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Old October 25th, 2010, 12:15 PM   #1
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Mic for grand piano

A while back I received some great advice from this forum on miking music recitals. The thread eventually morphed into a discussion regarding sync licenses, rights, etc. This time, my question is more specific: Does anyone here have any experience with the AMT M40 piano mic? I'd like to try and clean up the stage and loose a couple of mic stands/boom poles for the next recital and one sure way to lose one or two is to use mic that can be placed inside the piano. Can't afford the Earthworks PM40 so I'm looking at the AMT M40.

Anyone???

Thanks
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Old October 25th, 2010, 08:19 PM   #2
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I guess it depends what kind of music you're recording (among other things) and how fussy the pianist etc is/are.

My wife was a concert pianist and she still does a few local concerts a year with strings. All classical.

She would castrate me or worse if I put ANYTHING on the soundboard of her piano (as was suggested for the AMT M40).

What I have gotten away with was to stick a DPA 4061 under the lid of the piano. In addition to that I've tried using magnetic clips to put the DPA mics on the frame. With the top up, the lid mounted mic is - OK. With the lid closed it picks up too much hammer impact - not the clump of the hammer hitting the string so much as a slightly "thunky" or chunky onset to the note. I've tried moving the mic around but am yet to find the golden spot (if there is one)

Also have never been too happy with the mics mounted on the steel frame. Just doesn't sound like a piano should sound (at least to us)

All in all, I have yet to find a way of putting the mics inside the piano that I'd really want to use for the final recording. At least for a recording of classical music. Maybe as an additional track to mix with the main pair, but I just wouldn't use them as the only mics.

Piano is a hard instrument to get right - I'm still playing with ideas.

Again, this all applies to classical - if I were doing jazz or pop, I might be OK with the inside the box mics.

Admittedly, my wife is fussy - she wants to clearly hear the difference between her Bechstein and her Yamaha!

Edit: I realize I haven't answered your question specifically about the AMT M40 - just passing along my experience with micing inside the piano! I don't know anyone who uses the mic you mentioned.

Last edited by Jim Andrada; October 25th, 2010 at 10:35 PM.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:56 AM   #3
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For recording live recitals I plan to use the Sennheiser MKH 8020 omnis.

I will use the heads only on a small stereo bar and feeding with a Sennheiser Y-cable down a single extension tube (1 x 12ocm tube, 1 x 60cm upright, + swivel and base + modify a remote cable to XLR-5 out).

This will be small and almost invisible on stage.

I would not use mics inside a piano for recording a recital wrong sort of sound for that.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:58 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
Again, this all applies to classical - if I were doing jazz or pop, I might be OK with the inside the box mics.
Agreed



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
Admittedly, my wife is fussy - she wants to clearly hear the difference between her Bechstein and her Yamaha!
That's not fussy at all - that's normal.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 02:42 PM   #5
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Hi John

Just a question - have you ever used a ribbon mic for piano? I'm pretty happy with the Schoeps pair but have heard good things about ribbons so just thought I'd ask.

Re fussy - took her three years to pick the Bechstein - we "interviewed" everything from Boesendorfers to Yamahas everywhere from Tokyo to Boston to San Francisco. I remember her trying a piano at a Steinway store and thinking it wasn't bad. Went back a week or so later to look at it again and she played it a couple of minutes and asked the salesman where they had moved the one she had liked. She was (of course) right - it was a different piano and it sounded different.

Sort of an irrelevant cute story - except that I think we tend to lose sight of the fact that performers are really sensitive to the particular sound they want and they aren't interested in our stories about how the XYZ mic or the UVW setup is world renowned for their particular instrument. If it doesn't sound the way they want, the recordist is in the doghouse!!!
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Old October 26th, 2010, 02:49 PM   #6
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I agree that a more natural sound is preferred. I was wondering if anyone had real experience with this mic and could comment on its performance.

