A Classic Piano Music Recording that went through Ardour

Hi there,

so, here we go: https://youtu.be/BUioUzLOoI0

Almost an Ardour project. Actually, the task was to produce this overnight. So I put up those two Lewitt LCT440 mics, hooked up an Allen&Heath Qu-16 digital console followed by a Jünger b41 broadcast limiter set to “classical” mode. The result from the digital-only mastering limiter got analog again using a MindPrint DI Port and fed back into the Qu-16 (which doesn’t have digital inputs, apart from A&H’s digital stage box stuff). The digital console recorded everything to USB memory using its internal multitrack recorder. Which is a feature I really like for this kind of thing, no fan noises of any laptops… even more important in for the strings trio I had the next day. Still, I’d probably feel more confident with some Focusrite interface or at least some fancy mics and pre-amps, but this is all based on donations.

It turned out however that my plan to just grab the files from the USB memory didn’t work out in the end. Even though I had used the 29band graphic in the console to my best hearing knowledge, I found some frequencies I didn’t like. And then, the mic positioning turned out to produce a much too dry result, so I felt in need for some Bricasti M7 impulse responses, a little x42eq, and as a safety guard, a bit of Voxengo Elephant mastering limiter and low cut. All of which I applied in Ardour, of course.

Listening to it again now a few days later I think the piano sounds somehow hard. Can’t really find an English word for it. It’s not over-compressed. Except for a few bars, the broadcast limiter didn’t really have do do its stuff. I think I should have put the mics with more distance. Also that grand piano was basically fresh from the factory and probably also sounds like brand new strings etc.

Enjoy and/or let me know what you think.


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I’d love to hear this performance without any limiter. If I’m being honest, I think it ruins the dynamics of the performance (which is excellent). Something is squashing some of the transients and in a solo piano performance that would not be great in my book.

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Well, there might be a CD following the project, and of course I also recorded the mic inputs separately. While I can feel the limiter doing its stuff in some bars, its I think going much more quiet everywhere else wouldn’t make too much sense. I think the way to go here would be to carefully adjust the volume curve manually in the problematic cases. However, when recording on one night with release date next night… well yeah. (And Lightworks fooled me again, so at 2 o’clock in the night I started re-doing the entire edit, nagging in their forum that I wish their product only was as reliable as Ardour. Got to bed at 5 then, only 9 hours before the next recording appointment.)

To my ear it makes perfect sense. I still think classical music should be mastered as if being listened to in a reasonably quiet room. But, given your medium to start with is online streaming, If you really feel that some parts are just too quiet then some manual gain riding would be much more preferable to the ear as you suggested yourself.

This all said, it sounds like you were up against an unreasonable deadline so it is what it is. As I said previously, the performance is really lovely and it shines through beautifully. It’s just a shame that the various “high” points are held back a little. What role is the Elephant limiter playing in your master? Shaving peaks or applying some maximizing via compression? The other technique I’ve used in the past is parallel compression which can be very transparent if using values such as suggested by Bob Katz in his mastering treatise.

In this case, I used the Elephant only as a safety guard. I’m not sure if it got engaged at all. However, I as stated in my initial post, I had this Jünger b41 broadcast limiter in the chain for recording the live mix of this. So basically what I imported into Ardour was compressed at its peaks already.

The other thing is the usually complicated topic of what people use to listen to your productions and I think many of them simply use their smartphone for watching YouTube. So it basically all goes to waste anyways.

I’m not even sure if I’d do a new mix from the single mics for a perhaps forthcoming CD project. I have to think about this. So many people don’t even have CD players anymore, so it’s a difficult thing. Even more difficult with Blu-Ray, and in the end this might end up as a DVD with sound being played back on TV set speakers.

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I hear you. I listened back to your recording on cheap and nasty AmazonBasics speakers but even they are a far cry from tiny smartphone speakers :wink: They are both part of my “what will this sound like in the real world?” devices…

As for the mic positioning have you tried the technique of aiming for the “rose” with microphones in line with the end of the piano? I probably concur that distance could be increased but I suspect that you are also right about the newness of the instrument and requiring being “played in”. Without seeing the whole space it is also difficult to determine optimum microphone setup.

So my only other question is regarding the Jünger. Do you not have a chance to set levels beforehand?

I had about half an hour for a “sound check” when the musicians were warming up on the grand. This included positioning the mics. So that had to be enough estimating levels. :smiley: Usually I just wouldn’t do this. I would record single channels and work on this at home, with a few days of break between sessions and fresh hearing. (In this case, possibly also with additional mics.)

I didn’t try at the end of the piano. My thought was that I should have gone farther into the room, away from the piano. The grand master of recording, late Mr Sengpiel, is not very fond of my positioning. :slight_smile: http://www.sengpielaudio.com/Klavieraufnahme.htm

The room definitely had some “sound”, but I didn’t find it too appropriate. We were provided room and instrument for free, but basically it is a shop selling grand pianos. It doesn’t sound bad, but I found from earlier recordings, that listeners have funny imaginations. E.g. with the recording with organ and soprano, people said they’d have expected much more reverb. The room was that way and I did EBS stereo mic’ing from 4m distance approx. and I think it sounded alright, but people see a church organ and thus expect the church reverb sound… so I compared my dry track to some classical piano recordings in my collection and tried to get the reverb somewhere between “obviously large concert hall” and “sounds like in a rather small studio”.

Little fun story: When the musicians were warming up playing their complex stuff, the boss of the place who had been working in the opposite far end in his office, came in and asked for a moment with the instrument. Produced a huge tuning key and adjusted one single note, saying: “ah, this was the one I heard being bad from my office.” What a hearing!

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Ha! That story is great.

For how little time you had to set up for recording, and again how little time you had to process the recording, I think this sounds great.

I managed to find something about the technique I was talking about. It’s from Tony Falkner:

…Or, if you go down to the bottom end and look under the lid, you’ll see three lines of the frame casting. If you align a pair of mics to look down the middle one — one in from the one closest to the back angled about15 degrees — place one mic to the left and one to the right and come back three or four feet. That can make quite a nice stereo effect and can give you a different clear and weighty perspective than putting the mics at the front. It’s a matter of taste.

As Falkner says it is definitely a matter of taste. And, I concur with @Michael_Willis that it sounds great and even more so given the constraints.

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Thank you for this! I enjoyed both the recording i.e. the music and the discussion.

Today, I had a recording session with an old Seiler grand piano. I used a similar mic positioning, however approx 30cm more distance to the piano and a bit lower. It sounded much more balanced. For the brand new Bechstein and closer micing, I had done quite some EQing, removing unpleasant, harsh frequencies. The old Seiler, freshly tuned, just a little more distant exposed none of these. It was a shorter grand and actually I love its more growling sound. I recorded directly into Ardour using a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 interface. Will keep you posted on this one… will take some time, it’s planned to be a solo album.

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