since getting that specific may not be practicable, how about something like this: two pianos, one full-size grand, one baby, either from the same manufacturer or comparable-quality manufacturers, and if not in the same space, something pretty comparable therein, and if not the exact same signal chain - once again, a reasonably comparable signal chain, and with both pianos being in comparably-close states of tuning & condition overall... how much of a difference will I notice & what will those differences be, based on your own experiences, and assuming you've had the opportunity to record both, in any scenarios similar to the above-mentioned? The differences I'm interested in would be those that would equate to anything other than that which I might already be aware of from a players' perspective - which I will leave blank, so as to not skew anyone's response.

Thank you in advance.

Old 9th April 2009
Gear Nut

I think a Baby Grand is a absolute NoGo for a great recoding. I did it 1 year ago 1 Kawai Baby Grand and it sound terrible - too small, too hard, no bottom . . .

I'm a Pianotech and so I know it !

The Minimum Size for a Grand is 1,80 Meters. The YAMAHA or KAWAI Grand are good Price Values. But . . . playing and try which one sounds best ! There's a lot of differents between the same Modell and Length . . .
Old 9th April 2009
Lives for gear
The MPCist's Avatar

Don't go for a baby grand. If it's a Yamaha, it's using the same insides as an upright. Go for a C3 since that particular model is pretty good sized and records well. You might want to check out Steinway as well to see what particular sounds you like best.
Also see what your clients would use more, the Yam or the Stein.

I have a C3 but am thinking of buying a Steinway Hamburg D....

Also, pianos don't sound the same even if they're the same model/year!! Play and have a good piano tech check it before buying.
Old 9th April 2009
Lives for gear
I've never taken the plunge on a piano. I see the same baby grande ads, but the fact is, if it isn't a great piano no one needs it.

I have a nice Korg weighted electric that most of the guys will accept, and its doubtful that most baby grands will sound better.

I agree that the Yamaha C3 or similar is probably the minimum requirement for a piano.
Old 9th April 2009
Lives for gear
Eganmedia's Avatar
I was under the impression that anything shorter than a 9' Concert Grand was considered a "baby grand". I have a Yamaha C7 which at 7'6" isn't tiny, but it certainly doesn't have the bottom of a CF3 or a D, but it is bright and cuts easily through a dense mix. I have a 5' baldwin at home and except as a quirky effect, I wouldn't want to use it in a mix, and definitely not for any kind of solo work.
Old 9th April 2009
Lives for gear
Phil Cibley's Avatar

6 feet is the Absolute minimum size for adequate bass. In this case bigger is
definitely better.
Old 9th April 2009
Lives for gear

Originally Posted by Eganmedia View Post
I have a Yamaha C7 which at 7'6" isn't tiny, but it certainly doesn't have the bottom of a CF3 or a D, but it is bright and cuts easily through a dense mix.
As a piano player, that's my all-time favorite piano for pop/rock use. Love it!
Old 9th April 2009
Lives for gear
asagaai's Avatar
Originally Posted by Eganmedia View Post
I was under the impression that anything shorter than a 9' Concert Grand was considered a "baby grand". .
I understood that a baby grand was defined as under 6 foot odd-the piano literature seems to define it that way.

Hey Desertdawg- I recently purchased a Yamaha C3 for my studio. The C3 apparently has a pretty similar low end to the C5, and to get a big jump in sonics you need to go C7- which has a bigger low end.

The problem with C7, aside from cost and size, is that it has a bigger bottom end- and your room needs to be big enough/treated enough to deal with it to prevent the sound being muddy.

Hence you will find a lot of studios with C3's.

Regarding the Yamaha's -do some research- the quality of Yamaha varies depending on economy-good times they made good pianos- bad times they cut corners. Get a C3 with an a or b, avoid the C3's made outside of Japan- which was done for awhile.

I have been tracking piano through a roland weighted keyboard with vst/midi - and the difference between that and a tuned C3 in my treated tracking room-the C3 is soo organic and deep- with beautiful pianist brings that well of emotion from one's gut- which plastic I never got that emotional stirring.

Yamaha's are pretty consistent- more than Steinway from what I have researched- but you need to still get a tech to run over- or if like me and got lucky- bought a C3 from a mother of a young pianist who won junior piano awards in OZ before buggering off the UK for a scholarship and his mother sold the piano as he needed the cash. When I heard it was his 3rd grand piano and he kept it until he left for UK I took the punt it was a good un. It was moved to my studio 4 weeks ago- and after the settling in just had it tuned and it's sublime- and the tech gave the thumbs up- thank goodness- I was sweating a bit as a few keys were out.

Good luck
Old 9th April 2009
Lives for gear

Have you checked out the bosendorfer sample libraries? Unless you are doing super piano heavy music, buying a piano is more of an idulgence in my opinion. I would check out a couple sample libraries and see if they are an improvement over your s08. Of course with samples you can't do all the different micing things, but if you are just going to mic it conventionally then that is a wash as well.

