In any endeavor, it’s important to be clear about what you hope to achieve and then worry about how you will get there.
Here’s a good example from two recent recording sessions at Octave Records. Both sessions used the Steinway piano in Octave’s tracking room. The first was a solo classical music piece while the second was a group pop track.
Does it make sense to record the piano in the same way for both genres? After all, it’s the samepiano in the same room.
The answer gets back to the headline of today’s post.
What and how.
The what part of this challenge starts with the sound one’s looking for. In the classical music piece, it’s important to fully capture the sound of the entire instrument in the room. In the pop piece, getting in close and grabbing the hammers pounding on the strings may be more important.
That’s the what element, and the how part is what follows.
In a classical music recording, I prefer to focus first on microphone placement in an effort to capture all of the instrument. If the microphones are shoved inside the grand piano (as you often see), you will lose the sound of the instrument. This is because the sound of a grand piano is a combination of the strings and the box as heard at a distance. Once that decision is confirmed, it next comes down to the type of microphone used (though this is less important than placement).
In rock, pop, and jazz recordings, we focus first on how we want the piano to integrate with the others in the band. Whether the piano is part of the rhythm section or the lead makes a big difference in where the microphones are to be placed. The sound of the piano or the sound of the integrated group?
Bottom line. To make the best recordings, it’s important to focus on first what it is you’re hoping to capture and how you do it follows.