Miking the Notorious Acoustic Piano

Hello all,

After all the studying and $$ spending, I’m finally ready to start testing out my equipment by recording. Taking on the acoustic piano is going to be quite a challenge with a very limited budget, and there have been a couple of issues. Right now, the worst has to be that no matter where I place my single Samson CO1 mic (hyper cardioid pickup pattern), I can still hear the keys clicking. My piano is not particularly old nor the keys unusually loud, but they’re just audible enough on the recording to make an obsessive pianist like me scream with frustration. So does anyone know anything that might work to at very least minimize these clicks in CE5? Currently, I’m mostly centering my mic right above middle C with the lid open and the panels still on. Funny how I didn’t hear this with the dynamic mic I was using. If I ever figure out how, I will attach an audio file to show you what I mean.

Thanks for your consideration,
Bane

There’s a lot of varying information on this subject if you Google.

Hi and thanks for the reply,

I have done alot of Googling (Google is my best friend :smiley: ). That’s how I limited this down to one question. :wink: I don’t want a big list of ways to repair the piano keys (the clicks aren’t audible during performance, only while monitoring and during recording). This is the first time in quite a while that Google let me down, so, not getting any luck in my experiments I decided to ask the pros. Is what I’m really looking for is some EQ, miking or other trick probably more Cubase/CI related, thus why I’m posting here rather than at Gearslutz. If we tell everyone that has a problem “Google it”, “RTM”, or “I don’t know”: Why in the heck do we have a forum anyway?

Any chance it’s not the keys, but rather the hammers on the felt? Maybe easy to test, by using the damper/soft pedal to shorten the distance and presumably the force of the strikes.

Alternatively, if the keys are the culprit, can you rotate the mike so the null is facing the keyboard (not so much moving it’s XYZ position, but repointing it)?

I’m sure you came across this one, but I had it filed for the day I might do the same thing:
http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/may99/articles/recpiano.htm

Hope it works out!

Thanks for your kind reply, Alexis.

In fact, last night I spent about 2 hrs. reading an SOS review concerning piano miking, not the exact same one, but very similar. You could indeed be very right that it is not the keys but rather the hammers on the felt. This is really giving more stuff to Google :slight_smile: cause I am having a hard time reading this hyper cardioid polar pattern diagram to figure out where exactly on my mic the null point is. Everything I read before I purchased my mic said: mic mono, get one with a large diaphragm, polar pattern doesn’t matter. Now everything I read says: get a mic with small diaphragm, mic stereo, omni pickup pattern is best. What the heck?!

Well you’ve really given me some hope. I can’t wait to dig in tomorrow morning and solve this thing. I’ll keep ya posted. Thanks!

You’re welcome, from one piano player to another!

Null point should be about 30 degrees “behind” the hypercardioid mic. but it does depend on the frequency a bit.

http://youreasyaudio.org/?page_id=107 .

Why are you using a hypercardioid pattern? I would think that a cardioid would give you a better sense of the ambient feel of the piano since you’ll pick up resonance from the back of the cavity.

I’m not a mic’ing expert though. I leave that job to Tom Zartler. :slight_smile:

How close are you mic’ing from?

I’m guessing you are trying to record an upright.

I have had some success by positioning the mic just above and behind the players head, effectively capturing what the player is hearing.

Getting in close with a single mic is always going to be problematic because a) you will be capturing a narrow part of the sound board and the strings in that region, and b) you capture all the dampers, and what-not.

Of course moving out you will be getting more and more of the room. This is OK if it’s a nice recital room or a properly treated studio live-room, but in the average small domestic space, you are going to record the horrible sound of the room, that our brains are so good at ignoring when we are in the room

The Samson C01 mic has a Cardioid pattern not hyperCardioid!

I would second Mark1s suggestion of back a bit and highish over players head.

Edit:> I stand corrected, the Samson C01 front page states Cardioid but the manual talks about hyperCardioid???

In that case you would need to either pull the mic back even more or to try pointing the mic across the piano.

I am indeed trying to record an upright. This is really all a big compromise, as I am recording in our study (large bedroom size) with a wall mere inches away from the back of the piano. This is one of the many disadvantages of home recording, nobody wants to move the piano because we don’t have the manpower to do it without scratching the hardwood floors. :unamused: Also, if you read the CO1’s reviews, the mic reveals its budget status by having it’s own self-noise, causing me to gate it and EQ a little differently than I might prefer.

I have primarily been recording with the mic over my head, farther from the hammers (mostly cause I’ve been to lazy in the tests to adjust the mic stand that high to get in close over my head). Same results. In my more serious testing sessions I’ve been trying to get as close in as I can to capture more sound.

