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Recording Tips


Recording With Helpinstill Systems

Although the Helpinstill piano pickups were originally developed for amplifying the piano in live sound applications, they also present some useful advantages in recording situations because they enable the piano to connect directly to computers or mixers. The fact that they achieve total isolation of the piano track, even in the midst of other instruments, can be invaluable in live performance recordings. The standard (mono) units such as the Model 120 or Model 180 can be expected to meet or exceed the results of using microphones in a group or ensemble arrangement where the piano is one of many instruments. A certain amount of equalization and effects (such as reverb) may be necessary to perfect the sound, but the result can be completely natural. An isolated piano track with the degree of presence the Helpinstill supplies can make blending the piano considerably easier at mixdown. The Helpinstill guarantees that all the notes will be equal, and does it in one piano connector device.

Although the (mono) units are very natural sounding, they lack the ambience present in the sound of a piano being played in a room.This is the feature that makes them superior to all other methods in live amplification, but can be distracting in recording to the extent of sounding "weird." Adding these necessary reflections and reverberations require specialized approaches, which are, fortunately, now easily achieved with currently available plug-ins and sound manipulating digital applications.

We asked our resident engineer Jeff Wong to illustrate how he adds these components to a Helpinstill dry recorded track in this video:

In addition to being an accomplished recording engineer and teacher of recording techniques, Jeff has also worked for both Steinway and Kawai, so he knows what a piano should sound like! This recording is a Model 120 installed on a 5' Baldwin piano.

Even more precise manipulation of the piano sound is possible by using our Model 280 balanced-line Piano Sensor, which allows recording the three sections of the piano keyboard on three separate tracks. After adding similar ambience using techniques like Jeff just illustrated, the three tracks can then be panned into a true stereo configuration.