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What's wrong with this piano?

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks & Talk' started by Cody Ortz, Nov 16, 2021.

  1. Hey everyone! I'm playing around with piano VSTs recently and I can't seem to get any of them to sound decent. I'm pretty happy with the horn sound, but the piano sounds terrible to me. I just can't put my finger on what it is. Any thoughts?

  2. PIano sounds fine to me. Maybe it's just that piano and horn don't go so well together? I've tried lots of piano VSTs ... they're all different and all both good and bad in their own ways. Maybe you're looking for some particular sound, but if you can't explain what exactly, ...
  3. I think it's just the tone of it I'm not happy with. I think it sounds too boxy (like no depth or color to the sound). I've been trying to find a VST that I like, but haven't found one. And I'm not sure if it's the VST or (more likely) how I'm treating it that's really messing with the sound.
  4. To me the instruments are not in the same room. The Horn sounds very bright with much reverb in a big hall, the piano sounds like a small one in a medium hall. Additionally I think that both instruments fight each other when the piano is playing in the higher registers.
    I can offer you to send you audio files made with VSL Synchron Bösendorfer if you send me the MIDI because I am kind of a noob and not able to transcribe the piano track :(
    Stephen Limbaugh likes this.
  5. Is this one any better? There's something still off about the performance I think, but I think the sound is nicer. Same library, just different treatment.

    I'd be happy to send along the MIDI if you'd be willing to pop it into a DAW to render out one with VSL. I've never looked into any of the VSL libraries but I've heard good things. They're just SO expensive.

  6. It sounds like a recording of a horn mixed with a recording of a piano. Which is not a bad thing, just a production style.

    I think what's throwing you off is the miking. The horn is miked like it's sitting in a hall. The piano is miked as if it was meant to be a soloist or used in a pop/jazz/whatever/non-classical production, with an AB or similar miking up close.

    Ideally, you would have a piano library recorded in a hall with mic configurations like you would use for a group, and then you would deal in the appropriate amount for the piano to match your desired horn sound.

    Sadly, there's no Infinite Piano (yet) to let you do the positioning exactly how you want it, so you'll either have to do an impression of it with whatever tools are available today (perhaps Precedence + Breeze), or find the samples that were recorded that way. Berlin's Orchestral Grands or something like that, I really don't know, perhaps someone on VI can help more as I'm not that well versed in piano libraries (plus there seem to be hundreds of them).

    Then, you'd have your main mics doing the room, an dial in the close mics for the piano and the horn to add detail.
  7. Spitfire do a good grand piano intended for orchestral / ambient contexts like this. I think it's called orchestral grand piano, in fact.
    Cody Ortz likes this.
  8. So go ahead!
  9. Oh, good insight! I think that's what's bugging me. I tried in the second link on the post to use room mics and I think that helped the sound quite a bit. This library is Cinematic Studio Piano which is recorded with the different mic positions. This is a completely new concept to me (mixing with multiple mic positions), so I think I need to do some practice here. Thanks though! This was very helpful.

    I've never heard of Precedence or Breeze before. I'll have to look into those and see if they can help me hit what I'm looking for. Someone also recommended MIR, but I've never looked at any of the VSL stuff.
  10. Here you are!
  11. @Cody Ortz
    I sent you an email to your studio address. In this email you will find a link to my Office 365 sharepoint where you can download the WAVs. The WAVs are too big to upload them here.
    Cody Ortz likes this.
  12. Thanks man! I'll check this out ASAP!
  13. Here's an easy way to think of it:

    In order to get the horn to sound like that on a record, it has to be in an appropriate room and the mics need to be far away enough to capture both the room and the instrument. Maybe 12-20 feet away from the main mics, if sitting in a standard orchestral seating (depending on the library), depending on room size.

    If, at the same time, there's a piano in the room playing along with the horn, it'll definitely be captured by these mics as well.