Sure makes the place look nice though!

p.s. with a sample library that keeps people from sitting down and trying to play 'clocks' while you are working!

p.p.s if I could afford a C7 I would never use a sample again!
Old 10th April 2009
Lives for gear

Originally Posted by fallforward View Post
Have you checked out the bosendorfer sample libraries? Unless you are doing super piano heavy music, buying a piano is more of an idulgence in my opinion.
Actually, what I'm thinking of is not necessarily piano-heavy music, but more simple piano music - just a piano & one other instrument or voice & whatnot. That's the kind of stuff where you can really discern between samples & a real piano. And the reason I'm contemplating a piano purchase is that I believe there might be a niche market for a simple cost-effective service for students that need an audition recording for scholarships, competitions that require a pre-screening recording, things of that nature. The offer would be something like $100 flat-fee for either 45 minutes or perhaps an hour of recording time, as many takes as you want to do in that time, plus I would also allow for a little bit of setup time, and a little bit of time afterward for burning let's say five CD's for them to take home, which would also be included in the package cost. I'd also include a dated & signed affidavit that there were no edits performed on the takes other than removal of any extranous noises before & after the actual playing began & ended (which is something I know that some competitions require, since I've done this very thing for one person already - which is what originally gave me the idea for this in the first place).

I think that lots of parents would be comfortable with that price-point in our market, and for me it would work out to - I'm estimating - about $75 per hour real-time in most instances (when counting setup, and the rest), which is not too bad. I could easily cram a dozen of these sessions into a weekend, with some breathing room between each one. For me - since I tend to pick & choose my more time-consuming projects such as full-band demos & CD's - this could be a good way to bring in some extra revenue during times when I don't have a large, ongoing project that I'm working on. The piano would be in a different room than the ones I use for band recording (I'm thinking about converting one room that's directly adjacent to the studio wing, and that I currently don't use for recording, into the "piano room"), so I could pretty much leave it mic'ed-up at all times, and even if I had a bigger project going on, if there were any days off or down-times on the bigger project, I could squeeze in a couple or more of these mini-sessions with the piano involved without having to infringe upon the main setup. The primary instrument or voice that the piano would be accompanying would be recorded in the same room as I do the drums in... there's enough room in there, and I have enough mics & pre's to accomplish this without having to change or move anything on the "big" session.

It would be relatively inexpensive to run a quarter-page ad every so often in area high school & college newspapers, and word could spread pretty fast once I got things rolling on this, I think... mainly from one parent to another: "Oh, your son/daughter needs a recording for a voice competition that they want to enter? You should call THIS guy, he did a great job for our little Jenny when she needed to send a CD to xyz university for a shot at a clarinet scholarship!"

It would be up to the person to provide an accompanist, and take care of their compensation in that regard, but again, I doubt this would be a problem, because what would most students do? They'd ASK THEIR MUSIC TEACHERS! (most of whom play piano, yes? Even if it's not their main instrument), and what would that then do? Well, it would result in more viral marketing for me - if a student was speaking with their teacher about a competition they wanted to enter, or a scholarship they were trying to go for in the case of high school students, the teacher might even start referring them to my facility, since they, A.) Know it's going to sound good because they've done a few sessions with me already by that time, and B.), It's some additional easy money for them if they agree to accompany the student, since they know I know the drill... no headaches, they know the piano's solid, and in-tune, it's already mic'ed-up when they walk in... simple.

The whole idea behind the acoustic piano is simply a comfort-zone thing... it feels different (even different than a really good weighted-action synth - you don't feel the vibration of the instrument through a weighted-action synth keyboard), the sonic vibe that the player gets is different, and ultimately, even if it's just simple stuff such as what I'm contemplating, if I'm going to offer this service, I want it to be the best set of sounds that they could possibly obtain, ya know?

The reason I was asking about the baby grands is that under this scenario I could recoup that cost in VERY short order - the rest would be gravy... a full-size grand - not so much. Might not even be recoupable for a pretty long time.

It ain't glamourous, grammy-winning stuff, but it's potential additional revenue, and it's relatively pain-free. Heck, if you've got a credit card scanner or if you want to have them send you a Paypal payment 48 hours in advance in order to secure the booking, it's also a no-stiff proposal for you.

Anyway, I know this sounded like sort of a big, long ramble, but for those of you who have read this far, I thought I'd throw in all the details of my idea so that if you felt you might be able to explore this in your own markets (do the math based on your own circumstances & you'll see if it's worthwhile for you to consider), you might find it helpful in terms of a potential additional revenue source for you, as well.

Thanks to all of you who responded... looks like I really do need find a full-size grand, judging from the consensus.

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