The modern concert is not just a showcase of the musicians’ hard work and natural talent but a showcase of the amplification technology that makes these musicians sound their very best. From the front row to the back of the balcony, performers should never be straining to be heard nor compromised by poor amplification.
Microphones vs. Pianos: A Pitched Battle
The best engineers have microphone placement down to a science. Nonetheless, when it comes to placing microphones at the piano, the science appears to be out. Even experienced technicians still find themselves wondering how to mic a piano for a concert and have it be heard. The construction of the piano poses unique challenges to amplification that leave the piano overshadowed by other instruments, inconsistently loud and soft, or just not sounding the way a piano should.
From contemporary church services to rock concerts, the piano plays an outsize role in the music that gets lost to the ears all too often. Whether it’s a solo piano recital, a concerto featuring the piano, or a large ensemble in which the piano is one instrument among many, the beautiful sound of an acoustic piano is one that deserves to be heard clearly. But what’s the best way to make sure the piano shines as it should?
You may have read elsewhere that the way to overcome the idiosyncrasies of an acoustic grand piano is with an array of microphones that “cover all the bases,” as it were. One mic for the bass, another for the treble, and a third omnidirectional mic set back just behind them to pick up the rest of the instrument. Other experts suggest a single cardioid mic in the very back of the piano, capturing a full and round sound. But a “full and round” sound has little attack, and microphones right above the strings don’t seem to paint the whole aural picture, either.
Think Outside the Mic
The history of musical instruments and equipment is one of innovative game-changers. Placing rotating discs under the sound bars of a xylophone created the vibraphone. Manipulating the needle and the revolutions of a record turntable birthed a whole universe of new music. Placing a guitar-type pickup along the strings of a grand piano created a way to hear the inimitable sound of an acoustic piano better than ever. That raises the question: what if the key to how to mic a piano for a concert is not to use microphones at all?
The Helpinstill piano sensor changed piano amplification by eliminating the vagaries of microphone placement and acoustic complications. The Helpinstill grand piano pickup is specially designed to capture the fullness of an acoustic grand piano, from attack to release. By reporting the pure sound of the strings, the soundboard, and the entire piano, you’ll be able to present the piano in any setting as it was meant to sound—not how a microphone thinks it should sound.