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Piano Recordings Above MIddle C

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  • Piano Recordings Above MIddle C

    In recordings of solo piano where the mics are placed close to the hammers (Gilels and recent Kovacevich Beethoven sonatas, for example), I've noticed a twangy sound in the octave above middle C and the next octave up as well, a twang that's not natural, at least to my ear, and which is absent in recordings where the mics are not quite as close (Rangell, Uchida Beethoven sonatas). Is this my imagination? Base notes and high treble notes sound totally natural with either recording method.

    Bruce

  • #2
    As my system has improved over the years, I have become aware of the massive difference mic' positioning makes to overall 'mic' perceived' tonal colour.
    Close up more top is evident, as is obviously the proportion of direct sound captured - a principle grasped I believe by Andre Previn in the early seventies, it giving a clean sound.
    I used to know John Hudson, a fellow apprentice in the 60s, who became a studio mixer and recorder notably with Cleo Lane. He used to put his ears in front of the then mono Tannoy monitors, and compare the sound directly with that from the trumpets to ensure that they were as nearly as possible identical. I guess that he damaged his ears in this studious attempt at accuracy.
    I think that as the electronics and also speakers get better, a real problem exists in the pure logistics of recording live music, and that this makes difficult any attempt to acheive a reference recording, this compounded by one's distance from the speakers in the listening environment, and its absorbancy. I am looking, without much success, at the moment for reference recordings of speech for evaluation of my speakers; I'm trying to produce speech such that a natural discussion is apparent in the room. I also notice that mechanical filtration of frequencies by objects is powerful, with steep 'filter curves' producing great spectural variations.

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    • #3
      Most of this colouration comes from microphone resonance! Peter McGrath, a well known recordist of classical music, let me hear the difference between a piano recording done with a 'normal' microphone and with a Grado HMP-1. The difference was stunning! The Grado let the piano sound exactly like it is, the other microphone presented the piano with a resonance we are almost accustomed to. See http://www.prosoundnetwork.com/artic...crophone/10515

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      • #4
        Garmtz, that is a point I have been pondering for years; for some reason in the last 40 years 'everyone' seems to have assumed that the mics are (relatively) 'perfect' in my professional experience, and they has been rarely questioned.
        At the moment I am finding that listening on radio FM, which I do for most of the day whilst working on the house, reveals a great range of tonal qualities, particularly evident on close mic working, eg continuity or newsreaders.
        I find the female voice particularly difficul to listen to, not of prejudice, but largely because of the cultural drift away from received pronunciation, combined with Americanisation, and also a tendency to shriek; that is, not to control the vocal chords, but to let them resonate freely (snare drum like) at the end of an impulsive sound. The resulting energy above about 1k is very high.
        I had been tearing my hair out about the variation in this even though for example, I have contacted Southern Counties radio and asked them what the mic's were that they used, and one frequently used varied from -4 to about +8 across the range - a Sennheiser I think.
        What you say is somewhat of a relief to me; it does seem to make practical sense that a 1/2 " metal disc will make some sort of metallic ringing sound.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by garmtz View Post
          Most of this colouration comes from microphone resonance! Peter McGrath, a well known recordist of classical music, let me hear the difference between a piano recording done with a 'normal' microphone and with a Grado HMP-1. The difference was stunning! The Grado let the piano sound exactly like it is, the other microphone presented the piano with a resonance we are almost accustomed to. See http://www.prosoundnetwork.com/artic...crophone/10515
          I don't suppose you have a catalogue number for any of Peter's Grado recordings do you? I'd love to hear one.
          Paul

          "If all else fails, read the instructions"

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          • #6
            Unnatural Recording of Piano

            Originally posted by Euler View Post
            In recordings of solo piano where the mics are placed close to the hammers (Gilels and recent Kovacevich Beethoven sonatas, for example), I've noticed a twangy sound in the octave above middle C and the next octave up as well, a twang that's not natural, at least to my ear, and which is absent in recordings where the mics are not quite as close (Rangell, Uchida Beethoven sonatas). Is this my imagination? Base notes and high treble notes sound totally natural with either recording method.

            Bruce
            Even though the piano is one of the more (if not the most) difficult instruments to record, I still don't understand how the recording experts at some highly regarded studios can produce piano recordings so unnatural (to my ears) that I have a hard time listening to them. In particular, among recordings where the mics are very close, some (as I said above) have an unnatural twang in the two octaves above middle C. As a case in point, we have the EMI recordings of Kovacevich's tour of the Beethoven sonatas. While I admire K's muscular approach to the sonatas, I'm turned off by the sound in those two octaves. (Am I hearing in these EMI recordings what I would hear from a Steinway if someone strapped my head to the sound board? Hard to know, since this is not my normal or natural listening position at concerts.) The Dorian (now defunct) recordings of Rangell's Beethoven sonatas is closely miced as well, but they sound far more natural.

            Of course, I'm no expert on the sound of a piano, certainly not compared to the recording engineers at EMI, especially the ones in charge or recording classical piano, so perhaps what I hear as unnatural those more knowledgeable than I hear as natural. I'm just perplexed. Yes, the piano is hard to record well, but you'd think the experts, despite their differences in micing techniques and their differences in how much hall ambiance they prefer, would all be producing recordings that are at least quite natural sounding.

            Bruce

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