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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:21 pm 
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Didier - are you trying to tell me something? :lol: :lol:

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 Post subject: Sound Clip
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:57 pm 
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Multiple mics?... Absolutely, it's difficult enough to record well with a stereo pair. Only skilled engineers tend to record with more than 4 microphones. Mastering all those channels on a mixing console, selecting multiple patterns, levels, phase, effects, etc. is all an art to get right. Recording with multiple mics, you're getting into ambient recording using spaced pair of omnidirectional mics 2, 4, 6, or in PianoLady's case 8 mics. If done right, capturing the natural reverberation in a large hall is the best case scenario. For home recording, this concept is useless because of the lack of natural reverberation due to the smaller size room and shorter ceilings. Besides, the cost becomes astronomical. I draw the line at a stereo pair of mics, and a good preamp.

As promised, here is a recent excerpt from Chopin's Nocturne, No. 21 without any effects. The file was converted from .wav to mp3.

Setup: (2) AKG C414B-XLS mics spaced 10in apart, 3ft from curve, 5ft high. Wide Cardiod
Avalon AD2022 Preamp
Yamaha CDR1000 CD recorder (built in 20bit A/D & Apogee UV-22 dithering)

Room: 35x14x8.5ft living room, with the dining room and foyer merging to form an "L." The piano is at vertex of the "L."

BTW - the annoying "clunk" in the beginning is the soft pedal bar. I'll have it adjusted as soon as the weather gets colder. As for the room, I am not going to buy acoustic panels until I get a larger rug first. After remodeling, I'll reevaluate the room response for any nodes. The above setup is working okay, but I'll continue experimenting with different mic placements in the meantime...


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 5:34 am 
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Nice! The Steinway sound signature is well there. Is it a New-York or a Hamburg one ? Are you preparing one recording more of this nocturne for us? It seems that it might the winner. :)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 2:40 am 
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Location: Boston
Merci, Didier. My piano is a 1985 New York Steinway B. It was previously owned by a Steinway technician and it has been played very lightly. I really got lucky with this piano because not all Steinway Bs sound the same. Unfortunately, Hamburg Steinways don't weather the humidity well in the northeastern part of the U.S., so it's not a good investment for us. The difference lies in the wood stock used in the two different climates. Otherwise, I had my eyes on the Hamburg 7ft 5in piano, which they don't make here.

Several years back, I played on a Feurich piano and loved it's tone and timbre - it had just the right amount of harmonic balance and euphonics. They were importing only 75 pianos a year into the U.S. at the time, but I can no longer find any in Boston. Can they still be found in Europe?

BTW - I've been hearing some nice things about the Avenson STO-2 mics. I might try out a pair instead of getting the DPAs or the Earthworks right now. Great suggestion!

Here is the Chopin Nocturne, No. 21 again in it's entirety. The piano was tuned 4 months ago.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:32 am 
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I thought I'd copy my reply from the other thread to be on record here as well with my opinions.

David


Hi 88man,

Just a few comments in response. First, thanks for presenting your findings. They're quite informative.

I agree with your philosophy that recording classical piano music is more effective with mics placed away from the piano. Four feet is generally considered minimum, although in my living room, I find that a distance of eight feet better ensures a fully formed and blended sound. (Close-in recording is best left for pops and jazz where great value is placed on the percussive sound of hammer on string.)

Everything I've heard is that small diaphragm condenser mics are better suited to recording piano, while large diaphragm condenser mics are more effective recording voice. So I'm surprised you recommend large diaphragm mics.

Today preamps tend to be built right into some of the recorders. For example, that is the case with my fairly new Korg MR-1000 DSD. That eliminates that problem and additional expense. Similarly phantom power has replaced external power supplies, and mixing box functions are now built into recorders as well. With the recorders on the market today, all anyone should really need to record is a fine quality recorder, external stereo mics (usually superior to on-board mics), and higher end mic cables. Anything else should already be inside the recorder.

Alas, I don't have a 2,500 sq ft living room. Wish I did!!! The entire main floor footprint of my home is 2,100 sq ft! The living room is somewhat open (through two sets of French doors) to the family room, and directly open to the dining area and foyer. Ceilings are standard 8'. Homes in my region (eastern central Maine) are built smaller than the McMansions of the Southland for better heating efficiency during our brutal winters, especially where over 80% heat by oil. So I don't have the space for a Steinway B (or preferably a Baldwin SF10). My Baldwin Model L (6'3") does fit in nicely though.

