Miking Musical Instruments

Grand Piano | Upright Piano | Acoustic Guitar | Baptistry or Baptismal Font

Grand Piano
The piano is one of the most demanding instruments to record or reinforce accurately. The microphone selected should have a very flat, extended frequency response and excellent transient response.

Ideal microphone placement for piano depends greatly on acoustics and the potential for either feedback or the pickup of unwanted nearby sounds (“leakage”). While a grand piano is designed to be heard from a few feet or more away, isolating the piano sound requires getting close. Place a mono or stereo microphone about two feet above the strings (Fig. 13). For greater isolation, lower the microphone within six to eight inches of the strings.

If the lid is lowered to the short stick, place the microphone just outside the piano, near the curve. Move it toward the keyboard for a brighter sound, away from it for more emphasis on the low end.

For close-up stereo miking, use two microphones inside the piano with the lid raised. Center one mic over the low strings and the other over the high strings (Fig. 14). Or the microphones may be centered about midway between the low and high strings (Fig. 15). In either case, both mics should be six to eight inches above the strings.

As another alternative, one boundary (plate) microphone – or two for stereo – may be mounted inside the piano. They may be permanently attached to the underside of the lid, or placed on temporary “bridges” of duct tape affixed to the metal ribs over the strings (Fig. 16). Taping down the mic cables to prevent buzzing against parts of the piano may be helpful. With either boundary-mic approach, the choice of microphones and the considerable mechanical and sonic differences between pianos usually require some experimentation with mic placement to achieve the desired acoustic character and balance. These boundary-mic techniques are often a good choice when the piano lid must be closed; they also offer good control over leakage of other sound sources into the piano mic when recording.

Upright Piano
Because the upright piano is a large instrument, two microphones spaced about six to eighteen inches behind the sound board are recommended. They should be far enough apart so that one picks up sound from the high strings, while the other picks up the low notes (Fig. 17). In stereo recording, the two microphone outputs should be “panned” slightly left and right at the console.

If greater isolation of the piano sound is needed, try removing the lower front cover (below the keyboard) and positioning a single microphone facing slightly upward, away from the pedals, and somewhat nearer the high strings.

Acoustic Guitar
For close-up perspective and minimum feedback, A-T offers a miniature cardioid condenser microphone that mounts directly on the guitar with an adjustable clamp adapter. The microphone’s frequency response is specially tailored for this location, resulting in excellent control and well-balanced sound. Another approach is to use a wide-response cardioid condenser microphone on a stand or short boom, with the microphone pointing at the bridge of the guitar. If ultra-close miking is needed, avoid placing the mic too close to, or directly facing, the sound hole to avoid a “tubby” sound.

Baptistry or Baptismal Font
An enclosed baptistry offers special sound problems due to its acoustics, confined space, and the need to keep the microphone away from water. A miniature hanging microphone suspended above and forward of the baptistry is inconspicuous, out of reach and safe from excess humidity. While a cardioid pickup pattern should provide excellent results, an optional hypercardioid, MicroLine® or UniLine® element will offer greater working distance and reduced sensitivity to reverberation and other unwanted sounds. An alternate approach is to use a miniature gooseneck microphone, either wall-mounted just outside the baptistry or placed on a portable microphone stand in front. A miniature hanging microphone will also work well suspended above an open baptismal font.

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