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My question for others--
Were you happy with the way your recording turned out? Specifically, did your technology/equipment accurately represent how you think your performance sounded? What was your method of recording in detail?

My answer to the question.
I felt that my recording was a good representation of the performance. I used two condenser mics placed as far away in my living room as I could. I did open the piano. I ran the mics into a small soundboard, and then ran a line out to an external sound card, ran a usb to my laptop, and recorded using audacity. I played my piece in two segments, using a natural rest in the middle to eliminate the fatigue/boredom/nervous mistakes that always happen at the end of a long take.
The one thing that I was not happy with was the amount of echo space that I hear in the recording. I think my room is too small for the piano (19x11 or so), and the mics picked up the reverberations that I do not hear when I play live.
I have in the past recorded from a digital direct to audacity, and then I get a very clean recording, but I am never happy with dynamic contrast or the touch when I play.
Does anyone else use any tricks to eliminate echo/reverb when recording?

Thanks
Matt

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It's hard to judge since I find my piano sounds different when I sit right in front from what it sounds like when I'm a few feet away and somebody else is playing it - which is the "sound perspective" the recording equipment picks up.
In general I am content - I replaced the old bad-mic-into-computer-method with a good condenser mic on a stand and a minidisc recorder a while ago. This set up eliminates artifacts, static noise etc. But I would love to record stereo or at least try whether it would sound better, so I am still considering buying a zoom h4.
What leaves me a bit unhappy is that I am not sure I am handling audacity properly or gaining the optimum from it.


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It's hard to judge since I find my piano sounds different when I sit right in front from what it sounds like when I'm a few feet away and somebody else is playing it - which is the "sound perspective" the recording equipment picks up
I hear what you are saying about perspective. I should probably just invite a few friends over to play while I listen, since I'm the only one who's played it much in the room.
Except I'm not sure I'm patient enough to listen to someone else playing my piano.

Matt

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Acoustic recording sounds tricky to do well! I recorded mine by playing on my digital piano (Roland RD-300SX), which was being recorded straight into the sequencer of my Roland Fantom-S that is sat above it by using the MIDI connections. The main reason for doing this was so I could make use of the metronome feature that is present when recording into the sequencer, which made a huge difference to my timing - which is normally awful. Then it was just a case of hitting record in Audacity and playing back the recording on my Roland Fantom-S, whose output is connected to my mixer, which in turn is connected to the input of my sound card. Simple as that smile


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I tried to start a thread related to this last week but didn't get any takers. I'm happier with this recording than previous ones, although I'm still looking to pick up more dynamic contrasts.
I used a zoom H4 with the following settings:
input level at high (used to use medium)
44.1 Hz
24 bits (previously 16 bit default)
autogain off (on before)
input level at 100
mic set to U87 (had used default)
everything else off
recorder placed directly on the floor under the middle of the piano - facing straight up
(added benefit of repeated pushups to reach the record button)
clipping dead space in audacity and then saving the mp3 at 192 kbps (thanks to Ovaltine's reminder)
I didn't normalize this time and didn't make any other changes in audacity.

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Euphonatrix- I just listened to your prokofiev march again. I remember thinking that it sounded like a piece I would enjoy playing. I'm sort of on a russian composer kick right now. I noticed you did get a nice accurate sound with your recording. How did you place the mic? Close, in, or far away.
Rob- you played a nice piece. Do you think replaying it with the phantom changes the sound? Do you also play on an acoustic, or just digital? I am not familiar with the roland equipment, but I have a hard time accepting my own recordings when I go to a digital piano.

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Mistaya- your sonata recording has a very clean sound. I may try your idea of the zoom 4 underneath the piano. I think I can borrow one next week.

I wonder too how much echo in my recording is caused directly by the type/size of the piano itself. perhaps my 6'5" older Chickering would have a more reverberating sound than the Estonia 168 piano you used.

