Show 187 – Grand Piano Recording and more!

This week we talk about acoustic piano recording, comparing various mics and stereo techniques. Our guest this week is Brian Casey of Wavefield Audio in Ireland.

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21 thoughts on “Show 187 – Grand Piano Recording and more!

    • Hey Billy. Glad you liked it. That piece will probably end up in a library of music I’m putting together for film, TV, multimedia etc. One of the main reasons I was experimenting with new sounds on this particular piano was for such recordings/compositions where the piano would be quite exposed or where it would have to get certain emotions/feels across, the kind of things sampled pianos still can’t touch.

      • Yeah Brian, that beginning piece was incredible. when its completed, please inform HRS, i would gladly spend an iTunes dollar to have the on immediate recall! Or, i could just give you the dollar, either way is fine with me.

  1. Hey guys, beautiful piano segment by Brian. Very well done!

    My favorite for the solo performance was the spaced pair behind the player, followed by the MS pair, though I think the MS would work much better in a mix. My least fav was the XY, though it still sounded very good.

    mics under the piano was very moody and creepy in the opening passage. dug that.

    Also, I agree completely that the future is MONO!

    rock on.

    • Hey Rene,

      Interesting that you didn’t like the XY, I’ve been thinking it will be my prefered way for alot of stuff when combined with some distant room mikes in omni, but the point is they’re all useful. I even did recordings with the microphones pointing straight up at the lid of the piano completely away from the strings and that was cool, somewhere between the others and the underneath example.

      After all I said about mono and not using huge stereo, I was listening to a Madeleine Peyroux record the other day, amazingly well recorded/produced, and the piano sound is crazily wide in it, and it completely works, as where there might be a hole in the middle is being filled by double bass and all kinds of thing, but its really expertly done…so many ways to skin a cat, or wait, this is HRS, so many ways to ride a chicken is more like it!

      • Brian,

        When prepping to track piano are you thinking ahead of time what the overall mix will be? What role those piano parts will play in the tune? I say this because with a good idea of where the song will end up you can track with a certain method to help achieve the end result.

        So if you know that “hole in the middle” is going to be needed because of the song arrangement, then the crazy-wide imaging and mic placement makes sense. I find it’s often tough to have a hard and fast vision of what the final product will be – so there’s some exploration and guessing that happens.

        I guess in a perfect world you’d simultaneously track with a couple of mic configs and then have room to choose later on as you flesh out the rest of the song. Of course now you’re dealing with mo’ mics, mo’ preamps, and mo’ money.

        One method I find interesting is the Blumlein pair. A couple of ribbon mics in the Blumlein config sound cool on drums in my big room. It doesn’t work for everything, but piano in a good room could potentially benefit.

        • Hey Andy,

          It varies alot, its usually in cases where pianos a really important part and one of the first things to be tracked that I spend ages worrying about what configuration and what tone I’m getting from my microphone placement…then there are times when its added after a while at the end of tracking where someone decides something needs filling out, so I’ll usually just throw up what ever I have, minimise the room sound and take it for granted that I’ll be shaping the sound with EQ and possibly giving it space with short delays etc, so the original sound is a little less critical.

          MS is only a stones throw from Blumlein really I guess, and I felt that in my room that Blumlein would give the actual piano less focus. I’d like to have a close microphone and a Blumlein a little back, could be a great way to feel the ambience. All I’m missing from my mike locker at present is a pair of Ribbins, which is soon to be rectified…I have high hopes for ribbins on piano as I think they’ll handle the attack the way I like with that little high frequency drop off. I’m just torn between a long and hsort ribbin design.

          Like anything else, manychoices, but I do feel with a piano vs a drum kit for example you have to commit to the sound from day one if its exposed in the mix because it has that dynamic range and the potential for real staccato stuff or completely washy sustain across essentially all of the audable spectrum, but yeah, it does really help to know the material that’s going to be recorded to make an informed decision…which is the nice comfort about just adding in piano for flavour towards the end of a tracking session…there’s alot of pressure to a song that works the other way round with the piano at the core of things.

