tell me what you know?
So, all you expereinced folks, I get to record a big 9’ Steinway in a few weeks, in a nice hall, no audience, tell me what I should know. I will be using a laptop and recording in stereo with a pair of Rode nt5 mics that I just got ( ).
My main concern is preamps. I am willing to buy some new preamps, if that’s needed. I have a motley assortment of mostly cheapo ones. What kinds of preamps do folks use for this sort of thing?
Check out the Hugh Robjohns article in Sound on Sound.
A good room and a good piano with two mics, how easy can it get? XY with the lid off and play with positioning so you get a good mix of the high and low strings if you want a close mic sound. Or if you want lots of room sound, XY or OSPF a few yards back and move to taste to get the right balance of room and piano. Maybe put a close mic or two with this to blend direct with room mics.
|Quote (TomS @ April 20 2005,08:19)|
|So, all you expereinced folks, I get to record a big 9' Steinway in a few weeks, in a nice hall, no audience, tell me what I should know. I will be using a laptop and recording in stereo with a pair of Rode nt5 mics that I just got ( ). |
My main concern is preamps. I am willing to buy some new preamps, if that's needed. I have a motley assortment of mostly cheapo ones. What kinds of preamps do folks use for this sort of thing?
If you have the time, maybe you can sample some notes for share with us... who like spent some time making a soundfont.
I’ll try marce!
Thankks for the link, John!
We’ll be recording things that sound Bartokish; in my mind, I want a closer sound, lots of definition, although not right on strings.
But, guys, what about preamps?
|Quote (TomS @ April 20 2005,10:33)|
|I'll try marce! |
Thankks for the link, John!
We'll be recording things that sound Bartokish; in my mind, I want a closer sound, lots of definition, although not right on strings.
But, guys, what about preamps?
Im only repeating what i hear from people that know more than me, not my own experience, but still can be a valid advise:
Studioprojects VTB-1 I heard marvellous things about it.
Mike placement is crucial – which presumably you know.
In general I like XY, MS, and spaced pair (I assume you meant ORTF, not OSPF Bubba? OSPF is “Open Shortest Path First”, a datacom routing protocol) for miking combo performances. But for miking a piano, I prefer to carefully adjust mike position to get a good balance across the keyboard. With the pair mike techniques, I feel you have to get quite a ways back from a big piano (the length of the piano, and often more) before the sound balances out well.
On the other hand, pair miking can work well from over the player’s head. Some players might be bothered by this, though, and you can’t generally do it when there’s an audience – for some reason people think it looks funny.
I highly recommend a pair of “Extreme Isolation headphones”! There’s $100 that will save you lots of time, since you can get an idea of the balance while the pianist is playing during mike setup, rather than having to turn the performer on and off as you playback a test recording to check the balance.
No doubt you know that if you mike too close to the action, you’ll get a bit more mechanical noise than most listeners find comfortable. With LDC mikes, you’ll get a very up-close-and-personal sound 5 feet or more from the harp. Not sure about the those Rode SDCs, but if you get too close the cardioid pattern will work against you.
If possible, I agree with taking the lid off. If you can do that, mikes directly overhead can be great. But you need mighty big boom stands!
All good advice - thanks all! Marce - I really have thought hard about those, b/c I’ve heard good thiings about them as well - but it’s really mixed - the view of most of the folks on some other boards is that the VTB-1 is just so-so, unless you have exactly the right mic - a ribbon seems to be the consensus. I was thinking of looking into the Focusrite TwinTrak Pro - it’s only about 600 US dollars. Or I could put a Langevin dual mono mic preamp on some plastic, although it would be about 1300 US. But it’s transformer based, and would be a lifetime investment. I’m not so sure that the VTB would be. I dunno.
Learjeff - I got a pair of noise-cancelling headphones a while back, great investment for a one-room basement noise chamber. Great idea there - it will certainly help with placement. the rodes have a very tight pattern, the off-axis coloration is very low, but it really rejects a lot. I’m going to have to get to know them a bit better before this is done.
SO, about preamps: transformer based? Op amps or no? Tubes? What’s the greatest sounding classical piano recording you know? that is, other than anything by Glenn Gould?
Sorry, I’m no preamp pro, so I can’t help you there.
A tight pattern is your enemy trying to close-mike a piano, so be aware. (For a grand, anything under 6’ is close.)
