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#1625543 02/21/11 09:52 PM
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JeanieA Offline OP
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A search of the archives didn't reveal a satisfactory answer for me, so I'm turning to you more experienced out there...

Although I really did want to participate in the last recital, work duties kept me from polishing a piece to my satisfaction. [mutters sotto voce about federal standardized testing in elementary schools]. My last two submissions were recorded by simply pulling a dining room chair up next to the upright, plunking the laptop on it, and recording directly onto the computer through Audacity. It wasn't a terrific solution, but worked OK. Reading through both the pre and post-recital chatter this time, it looks like a higher level of audio quality in a submission may be in order as I really don't want to be judged on the quality of my piano. Since my last recital submission I've replaced my upright with a vintage grand which is in the, well, not exactly restoration process, but more like 'do-the-very-best-with-the-money-at-hand-a-little-bit-at-a-time' process. It's coming along pretty well. smile

So, here's the question: If there's really no extra funds to spend on a Zoom (I'd really rather put any 'extra' cash away for the ongoing piano work) what's the best way to get a halfway decent recording? Set the laptop on the closed lid? I'd worry about funny vibration noises, but at least the controls would be in reach. Or set the laptop to just record away and set it UNDER the piano (with the dog outside or there'd be some interesting snuffle sounds). Or set the laptop across the room?

There must be some workable low-bucks option for us enthusiastic but currently less-than-flush shy recital participant wannabees? I'm betting someone on here's figured out a terrific solution; please share!


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I would suggest looking at USB microphones, as possibly the cheapest way to improve your recording quality.
They can range from under $50, upwards.
A low cost example can be seen here:
http://www.zzounds.com/item--CADU37


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JeanieA, I use a little rolling laptop table I got from an office supply store, quite inexpensively, to put things like the recorder within reach, but not on the piano.

If you do put your laptop on the piano, maybe you could fold a towel several times and let it rest on that. At least it would help with your thumps.

I think Rob is right about an external mic pair giving you the most improvement for your money. That, or something a little better than the Zoom (at least, with better built-in mikes). As to the close or far question, trial-and-error is really the only solution--- and even if you had a very expensive recorder, that's still what you would have to do.

I've heard great variation in the sound-engineering quality of submissions for the online recitals. Not everyone is going to judge or scold based on that--- and it's my understanding that it's not what the event is about, or for. I think it's about having fun, developing as a musician, and the enjoyment of sharing. So, I hope you just do your best and don't worry about anything else.


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JeanieA Offline OP
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Rob & Jeff, thanks for the mic suggestion. I can afford that AND justify the purchase as well by using it for my students' podcasting start-up!


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JeanieA,

I just need to say that I have no experience with that model, as to it's quality/value, or lack thereof.
The reviews seem ok, though.

Also, if you can, check out 'Samson' USB mics.
Slightly more expensive, but good quality for the money

Last edited by R0B; 02/21/11 11:06 PM. Reason: added information

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The Blue Microphones Snowball isn't much more expensive, and I get great results with it for a quick recording.


Rachel Jimenez Piano teacher in Brooklyn, NY / Author of Fundamental Keys method
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I agree, Rachel.
I was trying to think of the Snowball, but couldn't remember the name blush


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Thanks, Rob, duly noted. I will do some research before buying. There's obviously no rush since the next recital isn't until May, but having the recording capability ahead of time allows me LOTS of time to figure things out and work toward that 'perfect' recording!


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JeanieA, the Zoom H1 is only 97 bucks on amazon. That's going to be very close to what you'd pay for a condenser mic, yet I think the odds are that you will get much better sound with it, not to mention being an easier setup. I never had much luck getting my condenser mic/audacity setup to work without clipping and distortion. frown


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Also try the ebay auctions. New Zoom H1's and H2's can be bought for very good prices.

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Originally Posted by Monica K.
JeanieA, the Zoom H1 is only 97 bucks on amazon. That's going to be very close to what you'd pay for a condenser mic, yet I think the odds are that you will get much better sound with it, not to mention being an easier setup. I never had much luck getting my condenser mic/audacity setup to work without clipping and distortion. frown


Hi Jeanie, I have the Zoom H1, as do many others here, and I love it. I used to record just with my little Flip video recorder, but the sound was awful. I've really been digging the H1. ( I normalize with Audacity )

It's worth it's weight in gold, and fortunately it only costs around $100.