Matt

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Originally posted by greywullf:
Rob- you played a nice piece. Do you think replaying it with the phantom changes the sound? Do you also play on an acoustic, or just digital? I am not familiar with the roland equipment, but I have a hard time accepting my own recordings when I go to a digital piano.
Thanks, hopefully it won't be too long until I can play Rachmaninoff pieces anywhere near as well as you did. smile

Replaying my recording from my Fantom means that I need to use a piano sound thats built into the Fantom (or some other sound module that I can connect to it externally....but thats getting more complicated), rather than use a piano sound from my digital piano itself.

As the recording is stored in the Fantom's sequencer as MIDI information, this also means I can alter the sound (including things such as adjusting the reverb/chorus etc) that I wish to use after it has already been recorded. This way a great take is never ruined by a shoddy 'recording'. It also allows you to do all sorts of "micro editing" as well such as easily deleting bum-notes, changing the dynamics of each note etc, but you'll have to take my word that I didn't actually do this. That would have taken far too much time than I could be bothered with for a recoring that is over three minutes long! wink

Sadly I don't ever have access to an acoustic piano, but this is something I'll definitely be hoping to remedy in the not-so-distant future.


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Greywullf - I know nothing about how to reduce the reverb you are picking up - but I very much enjoyed your nocturne. I have played around with various placements for the zoom - I've done some from a distance away that I've liked because the sound seemed to 'bloom' - but for clarity, I liked this placement. Have fun playing with the H4 - there are many adjustments you can try.

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My recording is worse than usual because I used my camcorder. But generally I use stereo mics to a mixer then to a moto 828 and firewire to my mac. I've played around with all kinds of placements, effects etc but in the end have decided that micing an acoustic piano is just a very difficult thing. I talked with a pro once and she recommended all sorts of things- new mics, pro tools etc. the mics were about $1000 each and pro tools is about $800.

One thing I'm going to do when I get my piano back (it's off getting new hammers) is I'm putting some kind of noise dampers in the corners. I have a wood floor and the echo is bad.

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I recorded this time with the Zoom H4 placed on the right hand side of the music desk. It was pointed toward the center of the piano. I set the mic input volume to M. I did not normalize this time because I thought that doing so might compromise dynamic range. I don't hear a great deal of dynamic range in my recording, but that is probably due more to my playing than the recording.

I think the recording quality was decent, but certainly not excellent. I'm sure external mics would help, but I really like the touch and go aspect of the Zoom. I don't want to screw around with stringing cables and so forth. I'm not playing on a pro level or even a near pro level, so I think the Zoom mics are good enough for me. laugh


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Quote
Originally posted by greywullf:
... I used two condenser mics placed as far away in my living room as I could. I did open the piano...The one thing that I was not happy with was the amount of echo space that I hear in the recording. I think my room is too small for the piano (19x11 or so), and the mics picked up the reverberations that I do not hear when I play live...Does anyone else use any tricks to eliminate echo/reverb when recording?

Thanks
Matt
Hey Matt. The first thing you could do to reduce the reverb in the room is to get the mics closer to the piano to take the effect of the room out of your recording. Unless you are in a concert/ recital hall, you'd want to have them about as far from the piano as you are when you play.

Different pianos (Grands or Uprights) need different mic techniques. So I'll start with the standard Upright Piano.

If you had only one mic, then a good place to try would be just above your head. As you say you have too mics, then try them about a foot either side of your head obviously pointed at the piano.

If you have a Grand Piano, then best place to put one mic would be about 2 feet away from the curve in the piano at a height just below the top of the open lid and aimed slightly down from level. For the two mics you have, try putting them next to each other at a 90 degree angle to each other with the front of the mics facing outwards and aimed near the centre of the piano again about 2 feet away at the same height as for one mic. Or you could place them about a foot apart, both aimed straight at the piano at the same height.

There are many other places to put mics for different sound results. Obviously the larger the room you are in, the further away your mics can be, but even in the largest halls the furthest you would put them would only be about 10 foot away for the main sound and maybe a couple about double that distance to hear the affect of the space you are in.

