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Microphone Month 2

Sweetwater Forums [Archived]

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Piano mic choices?

Dion

Hello everyone,
Im looking for some feedback on mic options for a Yamaha C3 grand. My interfaces are Liquid saffire and Octapre MK11D. An engineer friend and pianist friend both use AKG414's for recording. One uses an earthworks preamp, (says it very quiet). So I read a lot of good feedback about the 414's, but nothing on the 214's. Any thoughts? I havent read anything about the Earthworks piano mic system (might be the cost) Any thoughts on these 3 options?
Dion
March 6, 2012 @01:59am
rgibbons

Disclaimer: I don't know the answer, I came to this thread looking to find it (I've been reading forum dialogs a few hours on this.
What I've heard so far:
1) You need to capture very low and very high notes (Piano has wider range than majority of instruments, look for wide frequency response); don't turn on band pass filters.
2) You need flat frequency response (For Grand Piano, you paid a lot for a certain sound, you don't want to color that sound).
3) You want a pre-amp that wont change the tone (no warm/soft/vintage... sounds, just clear gain).
4) The recommended Mic will depend on your budget (for example, AT4040 is OK for $300 budget, AKG414 if $1000 budget...).
5) Use more than one Mic (to even out distance to different strings).
6) Check other forums, to get more opinions; (Opinions are like rear-ends, everyone has one, and many of them stink); Don't trust the first one you hear (such as mine).
April 6, 2012 @07:44pm
michaelhoddy

The type and quality sound you capture will honestly have far more to do with the piano itself, player, room acoustics, and mic positioning than it will with which specific mics and preamps you use. Seriously. And I'm a piano player who has been recording these things as an engineer and producer for classical, jazz and pop recordings for at least 16 years. And what I mean by the above is that if you end up with a bad-sounding piano recording, chances are excellent that it has far more to do with the above factors than it does the mic or preamp choices.
Before I get too far in, let me address a few things from the previous poster:

1) You need to capture very low and very high notes (Piano has wider range than majority of instruments, look for wide frequency response); don't turn on band pass filters.

Obviously. Any halfway decent condenser or even ribbon mic is capable of this. And I can't think of anyone in their right mind who would use a bandpass filter on a piano unless they were going for a specific lo-fi effect.

2) You need flat frequency response (For Grand Piano, you paid a lot for a certain sound, you don't want to color that sound).

Disagree. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. There are many great piano recordings which are ANYTHING but ruler-flat, and there are others that are. Depends on the instrument and desired results. And if you're recording in any sort of room or hall, you're not starting with a flat response to begin with. It's not about it being flat, it's about it sounding right, which may or may not require that.

3) You want a pre-amp that wont change the tone (no warm/soft/vintage... sounds, just clear gain).

Disagree again. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. If you have a Yamaha grand, you are more likely to want to warm it up a bit with some more colorful mics and preamps, or else you end up with a very sterile recording. If you are recording a Steinway or Bosendorfer, the flat clean gain thing works well because the pianos are already very colorful. This really depends on the piano. Many classical guys are fans of the Millennia preamps because they're flat. Jazz and pop folks tend toward other stuff, but there are really no hard and fast rules here.
If the room is wood, it will already have some warmth to it, so maybe none needs to be added. If it's stone or tile, it's going to start out cold, so some warmth at the mics or the preamp may be helpful.

4) The recommended Mic will depend on your budget (for example, AT4040 is OK for $300 budget, AKG414 if $1000 budget...).

Obviously. As I said above, you can get a decent piano recording out of just about any decent condenser or ribbon mic. The 4040 is great. So are 4041's, 4051's, 4050's, and 4033's. The 414 is great too, but a bit more colorful. The Royer SF-12 is amazing as a single mic. I love a pair of Neumann KM83's on piano (not KM183's). A pair of 251's of any stripe is heaven, as is a pair of U47's or U67's. And so on.

5) Use more than one Mic (to even out distance to different strings).

Sound travels at 1130 fps at room temperature. It's unlikely that you will have problems with the sound getting to the mic in time, as the distance difference are insignificant. More likely, you will want to use multiple mics to create a stereo image and to balance the response from one end of the keyboard to the other. Pop recordings tend to be close-miked. Classical recordings tend to be miked at more of a distance. Jazz recordings fall in between.
I have used the Earthworks preamp. It is very clean, quiet, and accurate, but any decent preamp is going to be quiet enough. The Earthworks has absolutely no color of it's own, and as such, I have paired with an SF-12 with great results. For my own personal tastes, it's too clean, even for classical work. But others would probably prefer that.
I love the combination of my Great River MP-2NV and a pair of Neumann KM83's on Yamaha pianos. Warms them up just enough.
AKG 414's should always sound good as long as they're positioned right. If an engineer can't get a good sound with 414's, the problem is not the mics.
In general, it's going to be easier to get a balanced response at close range using omni mics, but you will probably want to take the lid off the piano if you're close-miking using them so you don't have to deal with the reflections. If you're recording from outside the piano case, the lid is no longer an issue. If you use directional mics at close range, you won't have to worry so much about the lid, but you will have to contend with proximity effect and build-up in the low midrange, especially if you're using multiple mics.
If you get a common theme here, everything has to do with the piano, room, player, mic positioning, and probably most importantly, the music. The gear is secondary, probably more so than with any other instrument recording.
April 7, 2012 @01:48pm
fdew

Sound travels at 1130 FPS (or approximately one foot per mil sec)
Light travels at about 186,000 miles per second
Frank
April 8, 2012 @08:56pm
michaelhoddy

Indeed. Sound travels at the speed of sound. It would be good for me to get that right before I get up on my soapbox, wouldn't it? Edited, and I'll lay off the coffee next time!
April 9, 2012 @12:49am