Also, note that while noise cancellation phones are great for background hum, aircraft, and many other kinds of noise, they probably won’t isolate the sound of the piano well, since it’s so dynamic and peaky. The Extreme Iso’s for only $100 are well worth the price. And you wouldn’t have to worry about what those phones are doing to the sound that you might not want or might throw you off. I think they’re basically shooting ear protection with transducers. But they’re nice and flat and very “no personality” phones.
“shooting ear protection with transducers” has a sort of funny ring to it.
thanks for the tip, learjeff!
|Quote (learjeff @ April 20 2005,12:43)|
|OSPF is "Open Shortest Path First", a datacom routing protocol)|
Can you tell what I had just worked on at the time I wrote that? At least I didn't tell him to use RIP.
There are some good piano micing tips by Harvey Gerst in this article. Just search for piano or grand piano. There is a huge amount of info on mics, their design and their applications in the article.
One or two intersting things here too.
As far as preamps go, I don’t feel personally qualified so I will keep my mouth shut.
Hi TomS and All:
This is a great oppertunity for you to get some great Piano Tracks… The expirence you’ll gain here is gonna be priceless… Sampeling a cross-section of notes for the Sample freeks might be nice… It would be nice for those of you who might be able to give Tom some idea as to what notes to take samples of… If he gets the chance…
The other thing would be, if you could post some idea of what the end result of the session sounded like… and a report from you as to your after thoughts on how you found the session to be, in the technical sense…
May we all improve our sense of what it’s like to record a Grand Piano? From your perspective? That would be just great… Tom… I wouldn’t want something like that to be ment to “Corner” you or anything like that … but a positive discussion after-the-fact would be good for all, on the Board…
I’d support that idea and lurk around a thread, on that topic… What about that, guys?
|Quote (TrackGrrrl @ April 20 2005,19:27)|
|There are some good piano micing tips by Harvey Gerst in this article. Just search for piano or grand piano. There is a huge amount of info on mics, their design and their applications in the article.|
One or two intersting things here too.
As far as preamps go, I don't feel personally qualified so I will keep my mouth shut.
Hey, nice article! Thanks for the link.
Hey Bill, I will indeed give a holler. I don’t think I will even attempt anything like a complete set of samples, but I will certainly ask the player if I can post a bit.
The Gerst article - that’s from one of the pro rec discussion lists, isn’t it? It sure looks great. Thanks!
Re: the Harvey Gerst article
Yes & no TomS, that article is a partial transcription and condensation of a thread that has been pinned at the top of the microphone forum on the homerecording.com messageboard for at least several years.
The website for the studio run by Harvey and his son Alex is at:
I think I remember reading in a posting of Harvey’s that the studio itself is in a converted doublewide mobile home but I may be mistaken.
That’s it - I knew I had seen something like it somewhere!
OK, folks I need to know about preamps!
Try your 1000’s…you might be pleasantly suprised …You simply can’t go wrong with any API or Langevin (manley) products…The absolute best piano I ever heard, bar none, was a Chickering Grand with a pair of Earthworks sdc’s in xy and a C12 for room…all thru an api 3124…stunning clarity…great instrument…Have you hypnotized your wife? You seem to have raging GAS with full spousal support.
If clean is what you want you may want to go Avalon or Millenia (VERY clean)…I doubt if toob is what your after…you know my philosophy on pre’s so I won’t repeat it. I have only heard one pre under 750$ that is worth it, and we both have it! …in this league you gotta spend $$ but you will not be disapointed…shame you can’t rent a few for the show and see what you prefer…we have a real nice rental place here in Cincy (auraphic.com)…
Hey Ray! I was waiting for you to chime in! the problem with the 1000s is that they are still a bit noisey - you have seen that the fellow who sells them now has a “stripped down” version of them, no EQ, just the preamp, for sale? And since I kept all of the electronics in place, I think mine might be noisier than yours…and maybe the thing to do is to strip them down to just the pre…or get two more…
Yep, GAS has been raging, but really it hasn’t amounted to all that much - a nw guitar, a couple of new mics, and perhaps a new pre. Oh, and the irish harp I used to bribe my wife. Nope, not hypnosis! Bribery!
So…no to tubes. I had that idea as well. But yes to transformers? I really like the looks of the Langevin dual pre.
And they are about 1300 dollars US through Sweetwater…
But I could get some op amp based pres for pretty cheap, e.g., really cheap like the symetrix SX202, or some tranny and op amp thing like the Presonus Eureka or (I think) the focusrite platinum stuff? Not sure I have that right…
Anyway, this is for a project, not a show, so I can rent and try out stuff all summer long.