How to make a less than perfect PIANO sound more like a Steinway ?

Thomas-Monks wrote on 5/12/2020, 5:06 PM

Hi All,

I have a less than a perfect microphone and recorded my teenager's recital (video submit from home). It's a nice Yamaha, but sounds like a cheap honkey-tonk piano with my poor microphone. I would like to see some audio effect to clean-up the sound quality so it sounds more like a rich Steinway or something. Please help... Thanks, Tom

Comments

rraud wrote on 5/12/2020, 5:34 PM

Post a file on Dropbox of other file sharing site. But it probably ain't gonna sound like a Steinway no matter what you do.. aside from rerecording on a real Steinway with a pro engineer and appropriate gear, or at least rerecording a synth and good Steinway samples.

Thomas-Monks wrote on 5/12/2020, 6:09 PM

Thanks for the reply...ok Steinway was only an example...lol... Because of my $60 add-on Sony camcorder microphone, it's aluminum and creating metallic sound. I'm praying for a way to get rid of that sound which doesn't exist live, along with other vegas 16 settings which can help with a richer sound... I need a today solution, later will buy a better stereo camcorder microphone... I have 3 more of these videos to submit to judges... Thanks !

Howard-Vigorita wrote on 5/12/2020, 8:23 PM

You can try playing with the eq fx settings in Vegas, maybe crank up the bass and roll off some of the high end. Using an on-camera mic generally won't give you a rich and warm piano sound. Most of the better on-camera mics are mid-side arrays that have a side channel which gives you the ambiance at the position you shoot at. Which is nice to capture the live feel of the audience, but not so much for the more distant piano. The mid channel is usually directional which is more of a problem. Because the sweet-spot of a directional mic is typically 16-inches from the strings which is probably not an optimal vantage point for your camera. The most practical approach for a beginner is to record the piano to a flash recorder like a zoom h4n which has a built-in pair of directional mics in an x-y array and try to position the recorder closer to the piano. Keep in mind that if you get closer than 16-inchs from the strings, bass response and warmth will increase. The way I do live concert piano recordings for video is to use a compact-sized x-y array that's separate and apart from the recorder so I can position it more easily with a mic stand. Another possibility is to use a compact-sized mid-side array but that's more complicated to decode into stereo and works better if you take the lid off the piano. Either way, once you get the zoom's piano file, you'd need to bring it into Vegas and slide it into visual waveform alignment with the camera's internal audio recording. Then mute the camera sound track before rendering.

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Thomas-Monks wrote on 5/12/2020, 8:25 PM

Thanks, When working rock & roll concerts, we used a spectrum analyzer for the front of house mains. I need to find that software...too bad it's not part of Vegas. At least I can visually see what needs to be rolled off on the EQ. I appreciate the XY mic idea and will be going that route in the future. I agree, the EQ is probably the best solution for now. At least this will not be broadcast or anything.

rraud wrote on 5/13/2020, 9:18 AM

Sound Forge Pro has a spectrum analysis tool. 'Spectral Layers Pro' is another option and can process audio data. SLP was originally an SCS/Magix product. A free option is 'Voxengo Span' a VST analysis plug-in.

Musicvid wrote on 5/13/2020, 2:53 PM

Recording an upright from the front with the lid closed with an on-camera mic will sound like that. Very little information you can enhance, but at least it's not badly clipped. Here's your spectrum analysis:

Thomas-Monks wrote on 5/13/2020, 3:46 PM

Thank you for the time you spent on analysis... I asked my daughter to play another song with lots of highs, mids and lows... from there I basically listened to it 50 times and here is the EQ curve that sounded best. Sorry I don't have that one published here...but will later... This is a Yamaha B3 so it's on the higher end for an upright. I need to keep this angle because I must have performer's face, keyboard and pedal (needed to flip 4K 90 degrees).

Here is the EQ curve that I came up with which sounded best to me.

 

 

Musicvid wrote on 5/13/2020, 3:56 PM

Question, should I open the piano for recording?

The answer is still yes, but you need a High SPL mic for instruments.

Yes, the Yamaha B3 is a very good instrument. Played and recorded them, along with a C3 and a 9' Steinway for years. Leaving the top down and recording from the front will never reveal that in a recording.

A good boundary mic or SM51 just inside the open lid, about 2/3 toward the bass end and no room reverb or traffic noise, will give you excellent recordings. Good luck

Howard-Vigorita wrote on 5/13/2020, 4:04 PM
Question, should I open the piano for recording?

@Thomas-Monks Uprights are best recorded from behind where the soundboard is. From the front, opening the top lid isn't the most effective way to let the sound out... taking off the panels above and/or below the keybed are more effective. If the player is reading and needs the top panels for the music desk, just removing the bottom one is still pretty effective.

