I'm in a small church. We are purchasing an upright acoustic piano. It will probably be loud enough (probably too loud) so I don't need ampification. But I do need to make digital recordings. I would like to get a mic to isolate just the piano to put it in a mix. It will go from the mic to a soundboard then to a computer. Then to a CD. Any suggestions of what mic to use? The simpler the better. I realize that more than 1 mic is best, but I would like to get away with just one.
If the setting/surroundings call for a small cardioid, how about a DPA 4099 on goose-necks, as shown in the review video at
With only one mic up close (for isolation), it may be beneficial that 4099 has a pretty even off axis response, so the sound coming in to the side of the mic also sounds fine, only at a lower level. Thus it is possible to place the mic around one end and aim it at the far end, not getting too uneven level from the different part of the piano.
At least such a very directive (narrow pick-up pattern) and a placement off to one side, aiming along the instrument, may be acceptable at a shorter distance than a wide cardioid over the instrument centre.
I have not tried it. It may not work as well as it does on acoustic guitars.
If you're looking for isolation & a fairly open-field sound, then maybe a boundary mic would help.
Experiment with mounting positions - on, in, or on the wall behind the piano.
First, try what you already have!
Just grab any mic you might have lying around, like an SM57, and drop it in the top of the piano a little ways, and close the top. It can help to wrap the mic in a bar towel with some duct tape, just so it doesn't vibrate against anything. Record it and see how it sounds. It will probably need some EQ to compensate for the resonance inside the piano case.
Another trick we used back in the bad ol' days was to wrap a mic like an SM57 in a bar towel and wedge it (not too tightly) between the soundboard and the back brace, behind the piano. (The piano was typically against a wall, so this provided a lot of isolation too.) Try this, record it, see how it sounds. Again, some EQ will be needed to restore the natural piano tone.
After you've tried techniques like this with any mics you happen to have, THEN consider getting a mic that's more specific to recording piano. You'll have a basis for comparison. I suggest a Joe Meek JM27 small diaphram condenser, which you can find used for under $100. Your mixer will need "phantom power." If you can't find a JM27, consider trying any small diaphram condenser you can find on your budget that has good reviews (and then try finding it used on ebay or reverb.com.)
A boundary mic is worth trying, and you can find cheap ones, especially used. The problem is finding a good location. They're intended to be attached to a wall. Sticking it on the side or top of the piano might work, but I've never tried.
The biggest issue when miking an upright is when amplifying it live so the piano is loud enough to hear (like in a noisy bar, or when played with a band.) The problem there is feedback. Since you don't think you'll need to amplify the piano, you dodge a big bullet, so your chances for decent sound without anything special are pretty good.
Regarding buying mics used: I've had good luck, myself. However, if a mic has been dropped, it can really change its tone. (I had two old SM57's from the 60's, that I got in the 70's, and both sounded great but they sounded quite different, possibly due to being dropped, probably may times. SM57's are like tanks, though. Diaphragm mics are a lot more sensitive.) Anyway, YMMV but IMHO it's worth a try, for inexpensive items.