Recently, my 11 year old son appeared in an off-Broadway musical where he and a few other performers were playing the piano. The audio engineer gaffered two large diaphragm mics (one was a Neumann, I think the other was an AT?) to two of the ribs on the frame. Piano sounded pretty good in the mix. I don't think this is an option for the recital as there is little time for setup and there is no budget to hire a dedicated audio tech (believe me, I wish there was!).

Is there too much of a compromise in sound (for this type of program - i.e DVDs for parents) vs the gain in setup time reduction of set clutter? I want to capture the best sound that I can given the limitations.

Thanks
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Old October 26th, 2010, 03:27 PM   #7
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Hi Reed

Sorry but I've never come across that particular mic so can't give any specific advice.

But I'm not sure that mics on stage are all that bothersome - if the mics are black or gray in front of a black piano I don't think anyone will notice.

Honestly I think the mic inside the piano can take more setup time than the external mics - a mic inside the piano is really sensitive to exactly WHERE inside the piano it sits and I think you have to play around with it to get it in a spot where action noise/hammer noise, etc aren't too troublesome - also getting a good balance between bass and treble is tricky and quite position dependent.

If the lid is going to be open, hanging the mic from the lid can work reasonably well. I found some blue tacky sort of modeling clay like stuff at the hardware store that's intended for sticking paper etc together - it's strong enough for a mini mic and doesn't leave any residue when you take it off - also doesn't pull the finish off the piano.

By the way, I've seen mics placed UNDER the piano pointing up at the soundboard. Haven't done it myself though. A lot of sound comes from the underside of the piano. Might be really bass-heavy though - also might emphasize the pedal noise.

However - for a DVD for parents, maybe we're worrying too much.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 03:53 PM   #8
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A customer of mine sent me this video of a piano and violin duet he recorded:
YouTube - Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Keith Snell & Matt Mazzei for the Rainbow Delegation

It's pretty decent for a living room setup ...

He used 2 Shure Beta 87A microphones going into a juicedLink DT454, recorded by a Canon 5D MarkII (a second 5D was used for complimentary shots).

I'll find out from him where he placed the piano mic ...
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Old October 26th, 2010, 08:18 PM   #9
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Might be wrong but I think I can see it at the end of the piano opposite the keyboard.

FYI - Here's one of my wife's living room concerts

https://files.me.com/jimandrada/ausujt.mp3
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Old October 26th, 2010, 08:42 PM   #10
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Excellent information here: Applications - SCHOEPS.de
It's an interactive, drill down to the piano examples...tip: play each mike separately from the start to hear the difference in the placements.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 09:33 PM   #11
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Hi,.......................

There's a killer article on this subject (tho' don't know if it mentions your specific mic) written by Mike Senior in the on - line section of Sound On Sound magazine, here:

Piano Recording

Probably more than you really want to know on the subject, but boy, comprehensive or what!


CS
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Old October 26th, 2010, 09:34 PM   #12
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DPA says that they have a CD showing different mic types etc for piano - but I've never figured out how to get one - e-mails to their US office seem to be completely ignored.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 11:13 PM   #13
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Thanks everyone for pointing the direction to some great links. Battle, the Schoeps demo was very interesting. I spent way too much time playing with the different combos.

Robert, I'd love to know what was used for the piano. It looks like there's an empty mic clip at the end of the piano (or do I need a larger monitor?)

Jim, I don't think we sampled a Bechstein when we looked for piano for our son. I know the Yamahas are very bright and might and cut through the other instruments a bit better than most which is why you often see them when not solo. For the past few sessions, I've used Shure SM81s for the piano and viiolin, SM57s for guitar (acoustic and amp). I've attached a short clip from a piano solo from June. Single SM81 on a boom over the mid-end of the piano. You can see it as the camera pulls out at the end of the youngster's performance. This particular recital was the only one of the 10 recorded over two weekend that was piano only.

I thought it was interesting that Schoeps included a boundary mic in their sample. Seemed a bit dull and I wonder if the AMT will perform similarly.

