Microphone placement on a piano is an important technique to master when audio recording. In this video, Grammy Award-winning recording engineer and Dark Horse Institute instructor, Steve Lamm, shows you the basics for great results.
Mic Placement on a Piano
To begin, lift the piano lid in the upright position or remove it completely, to avoid cone filtering from sound bouncing off of the cover.
Next, place two microphones five- to six-inches above the strings themselves, in the middle, but not too close to the fingerboard. Keep in mind that the longer strings are the base strings and the shorter strings are the high strings.
Micing a Piano in Stereo
Now, place two microphones over the piano by using a stereo micing technique—either in a X-Y, spaced-pair or near-coincident micing pattern. You might prefer to use the near coincident pairing, since it is similar to human hearing. If so, place this type of pairing in a similar position as the X-Y pattern. Try experimenting by placing the mics closer to the keyboard, which will accentuate the click of the hammers.
If you choose the spaced-pair pattern instead—or two microphones pointed straight down towards the inside of the piano—push one mic away from the other, then space them the same distance as the soundboard of the piano. Distance can be any length within a one- to six-foot parameter. To achieve an overall richer sound, the mic positioned over high strings should be closer to the keyboard than the mic that is positioned over the low strings, which should be near the back end of the piano.
Remember, the closer the mic is to the keyboard, the brighter and more percussive it will sound. The farther away, the richer and warmer it will sound.
As always, don’t be afraid to experiment with different placements. Ultimately, the technique you choose will depend on the song style you want to produce.