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#2982644 05/22/20 10:18 PM
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For anyone who uses a recorder like the Sony D50 or Zoom, how do you position the mics? It seems the XY config (where they point toward each other) is a common way. Also, do you put the device inside your piano (assuming it's a grand) or a little distance away? I've had decent luck with it near the curved section of the case, slightly above the rim and pointed downward a bit, maybe a foot or so away. Farther away, it picks up more room sound, which may or may not always be a good thing.


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Good question, I am experimenting with this but have no idea what I am doing.


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Same here =) I seem to get pretty decent results, but am not really sure I know what I'm doing, either.


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I'd put the mics about 1 foot above the strings, above the last copper wound string facing the hammers (or where the strings overlap). one mic will pick up the treble, the other the bass. Position further away from the player to get more bass and less treble (and less hammer attack).

This position picks up more of the piano and less of the room.

Obviously I'm talking about a grand.


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Actually, correction - I'd face the mic's downward and not directly at the hammers. Position above the strings the correct distance where the cardoid pattern will pick up most of the string vibrations. That is, if the mics have a wide pickup pattern, you can position closer.


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Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
For anyone who uses a recorder like the Sony D50 or Zoom, how do you position the mics? It seems the XY config (where they point toward each other) is a common way. Also, do you put the device inside your piano (assuming it's a grand) or a little distance away? I've had decent luck with it near the curved section of the case, slightly above the rim and pointed downward a bit, maybe a foot or so away. Farther away, it picks up more room sound, which may or may not always be a good thing.
Welcome to the fascinating and frustrating world of instrument recording.
As you've already discovered, distance is a primary variable. Close mics yield a very intimate sound which excludes room reflections and external noises, but do not necessarily give the most even tonal balance. Also, action and damper noises become more noticeable. Moving the mics back may yield a more natural balance in the recording, but then you start to pick up room sound - which may be undesirable if you're not in a well-designed studio.
My favorite setup is two mics placed just above the piano and just behind the music desk. They are about 3' apart so stereo recordings place bass toward the left and treble toward the right. Seems to be the best compromise in my living room, but sometimes I will use other methods. You can enhance bass response by placing a microphone inside, in the tail area, with the lid closed, for example. It's likely you will find different setups are optimal for different pieces.
I have not found microphone direction to be important, even though my mics are cardioid pattern. It seems many people forget that very little sound comes directly from the strings themselves; it's almost all from the soundboard. The most important factor is microphone position, not orientation or pattern.
Have a look at Joe Bongiorno's recording setup here: https://joebongiorno.com/piano-haven/recording-studio


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Originally Posted by MarianneØ
Moving the mics back may yield a more natural balance in the recording, but then you start to pick up room sound - which may be undesirable if you're not in a well-designed studio.

I am curious what this "room sound" is. Are we talking about background noise in the room? I would have thought it was fairly easy to make sure there was none of that when one is recording. Or are we talking about reflections of sound in the room? I do not know what that would do to a recording. One does not usually listen to a piano from very close (unless one is the pianist! - but the pianist does not generally get the best sound), so I would not think to put a microphone very close. Am I wrong?

I have noticed that when broadcasting recitals the BBC tend to have a central microphone, often hanging roughly above the front of the audience, and another about 6 feet from the piano, located about 45 degrees round from the tail end. (Which in my opinion, is where the sound is best.)

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Originally Posted by David-G
I am curious what this "room sound" is. Are we talking about background noise in the room? I would have thought it was fairly easy to make sure there was none of that when one is recording. Or are we talking about reflections of sound in the room? I do not know what that would do to a recording.

Yes, "room sound" refers to the reflections/reverberations in the room. They can be strong in smaller rooms because there is no microphone location that is far from all walls. Because recordings are generally played back on speakers in rooms which are also not very large, the result is two sets of small-room sound superimposed when you are listening.

One approach to recording piano, is to set mics close, which records the "bare" piano sound, almost as if the recording were done in an anechoic chamber. Then when the recording is played back, it gives the impression that the piano is present in the listening room.

Otherwise, if the piano is in a hall or studio setting that has desirable acoustics, setting the microphone back and collecting some of the hall sound will add openness and spaciousness to the sound on playback, mimicking the concert experience to some degree.
Originally Posted by David-G
I have noticed that when broadcasting recitals the BBC tend to have a central microphone, often hanging roughly above the front of the audience, and another about 6 feet from the piano, located about 45 degrees round from the tail end. (Which in my opinion, is where the sound is best.)

The microphone above the audience is there mainly for "hall sound" and for audience applause at the end. It is mixed into the recording in various degrees, depending on what the producer wants. The stage microphone placement you described is very desirable, and works quite well on a large stage in a hall, because the closest reflecting wall is rather distant.


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Here in the first two recordings (Brahms, Liszt) the Zoom Q3HD (XY onboard mics) is placed near the curve about 1 ft high above the rim. So that both mics point to the soundboard.