You would obviously need to turn down the input level of your recordings to account for the increased volume of being closer.

Try some of the suggestions, and maybe move the mics around until you are satisfied with the sound, but in a small room, the closer the better for getting rid of reverb/ echo. Also try adding rugs and other sound absorbing things like couches and heavier curtains to reduce the 'liveness' of the room.

Good luck with it and remember that there is no one perfect mic, room or even piano for every situation. It's all about trial and error and a bit of compromise to get the best result.


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it deserves this effort."

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Good advice from Toddo there, greywullf. You'll definitely want to have the mics closer to the piano to limit the reverb picked up.
This site gives more information about some mic configurations you might try. If your condensers are cardioid mics (or have a cardioid setting), I'd give the XY setup a try. They show it with a mic bar at that site, but you can do the same thing with two stands.

Headphones can be helpful for finding the right position. Set up the mics then sit and play while listening through headphones plugged into your mixer. Just keep moving the mics until you find something you like.

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I just want to express my gratitude for the things I am learning here about recording.

Last year we recorded a Christmas CD for relatives ( my son playing the piano). The audio was pretty miserable but the "cute" factor was big. With what I am learning now, we'll be able to do much better this year.
Thanks to all.

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Hi, Matt. There's really only 3 ways to control the amount of room you get in your recording: mic pattern, mic distance, and room treatment.

I imagine you're using cardioid directional mics, most of which are optimized for about a 12- to 16- inch working distance. As you get closer, the room pickup falls off in accordance with the law of inverse squares. If you want to keep the distance, you might try hanging blankets, closing drapes, stacking up couch cushions in the corners, maybe even drag some mattresses in. I use Auralex Max-walls myself which are 4x6 foot foam pieces supported by a mic stand.

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Thanks for the advice so far.
I did have the mics closer-just outside the rim in a right angle pattern, but I don't remember being happy with the result. I maybe should have adjusted the gain level lower and left them there to see if I could find a sound I liked.

I'll try to post more info as I try different placements.

Matt

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Hi Matt,

Quote

I noticed you did get a nice accurate sound with your recording. How did you place the mic? Close, in, or far away.
Thanks ... smile
My piano has two lids, I opened the rear one which directs soundwaves into the room. The mic was placed at about 4' distance from the instrument, a few inches towards the treble side of the piano (as I noticed a centered setting picks up too much bass), the height was about 4" above the top of the piano.
I should mention that the room is rather small, has wall-to-wall carpeting and a lot of other furniture and books in it. I also have several wall hanging quilts which absorb sound waves, so there is no reverb to speak of. This is helpful, since my instrument is really tall with a large soundboard and capable of a mighty sound.


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I'm pretty unhappy with the quality of my recording; my piano doesn't sound at all 'tinny' in person!

I am picking up some really good ideas for next time here, and will likely invest in a nicer microphone.


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I'm not happy with my recording of Chopin's Nocturne. I have used my digital piano to record through MIDI using Native Instruments Akoustik Piano, but I don't like that library lately. I feel the dynamic range is limited, and my pianissimo is key-bombing, whereas my fortissimo sounds like "oh, I just don't have the power". Also the separate notes sound... separate. Because it can't really simulate acoustic behaviour, it feels very artificial to me. I hope to buy Garritan Steinway library in few weeks time to enrich my recordings - as buying an acoustic piano is not a way for me. Unfortunately my Kawai digital piano has no line out outputs, and the output from headphone outs is not good enough to make a recording - or at least, it is for me.


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Mateusz


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Originally posted by yermej:
... This site gives more information about some mic configurations you might try. If your condensers are cardioid mics (or have a cardioid setting), I'd give the XY setup a try. They show it with a mic bar at that site, but you can do the same thing with two stands.
Excellent suggestion yermej. As they say "a picture tells a thousand words", hence my decision to not describe those placements and not get too technical. Nice find!


"Persevere,
do not only practice your art,
but endeavor also to fathom it's inner meaning;
it deserves this effort."

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