          • I’ve had the Cascade Fathead II Ribbon mics for some time. Surprisingly great sounding ribbon mics – mine came with the mounting bar for the Blumlein pair. I’ve loved these on acoustic sources.

            Of course, a great pair of Royers would be wonderful but not all of us are out there dropping $3k on a pair of mics these days…

  2. Hey Ryan. A quick question on Amazon… So I am a “Huge” Amazon user & Buyer and i am also a subscriber to amazon prime. (its Amazons answer to netflix minus the DVD in mail) but the subscription includes 2 day delivery on “Any order & Any product!” Its actually really Narly!! so my question is… How can I use this to help support my favorite thing on the web “The Home Recording Show” Podcast!! Its almost as awesome as looking at boobies on the web… (side note) Has anyone ever realized that in the future people will be able to look at their great great grand pappy’s facial book page? Crazy Huh? any way, I buy a lot of shit that i usually dont need and end up depressed because of it and sometimes returning it. Amazon are the absolute Coolest Honkey Crakas on dis planet!! (sorry, ive been dying to put a quote from the show “Black Dynamite” show from Adult Swim somewhere, and you guys have always let me write the useless, left field and way off topic comments… shit… Even better, YOU GUYS READ MY NONSENSE ON AIR!! its every schizophrenic’s dream come true) BOOBIES!! what? oh sorry. So, is there a way my support can be given through you guys after buying that next pair of woman’s panties to try on.. I mean for my wife on Hamazon? Im not going to suck ass because everyone tells you both how great of a job your doing so because I love you both and this show so much, Im going to tell you something out of love and honesty. Your show isnt number one on itunes WTF? How can I brag on a show when someone ask me what rating level your at on itunes? SO F%*#ing embarrassing!! and you should both do better because you both fucked up and gave this service for free.. (you moronic white honkies) so here is 50 bucks but you now have to read all of my post “FIRST” For 3 months.. Boobies!! What? Huh? so thank you both for the Great job you do on a weekly basis and I could NEVER say or write a bad thing about you or this show. Boobies bowl of buttholes YEAY!!

  3. Gents,

    What’s your favorite balanced cable/connector? I need to make some new cables (since Ryan poo-poo’d Monoprice in #187). I was leaning toward Canare from Redco. I have some Mogami’s and a Canare already and can’t justify the price difference.

    Where do you typically purchase your bulk materials?

  4. Hey guys…. Dont worry, this shall be a legit question. are these daisy dooks riding my ass to high you think? (insert who sample here)
    When I begin mic plasement on the kit… Im still not sure on the best & “esiest” way to check phase. So correct me if any of the following statements wrong… when checking fase, for example… the kick against the overheads, Im listening for any low end drop? if that is so, is it usually or always a subtle difference in sound? In you guys everyday experience, what are the microphones that are usually out of phase on your first listen usually if any? Ive finally gotten used to trusting my dirty crusty satanic metal filled ears but hate always having the feeling of not knowing for sure if I truely understand what i should be listening for. This is a perfect exaple of the kind of questions I feel you guys are good at explaining. I mean yea, I could easily go to my library of magazines & books I have on this topic but im not looking for the text book answere. I wana know how Ryan & Jon tackle this issue… It may very well be the text book way. I look forward to hearing the answer.
    PS: I totally have to give Jon props on the joke he made about the “B” word… BEHRINGER Jon? thats frik”n HILARIOUS!! Im not kidding when i say I was in the middle of a pepsie sip when out of my nostrils came a pepsie spray blast when you said that!! Remember the part on the movie step brothers with will feral and the drum set and his balls? well that’s what i always feel compelled to do when i see BEHRINGER on any product….. and un-expecting sleeping best friends once in a while… (End comment here with giggidy)

  5. What a show! Brian, the segment was amazing and I agree with everyone above, The music you were playing was great ( Creaky Chair / Knees included).

