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Piano mic for live performance?


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I've searched this forum and the Keyboard Corner, but I haven't found any threads that relate to my situation. So...

 

I need to get a piano mic for a live show. I'm playing a gig next week in a jazz club with an upright piano. I've played there for years, but starting next week, I will be singing, as well.

 

I definitely NEED to mic the piano, because it is a quiet piano, and I will be playing with a very loud drummer in a club with a chatty crowd.

 

In the past, if I needed to mic the piano, I would just open the top and stick a SM58 in there. It was not a very good solution, as the mic would only really amplify a limited range of strings it was closest to. I don't really want to keep doing that. In any case, I now plan to use that mic for my vocals, so I am going to need to buy another mic. The only other mics I have are condensers, and are too sensitive to use in this situation.

 

So. I may need two mics to cover the range of the piano. I cannot mic the back of the piano, or place a mic above the piano, as the club will be too noisy for that. I will be amplifying the piano, as well as my vocals, through the house PA and my keyboard amp (which I will bring to use as a monitor). The mic cannot be so sensitive that it feeds back like hell in this situation.

 

On top of all this, I don't want anything terribly expensive, as I only plan to use these mics while playing at this particular club. I don't plan on using them for recording.

 

Any suggestions?

 

Thanks in advance. :)

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A great solution for upright piano live is a shure SM91. It'a s hemispherical pattern condenser mic, so it wil pick up everything. Just tape it securely to the lid and close it. It does require phantom power, so make sure your mixer has that capability. (Most all do).

 

You'll get excellent gain before feedback, and an very nice tone. They are I believe around $200.

 

I've used a 91 many times on uprights and grands with great success live.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Originally posted by Christopher Kemp:

Why don't you try to rent a pair instead, since it's only for this one place? Probably cheaper in the long run, and you can get a couple decent mics (you'll need 2 for sure to cover a piano).

I've thought about that... but I think it will probably end up costing more in the long run, since I play at the club at least once a month, and expect to keep doing so for some time. Of course, all that could change once they hear me sing. :D

 

A great solution for upright piano live is a shure SM91.
Are you sure that's the correct model number? The only 91 I can find that Shure makes is the Beta 91, which is a bass drum mic.

 

I'll have to stop by the club to make sure their mixer has phantom power. It's a real piece of crap, so I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't. I'd bring my own (I've got a little Mackie), but I've been having trouble with the power cutting out, and wouldn't want that to happen in the middle of a show.

 

I've been researching online. One guy swears by the Crown PZM ( see his recommendation here ), an omnidirectional mic. I checked out Crown's website, and the PZM 6D would be the best model, it seems to me. He claims that Radio Shack makes a cheaper version of this, although I can't find it online. I can't imagine that the Radio Shack mic will sound that great, although I'm sure it would not exceed my price limitations.

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The Beta91 is the current version of the SM91. It works on the same principle as a PZM type mic.

 

You could use anything from a Radio SHack PZM "Sound Grabber" type mic on the cheap side up to a Beta91 on the expensive side. You could also try a Crown PCC160.

 

But again, I would try renting the mics first if you plan on spending the money on a Beta or Crown mic. You should be able to rent them for $10-$20 a day...

 

Mike

Seriously, what the f*ck with the candles? Where does this candle impulse come from, and in what other profession does it get expressed?

-steve albini

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Whoa! I respect both of your opinions, Mike and Where, but there are two glaring errors in your posts.

 

Originally posted by gearmike:

The Beta91 is the current version of the SM91. It works on the same principle as a PZM type mic....

 

Mike

An SM91 does not work on the same principle as a PZM. PZM's use a proprietary technology that is supposed to eliminate many reflections by forcing all sound to bounce off the plate to reach the element. The SM91 is a simple boundary mic, origninally designed to pickup speech well when placed on a desk or boardroom table. It became popular for kick because of it's ease of placement and specific character.. which brings us to Where's post.

 

Originally posted by where02190:

Yes the new version is the Beta91, but the same mic basically. It is primarily designed for kickk drum, but does a superb job on piano. requires no stand, just some good gaffer tape.

The Beta91 is not at all the same as the SM91, other than in case construction.

 

The SM91, as previously mentioned, became popular as a kick mic. When Shure decided to create a Beta (neodymium, high output magnet) version of the 91, they had already created smaller, less expensive boundary mics aimed at the corporate market. It was their decision to continue the 91 only as a recording/live music industry product.

 

Because of this decision, they further decided to "improve" the 91 by hyping the bass and kick drum attack frequency ranges, similar to other kick mics.

 

Now I won't say the Beta91 is a bad mic. On the contrary, it's a fine mic. But users who loved the SM91 almost universally hated the Beta91. It was its' more even balanced sound that they liked. Consequently, an SM91 in good condition is something of a prized commodity among it's proponents.

 

This isn't just an excercise in setting the facts straight, either. I wouldn't rush to put a Beta91 in a piano unless you like hyped bass and a spike in the upper midrange. The SM91 I'd love to have for my upright.