I consider my living room to be "acoustically treated", i.e., wall-to-wall carpeting and stuffed furniture. I have not experienced the "harsh sound" you refer to, while using stereo small diaphragm condenser mics with omnidirectional capsules. Although I do have cardioid capsules too, I find the sound to be richer with the omnis. I use A-B configuration, 8' distant from the piano with 12" mic separation to good effect. (The 8' distance from the piano shows once again that all rooms are different, which requires much experimentation in mic placements.) I did experiment with XY configuration and found it lacking and obviously more suited to close-in recording, which I avoid now. I admit I have not tried wide-angle cardioids, but where I don't experience that harshness you mention, I probably don't need to.

Finally, you place great emphasis on the quality of the piano, room, and equipment. The one element you neglect is the most important one of all--the pianist!

David
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"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:28 pm 
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88man - Nice recording and a quiet one even though you have captured room ambience. Must have a very quiet environment when recording.
I miss some clarity in the notes, especially in piano or pianissimo. Maybe it needs some EQ to add a touch of sparkle and definition to the treble. But that's subjective.

By the way, the first note of the LH arpeggio in bar 8 (repeats twice) should be F#, not D#. Sorry for mentioning, but I thought you would like to know.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 5:25 pm 
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[Rachfan] Indeed David, the pianist is important - dynamic shading, hard/soft playing, curved/straight finger technique, pedaling, piece, legato/staccato, etc. are all variables among different pianists and will alter the sound and the choice of equipment to some degree. I skimmed over it in my thread when talking about "musical style," and "taste"in the type of sound that one is after. That's why it's paramount to rent or borrow equipment before deciding to invest in studio-gear.

[Wiser_guy] Great observation! I've played it both ways with the F# and D#. This piece was published years after Chopin's death and there are at least two versions of this piece - one published with the F# and another with D#. I even have two recordings which play the two notes differently. This time around I played it with the D#. Intuitively, it sounds like it should be F#, however, I haven't had the opportunity to consult a musicologist since I am very curious myself. While we're on the subject, there are other pieces by Chopin where one has to decide the authenticity of notes due to either the publishers getting it wrong or whether the manuscript was not legible in the first place. In any case, it makes for an interesting conversation piece... No pun intended.

I haven't added any EQ to highlight the treble. It's not perfect - It may also be that I had the soft pedal down in the P and PP sections of the piece which robbed the notes of their lustre? I haven't done any EQing because the room is somewhat "bright.". Also, the mic spacing may be causing phase anomalies which can cancel certain notes. Anyway, I am planning to get a larger rug, that will definitely change the room response for the better, and I'll have more flexibility in miking the piano that will take this into account.

Thanks for the feedback!


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 7:20 pm 
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88man, You should put this recording in the audition room. Your interpretation is at least better than mine. 8)

Quote:
The difference lies in the wood stock used in the two different climates. Otherwise, I had my eyes on the Hamburg 7ft 5in piano, which they don't make here.

I think this is more a marketing argument for promoting in USA the Steinways made in New York. At this time, the humidity rate is 54% in my room. It is usually above 60% in summer and I have an humidifier to maintain it above 45% in winter when the weather is cold and dry. Are your conditions in Boston so different from our ones in Brittany at the west end of France ? Your winter is colder, your summer is hotter, but what...

Quote:
Otherwise, I had my eyes on the Hamburg 7ft 5in piano, which they don't make here.

I have also an eye on the Steinway C, which can be found in France : there was a wonderful second hand one at my last visit to Hanlet, the French importer for Steinway, but which is much more seldom than the B (your one) and the D (the concert one). Steingraeber just issued on this year their 232 model. 232 means length = 2.32 m, so it is a direct competitor to the Steinway C, whose length is 2.27 m. Anyway not so reasonable with respect to my tiny house (and bank account :wink: ).

Quote:
small diaphragm condenser mics are better suited to recording piano, while large diaphragm condenser mics are more effective recording voice.

David, it's may be more complicated than that. I suspect that small diaphragms condensers are better at some distance from the piano. So in a good acoustics venue, SDs are the usual choice. But for close miking (less than 1 meter), large diaphragm condensers may produce a richer sound. So, no general rule. Just for illustration of this, I attach two Beethoven piano sonata highlights, one with a small condenser pair, one with a large condenser pair, both at the same location, 50 cm from the piano. I think that they are representative for the best sound quality that I can achieve currently. You must equalize the listening levels for fair comparison.
EDIT I removed the attached files small.mp3 and large.mp3 for saving storage capaciy on Pianosociety. PM me if you are interested in so that I can make them available to you from internet.


