Recording a piano conterto

Last weekend I had the pleasure of recording an amazing conert pianist. This lady is a stroke doctor during the day and a pianist on the side. She’s so serious about piano that she flies to New York and even to Paris to take lessons.

The setup

The hall is a great smaller venue which seats about 200 very comfortably. There isn’t a bad seat in the house and the atmosphere is great.

hall

It’s quite simple, a Steinway in the middle of the stage.

There are may different ways to record a gig like this. If you want more of the “live” sound you could to an XY stereo mic configuration in front of the piano or even in front of the stage to get more of the ambience and the audience. I chose a more close micing approach because we were more concerned with the quality of the piano sound than the audience.

mic config

I used two Audio Technica 4050 large diaphragm condenser mics for a stereo image. I placed one over the low end strings and one over the high end. The concept is they’d share the center range and the left and right would be low and high tones respectively. I didn’t worry about a perfect 90 degree angle XY because they were far enough apart and so close to the source.

mobilerig

Since the recording was only two channels I was able to bring a nice small setup. I used an M-Audio USB Duo as my preamp. The Duo just hooks into the USB on my 17″ Apple Powerbook. My recording software of choice is Cubase SX.

My Cubase capture settings were 32 bit recording at 44,100 sampling rate.

Backup Backup

The small silver device to the right of my rig picture is a minidisc recorder. Whenever I do gigs like this where it’s live and you only get one shot at the recording, I run a 2nd capture device. If the laptop crashes or there’s a problem with the capture, I have a backup on the minidisc. The MD would certainly not be as high quality, but I’d have something.

The result

The performer was awesome and my rig captured her perfectly. I didn’t even get a sound check but my guess on her levels was perfect. I didn’t even adjust my input gain at all. The very peak of her volume level was 1 or 2 dB below peak.

2 comments on “Recording a piano conterto
  1. nickbenn says:

    Wow – impressive that you called it that dead-on, without a sound check. My niece did her senior voice recital at Weber State in 2004, and the recordings from that sucked ass: the levels were ridiculously low (even though they did a run-through on stage the day before, with the sound tech guys there); basically, it sounded like they had one setup (all the way from mics used & placement, to preamp gain, and levels recorded to ADAT) that they used for everything, no matter what sort of performance was taking place. The result (on which Hustickerdu and I have been performing audio surgery, as we get the time) has a crazy noise floor, and a huge spike at around 1Khz in the audio spectrum.

    The AT4050 is such a sweet microphone; one of these days I need to pick up a second one.

  2. projekt7 says:

    I just recorded a Jazz Trio and I used your same setup with the piano except I used 2 Neumann TLM 103’s and it sounded great, it was the first time I used that mic setup on the piano and that is the way I am always going to do it. The piano sounded so warm that when I mixed it I used no EQ or other processing. I was taught many years ago to place the mics over the sound holes and never experimented, I wish I had cause like I said it sounded great (the Neumanns helped alot too)….Thanx for the Tip….