Recording acoustic piano

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  • @ayehahmur  Jan 2018

    I write on an acoustic piano and due to the rapid fire nature of FAWM, I'm probably just going to be recording simple piano/vocal demos without anything additional.
    Does anyone have any tips for recording acoustic piano?

  • @timfatchen  Jan 2018

    Even though I have an acoustic grand that lends itself to recording by having parallel strings throught, all my attempts in the early days were appalling. The best I could do you can hear on Spotify (look up Tim Fatchen - Jiglet or Tirdewater. Or CDBaby). Which is why I eventually shifted and stayed on keyboards and stage pianos. My best suggestion is to treat the piano like a live performance, and record back in the room a bit. And try to get a fairly dead room too.

  • @ayehahmur  Jan 2018

    I find it hard to evenly get the whole range without being swamped by the lower tones - and unfortunately my room is pretty lively too, which doesn't help.

    Yours comes across pretty well, in the top range anyway, but it probably helps that you're not venturing too far down the bass end. (Very nice playing btw!)

  • @standup  Jan 2018

    Look for a video by engineer Larry Crane on this topic. I watched it on, but it might be here and there other places. Basically, for a grand piano open the lid and use two microphones pointed at the strings. For an upright, there are options like removing the top/front panels so you can mic the strings, or if you have space behind the piano you can mic the soundboard. From what I remember.

  • @headfirstonly  Jan 2018

    There's a good Sound on Sound article here:

    (Simplest approach is to mic close up and above, with the top lid open).

  • @ayehahmur  Jan 2018

    Thanks guys lots of good things to consider. For FAWM I'm going to be just straight ahead recording piano and vocal on the same device I think, but this will be invaluable when I come to doing "proper recordings".

  • @standup  Jan 2018

    So it's all about positioning the device to pick up the best balance of the two. Try some options, be sure to experiment a bit.

  • @ayehahmur  Jan 2018

    For FAWM it is, yeah, but I'll be doing proper recordings at some point too, so I'll no doubt report back on both.

  • @roddy  Jan 2018

    There's some very good advice here. Two important factors are the sound that you want to achieve and the quality of the piano. I know a studio where they keep an upright with all the panels taken off to give a Neil Young 'After the Goldrush' sound, however, they use digitals for more rich and romantic piano sounds. Given the cost of decent mics you might want to consider the alternative ofr buying a second hand digital piano, they have improved tremendously and offer you a huge number of possibilities both in recording and mixing - also you don't record the sounds of the neighbours and the neighbours can't hear the sounds of your piano. Good luck.

  • @ayehahmur  Jan 2018

    Thanks @roddy - those factors are indeed the things I'm considering. My upright is great and has a tone that I just love, and when it comes to recording the more intimate songs especially, digital pianos just don't come close. I do have a workhorse DP that I've been gigging for 15 years, but it's not really fit for recording.

    What you say about annoying the neighbours is absolutely true though, but I kinda like the occasional random background bleed** and often leave it in, for shits and giggles like.

    **Mostly police sirens and washing machines.

  • @songsville  Jan 2018

    Nils Frahm has mics right inside the piano, and makes a thing of the creaks and finger noises and so on ... very intimate, I like it :

  • @ayehahmur  Jan 2018

    I love that approach, @songsville. Kathryn Joseph does the same and it sounds like the instrument is breathing. Wonderful stuff.

  • @aflinner  Jan 2018

    I've only miked a grand once, but felt I got good results. Lid open, XY stereo pair of small diaphragm condensers pointing down right behind the music stand, plus a large diaphragm condenser in the room a few feet outside the lid. Some good sounds can also be found underneath pianos too, from what I've heard. If you have some time beforehand, do some experimentation, maybe. Also, if someone else can tickle the ivories while you listen, move your ear around the piano to find the sweet spots. ☺️

  • @metalfoot  Jan 2018

    @musicsongwriter -- how do you record piano? Or do you mostly use digital instruments?

  • @musicsongwriter Jan 2018

    @metalfoot I usually record acoustic piano Alex.

  • @jamkar  Jan 2018

    In the studios I have been around. The Grand piano is typically miked as @headfirstonly describes.

  • @pluto Jan 2018

    @metalfoot: even though i play most of the time on my upright-piano when it comes to recording i prefer the pianoteq5 vst, which offers perfect clean an natural sounding pianos in lots of recording situation. i prefer the K2 recorded with 3 mics. if you record at home i think to get good results it's cheaper to buy a solid 88-key digital midicontroller or digital piano an the vst instead of spending hunderds of dollars for microphones. just my 50 cents...

  • @ayehahmur  Jan 2018

    Update: since my goal is to get as decent a sound on the quick and dirty as possible, I've been experimenting with using a wee Zoom recorder as an external mic - and the results were surprisingly okay. The only issue I had is the squeak of the sustain pedal was just a little too prominent. As discussed above I love sounds like that in a recording - brings out the character of the instrument - but this was just too in your face. Managed to tame it with a quick notch filter, and we're happy.

  • @headfirstonly  Jan 2018

    @ayehahmur I love the fact that if you listen to recordings by the classical pianist Glenn Gould - who was rightly considered to be one of the finest pianists ever - you can clearly hear him humming away to himself as he plays.

  • @ayehahmur  Jan 2018

    @headfirstonly That's brilliant. I think pianists at that level get so absorbed in the music that they can't help themselves. Which is exactly how it should be

  • @timfatchen  Jan 2018

    @roelvanveldt gets lovely acoustic piano sounds on his songs, if he's here we should ask how he does it.

  • @roelvanveldt Jan 2018

    You do me too much honor, Tim, but thanks for mentioning me, so It could find this interesting post. 😁 For Fawm, I almost always record piano and vocal in one take. Whether It do it with my Zoom H2, the H1 of even just my smartphone, the piano and vocals mix surprisingly well. I had the same (and even better) result 20, 30 years ago, when I still used a cheap tape recorder. The only thing to watch out for are the shock noises when the recording device is lying on the piano itself. I always record in stereo when recording piano and vocal in one take, which is probably obvious. Looking forward to hear your piano recordings guys! 😊

  • @ayehahmur  Jan 2018

    Thanks @roelvanveldt ! Aye, I was thinking for FAWM that it would just be the H2 or on my phone. There's so little time to get the writing done that I won't be able to waste too much of it setting up and fiddling with a recording set up. And, as you say, the sound balance is usually fine - good enough for a demo anyway.

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