Thank you to those who donated to Piano Society in 2017.

CD recording project: advice wanted

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

  1. johnlewisgrant

    johnlewisgrant Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2007
    Messages:
    98
    Likes Received:
    0
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Toronto
    Last Name:
    Grant
    First Name:
    John
    It is quite daunting to lay out cash .... 1) for 2 days at a particular venue; 2) for a good instrument; 3) for good mics; 4) for good USE of the equipment (mic levels, placement, et. al.)

    Starting with the MOST IMPORTANT variable 5) ability at the instrument ... answer... no worries!!!

    The other variables? Well, based on what little I have learned over the last 3 weeks of torture...renting ALL manner of microphones: Schoeps, Coles, AKG (various), Rodes (your nt5), etc., etc., etc... they are NOT all that different in terms of the end result..... (sue me) (Granted, ribbon mics are a different kettle... but small diaphram condensers? Well, mass production in China has made this game zero sum.)

    Much more important is 1. the musical "material" 2. the type of mics employed on site (small card, medium card, small omni, medium omni, long ribbon, short ribbon, etc., etc., ) 3. the PLACEMENT of said mics. 4. the MIXING of the auditory results from each individual mic post performance/recording.

    ALSO 1/ Slow, less dense piano music is a MUCH, MUCH easier starting point to the end of making a good to "state of the art" cd ready result. Just SO much easier to solve accoustically; 2. Microphone choice: A mid-high end (medium sized condensor) mic like the AKG 414 is made to be flexible (omni, card, etc ) but is NOT easy to use. The small diaphram condensor mics, your Rodes, will do the trick (make a pro. cd) much more easily. Typically, what the pro engineers (like Didier) will do is surround the piano with 4 or more mics, and MIX the result afterwards, to get the RIGHT balance between precise, closer-to-instrument tone and the venue ambience, which is equally critical to a getting a sensational CD sound.

    Fortunately, the bar is (in my humble view) very low for solo classical piano recordings. Until you've heard, for example, little known CDs like Bunin's Bach compilation recorded in the early 90s, by who-knows?, you don't know how spectacular a well-recorded piano can sound. Such glories are few and far between. Even Barenboim, with his phenomenal abilities at the piano, his dedication to the art of the great recording, etc.., etc., has not (sue me) released a spectacular technical recording. They tend to be just "very, very good" and, naturally, just awe-inspiring pianism.

    It's almost a lucky strike proposition, and I wish you much luck in it. You've got the chops. So you just want, in the end, for THAT to shine through, notwithstanding the vagaries of "recording the instrument." Getting over that hurdle.... that's going to take you a LONG way!!

    JG
     
  2. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    967
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    Youtube:
    alkanliszt
    Thanks for your comments. I'm quite pleased to see that the general opinion of posters has been that the Rode NT5s are adequate for the purposes: I'm quite pleased with their sound and it is my intention that they are the fall-back tried and tested option should there be problems with other mics. Set-up is the one part I'm really not looking forward to! There is a comparatively low amount of "slow, less dense" material on the recording repertoire list, so I am expecting that I may have to do a fair bit of trial and error. I think I may also have to consider that what is a good sound for one type of piece may not be so suitable for another.
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,710
    Likes Received:
    1
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica
    :lol: Just saw this. That's funny - I needed a laugh... :)
     
  4. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    967
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    Youtube:
    alkanliszt
    Re: CD recording project: Update

    Hi everyone, thought I should give an update on how this has been going. I would put it in the general forum, but as it started here, I suppose it's more likely to be seen by those who were kind enough to give me advice first time round.

    Anyway, I spent two days this week recording takes. 10am to 6pm both days on a very nice Steinway Model D; first day the first 2+ hours were spent on setting up before any actual recording took place. I've listened properly to a fair bit of it now: there are things which could be better, but I have my limitations and will have to live with them. Some things did go satisfyingly well. In an ideal world, I would have liked at least another half-day for further tidying of takes (as I've heard a few oddities which I'm not completely sure I've cleaned up), but venue hire etc was not cheap and I'd decided a three day booking was an expensive luxury.

    It's amazing how many problems there can be in the process! Ambient noise was an absolute nightmare. The first two piano stools creaked liberally at any over-enthusiastic body movement. I ended up on a cheap plastic chair with a cushion on it to get me to the right height. During takes, someone dropped something large and metallic outside the building; despite the building being well set back from the road, there was the odd bit of traffic noise. Before recording even started, I (or to be more precise, my engineer) had to locate the source of an incessant buzzing, eventually tracked down to an induction loop for hearing aids.

    Despite these hazards, it was ultimately a lot of fun and not quite as stressful as I was expecting. For most of the pieces I did one or two full takes, then ran through again them stopping whenever I did something I didn't like and retaking it until it was ok (four problem passages, of which one occurs in the video clip below, were retaken innumerable times). I have approximately 7 hours of takes (from what will ultimately be around an hour of music) to go through, collate, and rate for usability. I really hope I don't have problems with incompatible tempi of different takes. I'm intending to start full editing next week. My engineer has Protools and there are a lot of things to be considered, like the mix of the different mics (ultimately we used a pair close over the treble and bass strings, a stereo mic higher up and further back and two room mics).

    I've included two samples and any thoughts on the sound would be great. They are completely unedited: no tweaking of mic levels and no cut/paste of alternate takes. They most assuredly will end up being edited, as there are things I don't like in both of them. I had a camera running during the last hour or so of takes, so one of the samples I also have in video form - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXGM8Bp4wsI (not that youtube does the sound any favours).
     
  5. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2010
    Messages:
    1,252
    Likes Received:
    1
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Physician, Chief Medical Officer
    Location:
    Biloxi, MS, USA
    Last Name:
    Del Rio
    First Name:
    Eddy
    Andrew, I think your efforts are going to result in a really excellent product. Your playing is excellent, demonstrating beautiful musicianship and capable technique, and the recording quality is really excellent, and this despite the lack of engineering and post-production etc. You should be proud. Your transcriptions seem very idiomatic and successful. The liebestod left me wanting more ... much more! Bravo!
     
  6. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    967
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    Youtube:
    alkanliszt
    Thanks - I've still not got through critiquing all the takes (an arduous and not particularly pleasant task) and working out which are usable. I would be happy with a lot of them in a live context, but this is different. I imagine I'll feel more positive once I have a few tracks edited into coherent wholes: it is quite amazing just how easy it is for left hand ostinato-type accompaniment to slip into marginal unevenness in p passages, supposedly vocal turns to become muddy, or for chords to be accidentally voiced unevenly. Listening hypercritically has actually been very educational regarding defects in my playing, to say nothing of humbling.

    I'm really pleased with what you said about the sound: my initial impressions were that it had good dynamic range - I want it to go fully from pp to volcanic ff whilst not compromising on tone - but after so much time listening I'm no longer a neutral observer of what sonic characteristics I'm perceiving and it's good to have a third party opinion. I do think over the full samples I've examined that the treble may be a little shrill, but, even within the first hour of recording, I felt that about the piano itself - so that isn't necessarily a poor reflection on the recording quality. In any case, it's probably possible to manipulate it somewhat in the mixing process.
     
  7. Didier

    Didier Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2007
    Messages:
    504
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    France
    Last Name:
    Brest
    First Name:
    Didier
    I listened to Isolde's Liebestod. The piano sounds too far to me, just my own taste. I guess that we are listening mainly to the stereo mic ? Not bad but it sounds very old school with respect to the current "high-definition" piano recordings made nowadays. I would try to get the stereo mic (which shall be the main mic in the configuration that you described) closer. Because of the kind of stereo recording performed by such a mic, the stereo image of the piano is narrower than with two separate mics: it is not necessarily a drawback but it is a reason for getting the mic rather close.

    Do you know this recording of the same piece done at Horowitz home a few days before he died ? Just two mics (Schoeps MK2).
     
  8. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    967
    Likes Received:
    2
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    Youtube:
    alkanliszt
    As far as I know, all the mics are roughly equally balanced. I'll mention your comments to my engineer. The recording's done now, so no physical rearrangement of the mic configuration can be performed, but I assume there is certainly still scope for manipulation of the sound.

    I have very mixed feelings about Horowitz's recording of Isolde's Liebestod. On one hand, it is manifestly obvious from even the first 15 seconds that it is a truly great pianist playing, but it's tragicomically inaccurate (the part with the octaves, approximately halfway through, is especially horrendous if my memory serves me). I regret that Bolet didn't (to my knowledge) record it; I think he would have produced something quite splendid.
     

Share This Page