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I have an old upright piano (slightly out of tune). First of all, I took the front off of the piano and put an SM-58 right in the middle and got a great sounding recording. I really like the sound it creates with a couple of different songs I am working on.

I would like to use a couple of mics to get a bit of stereo separation. I have done some experimenting with a couple of different configurations.

  • First I put two mics at a 90 degree angle from each other in the center of the piano. The sound was completely unbalanced because the song is played mostly on the middle and lower section of the keys.

  • I then moved the mics toward the lower section of the keys in the middle of where the song is played, but then the rhythm (left hand) part was all on one side and the melody (right hand part ) was all on the other.

What I would like to hear is the melody fairly balanced in the middle and still get some decent stereo separation. I like the idea of the lower notes coming from the left channel and the higher notes coming from the right channel, but I don't want the sound to become unbalanced.

Do I need a third mic placed farther away to help balance the sound?

Should I just use a single mic and a stereo simulation effect?

Please give suggestions as to mic placement, panning, effects, etc.

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4 Answers

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Usually you work mics which record the "direct" tone and mics which record the room sound. So place your SM58 in the middle near the piano as you had. And place to mics 2-3m away from the piano. Then mix all three together. You'll get clear piano sound with nice room reverb and a stereo effect.

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I tried it out and that is exactly the sound I was looking for. I placed 2 mics about 1.5 meters away from the piano, one on each end pointing towards the other end of the piano. I also placed one mic in the center of the piano. The mic in the center gives a nice clear sound and the mics at the sides give a nice stereo effect. –  Friend Of George Jun 22 '11 at 2:34
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I have been using two pencil mics, about 15 inch away facing straight at the strings with the front cabinet off (upright). If you use two mics like this you will get one picking up more bass and the other more treble. So you can eq the piano without using a plugin - will always sound better. Remember you are not limited to panning wide left and right.. you can put them both on one side or centred, or as stereo as you like. If yoh want extreme stereo but there is too much of the lower keys coming out of one side and the higher keys from the other, try moving the mics back a bit so they are both capturing more of the overall sound. It depends on the pickup pattern of the mic, an sm58 is highly directional so will tend to focus more on what is right in front of it (ie the bass strings or treble strings).

Normaly you do this and add a room mic. I would try to achieve your stereo effect with the main mics and then add the room mic for reverb/ambience. 2 close mics and 1 room mic should give many options in the mix.

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An SM58 has a Cardioid pickup pattern and while it won't pick up much behind it, it is by no means "highly directional." They are more along the lines of "very mildly directional." Picking up more of one part than the other is simply proximity. Sound falls off quickly over distance. If the mic is near the high strings, they are much louder. You could turn the SM58 sideways to point at the highs, but if it was sitting just above the lows, the lows would still be louder. The rest of the post is pretty good though. –  AJ Henderson Dec 23 '13 at 18:31
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Keeping in mind that I've only ever mic'd a piano once in my life, and it was a baby grand, not an upright...

Point your two mics straight at the strings, on either side of center. Don't necessarily go to the extreme right or left, but somewhere in between. Experiment to find the right spot. You are definitely going to get "rhythm on one side, melody on the other" to some extent, but you can adjust the panning in your mixer to compensate somewhat. Try different angles and orientations of the microphones - each kind of mic responds slightly differently, and by pointing them at different parts of the piano you can emphasize different sounds. Do you want more percussive attack? Try pointing the mic at the hammers. Mics do not respond the same way at all angles, so use this to try and dial in your sound.

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I don't have tons of experience mic'ing pianos but I would try panning those two channels inwards a bit to reduce the stereo field (not have the high keys so far out right and the lows so far out left) then if I wanted that width back I could get it with a nice lush reverb.

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