(and no, I don't work in the Zoom H1 marketing department, but sometimes I feel like I do! grin )


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BenPiano - I have been very impressed with the quality of your YouTube videos. Is it difficult to sync the video from your Flip HD to the audio from your Zoom H1 and what software do you use?



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Bill -- In the recital Call for Submissions thread there was a discussion about merging audio and video. There was a lot of other stuff in that thread, so you might have to dig. I use Windows Movie Maker, which is free, though not all that great. Some other software and method were also discussed.

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Originally Posted by Monica K.
JeanieA, the Zoom H1 is only 97 bucks on amazon. That's going to be very close to what you'd pay for a condenser mic, yet I think the odds are that you will get much better sound with it, not to mention being an easier setup. I never had much luck getting my condenser mic/audacity setup to work without clipping and distortion. frown


Quote
Rob & Jeff, thanks for the mic suggestion. I can afford that AND justify the purchase as well by using it for my students' podcasting start-up!


I just want to point out that a Zoom CAN be used as a microphone as well as a stand alone recording device. Just plug the "line out" from the Zoom to the "Mic in" on some other device and it becomes a microphone. (I use mine as a mic for my piano tuning program.)

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Generally merging sound and video should not be too hard if you have a video editing program with multiple audio/video tracks layout. Then you can visually synchronize the audio from your Zoom with the audio from your camera and then mute the cameras sound before exporting/rendering the final product.

The layout I mean is something like on the picture below. With zooming in on the sound it easy to find the same starting point of your performance and sync. your sounds.
[Linked Image]

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Originally Posted by BillM
BenPiano - I have been very impressed with the quality of your YouTube videos. Is it difficult to sync the video from your Flip HD to the audio from your Zoom H1 and what software do you use?


Hi Bill, and thanks! I use the video software that came with my computer, Windows Live Movie Maker. Combining the video and audio is fairly easy.

I have to do mine manually by adjusting the time when the audio starts, down to hundredth of seconds. Fortunately, our eyes and ears aren't so good, and I've noticed that the window for timing can be off by as much as about 0.2 seconds without noticing any really bad delay. Once you get used to doing it, it doesn't take long at all to do.


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BenPiano, Bluekeys, Rozina - thanks for your help. I'm trying to decide if I should upgrade to the Zoom Q3HD or just get the Zoom H1 and integrate the audio with my existing Flip HD (I'm pretty satisfied with the video).

Your comments are very helpful.


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Rozina, that's one fancy looking screen shot! wow What program is that you're using?

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That was a random picture from google images with a search "video editing software" laugh I was just trying to show the layout. The program in the picture is cinelerra which is a linux editing program. I my self use sony vegas, which is expensive if you want to buy it. I don't know any other software, but I would assume that most editors have an option for layout like that. So check in your program if there is an option for changing the layout to a more "professional" one or you can look for some other software out there.

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Maybe you already have some decent mic?

The mic in your laptop might be decent, if treated and prepped carefully. I think you will be stuck with mono though. Don't place it on the lid. Determine where the mic is in your laptop first. Then make sure that the mic can "view" into your piano directly. Place the laptop on a solid place half a meter to a meter from the piano.

Alternatvely you may have a video camera? I am using one and the bass is slightly weak but the overall sound is pretty ok I think. That usually gives you stereo.

If you have to use your laptop, try to get it as silent as possible, maybe you can spin down the HD and make sure its fans don't turn on. Also you may compare using a power adapter versus running on batteries. If you have an external mic for your laptop, place the laptop far away from the mic.

In all cases make sure you manually adjust the volume. Auto volume is a sure way to spoil your recording as it flattens out all dynamics that you worked on painstakingly!

Whether you use the laptop or not, I recommend to place the mic half a meter to a meter away from the piano to get some room acoustics but not too much. Most here prefer to stick the mic inside the piano, but I just don't like that sound. Also it may cause your mic to get overpowered by the volume of the piano. If possible keep both piano and mic well away from the walls to avoid booming bass. Place mic somewhat above the ground to avoid direct reflection. These are just hints, you have to play with it to get a good placement. Of course it never will sound better than the piano is wink

BTW I think there probably are some good separate external mics available. I heard very good reviews about the samson USB condenser mic at $99 but then you're almost at a pro level so there must be very good mics for $30 I would expect?



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