Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How do you mic your piano?

A visitor to my Facebook fanpage just presented the question:

"How do you mic your piano for these recordings and how many?"

So here is the answer!

All of my recordings prior to the Ecossaises release on July 11th were made on my Pearl River upright. I recorded for many years on this piano with limited success. I tried several ways to mic the piano but it just wasn't a recording-quality instrument. However, the best sound tended to come by opening the lid and removing the kickplate (not sure what to call it) that covers the strings beneath the keyboard. I then placed my mics about 6-8 feet back (about as far back as the room would allow) pointed towards the top of the piano. I kept the mics about a foot apart.

With my new piano, I have only had one recording session so far, but compared to my previous recordings, the sound was spectacular! For this one, I opened the lid on the piano and placed the mics about 6-8 feet back and about a foot apart - just like my old configuration. I figured I'd start with that approach as I had limited time and had the best success with that on my upright.

So that is how I've done it - but as anybody who has attempted to record a piano knows, there are limitless ways to mic a piano and it will depend on the desired sound, the piano, the mics, the room, and the alignment of the planets. Here are some other resources that I've used in my decision-making and experimentation:

For equipment, my budget is limited, so I use two PRO 25 microphones (about the cheapest I could get away with). I originally recorded with just one, and eventually saved up to purchase the second. I was a poor college student when I first started my recordings, so even one microphone was a huge luxury. I then purchased the lowest-cost mixer that I could find at the local guitar shop to use in converting the audio signal into something that my computer could understand. I use Nero's WaveEditor to record onto the computer and to clean it up as best as I can. On some of my recordings I have then used Audacity and the GlaceVerb plugin to add a touch of reverb as my living room is so small and is not an acoustically ideal setting.

Good luck in your own recordings!