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Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
#2373982 01/15/15 07:40 PM
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Hi all,

Honest opinions welcome for this one - I'll be strong :-)

I'm just setting out with a drummer and jazz/blues guitarist to form a jazz/blues trio heavily based around tunes by Ray Charles with some Dr John New Orleans and boogie styling too.

Our maiden gig is a fun/friendly staff re-union dinner (about 50 diners) held in a large wood-panelled room with wooden parquet floors. I was going to use their own grand piano with the top open, plus a drummer on acoustic kit (2 toms, floor tom, jazz bass drum and snare, high-hat, cymbal, etc) and guitarist on Strat or Gibson. I have a softer smoky 'Mel Tormé'type vocal. The drummer is concerned they will need to 'play down' to the lower volume of the piano' and is insisting I play my old Korg SP-250 for a more balanced and amplified sound. To be honest, with that we've never achieved a good sound with the Korg in our other line-ups anyway.

My gut feeling is, a 6ft grand with top open, will be plenty loud for things like New York State of Mind, Unchain My Heart, I Put a Spell on You, Such A Night. etc. And also, it looks more in-keeping with a dinner-jazz evening. I'm acutely averse to deafening people during meals. Plus, as a pianist, I feel more at home and think it's a shame not to use a 'real' piano if there is one there, rather than sitting at an 'ironing board' keyboard.

Thoughts? Honest,but not too brutal.. LOL Cheers guys.

Last edited by Honkytonkman; 01/15/15 07:40 PM.
Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
Honkytonkman #2374005 01/15/15 08:57 PM
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I don't think one can answer your question other than to say that you have to try and see what works best. Not only the acoustics of the venue with 50 people in need to be taken into account, but you have to consider also the voicing of the piano. The make of the piano and condition of the piano, the hardness of the hammers, all will all have an overall effect on the tonal characteristics and the projection of the piano.

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Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
Honkytonkman #2374026 01/15/15 09:37 PM
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You can always mic the acoustic piano to give it a bit of extra juice. It can sound really good in a venue designed for microphones (not a classical concert hall). For an example of how it can balance, watch this:



The drummer there isn't holding back.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
phantomFive #2374056 01/15/15 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
You can always mic the acoustic piano to give it a bit of extra juice. It can sound really good in a venue designed for microphones (not a classical concert hall). For an example of how it can balance, watch this:



The drummer there isn't holding back.

Miking an acoustic piano is hard. I was recently at an event where a beautiful grand piano was reduced to the tone quality of a cheap digital due to someone just sticking a mike in there and sending it through the sound system. Really you need a high quality group of microphones and a knowledgeable engineer. In your situation I'd say just put the lid up, make sure the lid is angled toward the audience, and give the drummer a towel or two if needed smile pianos do have their own built in amplification.


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Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
Honkytonkman #2374072 01/15/15 11:29 PM
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Usually it is best to "Stick With What You Know," as the old saying goes. There are fewer and fewer players who know how to play in an acoustic mix and your drummers concerns indicate they don't even want to try.

Something like the Roland V-piano would be excellent for your situation. You can dial in the exact balance and piano sound you want and can create presets for the different piano styles.



Enjoy


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
hreichgott #2374124 01/16/15 03:44 AM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
Originally Posted by phantomFive
You can always mic the acoustic piano to give it a bit of extra juice. It can sound really good in a venue designed for microphones (not a classical concert hall). For an example of how it can balance, watch this:



The drummer there isn't holding back.

Miking an acoustic piano is hard. I was recently at an event where a beautiful grand piano was reduced to the tone quality of a cheap digital due to someone just sticking a mike in there and sending it through the sound system. Really you need a high quality group of microphones and a knowledgeable engineer. In your situation I'd say just put the lid up, make sure the lid is angled toward the audience, and give the drummer a towel or two if needed smile pianos do have their own built in amplification.

It's not that hard. If the room is small, then the primary sound will still come from the piano. The mic is just there to give it a little boost. As long as your speakers aren't so bad that you're getting distortion, it will sound fine (because once again, the primary sound is from the piano).


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
Honkytonkman #2374163 01/16/15 06:43 AM
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My one and only experience of a jazz club (Ronnie Scott's in London) totally put me off jazz concerts completely.

The pianist, playing a Yamaha baby grand with lid up, was totally drowned out by the drummer (who seemed to think he was the star of the show), and though I was sitting at a table with a few friends quite a way back, my ears were hurting. I had to make my excuses and leave, within less than 20 minutes.

If the members of that trio were listening to each other, they certainly weren't showing any evidence of it. But everyone else seemed to be enjoying their playing, and I didn't see anyone wearing ear plugs, so maybe it's just me......

At least, your drummer seems to have some consideration with regards to balance.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
Honkytonkman #2374218 01/16/15 09:59 AM
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Acoustic should be fine. Drummers always complain about having to be quiet. smile


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
Honkytonkman #2374391 01/16/15 03:49 PM
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Does your drummer have a "Jazz" kit, which is typically small as compared to other setups. And does he/she use brushes a lot? A Jazz kit and a drummer who uses brushes = not too loud.


Piano teacher.
Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
Honkytonkman #2379316 01/28/15 07:48 PM
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Hi all,

Many thanks for taking the time to pen your thoughts.

The drummer backed down eventually. He pushed the digital piano argument a bit too vehmently so I suggested that for a sound we could control 100%, he could play an electronic drum kit. The horror on his face...

Plus, I reminded him how we wanted to create an ambience for this particular evening, in addition to audio, so visual appeal was important too e.g. a grand piano looks the part.

Blimey, creative differences before we get going! Haha.

Thanks again to all.

Cheers.




Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
Honkytonkman #2379422 01/29/15 01:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Honkytonkman
[...] Thoughts? Honest,but not too brutal.. LOL Cheers guys.


Just a few puzzle pieces for you to consider...

Sometimes I play piano and sing solo at church. The space is a pretty big carpeted sanctuary with lots of wood trim and high, vaulted ceilings and a big balcony and the acoustics are really pretty good--not too live, not too dead, but you *do* have to project with intent to deliver if you speak without a microphone.

The guy that staffs the soundboard determined that it works best to run my voice through the PA, but leave the piano un-mic'd. So, the piano fills the room with it's natural, unadulterated sound, and the voice floats into it through the overhead speakers, and he adjusts the PA volume to ride just a hair over the piano volume. It took me a little while to get used to what I was hearing so that I could find my nuances in the room, but it does work.

Which leads me to my next point. Making music is ALL ABOUT listening and making adjustments. If your drummer can't tuck into the mix without a monitor, he might not be a jazz drummer. Acoustic piano, electric guitar and drums have been fitting into wood-paneled rooms nicely without big speakers and mixing boards for time immemorial.

Last Sunday, I went to hear a college choir give a concert. It was in a large, modern church sanctuary that seats 1,800. It is a space that is acoustically dead with all of the carpeting and padded chairs. Someone decided to mic the choir and run the sound through the PA and add reverb to the mix. It sounded like crap from a tin can and wrecked an otherwise exemplary performance. I would much rather have heard the natural sound of warm voices blending through dry air.

My two cents.

--Andy


I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.
Re: Sound level of acoustic piano in jazz/blues trio
Honkytonkman #2379430 01/29/15 02:09 AM
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I just realized I posted to a situation that was resolved. My apologies, all.

Honkytonkman, I love the thought of the horror on your drummer's face when you suggested he play an electric drum set. laugh LOL! A simple change of perspective can have profound consequences. I was getting irritated by people in the praise band putting their coffee cups and water bottles on the piano. I said, "How would you feel if I put a cup of coffee on your guitar?"


I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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