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The Piano

It can be difficult to record the piano and get a realistic sound. The main reasons being that it is a large and complex sound source. The natural sound of a piano heard at a distance is a mix of room acoustic and the individual sound of the many parts, the hammers, sound board and lid etc. Close miking would emphasise the area of the piano closest to the microphone. The placement of the microphone is very important because the sound of the strings is reflected off the lid causing some colouration to the natural sound of the piano when recorded. Microphone Type The piano covers nearly the entire audio spectrum and so a microphone with a flat, wide frequency response is needed. Pianos are nearly always recorded in stereo and techniques such as spaced omnis, coincident cardioids or boundary microphones fixed to the lid. Which ever method you choose a good capacitor microphone is needed and the coincident pair is likely to give better mono compatibility than a spaced pair of omnidirectional microphones Distant Miking If you are recording solo piano or a solo overdub or you do not require a great degree of separation the a stereo pair many be position around four feet from the right hand side of the piano at a height roughly half way between the lid and the top of the piano. The microphones can be set further away for a more natural sound but then the room acoustic come into play. In a studio you can work as close as two feet away and then add some digital reverb.

The Piano
The above example uses a pair of spaced omnidirectional microphones though a coincident cardioid set up at a similar distance could be used. The cardioid microphone set up for that would be as below. Remember with this set up there will be a lot of room reverb/ambience which will lend the recording a sense of space or air.

Close Miking In pop music recordings piano is miked closer to reduce room reverb and leakage and to improve clarity. Try not to mike closer than 8 inches away as this will give emphasis to those strings nearest to the microphone. A popular way to close mike a piano is position the microphones inside a fully extended lid at 8-10 inches from the strings close to the position of the hammers. A pair of omni directional microphones is spaced apart so that one covers the lower register and one the higher register. This method reduces leakage pick up from other instruments and if more separation is required the lid can be set to half open and a blanket placed over lid. The signal should be panned partly to the left and right.

The Piano

Boundary Microphones The lid of a piano provides an ideal baffle for a pair of boundary microphones and it is common practice to tape two to the underside of the lid at each end of the piano. The signals from the microphones are panned left and right to give a stereo image.