Students Prepare a Piano for Recording
Recording Technology students performed a little experiment using eight different microphones to record the sound from a baby grand piano in the Instrumental Music Building. With just a little assistance from their teacher, the students set up all eight microphones, pairing them up to get stereo sound. Then, the students configured the four pairs in three different ways (one method was duplicated).
According to teacher Mr. Neumuller, the most common way that pianos are recorded is by suspending a pair of microphones above the piano’s strings, one picking up the lower notes, the other picking up the higher notes, and both sharing the middle ground. The students set up two pairs of microphones in this method, but one pair was inexpensive and the other was higher end. Mr. Neumuller did not tell the girls which was which, so when they listened to the recordings, they were unbiased determining which set performed better.
The girls put another stereo pair outside the piano, aimed at the underside of the raised piano lid to capture the sound bouncing off the lid. The last two mics are a kind specifically designed for use on a piano, and the students taped these directly to the soundboard, rendering them nearly invisible to an audience. Another advantage to this style of mics is that a person can record the piano with the lid closed to get a well isolated recording even if there is an entire band or orchestra present.
To an untrained observer, the mix of microphones, tape, and cables all piped to the recording room where zigzagging lines appear in colorful bars on screen, this set up might look like a jumble. The students, though, seem to know exactly what they are doing in their pro set-up.