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rraud wrote on 5/13/2020, 5:51 PM

I always used a pair of Crown 160 boundary mics when a grand's lid absolutely had to be closed.

Otherwise a pair of LDC mics. I have been known to put thumb tacks on the hammers of an upright to get in-your-face attack.

Musicvid wrote on 5/13/2020, 7:47 PM

 always used a pair of Crown 160 boundary mics when a grand's lid absolutely had to be closed.

+1. Or Open. I had two and wished I'd never sold them.

Me too. First summer stock gig was at a honky-tonk.

Howard-Vigorita wrote on 5/13/2020, 8:24 PM
Otherwise a pair of LDC mics. I have been known to put thumb tacks on the hammers of an upright to get in-your-face attack.

I would hope you were doing that to your own piano and not someone else's. Here's a better way to get an in-your-face attack without damaging the strings... by using a point source small diaphragm omni as the mid element of a mid-side array instead of a larger diaphragm mic which cannot respond as well to transients due to the larger moving mass. With this type of array you can get as close to the strings as you want with razor sharp imaging, sparkling high end, clean as a whistle bass, maximum impulse response, and no proximity effect. And as an added bonus you can dynamically manipulate the stereo width in post and do other tricks, like give the mid and side channels different pre-delay parameters for wrap-around ambiance.
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Thomas-Monks wrote on 5/13/2020, 8:59 PM

88 thumbtacks in the hammers of a piano ? As Beavis and Butthead would say... Cool !

I'm grateful for the comments. It's like taking a beginning cooking lesson from a group of great chefs, each has their favorite way of doing it. The more I read here, the more ignorant I understand that I am. A wise man once said, "...those of you, who think you know what you are doing, really p_ss off those of us who really do ! "

Howard-Vigorita wrote on 5/15/2020, 2:21 PM

Testing a camera I picked up in my travels that must have the worst internal mic ever. So I impulsively pulled out a bargain-basement Tascam tm-2x dslr mic while my wife was practicing on our "other" piano. Kind of amazed at how good it sounds with no eq or anything. Here's the rig I used about 4 feet from the piano.

Here's the mic sitting on top of my usual live concert piano rig that runs way more money. Looks similar in concept but a little more substantial than the mic array on a Zoom recorder.

Here's the recording hot off the presses...

Cameras: Z-Cam E2 classic, Canon XF305, JVC GV-LS2, Canon 6D w/L-glass line.
Laptop: Dell XPS15-9570; i7-8750h 32gb (integrated Intel UHD-630 & Nvidia GTX-1050Ti)
Road: Intel NUC i7 8809g 32gb (integrated AMD VegaM 4gb graphics and Intel HD630)
Workstation: i9 9900k 32 gb (Sapphire AMD Radeon VII 16gb graphics and integrated Intel UHD630)
Workstation2: e5 1650v4 128 gb (Sapphire Nitro+ RX5700xt Navi 8gb graphics)
Workstation3: i7-980X 24gb (Sapphire Nitro+ Vega64 8gb graphics)
currently Vegas 17.452 (testing Vegas 18.284)

fred-w wrote on 5/17/2020, 3:36 PM

Congratulations to you and your daughter for a fine performance and look.

if it were me, and I had no flexiblity with mic choice and with piano position limitations....I'd:

1. Pull the piano a bit away from the wall. Even a few inches would help.

2. Unlatch the lower front cover board (above the pedals). If you don't want to take it off (first choice) entirely, (for aesthetics) you can still let it drop from the top at an angle and no one will see that. Just secure that with a duct tape or wedge or prop of some sort.

3. Crack open (or fully open) the top.

Those three things, or any combination, will allow that sound to be more full and breathe.

In addition (and if these don't quite suffice to "fix" the tonal problems):
A not too steep bell EQ that notches the honky-ness in the upper mid range would probably help, with a slight shelf or wide bell boost in the bass. Maybe roll off with a high shelf a db or two.

fred-w wrote on 5/17/2020, 3:42 PM

@Howard-Vigorita I'm a professional pianist, btw, and I think your wife is a marvelous player, truly. Very impressed. The piano can go, she stays!!

Thomas-Monks wrote on 5/17/2020, 7:54 PM

OOPS... I made a mistake... It's not a Yamaha B3, it's a U30B1...

walter-i. wrote on 5/18/2020, 3:18 AM

@Howard-Vigorita I'm a professional pianist, btw, and I think your wife is a marvelous player, truly. Very impressed. The piano can go, she stays!!

I'm not a professional pianist at all, but I thought the same thing.
How about a nice present for your wife's next birthday? 😊😊

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