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CD recording project: advice wanted

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by andrew, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Something I've been meaning to do for a long time, but it has been delayed for various reasons.

    Anyway, I have got a venue booked for later this year, pending what I hope is the formality of exchange of legal documents. It's costing me a fair bit, but it is the best piano I can get my hands on. I have two full days recording time.

    I would be very grateful if I could get opinions on the uploaded sound sample. I've tried to make it brief, whilst making a compilation of extracts which between them have a variety of dynamics, pianistic effects and moods. These sound samples are taken from my previous live experience on the piano, with the recording equipment I intend to use for the project. In short I would like to know if the sound is adequate for what I'm hoping will be a professional-sounding cd.

    The sample comprises four different extracts, all from material which is ultimately to be on the resulting cd: the piano is a Steinway Model D whilst the recording equipment is an Edirol R-09HR with a matched pair of Rode NT5 mics. No editing has been applied to the extracts: the MP3 is 192 kHz, produced from the original WAV file. Any thoughts and advice more than welcome. I must admit I'm distinctly perturbed by having spoken to my teacher about the project - he is very much in favour of it, but told me that when he recorded for Decca they used 16 mics!

    Apologies if this is the wrong place to upload this topic. Chris and Monica, please feel free to move it if so.
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    That's a nice idea - making a semi-professional recording!
    I listened to your sample here. The piano sounds great! And there is nice reverb, which must be natural, right, since you said you did no editing? The only little thing is that I had to turn my speakers all the way up to hear this properly. Maybe try increasing your input levels. Good luck, Andrew! :)
     
  3. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andrew,

    It seemed that the first two excerpts were at a quieter input level, while the next two seemed on the mark. Did you keep the same input level for all, or did you boost it a bit for the last two? I would keep it right there where you left it. What you want is to end up with a listening level that would be at about the 12:00 noon spot on the speaker output level. That's usually a comfortable level for most people. The big thing is not to blow listeners headphones right off their heads. :lol:

    The Model D sounds great! And the Edirol is capturing it well, and the Rode mics are neutral, so adding no coloration of their own, which is exactly what you want. Pay no attention to the "16 mics". Two mics for two-track stereo is exactly what you need. Anything beyond that invites phase problems.

    I know you've wanted to do a recording project like this for awhile, and I'm happy for you that you're going to make it happen.

    Best of luck on that!

    David
     
  4. pianoman342

    pianoman342 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andrew,

    I sampled your recording. Wonderful playing of these paraphrases. This is some epic music :shock: :)

    About the sound: beautiful tone from the Steinway. I assume you had the lid all the way open as I thought I could hear a really nice openess to the tone. I couldn't hear much noise in the recording so the signal-to-noise ratio must be low, which is good. I also thought the balance and positioning of the microphones was even and so I would reproduce this type of setup for the real thing. The microphones have good definition (I have actually used the NT5's in my audio class for a project) one thing I missed was when you play tremolando octaves in the lower register, I didn't feel like there was as much body as there could be to those notes. I use a large diaphram microphone and though it lacks the high end definition though one nice thing is it reproduces the big string notes faithfully.

    look forward to the fruits of your future project,

    Riley
     
  5. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for the encouragement! It's a project I'm looking forward to, but at the same time viewing with some trepidation.

    Yes, the reverb is natural. It's quite a nice hall that I'm playing in and it's in fairly regular use as a concert venue.

    As both you and Monica commented on the input level, I will too! I noticed it before uploading and am somewhat mystified. All the samples are taken from the same wav file, so unless when I split the file into individual tracks and converted them to mp3 I applied differing gain levels to different tracks and forgot about having done so, I'm at a loss to explain it.

    Re the mics, I spoke to my will-be-sound engineer this morning. I'll have to bear your comments about phase problems in mind: I was not aware of this until now, but he can, if needed, bring to the project a pair of Neumann U87s (amongst others) in addition to the Rode NT5s. I don't know much about mics, but I believe the Neumanns are rather nice.

    Yes, the lid was fully open. When I put the samples together with Audacity, I thought there was a small bias to the left, but not anything particularly significant. In any case I wanted to leave it unedited. The tremolando octaves in the l.h. at the climax of the Liebestod aren't as "big" as I'd expect, but the whole climax seems a little muted, as referred to above, and I do wonder if I've inadvertently done something to the track in the past.
     
