Mic A Grand Piano

Recording a grand piano can be every bit as challenging as recording drums. The instrument generates some very complex sounds and it is percussive and dynamic with rich overtones across a broad spectrum of sound.

I use a number of different approaches when I record a grand piano. This setup is similar to the path I usually start with:

I space pair Neumann U87s around 30cm or so above the strings, stereo pair a smaller set of condensers up and outside the piano and, to capture the low end, I like using the Neumann U47 fet. I sometimes position that mic close up to the lower registers underneath the piano or set back outside the piano itself.

All of that typically works fine in a controlled recording space.

For live sound, I do not often get called to mic a grand piano. Actually, I fear pianos in a live sound setting.

My church has a grand piano that lives outside the starting line of the front of house loudspeakers. Very difficult to mic this piano without getting feedback. Obviously, if the lid is lifted, the mics also pick up a lot of ambient sound from the stage as well as from the audience. With more folks serving on the piano, we needed to find a solution.

I just received a pair of C-Ducer tape mics to try on the piano.  The mics are taped to the underside of the piano up against the soundboard. I am hoping that these mics will capture a reasonable sound for live playing and that they will also provide a high degree of isolation from ambient sound. I will be installing them on Saturday. We’ll see how they sound.

3 replies
  1. Chris W
    Chris W says:

    Hi Richard, have you had a chance to play with the C-Ducer? Our churches grand piano has a Helpinstill pickup which sounds pretty awful. During our traditional music service we open the lid and reinforce with additional condenser’s. The problem comes during our contemporary service when the added stage noise bleeds and we’re left closing the lid and relying on the pickup alone. I’m looking at either something like the C-Ducer or better condenser mics that can somehow fit in under the lid on a short stick. What are your thoughts?

    Reply
    • Richard Cleaver
      Richard Cleaver says:

      Hi Chris.

      I have installed the C-Ducer tape microphones. As expected, these mics do offer exceptional feedback resistance. We had absolutely no issues with spill from the stage or from the Front of House system — something we were unable to achieve when we mic’d the piano with the lid up.

      I did have to play a little bit with placement to get the best sound out of the mics. I mounted the two tapes just under the bridges and between the ribs of the sound board — favouring the high side of the sound given that we are using the piano in a contemporary worship setting.

      They are “bright” sounding and they do not sound like traditional condenser microphones so I found that I had to think a little differently about placement.

      Lots of gain before feedback. Very little attenuation needed to bring the signal to noise level up on the board. Certainly cuts through a mix.

      Not sure that I would use this class of technology for critical recording but it solved our problem. Not sure if you work with a supplier that might be willing to let you “try before you buy”. My supplier allows for credit in kind for trying out this type of equipment.

      We are keeping the C-Ducers.

      Hope that helps!
      Richard

      Reply
  2. Chris
    Chris says:

    Thanks Richard!

    That convinces me they’re worth a try. One supplier in town shows a used pair online. I’m going to connect with them and see if we could try it out. I think I would be happy with a brighter sound then the muddy sound our Helpinstill gives us. The EQ on it almost looks like the Grand Canyon!
    I appreciate your feedback!
    -Chris

    Reply

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