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Topic: Intent to Sample Old Upright - Suggestions Please

  1. #1

    Intent to Sample Old Upright - Suggestions Please

    winter is coming .. more time inside ... planning on sampling the \'family piano\' -- left over from college ... i beat on it and so does the wife and kid .... fresh tuning tomorrow ..... so i\'m gonna sample it

    it has an \'ok\' bar room sound .... i plan on freely distributing it .... so speak up

    some keys are a bit inconsistant ... should i normalize the samples ???

    suggested velocity for pedal up/down (this is not a $75,000 Steinway mind you)

    editing: do you guys (professional sample designers) pitch correct each note or leave it tempered ?

    i plan on a room mic (mono) and a stereo close mic setting ... this is an upright ... should i open the top ?? what proximity do you suggest for the close mics ???

    any other suggestions ?

    mr. post -- big fan of your work and a client ;-) so, ya got anything to suggest ....

    worra -- i still plan on getting your set on friday :-) you still use a US distributor, yes ?

    and why are post audio media samples not distributed by bigga gigga anymore? i prefered to have them shipped from US .... got the toys faster that way :-)

    thanks guys!

  2. #2

    Re: Intent to Sample Old Upright - Suggestions Please

    Well, where do we begin...
    I would need more time than I have available to really answer your questions.
    Recording: get the best microphones to record your piano samples with; omni-directional for room sound and directionals for the close mics. See what you can rent or lend from others to get the very best. The quality of the mic will be critical for the final sound. No eq, FX or other trick will ever fix a bad recording. Mic placement is also very critical. In general you need to get the best position between a fair distance (to capture enough room and natural ambience in the sound) and proximity (to avoid ambient noise).
    The help of an experienced audio recording veteran will do wonders.
    When you use more than two mic\'s (like you suggest) be aware of phase cancellation problems between the two sources. Listen very critical to see if certain frequencies get softer when the extra mono mic is added. Sometimes you don\'t hear it on speakers so you will need to monitor the microphone positions using headphones.

    Once recorded you will have to cut the recording into small pieces. I normally record one velocity layer at a time (all keys in the same velocity). During mastering you should not normalise the samples individually but I prefer normalising the whole velocity layer as a whole. This way the balance between the keys in kept intact and the whole sound energy level is shifted to match that of the other velocity layers. If you normalise each sample on an individual basis you will end up with very inconsistent levels between individual keys that will have to be repaired during the final programming. You do want an even response in the end.

    Tuning (...) I would suggest to leave the samples as they are. When you retune after the recording you will tune the result of several strings sounding together. This tuning will not correct pitch between these strings but will only change the pitch relation with the other samples which should not be needed when your piano is tuned during recording.
    I understand WaveLab has all the utilities you will need to chop up the master recording into the small samples (it will recognise the pitch, name the samples for you and save them using the right names). WaveLab is a Steinberg (=HALion) product that seems to understand the demands of large-scale sample design.

    Suggested reading PMI Grandioso booklet explains some basics on tuning.

    Below is a chapter from my PMI Bosendorfer 290 manual which is about grand pianos but is informative enough for stand up pinao too.

    About the recording
    A concert grand piano is among the largest and most versatile acoustical instruments in the world. Capturing the natural timbre and the full dynamics of an instrument is very complicated. Furthermore, the grand piano interacts with the room in which it is placed and the recording method requires independent consideration in each situation and each location. Even how it is played will influence the choice of microphone technique.
    The room acoustics are such an important factor when recording a concert grand piano, that it is important to assess whether the room will do justice to the instrument or not. A concert grand piano is build for playing in concert halls where the reverberation times normally are acoustically tuned between 0,9 seconds to 1,3 seconds at 500 Hz and the room volume is minimum10.000 cubic meters. Concert halls specially designed for playing Wagner can even have reverberation times around 2 seconds. With the lid open, the concert grand piano is capable of giving a full musical experience to the audience throughout the hall. This must be taken into account when recording in a recording studio. Finding a good location with a well tuned grand piano is the first thing to do - and the hardest. When you listen to piano in a concert setting the hearing distance is much larger and the overall reflections of the concert hall have added up and summed the individual frequence radiations to a certain mixed sound picture. This is mainly a positive picture. Listening to famous concert halls learns that each hall has its own characteristics in frequency response and total impression. When you place a microphone in a typical concert hall position (12 meters or more from the source) the signal to noise ratio will become un-usable for sampling.

