If you’re looking for tips on how to mic an upright piano, this article will show you how. Fidlar will cover the best techniques and equipment to use to get great sound.
There are a few different ways to mic an upright piano, depending on what sound you are going for. You can place microphones under the piano if you want a fuller, richer sound. If you want a more “live” sound, you can place microphones in front of the piano. You can also experiment with different microphone placements to see what sounds best to you.
Get the Right Equipment
It’s pointless to utilize low-quality equipment to record an upright piano with a microphone.
Microphones, on the other hand, can be costly.
Here are some of my favorite mics for recording an upright piano, their approximate price ranges and a few notes about why they’re ideal choices.
Note that each link leads to an Amazon product page. You’ll need to click over the most up-to-date pricing (and see if it’s on sale) because prices fluctuate.
Neumann SKM 184 MT Stereo Matched Microphone Pair — This microphone set includes headphones and an XLR cable.
This is the greatest option for recording in general. Naturally, this comes at a premium price, but these mics’ quality and cardioid nature are difficult to better.
Blue Yeti USB Microphone – For most individuals, this USB microphone is affordable. It also has four polar patterns to record sound in various ways.
Check this out if you want to try your hand at sound recording without breaking the bank.
It’s also a USB mic, so it connects to computers quickly and easily for recording, albeit the sound quality isn’t as good as an XLR connection.
The Earthworks QTC30 is an omnidirectional microphone that picks up sound from all directions. This may not be ideal for every recording, but it will capture the piano’s natural tone.
This is ideal for a more natural tone. This Earthworks microphone is a little more expensive, but it has excellent quality.
Audio-Technica AT875R Shotgun Condenser Microphone — This shotgun microphone is more economical and adds variety to a recording setup.
Shotgun microphones only pick up sound from the cone directly in front of them.
You may recognize this microphone as the one used to pick up a lecturer on stage (but no one else in the room). It can also be used to select the sound of football players colliding on the field (without needing to be in the thick of it).
There are a variety of techniques to mic an upright piano, but none of them are especially good. The method that sounds the best (Technique #2 below) is usually marred by player stool and foot noise.
How To Mic An Upright Piano For Live Sound
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for micing an upright piano, but there are a few options to consider.
Look Behind You
I offer the first option to use two stereo microphones placed behind the pianist’s head.
Get two Blue Yeti and a sound application to record their sound in stereo, or use the Neumann ones for a fantastic sound.
Cardioid or one of its variants should be used in this situation.
The sound recorded from the microphones will pick up some room and the natural sound of the piano in front of them, but not enough to be distracting.
As the player moves up and down the keyboard, the stereo configuration will give the listener the impression of being behind the piano.
When the piano is in an open room, this layout works well. This eliminates echoes and bounces from the walls, which can muddy and muddle the audio.
A configuration above and behind the player’s head is an excellent all-around recording setup for any style, but it appears to be a jazz player’s favorite.
When it comes to jazz, the sound engineer usually wants to hear more of the hammer sound, power, and the highs and lows as they pan right and left.
Get The Room
The other option we recommend is the simplest, but it also gives you the most flexibility in the arrangement.
This option involves leaning into the room’s sound and simply trying to record the finest sound possible.
This setup process is highly dependent on your room and personal tastes.
The first step is to determine the room’s sweet spot. The sweet spot in the room is evident since it’s where the music seems to gather and be enhanced cleanly.
The sweet spot offers some versatility, depending on your preferences.
Allow someone to play the piano while activating your microphone, and put on decent, noise-canceling headphones.
While someone else plays the piano, walk around the room listening to the sound. As you listen and go around, you’ll discover the areas with the best sound.
Mark these locations and install microphones.
An omnidirectional microphone is ideal for capturing the entire room. You might also want to listen to a shotgun microphone pointed straight at the piano.
Alternatively, a combination of the two may appeal to you.
Play with the lid open and closed, the piano against a wall or at an angle, and other things.
Direct the shotgun microphone toward your voice while using the other mic to capture the ambient noise if you’re singing while playing.
This is yet another excellent all-around arrangement for capturing a large, authentic sound.
A Closer Look Behind The Soundboard
When recording all of the noises in the room, not every song and play style will sound excellent. Sometimes you want the sound to feel as if the listener is leaning on the piano’s edge as you play to them one-on-one.
Place two microphones behind the soundboard if you want a more intimate sound and capture the piano’s inherent mellow resonance (back of the piano).
Ensure that the microphones are at least 6 inches (15.24 cm) from the soundboard.
The result will be a full, rich sound. However, the highest pitches will be weaker and less resonant.
The hammer noises will be muffled, while the natural sustain from the piano’s wood will be amplified, producing a clear and ringing sound.
This strategy works well for any quieter and slower song, especially in the jazz, classical, and singer-songwriter genres.
For a great sound, use this conjunction with a shotgun mic pointed at a singer’s mouth.
Artificially Boost What’s Below
This technique is excellent for making a small room sound larger.
The bottom parts of the strings are exposed by removing or opening the panel beneath the keyboard.
Two microphones should be placed on either end of the piano, underneath the keyboard, at a 45° angle to the strings.
To reduce the pedals’ sound, use at least a cardioid (but a hyper cardioid pattern would be ideal).
Because the microphones are so close to the strings, they will pick up all of the extra harmonic resonance in the piano, amplifying the sound.
Being so near eliminates the echoes that a tiny room is notorious for, giving the piano the impression of being in a much broader place.
This configuration is also one of the only permanent ones that are simple to set up. Attach the mics to the piano’s side or footer pieces and run the wires down and around it.
Use this arrangement for any form of music, play in a small space, or create a simple permanent setup.
Powerful And Raw
If you wish to record a powerful sound, such as rock & roll, blues, or complex classical compositions from later periods of music.
You’ll need to remove the lid from the top of the piano to do this type of recording. Place the microphones directly on the hammers and strings for a rich and powerful sound.
There is some flexibility here as well.
To produce an authentic stereo sound and catch up with the percussive pounding of the hammers, place the microphones close up to the strings and hammers.
Cardioid and shotgun microphones function well in this situation.
Move the microphones back until you obtain the sound you desire, which is mellow and equal across the high and low frequencies.
How Do You Mic A Piano At Home?
The sound of your recording will be extremely dry and flat. You might not have a choice if you’re at home. Pull the piano away from the wall to allow at least six feet of space for a somewhat improved sound, even if you’re in a small room. This enables proper microphone placement and sound reverberation.
Is It Possible To Mic A Piano With Only One Microphone?
Yes, utilizing only one microphone is possible. A good sound can be captured with a quality condenser on a stand along with the grand piano and under the lid. Using your ears is the most effective method of determining the ideal location.
How Do I Simultaneously Record My Voice And My Keyboard?
Another way to record keyboard and vocals simultaneously is to use a handheld digital recorder. The ideal substitute for a good interface. Using a portable digital recorder, you might capture your vocals and keyboards. Stereo microphones are built inside the Zoom H4N Pro, as indicated above.
You should now understand the best way to mic an upright piano. These options may be ideal for your requirements; it is now up to you to pick the best fit for your needs. It may be helpful to test out a few different possibilities and get a sense of the many options available.