Last edited by Didier on Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:32 am, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:07 pm 
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Hi Didier,

Thanks for posting that comparison of small diaphragm and large diaphragm condenser mics. In your room and fairly close-in distance from the piano, I agree that the large diaphragm condenser mics sound less constrained and richer there. My recording distance, however, in my room is 8 feet (244 cm) from the piano. So if you're correct, then in my environment my choice of small diaphragm condenser mics is entirely appropriate. One other variable that would be useful to know though in your samples here is whether they were done with omnidirectional or cartioid capsules. Could you please clarify that too? I now use omnidirectional capsules, finding a more lush sound resulting with the mics being in A-B configuration.

David

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:15 pm 
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Both are cardioid, David. I added a small bit (10%) of digital reverberation to both recordings, which I prefer to the natural reverberation from my room, more present when the mikes are further from the piano.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:40 pm 
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Quote:
It may also be that I had the soft pedal down in the P and PP sections of the piece which robbed the notes of their lustre?

This explains it then. Obviously you know what you are doing and you already have a great setup. And by continouing the position/equipment experimentation you will get a lot better.

I hope you follow Didier's suggestion and put some of your work on the audition room. It would be nice to have quality recordings. It would be a great motivation for the all of us to try harder not only performance-wise but sound-wise also.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 9:55 pm 
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Hi Didier,

That makes sense. Cartioids are more often than not preferred for close-in recording applications. In fact, some of the better portable recorders with on-board mics in XY configuration, which is best used in close-in recordings, also come with cardioid capsules. I have some old recordings I made with the mics about 6" (12 cm or so) away from the piano case rim. At that distance I used cartioid capsules with good success.

David

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:35 pm 
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Generally, large condensers capture more body and air of an instrument, which could give the appearance of sounding more "musical." They typically have more color and presence peaks around 2-8khz which adds airiness to a voice or an instrument track, this may flatter some sources or add the wrong character to others.

Small condensers have better focus, faster transient response than larger condensers, which could give the appearance of sounding more "accurate." They also tend to be neutral and have a flat frequency response. Caution: My experience has been that small condensers, especially cardiod patterns, may exhibit off-axis coloration, which at close miking distances can make the piano sound like it's out of tune on certain notes. The Neumann KM184 is notorious for this.

So the debate continues: Musicality vs Accuracy. The same debate appears in audio electronics - solid state (more accurate) vs tubes (more musical). It becomes a matter of what sounds more "realistic," based on the room, piano, and style of playing. In some cases you could implement a hybrid setup where you have a combination of small and large condensers for each channel - this way you could merge musicality with accuracy and have best of both worlds. Again, you would have to experiment to find the right balance.

Thank you for the compliments.

Didier, do you have any acoustic treatment in your music room? You seem to be having better luck than I am with omnis in your room, that's why I am resorting to 'wide cardiod' for now. The Beethoven sounds nicely balanced...
... Several years back I asked Richard Lieberman, the author of "Steinway & Sons," the same question regarding the import of German Steinways into the U.S. That's what he told me about the humidity. Here in Boston the humidity varies drastically from 10% in the winter to 90% in the summer. However, marketing may play a role as you say - The New York Steinway guards itself well here from it's brother in Hamburg. C'est La Vie!


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 1:12 am 
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Hi 88man,

That's a very interesting observation about the issue of close-in mic-ing with cardioid capsules adding coloration such that the piano might not sound completely in tune. This is the first time I've heard of that. It intrigues me because years ago I made numerous analog recordings using close-in cardioid patterns. Often I'd get (and still get when some people hear those old recordings now) listener comments about the piano being "out of tune", which I did not always believe was the case, although occasionally it admittedly was a problem. Where it was unexpected, I attributed it more to very minute tape speed changes, although that would seem unlikely. Other comments complain of a "swimmy", 'wobbly" or reverberation quality to the sound, which might also be part of that cardioid coloration you speak of, although that possibly being the culprit never dawned on me.

Fortunately I don't get any of that these days using my digital system, A-B mic-ing at 8' out, and my shift to omnidirectional capsules.

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"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 10:55 am 
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Quote:
Didier, do you have any acoustic treatment in your music room?


Nothing specific but I use this mic thing for isolating acoustically the microphones from the closest wall. I don't think that it is determining. The most important thing is that I put the microphones at close distance well within the critical perimeter (the limit where the scattered sound becomes higher than the direct sound). In this case cardioid vs. omni is not a so important issue.


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