 

The sad epilogue of the SM91/Beta91 story is (and this is according to engineers at Shure) they had some kind of manufacturing difficulty with the 91 that forced them to manufacture only one of the models, hence the end of the SM91 and the introduction of the Beta.

 

BTW - I would think the PZM would be a much better upright piano mic because it limits the directions in which reflections can be picked up by the element, yielding more clarity. Plus, if you can find the RS branded PZM and upgrade the power supply to a 9v (instead of a 1.5v AA), you can spend a lot less money for a great sounding mic.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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Neil,

 

I would argue that a "boundary mic" is operating on the same basic principles of PZM technology. The microphone diaphram is placed in the so-called boundary zone where the sound waves are striking and relecting of a reflective surface.

 

The main difference is in the pick up pattern. Most PZM's face the diaphram directly at the surface, creating a hemispherical pattern. The Crown PCC160 uses baffles to modify this pick up into a cardiod pattern.

 

A Beta91 places the diaphram at a 90 degree angle to the surface and uses a cardiod elemnt to get its directionality.

 

And yes the Beta91 is a very hyped microphone. It wouldn't be my first choice in an upright. I'd first try a PCC160 taped to the lid.

 

But hey, even a Beta91 beets the hell out having to use C-ducer tape on an upright!

Seriously, what the f*ck with the candles? Where does this candle impulse come from, and in what other profession does it get expressed?

-steve albini

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True, the beta and sm versions are quite different tonally, however I've used both on piano, and while the sm is by far the prefered, either will do a fine job. The inline preamp offers a hp rolloff that eliminates the hyped bass, whcih actually makes the mic flatter than the sm, whcih actually was lacking in bass response. (Shure's info addressed this specificially telling users it was common to require +6 or more push in the low end of the sm version). A bit of eqing in the upper mids aorund 5khz eliminates the high end hype.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Points taken, gentleman.

 

The PCC160 is a sweet mic for stage productions because of the cardioid pattern. I wish I still had mine now that I own an upright piano.

 

I think I'll probably open the access panel below the keyboard and put my KSM32 and/or the RE20 underneath to record. Still haven't had a professional tuner work it up, though. :rolleyes:

 

Oops! Forgot to mention, Where, thanks for mentioning you've used the Beta91 in a piano. I forgot the preamp had a rolloff available.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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Originally posted by where02190:

...whcih actually was lacking in bass response. (Shure's info addressed this specificially telling users it was common to require +6 or more push in the low end of the sm version)...

That makes perfect sense as since the SM was originally designed as a boardroom recording mic. In systems with little or no eq, the reduced bass from the mic would've presented fewer issues from people hitting the table it sat on, among other potential bass issues in corporate voice recording.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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Radio Shack no longer manufactures a PZM microphone. :( Google tells me that people are constantly scavenging for them.

 

Radio Shack does make a boundary mic (see this page ), and they have it in stock at the Radio Shack next to my office. Anybody have an opinion on that?

 

I would like to go with the cheaper Radio Shack option, if possible, for now. The mic I linked to above is only 40 bucks. Renting a mic would probably not cost me much less than that, and then I'd be left with no mic, and a bunch of extra errands to run the day of/after my gig. With the RS mic, if I like it, hey, I've got a cheap mic; if I don't, I could probably return it on my way into the office.

 

I wouldn't expect it to sound as good as some of the higher-grade mics you've mentioned, but if it sounds pretty good, that's good enough for this venue. Of course, if it's going to sound like dog crap, and feed back constantly, I don't want it.

 

Whatchu think?

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Originally posted by eljefe:

Radio Shack no longer manufactures a PZM microphone. :( Google tells me that people are constantly scavenging for them...

Sorry I was unclear. RS hasn't sold them in several years. :( Sold, not manufactured. The PZM is a patented design and the term PZM a trademark of Crown Int'l., so no one can use the term but Crown. They licensed the use and manufacturerd the "RS" PZM's for RS.

 

Other boundary mics are, essentially, simply flat directional mics. They don't benefit from the PZM and PCC's phase coherent designs.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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Well for starters - look at the plug. Anything with a 1/8" mini-plug is not intended for going into a mixer. Looks like a glorified computer mic to me.

 

Radio Shack mics are cheap mics, period. The PZM thing had cult status because it was built by Crown - but it was a throwaway. I had both a RS PZM and a Crown PZM, and the Crown kicked the RS mic's ass. Personally, I wouldn't throw away good money on one.

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Originally posted by Christopher Kemp:

Well for starters - look at the plug. Anything with a 1/8" mini-plug is not intended for going into a mixer. Looks like a glorified computer mic to me.

 

Radio Shack mics are cheap mics, period. The PZM thing had cult status because it was built by Crown - but it was a throwaway. I had both a RS PZM and a Crown PZM, and the Crown kicked the RS mic's ass. Personally, I wouldn't throw away good money on one.

