I've posted a video in another thread and I've been redirected here to share the technical details about the video. If i knew this thread existed i'ld have post it on here in the first place! Sorry if my english isnt all that great i speak french as my main language...
As my contribution to this thread i'll share with you my experience micing an upright piano. What gears i use... what mic placements i used, etc... Its been hard to get info on that by myself as there is very few resources online for micing pianos, especially upright. On top of it being a complex instrument to actually record, I had to take info here and there and do some trial and error to finally gain good results. So i thought i'ld share what i've learned with you all. I'm not a sound engineer but if you listen to the videos i'll link with good headphones or speakers you'll see the improvement from a video to another. Micing with standalone microphones :
First off, the gears i use (those are all kinda affordable stuff... not high end equipment):
- 2 AKG perception 220 microphones (large diaphragm cardioid). Those are the first mics I bought... they do ok but not so great. A bit muddy.
- A matched pair of studio projects c4 (small diaphragm and comes with cardioid, omnidirectional and hyper-cardioid interchangeable capsules). Those are sexy. Delivers an awesome sound for piano and good stereo separation. At 400$ for the pair (6 capsules included), you can't go wrong!
- An Akai EiE pro USB audio interface. I'm pretty sure you know that but you need mic preamps with phantom power those kind of microphones up there and the EiE pro is the only one i found with 4 decent preamps (instead of 2, like the scarlett 2i2 wich has very good reviews) at a reasonable price.
- Your favorite audio editing software! I used garage band but then i got Logic pro (wich i dont know why i did because i dont even modify the sound on my videos... oh well lol.)
Before I go into mic placement, I'll take time to explain a bit how to work your mic signal into your editing program. It may sound basic but i don't know how much you guys know about this stuff so feel free to skip this part. What i like to do is to record each mic on a seperate mono track. That way i can decide how hard i want to pan (left/right) and adjust each mic level separately, wich is a good thing once you get into fancy mic placements! Nothing more frustrating than getting a good performance and notice afterward one of the mic should have been quieter. With mono tracks, you can fix that in a single click! Once I have your my microphones set... i usually pan each mono channel hard left and hard right (meaning to the maximum right and max left). I read somewhere that a general rule of thumb is you are supposed to pan the mic on the bass strings hard right and the one on the higher strings hard left. Its the way pros do it as it reproduces piano music from a listener's point of view. With that out of the way lets move on to:Mic placement (to listen with headphones if you want to see the difference between the placements lol):
The micing technique i use is called spaced pair technique. Its one of many micing technique used (The Zoom device uses a technique called XY technique btw) in studios and i found its the one that suits my needs best, the piano being a large instrument.
First off, i usually remove the front and bottom pannel from my upright for better sound projection. That would be the equivalent of opening the lid on a grand. Moving the piano away from the wall really helps too. Please also note that small adjustments to mic position can really change the sound you get from mic placement... Every time you want to record something you have to take time to test different angles and make slight adjustments before you get the sound you want for the piece your recording. See those descriptions below more as guidelines or ideas to start with and build from there.
In this first video, being the first one i did with my accoustic piano, i used my pair of large diaphragm condenser mics (the perception 220). I placed the mics just below the keyboard in front of the piano (between the pedal and the keyboard). That way it captures the soundboard from up front. They're set about 4 feet apart from each other and about 1 feet away from what is supposed to be the pannel covering the strings (i.e about 1.5 feet away from the actual strings). Here's the result (watching in HD gives better sound btw): All the recordings i'll link has no effects added at all (no equalization / reverb etc...) except the link #3 wich has a little bit of reverb... very slightly tho Youtube link 1
As you can see... the sound is a bit muddy. Its still good but it lacks clarity (mostly in the treble). This is due to the mics being a bit "bass heavy" in the first place... and that kind of placement also provides more bass than others since the bass strings are directly exposed in front of the mics. Another drawback of this placement is your pedal must be very quiet (unlike mine)or you'll hear the clicks in your recordings. Micing the soundboard from behind would give you similar results. At least it did for me. Still not bad result... lets move on.
In this second and third video I used the Studio projects c4. You'll see the sound is way more clear. One downside of those mics is i find they lack a bit of bass (grrrr!) and they have alot of self-noise (that kind of hiss you hear when the piano isnt playing). I've put the omni capsules on (ones that captures the sound coming from all directions evenly) and put the 2 mics again about 4 feet apart from each other and about 2 feet above the piano (with the top lid opened). Now listen : Youtube link 2 Youtube link 3
(has a bit of reverb)
As you can see the sound is way more clear. With the omni capsules on i get the sound from the actual room i'm in. It gives the recording that kind of live sound we're used to when listening to professional recordings. This technique would be to avoid if your piano is in a small room. Here its in my living room so it got plenty of space to breathe. A funny thing is usually when I make adjustments to my placements before recording, my dog is lose in the house and i can hear his claws hitting the floor as he walks around. Every time i listen to the recorded audio it tricks me into thinking my dog is still walking around and as i try looking for him i notice he's chewing his bone on the couch... Yea.. the stereo image is that powerful. You don't notice it that much with the piano as all sounds blend together but having a good stereo image makes whole lot of difference.
Finally, being kinda not 100% satisfied with the sound i was getting i tried another technique using the 4 mics this time. This one yield me better results to my hears. For this one i placed the piano in the very center of my room. The 2 studio projects c4 are place behind the piano... right next to each other at about 1/2 feet away from the soundboard about 1 and a half octave below the middle C (kinda hard to explain). The 2 other mics (p220's) are set about 10 feet apart from each other and 6-7 feet away from the piano. Here's the result : Youtube link 4
To me this is the best result i got. The sound is clear, with just enough bass (kinda hard to hear the bass since most of the piece plays in the middle of the keyboard). Still a live sound but a bit more intimate. Its very close to what my piano actually sounds like in my living room. The piece is a simple one but i did test out with some other pieces i know that covers more range on the keyboard and it just sounds gorgeous to my hears. I plan to use this technique for my future videos.
Hopefully you find the information on here useful and it gives you guidelines for using standalone mics to record your piano. Don't hesitate to ask if you have some questions!!!
On a final note i'ld like to direct you guys to a youtube tutorial i found useful for making interesting dolly shots on a budget (like the one at 0:59 and 1:51 seconds in the "youtube link 4"). Its a DIY version of a product called spider trax dolly. I made one for myself in like 2 hours spending about 75$. You can go really creative with that assuming you have someone to operate the dolly while you are playing. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHV0rqIVEfg