    The choice of recording method also depends on the repertoire to be played. Classical piano music deserves a natural blend of ambience, but different composers all have their own characteristics which leave more or less space for the ambience to influence the music. Many a record producer and sound engineer has added his own interpretation of the grand masters\' notes while immortalizing their compositions through a pair of microphones. Rhythmic music and jazz traditionally are played in different types of locations. Therefore the listener\'s expectations of the timbre and the ambiance are somewhat different. In many cases, it was the composer\'s intention that his work be replayed on a hi-fi system in the home environment. The room acoustic of the location in which the jazz piano has been recorded is therefore judged by different and possibly less critical criteria, but, to give the grand piano its unique timbre, the recording still needs to convey a sense of location. This will furthermore give the listener a sensation that will bring him to the edge of his chair, so to speak.

    Classical piano music and A-B stereo

    When recording classical piano music, the finest results come out of two omnidirectional microphones in an A-B stereo setup in front of the grand piano. The A-B stereo pair is placed on the side of the piano to give the listener an illusion of being a part of the audience. By adjusting the distance to the piano and the exact placement next to the piano, the amount of ambience and the timbre of the instrument can be tuned. Placements around the mid of the piano 1 to 2 meters away are often preferred. The microphones are normally spaced between 40 to 60 cm and the stereo image is adjusted, so the pianist is to the left, of course. The height of the stereo boom is quite low, 1.2 m to 1.5 m above the boundary on which the piano is placed. By pointing the microphones to the open lid of the piano, the sound reflecting on the inner side of the lid will be brightened up and a beautiful depth will be added to the recording.

    Classical piano and X-Y stereo

    When recording classical piano music, the second best method is the use of two directional microphones in an YX-Y stereo setup in front of the grand piano. The X-Y stereo pair is placed on the side of the piano and gives the listener an illusion of the piano nearby. Again, by adjusting the distance to the piano and the exact placement next to the piano, the amount of ambience and the timbre of the instrument can be tuned. Placements around the mid of the piano closer than 1 meter to the instrument are often preferred. By pointing the microphones to the open lid of the piano, the sound reflecting on the inner side of the lid will be brightened up and a beautiful depth will be added to the recording.

    Please note that the sound pressure level inside a concert grand piano can exceed 130 dB SPL peak 20 cm over the strings. So special care is needed when choosing microphone types.

  3. #3

    Re: Intent to Sample Old Upright - Suggestions Please

    Michiel, what a wonderful and informative post! Developer \'secrets\' worth their weight in gold-sputtered diaphrams. Once again, you give the forum value and depth well beyuond reasonable expectation. I consider myself a reasonable engineer (don\'t do enough live musicians to really get really good at it, but I can hold my own locally) but you\'ve just given me some insight that will greatly improve my acoustic piano recording, when the clients insist on it instead of the Gioga pianos.


    Passacaglia, the one suggestion/request I might make: sample in both \'normal\' (living room) configuration, and with the front cover off, to get a more lively, direct sound.


  4. #4

    Re: Intent to Sample Old Upright - Suggestions Please

    I didn\'t read the entire post by Michiel Post yet, but it is a wonderful insight in sampling techniques... I will read this carefully, as soon as I got the time!

    My suggestion for open top or not - as you plan to record with a room mic, I\'d open it, because the lower parts have more space to develop and to have a brighter sound. Closed top sounds a bit more muffled - but this is also a personal taste. So you have to sit down and do lots of tests I guess. Inconsistant keys: I\'d work on certain samples, to get the \"overall feeling\" right, if you know what I mean - for hitting e.g. C#5 five times (also with different volumes).


  5. #5

    Re: Intent to Sample Old Upright - Suggestions Please

    That was an awesome post, Michiel.


    -- Martin

  6. #6

    Re: Intent to Sample Old Upright - Suggestions Please


    thanks michiel!!!! just what i was looking for!!

    i spent a few years at a production studio, so i have a good sense of recording techniques and mic placements ... but wanted just a bit more info on how you guys get that fabulous sound! just what i needed, thanks!

    of course ..... this piano is not worthy of a long, drawn out process ..... i\'d just like to capture it\'s unique sound, in the case that someone may want that \'crappy\' piano sound in a score or recording.

    you answered all the questions i had. thanks for the professional insight and your time!!

    best wishes

  7. #7

    Re: Intent to Sample Old Upright - Suggestions Please

    Hansi, I wasn\'t only talking about opening the top, I mean taking the entire front off the case, top and bottom. Strictly as an alternate recording option, not to capture the living room feel. I used to record my old upright this way for blues sessions, sounded quite present.


  8. #8

    Re: Intent to Sample Old Upright - Suggestions Please

    You can do that, Dasher. But I\'m pretty sure this would not end in a result passacaglia is looking for, as he likes the \"unique\" sound he\'s listening everytime he plays the piano. Open only the top helps the recording not to drown or how you\'d express it... And I\'m not sure if it makes sense to use a room-mic when opening also the front...

    One more thing to test before recording [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]


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