First, you talked about moving out into the room for ambience purposes. In addition to the complications of the sad room I’m recording in, wouldn’t moving backwards thin out the signal? If I were to adjust my gain knobs, I would get more of that blasted hissing sound too. Any thoughts? Or will the piano pickup alright?

Second, you are saying that pointing the mic across the piano might help. If so, should it point to the bass end or treble end? My guess would be the latter, since I’m definitely going for the brightest sound possible. My main fear is how my mics pickup pattern will cope with this. The hyper cardioid pattern is designed to minimize audio coming from sources off-axis (which is why you’d think you wouldn’t hear these piano operations). Could this in any way be cutting off any of the desirable sound I should be receiving?

Funny how you say it’s not a good idea to mic mono in close, as alot of people online seem to prefer direct signals, unless they’re performing more classical style. Sorry for the rather lengthy and boring post, but I know it will be worth it in the end. Appreciate it!!

Unfortunately you seem to be stuck with only one mic, and to compound your woes it’s showing it’s budget price. Also it being hyper Cardioid does not help. I think that no matter what you do it will always be a big compromise.

The Idea of micing across the piano was just an idea because of the tight pickup pattern of the mic. i.e try to cover as much of the piano as possible with one directional mic and not have to pull the mic to far back in the room.

Also have you considered some impro sound dampening, like draping heavy blankets on mic stands and such to tone the reflections from walls and stuff?

If you’re going to go in close then due to the large area that a piano emits sound from you would need more than one mic to cover the thing.

Well, I do have only one condenser mic, but I also have a VTech VT 1040 dynamic. If I really need to, I can go buy another mic cable and stand to do this in stereo, but I have my doubts about adding a dynamic to this, with its pathetic sensitivity and low transient response. Even though I am far from a pro at analyzing different audio takes, I don’t hear anything distracting about the close wall yet, nor do I think my audience will. I am still entertaining the thought of micing farther away, but I want to be sure not to reach the critical distance and everything be lifeless. Too bad these uni-directional patterns eliminate the ambient sounds as well as the off-axis sounds in the side to side rejection. Today I will try placing the null, which looks like 110 degrees off axis in my case, to the pedals and keyboard. I found a nice Shure article on this subject; it recommends a few techniques for upright piano. I’m going to give a few of these a try. Which do you think will be the best if I am able to bring in my dynamic to make this thing stereo?

Upright piano:

1)Just over open top, above treble strings
2)Just over open top, above bass strings
3) Inside top near the bass and
treble stings
4) 8 inches from bass side of soundboard
5) 8 inches from treble side of soundboard
6)1 foot from center of soundboard on
hard floor or one-foot-square plate
on carpeted floor, aiming at piano.
Soundboard should face into room
7) Aiming at hammers from front, several
inches away (remove front panel)

That’s how I did it recently – the 2 mics were spaced about a foot apart just behind the headboard and pointing down at the hammers.

Also, I think placing the mic closer, yes closer, will minimize the attack portion of the keys

I just think 1 hyper Cardioid mic will not cover the piano adequately when close up!

Some things just die in mono. Some don’t. Piano in mono doesn’t sound like Piano, it sounds like a recording of a piano, if that makes sense :confused:

I am really wary of getting in too close, because a hyper cardioid mic pointing at middle C (with hyper cardioid being made for extra side to side rejection) won’t pickup the most expressive parts of the piano: the extreme bass and the extreme treble. I would just buy another mic, but as a freshman in highschool, I don’t exactly have a wallet overflowing with cash! Believe it or not, I still haven’t done those tests yet, but as soon as I get time, I will do alot of it. From what I gather, reading the opinions of the experienced and using your own observations is the way to get the best sound in any situation.

Keep it coming if you can!,
Bane

You could always hire a couple of mics for a day :bulb:

Good idea, Split. I hadn’t actually thought of that myself. :blush: The problem is this will be a two month process, as I record 14 songs. A few minutes ago, I finished some mic testing at different positions.

  1. Above (but not too close to) the treble
  2. Above (but not too close to) the bass
  3. Out into the room for ambience but not so far that it totally thins out the signal. (centered)
  4. Your suggestion of miking across the piano from the treble toward the bass

Fail:
5) The alternation of #4, except since my piano is in a corner, I couldn’t quite get my mic between the wall and bass side. I’ll have to work around that later.

I’m not sure I like #4 so much, as I get increased key clicking in that pattern. The others I will analyze in depth later, and find which one I like best for further testing. Any other patterns you think I might should try? I would attach some of the results, but the forum rejects Wave files. What kind of format will it allow?

Some people open a free “soundclound” account, and post a link to their files there. http://soundcloud.com/

Alright, I’ll give that a try. I think I narrowed it down to the ambient one and the one over bass. As soon as I set up an account I’ll post a link. I hope you can delete your songs there when you don’t want them anymore. :slight_smile: