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a little test

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by pianolady, Jun 30, 2009.

  1. pianolady

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

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    I'm fooling around with mic placement again and need some input. Attached are two 30-second recordings of me playing. The first attachment is my usual placement, which is above the piano. The second attachment is something I've not tried before - I put the Edirol on the floor directly under the piano. The sound is quite different, but I'm not sure which is better. If you guys can please give me a minute of your time and listen and then tell me what you think, I'd be very grateful! :)

    (I'll take this down soon)
     
  2. camaysar

    camaysar New Member

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    Hi Monica,

    What a good idea for an experiment! I sometimes record by placing the mic under the piano as well. The reason makes itself apparent from listening to your examples: under the piano gives a richer, well-bound sound. It may not work to advantage with every piece, but in your example it certainly does. I far prefer it from "down under"!

    In some pieces, one may prefer a more "sparkly" sound. But the sound you achieve in your recording does not seem to sacrifice clarity for richness. I like it alot.
     
  3. Didier

    Didier Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi Monica,

    I prefer above despite it has less bass and may be a bit too bright, which can be corrected by EQ, The sound below is less natural.
    Here attached your recording above with some equalization.
     
  4. wiser_guy

    wiser_guy Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Experimenting is nice but placing mics under the piano is not going to work. This yields a booming 250-350 Hz range and at the same time it strips out the sound of a whole useful middle range where the main body of the tone is shaped. The highs are tinny and digital-like. Something like a bad EQ. I'd say it's a no-no situation.

    You know, mics should generally be placed where you hear the best sound from the instrument. Ok, a little closer maybe, since our ears filter out unwanted ambience while mics don't. But if you get under the piano and listen, you'll surely see why this position doesn't work. The piano was designed to project its sound with the help of the open lid, that's the best place to start. I honestly don't think any piano maker has ever designed an instrument with focus on making it sound best when listening from under.

    I always find it weird when people try to position recording gear in places they would never sit and listen themselves. You may see for example, a violinist with a microphone placed high above. Why on earth should the violin sound better up there? If it did, then why not put the audience on ladders instead of straight ahead?
     
  5. pianolady

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

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    Thank you so much for the help, James, Didier, and Pantelis.
    I have some things to say, and Didier - I am very interested in hearing how you equalized the recording. However, I have to rush off to the salon right now, so I won't be able to listen until tonight. I just didn't want you to think I'm being rude for not commenting right away.
     
  6. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica,

    I listened to the test, and preferred the "above the piano" (especially Didier's equalized version) to the one made under the piano. To me, the above-the-piano sound has more presence and is natural, vibrant and realistic. The "under the piano" recording sounds as if the soft pedal is down throughout, or even worse, that a blanket has been placed over the strings. It's too muffled, dull, drab and dark in my opinion. But comparisons like this will always differ in the ear of the particular listener.

    I'm curious, do you use the on-board Edirol mics when you record? If so, are there also XRL input connections on the back of the unit as well as a phantom power switch to support two outboard stereo mics? (Some Edirol units have, strangely, only one outboard mic input jack, thus prompting my question.) In my own testing including X/Y configuration, A-B configuration, in-piano placement, close-in placement, farther out placements, etc., I've found nothing yet that beats A-B configuration using a matched pair of parallel outboard stereo mics separated by 12" and about 6 to 8' in front of the open piano, depending on the acoustic properties of the room and what distance works best. Distance allows the music to be fully finished and blended as classical sound should be.

    The Edirol on-board mics are very good and versatile to be sure; however, if you were to try even higher quality outboard small-diaphragm omni-directional condenser mics away from the piano with fine quality mic cables back to the Edirol, I believe you might find an improvement in sound playback. But if you prefer the on-board mics, then I'd suggest you try placing the Edirol in front and centered on the curve of the piano and about 7' away. And if you could find a way to safely elevate the Edirol to a height about 4 1/2' off the floor (a step ladder perhaps), it would be way better. See what you think. Maybe you could use the same test you posted here for yet another comparison.

    I'll be posting a new recording in just a couple of days. I've retired my 1980s Nakamichi MC-300 stereo pair for a new matched pair of Earthworks TC-20 mics. Both the old and new are small-diaphragm, omni-directional condensers, but the Earthworks are new technology. We'll see if anyone notices a difference. :lol:

    David :)
     
  7. camaysar

    camaysar New Member

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    Well, after reading the above, I listened again, and I've been converted. Under the piano does sound a bit "blankety". Maybe I wasn't listening with enough volume. After listening at a higher volume, what sounded a bit thin before now sounds clear and natural. Under is definitely muffled. Also, I was listening to my lousy computer speakers. With those speakers, under sounds much better. But with headphones, the drawbacks became clear.

    As this is an edit, I read Andreas' post below. There is definitely a nice richness to under, but the clarity is lost a bit. I'll listen to his EQ and see if it makes up for it, to my ears.
     
  8. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi Monica,
    I agree to what Pantelis wrote. But I have played a little bit with my eq and so your recording from under the piano, sounds better to me. What do you think? I have reduced the bass and the middle frequencies and I have put more high frequencies to it.
    Here you can see the equalizer-settings:
     
  9. camaysar

    camaysar New Member

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    Wow, you guys have some fancy equipment! Hahaha!

    Andreas, you made it better in a way. But the treble has a bit of a strange scratchiness now. And there is still a "filmy" quality to the mids and lows. I'd have to still stick with above (with headphones and turned up!) for overall clarity.
     
  10. Didier

    Didier Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    After having applied -7 dB gain to the below take for making the mean levels of both takes equal, I compared the spectra. I boosted the take above at 60 and 100 Hz to get roughly the same bass level like in the below take. A few dBs (3 to 6) were enough. Then I applied a wide deep (a few dBs also) around 3-4 kHz to have a constant downward mean slope in this part of the spectrum.
    You can do this kind of processing with any audio editor, Audacity for instance. I'm using Wavelab that is much powerful but more professional than amateur oriented.

    I think that this is rather suitable for recording a concert grand in a hall. I put my microphones much closer than that, less than 2' anyway. Beyond that distance, I hear too much the sound signature of my room. If I want more space in the sound, I add digital reverb.
     
  11. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    As usual, you work miracles with editing! :) As a result, I do admit that the under-the-piano sound has improved and is brighter now. Yet the treble seems a bit thin and harpsichord-like, I think. Acoustically, there is no question that sound from a grand piano does travel downward toward the floor as well as upward and outward after being reflected from the open lid. I would guess though that a listener in a room is most conscious of the sound reflecting off the piano lid, more so than the sound at floor level. (There has been some experimentation in music halls though using bottom reflecting lids along with the traditional open top lids, although I don't believe it has won many adherents yet.)

    Given the nature of the instrument (or beast :lol:), a recording needs to best replicate what a listener would hear in the moments of performance. In my humble opinion, focusing recording equipment to capture that essence (mostly coming from the top of the piano), is more natural. On the other hand, having to electronically refine the sound dropping from the soundboard onto the floor can indeed be accomplished as demonstrated in your fine editing, Andreas--I swear you could make most of us here sound like Artur Rubinstein! But still, Monica's under-the-piano version in its original form doesn't seem nearly as aurally appealing. And I would bet that if one were sitting on the floor during that performance, that original sound Monica recorded is probably the way it would sound to the ear. Just my opinion on it.

    David
     
  12. pianolady

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

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    Wow - You guys are great!

    James - don't worry - I also liked the 'under' version because I have this strange thing about liking lots of bass. But yes - it did also sound muffled. So ok, I'll rule that out. (Except…I like how Andreas manipulated the sound.)

    Pantelis - Your point about putting the mics where a person normally sits to listen makes sense. I just thought that because the sound board is what amplifies the sound, then perhaps having the recorder directly under the sound board might be worthwhile. Oh well...live and learn.