    The MS Setup was probably my favorite, But they all sounded great. I didn’t mind the X/Y but I probably wouldn’t choose it first, at least in the solo piano situation. I’ve been playing around with mono mic placements on Acoustic Guitar recently and the difference that so many little variables can make surprises me. Moving the mic an inch in any direction or simply adjusting the angle gives such different results. I think if you have a session planned for piano, acoustic, drums etc it is worth while taking a night in the studio to run through the basic mic placements and even some wacky ones to see what kind of sound you can get.

    I had the pleasure of interviewing Slau this week for the podcast and needless to say the topic of conversation was gear and microphones. This is another massive thing to consider for the final sound. A good old fashioned shoot out is probably the best way. Pick 3 or 4 mics that you know will be close to the sound you want and try them out.

    When you think about the complexities of recording acoustic instruments, you can see why VI’s were invented, but you can’t quite beat the sound of air moving around in a room.

    The Slau episode of the podcast will be out on Thursday 11th October if anyone wants to check it out.

    thanks again for a great show guys, If Brian’s Legal team allow it you should definitely have him back on. The dry Irish humor cracks me up every time.



    • Hey James,

      Wow will definitely check out your episode with Slau, now he’s in a different league entirely! Some day I’ll catch up with the likes of him!

      Glad you enjoyed the segment too, the legal eagles will work out something for the future I’m sure, luckily the home recording show has a huge budget for liable actions and the associated monitary fall out. Everyone should still probably up their donations though for the time being just to make sure!

  6. TFAGS. I record mostly acoustic instruments so this hits high on my favorite list.

    A while ago I mixed some songs that were recorded at a studio where they have a 7-foot Kawai miked up. It’s in a purpose built room for grand piano. The engineer used an AKG C24 set up as an MS pair in the front of the piano, from the listener’s perspective. He also miked from the player’s perspective (over the shoulder) with a pair of omni SDC mics. (I don’t recall which ones.) It gave me some good options for mixing.

    Unfortunately, one of the three players liked to release the sustain pedal abruptly. So even with the great sound, or maybe because of it, I get this very audible “thump” every time the sustain pedal is released. I did my best to minimize the sound, even surgically EQing the short moment in some exposed passages. I’m not totally happy with the result. Any tips on how to remove, or greatly lessen a “thump” like that? FYI, the “thump” resonates throughout the piano. Lots of frequencies involved.

  7. Hey don,

    Unfortunately, beyond what you’ve mentioned there’s probably little else you can do if someone likes to treat the sustain pedal like a kick drum pedal!

    You do raise a very interesting point about those hits of the pedal exciting all the strings, which is a problem.

    Sometimes we just have to live with these noises, hope nobody else notices them as much as we do and when they do notice them, just say you were embracing the way it went down on the day!

    It won’t do much to help more than likely, but multiband compression could help to soften the blow of that pedal thumping, often if you get the attack and release right to just clamp down on the problem noise it can be a better solution than EQ. If you play around with it in realtime first, then save a preset and then just apply that processing to just the offending parts it could help some what.

    There are various transient shapers out there too that can work on different frequency bands, so all those combined will either help you a small bit, or just get you into an even more horrible and overwhelming mixing mess.

    Remember whatever you do, don’t spend any huge blocks of time working on it, and do revisits instead to keep the perspective. In the end, maybe its good to say “so what there’s pedal noise on this piano recording, pianos have pedals, and they make noise”.!!

  8. Wish I wasn’t behind when I listened to this episode. Between the time the episode aired and I listened to it, I had the opportunity to record a 9-foot Steinway is a church sanctuary. Read about it here:

    I recorded a number of songs – mostly intended for solo or duet pieces. For those I used a spaced pair – really spaced – with a ribbon over the bass strings nearer the back end of the piano and a tube condenser closer to the hammers over the tenor/treble strings.

    The last two songs I tracked are going to be part of band arrangements, though, so I swapped things around to mid-side. Looking forward to getting a chance to mix everything, and will be following up on my blog about it.

    BTW, GSAA and TFAGS!

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