  6. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andrew,
    that´s a good sound throughout, except that I hear a quite disturbing little hiss in the background. Apart from that nice clearness und transparency in the sound-picture. I´m using WaveLab, a professional sound editing program. And I would do normalization and correction of volume especially. But also Panorama editing would improve this recording. There is no need of more reverberation IMHO. You could add a bit equalizer, if you like. But that´s a matter of taste, of course. The Rode N5 are really not bad, but I find my Neumann KM 184 still more natural than your Rodes. I agree to David, that two microphones are enough for a good stereo-recording.
    So, the only thing you really necessarily will have to do is to find out the reason for the hiss and to normalize the volume.

    The examples are really well played. Bravo! And the grand is excellent.
     
  7. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    Hi Andrew,
    I haven't listened to the samples but have this to say. If you can capture the sound as cleanly as possible without any "peaking," etc. and then send your file(s) for POST-PRODUCTION and MASTERING, this will get you what you want. Your task -- if you accept this mission -- is to locate such a service, but this should not be difficult given the resources of the internet and search engines. I should think that this could be accomplished for $500-$800 US. Remember that a piano recital is actually quite boring from a post-production and mastering point-of-view, when compared to ensembles and bands with vocalists, etc. Good luck and keep us informed.

    Eddy

    Edit: I listened. Great playing!
     
  8. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    A nice bonus regarding the person who will be helping me with the recording is that he is a professional recording engineer, and has access to various high-range sound editing programs, so I'm not worried if there is a small amount of hiss in the trial recording here and I imagine the mastering should be no problem.
     
  9. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andrew,

    This is going to be a nice endeavor. The difference of having good equipment will be more noticeable in a good hall than in the living room. It's nice that you have a recording engineer to help you to record, edit, and master the final product. Indeed, a small recorder will not give the signal to noise ratio, fidelity, nor the dynamic range that can be achieved in a good and quiet hall armed with a nice Steinway D. Please, make sure the hall is quiet!

    David is right, don't concern yourself with multiple mics, unless your hall is exceptional then you'll mic 2 distant pairs to capture the ambience and mix that into the direct tracks. But, this is easier said than done. Stick with an A-B spaced pair of small condensor mics spaced 15-18 inches apart, 6-9ft high, 5-9ft from the curve of the piano pointed down along the parallel axis of the lid. You will have to experiment with the distances to determine the amount of "air" you want from the room and the amount of direct sound from the instrument. It will also depend on the room characteristics like size, brightness.

    I won't go into too much detail here, but allow me to say that mic selection is important. You need a mic preamp and mics that are tonally neutral, have fast transient response, and have a flat EQ response. The final sound depends on the pianist, piano, room, and then the mics (in that order). Repertoire and genre of music is an important consideration too. In my opinion, Rode NT5 mics you mentioned are too bright. Most Neumann mics are too bright too for classical piano. The U87 is a fantastic mic, even great for jazz up close, but it's mainly a world-class vocal mic - a bit colored, and not the first choice for classical piano with a broad peak at ~8kHz. However, if you're really intent on the Neumann, and if your engineer has a large collection of mics from his studio, then the Neumann M50, TLM170, U89i, M149 (in that order) will give you a stellar and majestic sound. However, a matched pair of these mics are in the $6,000 to $12,000 range. Hey, if it's a large studio with deep pockets, access to mics are easy.

    Here is a link to my first thread here on PS as it has a lot of useful info, links, and charts. It gives information regarding mics, preamps, recorders, etc. suitable for classical piano recording:
    viewtopic.php?f=8&t=2844

    My recommendation is to go with a pair of small condensor mics: Schoeps MK2, DPA, or Sennheiser MKH8020 omnis. Personally, I find the the Senn MKH8020 to be an excellent match for capturing the bronzed sound of the Steinway D for classical piano. With response down to 10 Hz, it also excels as an organ mic. Here is a photo of the Sennheiser MKH8020 in action. You can feed it into a Sound Design 722 directly without a preamp, or use an external preamp (preferred) and use a Tascam DV-RA1000HD, Korg MS-2000, or another 24bit/192kHz recorder where the internal A/D conversion is more than adequate.

    Good Luck!

    George
     
  10. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for that wealth of information! As far as I know, I will have access to (if desired) a pair of Rode NT5s, plus two Neumann U87s, an AKG C414 and a Rode NT4 stereo x/y phase condenser. I will take on board your comments re the Neumanns.
     
  11. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andrew, I listened to the file and as always I'm very jealous of your ability to play the piano so well!!!
    About the sound quality I'd like to point out that in the third excerpt the pedal noises are clearly audible, when I use my headphone (Beyerdynamic DT 990 pro). And the sound overall is rather flat, not with so to speak "surround effect". Best wishes to you!!!
     
