Spaced Pair SM57’s

I read a fantastic paper about piano recording on SoundOnSound, which was highly interesting, and I sincerely recommend it too anyone who wants to record their piano.

I was led there by a Quora post. In this post a guy called Shane Berry has a great comment, where he talks about the SM57’s in the hole. I tried that. The sound gets really tinny/glassy. I would describe the sound as coming straight out of the 50’s. Take a listen.

Tinny sound SM57 in the soundboard holes

Keeping the mics hovering a bit above the holes in the soundboard is a much better idea.

SM57’s hovering a bit over the holes
Restless Nights from Pianotic Melancholy

But the best result from that day was when I followed the suggestion from Quora. There’s a picture of a Kawai grand piano with the mics, placed as I have done in the picture below.

The Spaced Pair slightly behind the hammers. One mic in the treble range, and one mic at the cross between the bass strings and the mids

The most important take away here was probably, that Phase Cancellation is a bitch. A rule I was told by the great pianist Johannes Bornlöf, (btw – if you don’t know this guy, and his compositions, give them a listen, they are fantastic and a huge inspiration to me
Check out his website and one of his compositions)

is that you should have a distance of at least 3 times the distance to the sound source, between the mics. He also mentioned something, which I was totally oblivious off, that he until recently used samples, so I started studying sample libraries, which I will probably cover in more detail in the future, but I tried a free one called KeyZone, and I made the version of French Little Thing, which I have posted a couple of weeks ago, but take a listen to it again.

French Little Thing – ‘Keyzone samples (Yamaha Grand)’

Now the only things I changed in the mixing of the recording made using the Spaced Pair Slightly Behind The Hammers setup shown above was a slight boost to the output volume of the Bass mic, because these two SM57’s aren’t paired and have quite different output. I also panned the bass mic hard left, and the treble mic hard right, to avoid phase issues.

Let me know what you think of the sound. (I know the piano is outta tune, I’m working on it)

French Little Thing – ‘Spaced Pair SM57’s slightly behind the hammers setup (Hornung & Møller)’

This post is already way to long and I would have loved to write about what happens to the recording when I add some EQ, reverb and compression, or how it compares to my Cardioid Condenser setup with an AT2020 and a KSM32, but that must be for another day.

If you are thinking – holy shit, this guys Restless Nights composition is terrible, I must admit, that it is only my second composition. I made these compositions to teach myself to play the piano. I know they are not masterpieces, and I don’t mean them to be. They are simply a way of learning to play the piano, and as an added benefit I get to express some emotions.