    David - I can't put my recorder by the curve of the piano because the wall is right there. So I have my recorder sitting on a tripod about a foot above the piano and about a foot away from the piano and pointing toward the strings. My lid is fully up and I figure that the sound is bouncing off the wall right on the other side of the piano and coming back to the recorder. Maybe?

    Didier - I like what you did to the recording, because I hear less background hiss. I know you explained how you did that, but I will have to re-read yours and everybody else's comments because it's a lot for me to take in all at once. I can say that I was excited to learn that you used Wavelab. I thought that was the same program I use, but I'm wrong- I use Wavepad. Still, I think it has all the equalizing stuff too.

    David – same goes for what you said about if my Edirol has those thingamagigs. I’ll look at it tomorrow, as I plan on doing some recording.

    Andreas – I’m glad you put up that image because I see what you guys are talking about. And I do like what you did to the ‘under’ recording. Trouble is I like both your version and Didier’s. But you and Didier are way more advanced than I when it comes to this equalizing thing. So I think I have to stick with keeping the recorder above the piano. (unless I can hire you or Didier to do all of my editing :p :wink: :)) Still, I do wish I could get rid of the hiss like what Didier did.

    Again, I’ll re-read all what you guys wrote tomorrow when I’m more awake. Thank you very much!
     
  13. wiser_guy

    wiser_guy Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    There is an enlightening article on SoundOnSound about recording the grand piano:

    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan08/articles/pianorecording_0108.htm

    The interesting thing about it is that they used ordinary, budget equipment to do the tests. And instead of playing a 9-foot ultra high-end piano, they tested with a small Yamaha. So, the listener can really focus on the results of mic placement, not on gear or instrument.
    You can hear the detailed tests here:

    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan08/articles/pianorecordingaudio.htm

    and as they say in the SoundOnSound article, you can judge for yourself whether these techniques are the dog's danglies or a dog's dinner.

    I believe anyone with an interest in piano recording should read the article and listen to the test files. Eye opening, or should I say ear-opening experience.
     
  14. pianolady

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

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    Thanks for all that information, Pantelis. Wow - reading it (and listening) will certainly give me something to do while I wait for my kids to wake up so I can go practice. (Actually - I don't wait anymore because they sleep until 12:00 noon.)
     
  15. Didier

    Didier Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    The hiss is reduced only because of the EQ attenuation of the highs. On the attached picture there are the spectra before (white) and after equalizing (red).
    Don't care about the attenuation above 15 kHz which is due to the lower rate of my mp3 file.
     
  16. pianolady

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

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    Didier - I loaded the 'above' file into my Wavepad program and also my Audacity program. I have the equalizer in both programs but they don't look like anything what I see in your or Andreas' images. What I do see are things like: low or high pass filters, slope, straight line, notch, etc...I don't know what any of that means.

    In audacity, I took the 'above piano' file and ran that 'low pass filter' thing through it. To me it sounds like there is less hiss now, but do you think the rest of it sounds any different, or any better? I think I may hear some wobbling now, though.
     
  17. Didier

    Didier Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi Monica,

    it sounds better now. What you did in the highs is right. I attenuated a frequency band between about 2 and 6 kHz, while you attenuated the whole band above some frequency, it is what does a low-pass filter. Anyway your spectrum looks closer to a normal piano recording than mine. But I also emphasized a bit the lows, which you did not. It is certainly possible to do that also by means of Wavepad or Audacity.

    Your spectrum in red, mine in white.
     
  18. pianolady

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

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    Ok, I'll do a little more fooling around with the bass next. But did you not hear any wobbling in my sample? I think I do, but maybe it's my computer, which is doing bad things again.
     
  19. Didier

    Didier Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi Monica,

    no, I don't hear something that could be related to what you call wobbling...
     
  20. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I know what the problem is! Those aren't sound spectra, they're graphical representations of the stock markets. Duh, you guys! :lol:

    But seriously...above the piano is better. Below, I don't hear more bass, only less treble.
     

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