Minimizing upright piano noises.

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yoink
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Minimizing upright piano noises.

Post by yoink » Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:26 pm

I'm trying to record my upright piano. I have two mics in XY with the top cover open (like you'd open your car's bonnet - propped up.)

The sound is generally very pleasing; that is after fiddling with placement for almost an hour.

However, I do get some extraneous sounds. The sustain pedal spring "creaks" ever so slightly such that in quiet passages it can be heard. Occasionally you can hear some very slight finger/key noises and a few of the hammer hits are a bit, well, ticky (for lack of a better description.) Ultimately none of these sounds are very apparent over loudspeakers, but closer inspection with headphones makes those little auditory artifacts a little too present for my liking.

At least she's in tune, but any advice on how to minimize such noises would be welcomed. I've tried mic'ing it from behind with the mics pointed at the back of the sound board, but the piano sounds a bit dull and a little too "smeared" (again for lack of a better word).

I'm open to any and all suggestions.

Many thanks just for taking the time to read this.

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Post by Ryan Silva » Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:50 pm

So I asume you have the front of the piano open, if not take off the front cover and try pointing the xy at the front, not faceing down. Sometimes I'll put a pair right on top of the players head faceing forward. This helps quite a bit on pedal noise.
What's also fun is recording it in omni and embracing the entire sound, skweaks and all.
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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Fri Feb 19, 2010 10:07 pm

I'm wondering if you've tried attacking each problem sound on it's own. Oil the pedal, fix the hammers, etc. It seems to be a tapeop adage to "fix it in the room" first.
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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:01 am

Pull it away from the wall and mic the back of it. Pianos project sound from the sound board not the strings. You don't really need to mic the stings to get decent results. One or 2 mics on the back of the piano and a room mic (or 2) will get you really good results.

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Post by roscoenyc » Sat Feb 20, 2010 7:19 am

junkshop wrote:Pull it away from the wall and mic the back of it. Pianos project sound from the sound board not the strings. You don't really need to mic the stings to get decent results. One or 2 mics on the back of the piano and a room mic (or 2) will get you really good results.
+1 micing the back.

Be careful moving it though. Lift the piano. Don't roll it on the wheels unless you have a real piano dolly

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Post by Dakota » Sat Feb 20, 2010 8:48 am

junkshop wrote:Pull it away from the wall and mic the back of it. Pianos project sound from the sound board not the strings. You don't really need to mic the stings to get decent results. One or 2 mics on the back of the piano and a room mic (or 2) will get you really good results.
+2!

I also think we've all gotten way too used to hearing cleaned up piano sample sets. I'm totally into embracing all the extra noises as part of the organic personality.

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Post by jgimbel » Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:04 am

I agree with Dakota. I tend to like recordings of piano with tons of room noise over completely clean sounds. Usually when you hear a recording that's done on a keyboard it's blaringly obvious, and when you mic a real piano that way it gives me that same "fake" feeling, despite it being real. That being said, the pedal of my piano squeaks more than Zeppelin's kick drum pedal, and for that reason I haven't used the piano in anything too seriously yet. Oil the pedal, definitely. If you have to change your mic position based on minimizing that, you're limiting your options. I haven't miced a piano from the back though, I can't wait to try that.

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Post by yoink » Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:19 am

Thanks for all the great advice so far. I have a lot to think about here.

Before attempting to move the piano, I am going to see if I can get a fun/interesting acceptable sound. I'm in no rush, so some oiling, checking mechanicals etc. and then some mic movement. No time like the present to learn more about my piano.

Failing that, some piano casters so I can easily move it into the middle of the room and away from the wall.

Right now I'm trying the mics in XY over my head.

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Post by b3groover » Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:14 pm

I assume you have a piano tech that tunes it for you, right? Have him/her track down the squeaking (a good tech has run across almost every noise problem in the book) and they can also probably explain the cause of any hammer issues.

Mic the piano from the back. Trust me.
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Post by cenafria » Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:31 am

I'd suggest you try again from the back as I've also had good results miking upright pianos this way. I have mine on two mats to be able to carefully slide it easily into position on the hardwood floor (my piano tech ok'd this).

From the back I get less noise from pedals and what have you, the sound seems more solid and sits better in the mix. You do have to get away from the walls though. I feel the piano is one of the instruments that makes you most aware of the importance of good acoustics.

I place it in the middle of the room (assuming piano is all I'm recording). I usually put a rug on the floor between the close mics and the piano. This helps focus the sound. I ask the musician to play a little for me and listen out for where it sound the most balanced and natural. Usually at least 1.5m back.

I've had good results with M-S with a FET47 as the M mic and a 67 or um57 as the S mic. Some omni condensers for the room. Also had good results with 4038 as close mics (eqing in some top) in Blumlein.

Sometimes mono piano is what works best with the music.

I've always found pianos one of the hardest instruments to record.

Hope this helps.

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Post by yoink » Tue Feb 23, 2010 9:30 pm

This has all helped so much.

#1 on my list is unfortunately a piece of gear: piano casters. They're not cheap but it's probably the only way I'll be able to move it into the middle of the room easily enough. I found a set that only raises the piano 3/4" and I think I can work with that extra pedal height.

I'm in no particular rush to record anything specific, I wanted to get a setup that I liked and could repeat here as a starter. Having said that, and being far from my goal at this point I will continue to play around, update this thread with more questions and hopefully provide some samples of my different mics and placement results.

Thanks again.

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Post by roscoenyc » Wed Feb 24, 2010 5:30 am

cenafria wrote: Sometimes mono piano is what works best with the music.
Indeed!
cenafria wrote: I've always found pianos one of the hardest instruments to record
I had difficulty with pianos too but that was before I started using a ribbon.

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Post by cenafria » Fri Feb 26, 2010 1:26 am

roscoenyc wrote:
cenafria wrote: Sometimes mono piano is what works best with the music.
Indeed!
cenafria wrote: I've always found pianos one of the hardest instruments to record
I had difficulty with pianos too but that was before I started using a ribbon.
I know what you mean, ribbons can be very effective in capturing certain elements of the actual sounds that we hear from the instruments.
I was referring more to the frustration at the difference between hearing an instrument live in the room and listening to the approximation of that sound in the control room speakers as captured through the microphones and the rest of he recording chain. With pianos I find that the difference seems even greater than with (most) other instruments. For a player like Yoink, that difference between what you experience while playing and what you hear on playback can be even greater.

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Post by qball » Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:30 am

My favorite technique for recording my upright piano is to pull it out from the wall about 2'. I open the lid and place a ribbon mic 12" above the opening. This will tame most of the hammer sounds. In addition, I use SDC mics in stereo directly over the player's head and pointing at the open lid.
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