Jim, I can understand your wife's reluctance to place anything on the frame. I would think it would need s some decent amount of mass in order to stay put.

Chris H, if you read this... is there a repository (maybe a sticky compilation?) for some of the links and info users have submitted here? Some really good info...

Thanks everyone. I'll play with some mics (hidden and not) and try to post some samples.
Attached Files
File Type: mov Jun 19R5.mov (8.56 MB, 100 views)
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Old October 27th, 2010, 12:58 AM   #14
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Just for the record we recorded with a Schoeps M/S pair - figure 8 and omni. Mic was placed about 7 feet up and about level with the small end of the piano (and about three feet in front)and aimed to "split the difference" between violin and center of keyboard. I was trying (rightly or wrongly) to get more of a sense of dialogue rather than a violin backed by the piano. Piano started out on short (about 1 foot) stick but at the dress rehearsal we noticed that it was still a little too strong for the violin so we made a small cloth covered block that only opened the lid about 4 to 5 inches. Recorded into an SD 702

Yamaha makes some exceptionally nice pianos. Every make and every individual piano does sound quite different.

I think the Schoeps site had the boundary mic stuck under the lid - pretty much where I have the DPA 4061 but maybe a bit closer to the keyboard. I can't seem to find the file I was looking for - I was recording an additional track from the DPA and it would give a good idea of the difference. I'll keep hunting for it.

Edit: Found it! https://files.me.com/jimandrada/5f1wgy.mp3

Sounds much better when the top is open and the mic is a couple feet above the strings, but still more clunky

Last edited by Jim Andrada; October 27th, 2010 at 02:02 AM.
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Old October 27th, 2010, 04:57 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
Hi John

Just a question - have you ever used a ribbon mic for piano? I'm pretty happy with the Schoeps pair but have heard good things about ribbons so just thought I'd ask.
No, I have not used ribbons.

For recording a grand piano I always use omnis - a directional mic. loses the bottom octave of the piano.

I once had to do a recording in a difficult acoustic - so I went with the pianist to do a recce and we did some test recordings with the microphones in different positions. I used a spaced pair of MKH 20 omnis and an MS pair of MKH 30/40 (the 40 cardioid does go lower than most other cardioids).

In comparison, the piano sound recorded by the MS pair sounded thin and lacking in bass compared to the omnis.

So we used the omnis - but in a position I would not normally have used, to help compensate for the room.

The resulting CD was released on Cirrus Digital Classics and is still available from the Pianist HERE.

The CD in question is the Chopin Nocturnes one.

I also recorded six other CDs on that link. The Chelsea one with MKH 20s - The "Richard Meyrick plays..." series with Neumann KM 183-D digital mics. I also recorded the solo piano works (not the orchestral tracks - first piece) with the KM-D series.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
Re fussy - took her three years to pick the Bechstein - we "interviewed" everything from Boesendorfers to Yamahas everywhere from Tokyo to Boston to San Francisco. I remember her trying a piano at a Steinway store and thinking it wasn't bad. Went back a week or so later to look at it again and she played it a couple of minutes and asked the salesman where they had moved the one she had liked. She was (of course) right - it was a different piano and it sounded different.

Sort of an irrelevant cute story - except that I think we tend to lose sight of the fact that performers are really sensitive to the particular sound they want and they aren't interested in our stories about how the XYZ mic or the UVW setup is world renowned for their particular instrument. If it doesn't sound the way they want, the recordist is in the doghouse!!!
This is not fussy at all and is normal for any good pianist.

A pianist is very particular about the piano and how it sounds.

When recording we need to be sensitive to this and to try and capture the performance as best we can - using the best possible microphones in the best position for the piano, the piece and the room.

It's no good doing it any old way so that the listener cant tell a Steinway from a Bluethner (for example).

NB: I am talking here about a piano recital - for different music genres and where other instruments may also be used (eg: Jazz and pop), then different microphones or positionings may be used. But for a classical piano recital, it's nothing but SDC omnis for me.
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