    As a recording engineer, here you're working with the composer/conductor to help them achieve the balance they want. Your options are: rearrange the players (depth-wise), rearrange the mics, have the piano or the horn play softer/louder. Dial in the close mics of either to help it out. You basically have 3 or 4 tracks on your mixer to work with: Horn Close (mono), Piano Close (stereo), Main (stereo AB), and perhaps Room/Ambient (stereo AB) for supplement, which you are least likely to use plenty of. If you happen to have mics to spare, add in the wide mics (outrigger) just to have that option as well.

    4-5 tracks is all you have to work with. Your original player arrangement in the room dictates the stereo placement of the instruments. You should be able to hear it clearly on your main AB mics. If the overall balance is satisfactory there, it'll most likely be on the ambient mics as well.

    The main mics will give your sound a sure footing, a solid "middle". The AB technique, given more than a foot of spacing, will provide a nice width as well. You start with that. Then you add in what you feel you need. More room? Dial in the ambient mics. More width? Add in outriggers, but watch the phase. More detail? Add the close mics and pan them appropriately.
    Cody Ortz likes this.
  14. So it's kind of like you are using the multiple mic positions to emulate how you would record the "ensemble" in a live situation. Rather than trying to dial in the mix of one instrument to sound good, I should be using the mix positions to make them sound like they were recorded at the same time and just use the closer/room ones to color the sound. Is that more on the right track?

    This is also interesting because it means I would be able to process the different positions independently. So I could, if needed, use slightly different EQ profiles on the close mics to get a different sound. (Or even add a bit of reverb to a close sound without that adding reverb to an already roomy sound.)
  15. I think the weakest part is at 1:29, those 8th notes sound like all having the exactly same velocity.
  16. Yes. Isn't that the goal, most of the time? To get a mix that sounds like a recording. As soon as you start going the production route and breaking away from that paradigm, the sound turns to "pop", and any kind of classical music will sound a bit weird because in your head classical is not just the instruments, it's the sound as well.

    Yep. You can do whatever you want to the close mics. On all the other mics, you'll hear the horn and the piano equally.

    Some would even argue that if you're gonna be processing the close mics and have a close-heavy mix, you should also fake-dial in the mic bleed. You will hear some piano on the horn mic, and some horn on the piano mics. The horn mic is simple since it's mono (you just run the piano sound through a bit of reverb, send both of the reverb channels to the horn mic. It should be barely audible. The piano mics will have 0-3ms time difference of the horn signal being sent to them (depending on how you're envisioning the piano was positioned and miked in the room.

    But all of this bleed stuff is mostly unnecessary. Sometimes it's just fun going full-on and trying to mimic a recording setup. In reality this wouldn't make much of a difference.

    If you're having a hard time grasping this, you're about one recording session like this from fully understanding what I'm talking about.

    If that sort of thing would interest you, it's easier than it seems. The toughest part of the whole thing would be finding a local room with a piano. Everything else is easier. Get your soloist in and hit record. You can get a portable 6mic setup that fits in your backpack, works on battery and will let you make high quality recordings for less than a grand. Basically a Zoom H6 (or H8 for two extra inputs, since price differences seem to be a few dozen $), and a pair of SM57 mics will do the job. XY will be noticeably less wide than an AB mic setup, so in this case, as a bonus, I would suggest another pair of mics (some cheaper large diaphragm mics, mainly because LDCs are omnidirectional in the lower range and will get a better bass response here), but placed wide on each side of the stage or room, pointing upwards/away from the instruments. If phase becomes an issue in the mix with these two, just take one of them, duplicate the track, pan each of the copies hard left and right, then invert phase on the other and get a "Side" part of a M/S mic configuration, then dial those two in to taste. If you want an SDC and more flexibility for future needs, Lauten Audio LA120 sells as a matched pair with interchangeable omni and cardioid capsules for $379.

    With a couple of stands and a stand bag, as well as a couple of cables, the whole thing in total should run you about $900. You can even be bold and try recording bigger groups this way. If you're band teaching, that's awesome since you have plenty of opportunities to experiment.
    Carlos Riesco likes this.
  17. Awesome explanation! Thanks for the info! I actually don't teach anymore, just doing music production full time now. But I think I could find a place to do some recording tests to get a better idea of this. My undergrad college is down the road, so I'm sure I could go there and record some players for a better idea of how things work there. Thanks!

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