Did you upgrade the power supply on the RS PZM to 9v? According to several far more experienced equipment techs, the RS was identical to a then $300 Crown PZM except for two features. First, the single AA (possible a AAA, like the current sound grabber cheapy PZM) power supply and the 1/4" instrument cable rather than an XLR connector on the cable.

 

The frequency response and dynamic headroom of the RS PZM would be much worse than the Crown due to the low voltage power supply.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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The knockoffs are pretty obvious, they look just like the brand name ones except for the RS name on them.

 

If I had to guess it probably won't be that great. Being an omni is not going to be helpful in the gain before feedback dept, even inside the piano. Add to that it appears to be a Hi-z (or atl east unbalanced 1/8") connection, and it's spelling cheap like a $2 whore.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Yeah, I kind of figured that. Sigh. I should look into rentals, I guess. The mics all of you are suggesting run in the neighborhood of $300, and that's a little more than I want to spend for this gig. I mean, I'm not even sure a good mic will even make a difference, seeing as how lousy their sound system is. But there's no point in buying a piece of crap, either.
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Neil - I actually cut the cord off & installed an XLR plug (they still used balanced cabling despite the unbalanced connector), so I ran it with 48v phantom. It was an OK mic - but the Crown had much fuller response.

 

Sure, you pay for the name - but does RS even carry a mic that costs $100? I don't think so. And, name on it or not, you still get what you (don't) pay for. Shure was (and might still be) making mics for RS, but I'd bet any amount of money that they were BG-series units - which is Shure's sub-$100 line.

 

(As a matter of fact - now this is hearsay, but it makes sense if you think about it - I was told that Shure's budget line was comprised of the upper-level units that didn't quite meet spec. Anyone else heard this?)

 

Personally, I still believe that if you have ANY alternative, you should buy a decent mic & not waste money. If I didn't have $100 to spend on a mic, I'd rather go to the local music store & buy secondhand 57s & 58s, because as long as they're in good shape they'll sound great & last a long time.

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Here\'s one in the sub-$200 range for ya. That may still be too much, but it's something to think about if this is going to be a regular gig. I have A-T's DR3700, which seems to be what this is now. Very nice, versatile mic for a decent price.

 

I'd suggest checking out A-T's other mics, too - the Artist series goes sub-$100. Used to be that I wouldn't touch A-T mics with YOUR fingers, :D but that changed quite awhile ago, and they seem to have some serious bang-4-buck mics.

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Originally posted by Christopher Kemp:

Neil - I actually cut the cord off & installed an XLR plug (they still used balanced cabling despite the unbalanced connector), so I ran it with 48v phantom. It was an OK mic - but the Crown had much fuller response.

 

Wow, Chris! I had no idea you could simply run phantom to the mic as they were designed. When you say you cut the cord, did that include removing the battery pack or did it pass phantom with the battery pack in place?

 

Originally posted by Christopher Kemp:

...(As a matter of fact - now this is hearsay, but it makes sense if you think about it - I was told that Shure's budget line was comprised of the upper-level units that didn't quite meet spec. Anyone else heard this?)...

I've never heard this in regards to the BG line. I'd been told by sales reps the SM48 is supposed to be an SM58 whose capsule didn't quite meet spec. This was also confirmed to me by Shure engineers when I visited the plant a few years ago.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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interesting read guys!

 

a friend played me a cd he'd burnt of some music he'd downloaded, just some guy somewhere in the world who had recorded his jazz gig and uploaded. the playing was GORGEOUS and was worth the listen but he had clipped his output almost constantly.

 

whats the SPL characteristics of these PZM and boundary style mics?

 

ive only recorded pianos in a few studios and usually with two mics (one room and one close) but im really looking forward to doing it again but in my own time.

 

curious as to why a hypercardiod condensor positioned well wouldnt get the job done, or it that, even being hypercardiod, leaving too much for feedback?

 

and positioning a SINGLE mic... would you go off axis in the center or...?

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Originally posted by Dave DRi:

interesting read guys!

 

a friend played me a cd he'd burnt of some music he'd downloaded, just some guy somewhere in the world who had recorded his jazz gig and uploaded. the playing was GORGEOUS and was worth the listen but he had clipped his output almost constantly.

 

whats the SPL characteristics of these PZM and boundary style mics?

His online music files might be distorted due to a poor conversion to compressed format.

 

I can't speak for the others, but the SM and Beta91's are used in kick drums. ;) 'Nuff said about SPL. ;)

 

...curious as to why a hypercardiod condensor positioned well wouldnt get the job done, or it that, even being hypercardiod, leaving too much for feedback?

 

and positioning a SINGLE mic... would you go off axis in the center or...?

Well, a hypercardiod mic would tend to pick up too much of what was directly in front of it and effectively mute anything to either side. That would be a very uneven pickup pattern for an instrument whose sound is generated across a 5 or 6 foot width, even in the enclosed space inside an upright.

 

As for placement, you're going to have to experiment as we have no idea what the character of this piano is.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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