  12. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ah, that's not the first time you've spotted that in one of my recordings. I think I probably have a bad habit with my pedalling, probably tapping my foot on the pedal, especially in more aggressive passages. I'll keep an eye out for this in future - thanks for pointing this out.
     
  13. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Andrew,

    I had a listen to your sound samples. Overall, impressive sound, reverb, piano -- and, of course playing :p The only thing is, as some others noted, the overall amplification. I had to turn my volume up on both my computer and speakers to hear it adequately. The quality, though, sounds quite professional to my ears. Good luck with your project!

    Joe
     
  14. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Anytime Andrew. I would avoid the Rode because I fear it will result in a thin and glassy sound in this application. I actually own a pair of AKG C414 B-XLS mics and I use them to record my Steinway B. But a majority of my recordings were made in an untreated living room measuring 35x14x8.5ft (bare walls, no furniture, no acoustical treatment). The perks/curse of being single I guess, but in any case it has become a dedicated music room just for the piano. For a large condensor mic, the AKG C414B is excellent in capturing the tone and timbre of any instrument. They are slightly on the bright side of neutral, but in a complimentary way if the room is large. When miked in a large hall, the high frequency content can get lost (compared to a living room due to the lack of nearby reflections). I think that they will excel in capturing just the right amount of "air" in the performance and give you a good balance in sound across all registers. You should definitely audition the C414 B. As long as the tone is neutral, most of these mics in this class react well to EQing if you need to tweak later on. Heck if you lived close by, I'd let you borrow my mic collection.

    http://www.akg.com/site/products/powers ... ge,EN.html

    George
     
  15. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Excellent sound indeed. Somehow the last sample sounded a little less 'open' to me than the previous, but it could be my imagination.
     
  16. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks: I'll be paying close attention to the amplification level as a few recordings I've made in the past have veered on the quiet side. I didn't have any involvement with the setting up of the original recording from which these specific samples are taken (though it did involve my equipment) and didn't want to edit the samples before uploading them.

    :) Ok, I will definitely check out the C414 B. The hall is not huge - it holds in the region of 250 when full.

    The last sample is from the same piece as the third; indeed it's less than two minutes later, so the characteristics should be the same. It's possible I may have used the una corda at some point in it.
     
  17. Didier

    Didier Member Piano Society Artist

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    Nice sound ! I do not think that you should reduce the dynamics by means of normalization. Just check commercial recordings of classical piano : you will find such large dynamics. The NT5 is a bit lean on the low end not because it is a small diaphragm but because it is cardioid. You would get the same with Neumann, Schoeps or DPA cardioid condenser microphones except if the microphones are close to the soundboard for involving the proximity effect (low end reinforcement at short distance from the source exhibited by pressure gradient microphones), which is not suitable for classical piano.

    There are pedal noises (around 2'30" for instance). If you do not want to get them, you should be more cautious when putting off pedal and/or finding quieter placement for the microphones. The sound misses reverberation with respect to current standard for such recording. Here attached the result from a quick processing: bass boosting and reverberation adding. The piano is too wide. I would reduce the spacing between the microphones.
     
  18. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    New recommendation. Just record your stuff and send to Didier for post-processing. 8) I'm sure you can work out a deal.
     
  19. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Andrew, I forgot to mention that when you're tuning the piano before the event, have the technician grease and lubricate the pedal to eliminate the noise. Tell him before hand, and he'll locate the source of the problem and do the necessary tightening, lubrication, etc. I had a similar issue with a "clunk" every time I used the soft pedal. I told my technician and it was a rather quick fix. If your mics are high as I described they might be out of the path of the pedals. Make an audio check of this as pedal noise is the last thing you want to worry about before all your hard preparation.

    George
     
  20. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, I'm not keen on reducing dynamic range at all. If anything I think my dynamic range should ideally be bigger. The result after your processing is rather nice. I've got a photo of the mic positions somewhere, but it's not on this pc and may be on an old hard drive; I'll see if I can find it for my reference, and I'll experiment with the mics being closer together during setting up for the recording.

    If everything goes to plan I'm actually going to be playing publicly on the same piano a few days before the recording session and I think the same tuner is doing the tuning for both events, so I should get some sort of advance warning of potential problems. I once played at a concert where the pedal was making noises and there was a loose screw somewhere in it, so having it looked at is definitely on my mental checklist.
     

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