In the third recording (Mozart) the mics are at the same location as the camerea, since Q3HD both records video and audio if you want. In this case they are about 4 ft away from the side of the piano.
So one mic is pointing to the lid of the piano and the other to the room behind the player.

I hope these help in your experiments.

https://youtu.be/lkK2IvyjLlQ (Brahms)

https://youtu.be/NU6W6fSr53Q (Liszt)

https://youtu.be/DWyjpJVaYzc (Mozart)

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If you record using xy mics inside the piano, you might also consider adding another condensor mic and placing it somewhere in the room outside the piano, maybe a few feet away or even under the piano. This mic will pick up the some of the fullness you hear from outside the piano. Record that mic on its own channel, then when mixing, add a little of it to the main mix and adjust the level to taste. This will give you some natural reverb and add a little fullness to what you get from the inside mics.


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Thanks for the tips! At the moment, all I have is a Sony D50 PCM recorder. This one:
https://pro.sony/en_BA/products/portable-digital-recorders/pcm-d50

So, I don't have too many options. I can either have the mics XY, straight ahead, or wide (pointed outwards). The manual seems to recommend the XY config for recording solo instruments. How would I go about positioning this unit above the strings? A boom mic stand maybe? I've just been mounting it on a tripod until now, so I can move it anywhere around the piano, but not inside. It's definitely some tricky business!


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A relatively inexpensive addition that comes with a lot of flexibility might be a pair of condeser microphones and an audio interface. I spent ~USD 200 and it sounds okay without too much fiddling:
- you can see the setup in the first few seconds of the video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLoABG5KYao

Next time I'll try to place the mics slightly differently. They still pick up a very tiny amount of the action noise.

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Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
Thanks for the tips! At the moment, all I have is a Sony D50 PCM recorder. This one:
https://pro.sony/en_BA/products/portable-digital-recorders/pcm-d50

So, I don't have too many options. I can either have the mics XY, straight ahead, or wide (pointed outwards). The manual seems to recommend the XY config for recording solo instruments. How would I go about positioning this unit above the strings? A boom mic stand maybe? I've just been mounting it on a tripod until now, so I can move it anywhere around the piano, but not inside. It's definitely some tricky business!

Put the tripod at the curve of the piano 5 feet away.
Raise it to 5 feet height. Open piano lid at full stick.
Have the mics in straight ahead configuration.
Adjust the tripod head, so that the mics are horizontal to the floor and are pointing at the inside of the open lid.
Turn off all Auto, Limiter, Low cut etc. functions so that you record the natural sound of the piano.
Be sure that your piano is in good tune before recording.

And please share your recording with us.

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Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
For anyone who uses a recorder like the Sony D50 or Zoom, how do you position the mics? It seems the XY config (where they point toward each other) is a common way. Also, do you put the device inside your piano (assuming it's a grand) or a little distance away? I've had decent luck with it near the curved section of the case, slightly above the rim and pointed downward a bit, maybe a foot or so away. Farther away, it picks up more room sound, which may or may not always be a good thing.

The simplest formula is probably to move around the room listening to the piano until you find the location where it sounds best. Then put the mic in x/y config there and pointing towards the piano. There is much to be said for simplicity :-)

Last edited by gwing; 06/02/20 05:23 AM.
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Originally Posted by Hakki
Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
Thanks for the tips! At the moment, all I have is a Sony D50 PCM recorder. This one:
https://pro.sony/en_BA/products/portable-digital-recorders/pcm-d50

So, I don't have too many options. I can either have the mics XY, straight ahead, or wide (pointed outwards). The manual seems to recommend the XY config for recording solo instruments. How would I go about positioning this unit above the strings? A boom mic stand maybe? I've just been mounting it on a tripod until now, so I can move it anywhere around the piano, but not inside. It's definitely some tricky business!

Put the tripod at the curve of the piano 5 feet away.
Raise it to 5 feet height. Open piano lid at full stick.
Have the mics in straight ahead configuration.
Adjust the tripod head, so that the mics are horizontal to the floor and are pointing at the inside of the open lid.
Turn off all Auto, Limiter, Low cut etc. functions so that you record the natural sound of the piano.
Be sure that your piano is in good tune before recording.

And please share your recording with us.

Thanks, I will give this a try!

Originally Posted by gwing
Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
For anyone who uses a recorder like the Sony D50 or Zoom, how do you position the mics? It seems the XY config (where they point toward each other) is a common way. Also, do you put the device inside your piano (assuming it's a grand) or a little distance away? I've had decent luck with it near the curved section of the case, slightly above the rim and pointed downward a bit, maybe a foot or so away. Farther away, it picks up more room sound, which may or may not always be a good thing.

The simplest formula is probably to move around the room listening to the piano until you find the location where it sounds best. Then put the mic in x/y config there and pointing towards the piano. There is much to be said for simplicity :-)

True, I do like simplicity. I'll try this as well.


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