CHAPTER 4 :
How to record in your home studio
Brass & Reed Instruments
Pianos are incredibly dynamic instruments. They
are very percussive, and they resonate a lot, so
a lot of microphones can get overdriven with a
live piano. Also, weather conditions can really
affect a piano. When humidity is high, the piano
is probably going to sway off of A440 Hz and
might have darker tone, which can affect the
sound of a recorded piano from week to week.
With a grand piano, having the top open or closed will also make a big difference in tone.
When the lid is up, the sound reflects off the bottom of the lid and is directed outward, and there will be more articulation.
When the top is down, in most cases, there will be a reflection and resonance from the bottom of the piano.
Microphone placement options vary for a piano
- you could potentially use up to five mics to record a single performance. You can
start with a small condenser microphone pair
in an XY pattern — or three condensers split
between the high, low, and middle keys. If a mic
is placed close to the strings, you can record a
more percussive sound, where as if you’re further away, it’s going to be rounder.
Placing a tube mic next to the player’s head to get the perspective of the player is also an option, in addition to mics placed in strategic points of the room to collect the ambient sounds
“How important the track is to the song is a big
influencer in how I’ll record it,” says Weiss. “If it’s
a solo piano piece, and I want the biggest, most
beautiful piano sound ever, I’ll place more mics
in the room to collect a variety of sounds.”
When recording an upright piano, you won’t be
able to get a microphone close to the strings like
you can with the baby grand, so you can mic it
from above, from the perspective of the player,
or from the back. Of course, you can use multiple mics and then decide at the board how they should be combined.
Piano plug-ins are a serious consideration for anyone recording piano, in a pro or home studio.
“Beware,” warns Raison, “Piano plug-ins sound
spectacular, but they sound so spectacular that
sometimes I don’t believe them.”
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