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Author Topic: Piano Pickup  (Read 1427 times)

Kemper Watson

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Piano Pickup
« on: November 30, 2021, 07:33:23 AM »

One of my gigs has started doing indoor shows in a very live room with a grand piano.  It kind of hard to gain up mics. Is a Helpistill pickup system worth the price.? HAs anyone here used one?. Do they sound natural?
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Tim Halligan

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Re: Piano Pickup
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2021, 09:01:09 AM »

An alternative you might consider is a couple of Crown PZMs taped to the underside of the piano's lid.

Works well with the lid fully closed.

HTH

Cheers,
Tim
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Piano Pickup
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2021, 09:13:30 AM »

The Helpinstil pickup system requires a lot of fiddling about to get it right.  Once you do, it's golden.  Whether or not it sounds natural is, IMHO, irrelevant.  Why?  Because someone wants a grand piano amplified to ridiculous levels while other instrument amplifiers pound the piano's soundboard (which you cannot eliminate).

The way this was handled on Elton John's tour 25+years ago was to stuff the piano bottom with sponge foam, use a Helpinstil pickup, and add reverb and EQ to make it sound 'grand'.  A few years later the  9' grand was modified into an electronic trigger piano that played a sampler off stage.  It was not possible to get the levels Sir Elton needed in his wedges without it a) sounding bad and b) erupting into a wall of feedback.

Schertler also makes a piano pickup/contact mic system you may wish to audition.
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Doug Fowler

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Re: Piano Pickup
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2021, 09:45:45 AM »

The Helpinstil pickup system requires a lot of fiddling about to get it right.  Once you do, it's golden.  Whether or not it sounds natural is, IMHO, irrelevant.  Why?  Because someone wants a grand piano amplified to ridiculous levels while other instrument amplifiers pound the piano's soundboard (which you cannot eliminate).

The way this was handled on Elton John's tour 25+years ago was to stuff the piano bottom with sponge foam, use a Helpinstil pickup, and add reverb and EQ to make it sound 'grand'.  A few years later the  9' grand was modified into an electronic trigger piano that played a sampler off stage.  It was not possible to get the levels Sir Elton needed in his wedges without it a) sounding bad and b) erupting into a wall of feedback.

Schertler also makes a piano pickup/contact mic system you may wish to audition.

Schertler is pretty ok, but needs a lot of placement work, and a lot of EQ.  If Im in a rush I would place them (there are two) in the recommended area (ball park placement) then spend my time with EQ.  IIRC Schertler has some guidelines about placement. 

They work well, the putty they come with will not come loose, and you can normally get a sound you can live with that gets loud in the monitors.  Its a compromise (imagine that!) but you can work with it.
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Riley Casey

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Re: Piano Pickup
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2021, 09:59:53 AM »

I used two or three Shure SM98s for micing grands with the lids down for years with success. The DPA piano mounts with 4099s do a similar job. I've watched people take literally hours to set up a Helpenstil to their satisfaction on the piano du jour so I've long considered that a tour thing, not a one off thing.

John Sulek

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Re: Piano Pickup
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2021, 10:40:01 AM »

One of my gigs has started doing indoor shows in a very live room with a grand piano.  It kind of hard to gain up mics. Is a Helpistill pickup system worth the price.? HAs anyone here used one?. Do they sound natural?

There is also the Yamahiko pickups that are less fiddly to install then a Helpinstill.
https://www.yamahiko.info/en/products-2/piano-pickup
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Ike Zimbel

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Re: Piano Pickup
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2021, 11:29:47 AM »

I used two or three Shure SM98s for micing grands with the lids down for years with success. The DPA piano mounts with 4099s do a similar job. I've watched people take literally hours to set up a Helpenstil to their satisfaction on the piano du jour so I've long considered that a tour thing, not a one off thing.
Yep, I've used two DPA lavs (I don't recall the model number) taped across the middle of the frame 6-8" apart, about 4" back from the hammers, lid fully closed. Worked and sounded great.
And a note: Since the early 2000's, anytime I have mic'ed a piano, I have used some variation of the mics being about 6" apart (as in: "Never mic anything bigger than your head!") and placed near the center of the keys and a few inches above / back from the hammers. These variations can be X-Y, ORTF, the two lavs mentioned above etc, often with a cardioid pointing towards the low end and the mic aimed at the high end in omni mode. The important thing here is because the mics are spaced about the width of a human head apart, the arrival time makes sense to our ears. This is important for the piano, and even more important for any bleed that gets into the mics. Do NOT take my word for it...try it yourself!
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Dave Garoutte

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Re: Piano Pickup
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2021, 12:14:48 PM »

Kemper, I have a Helpinstill if you want to try it out.
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John Sulek

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Re: Piano Pickup
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2021, 12:34:00 PM »

Yep, I've used two DPA lavs (I don't recall the model number) taped across the middle of the frame 6-8" apart, about 4" back from the hammers, lid fully closed. Worked and sounded great.
And a note: Since the early 2000's, anytime I have mic'ed a piano, I have used some variation of the mics being about 6" apart (as in: "Never mic anything bigger than your head!") and placed near the center of the keys and a few inches above / back from the hammers. These variations can be X-Y, ORTF, the two lavs mentioned above etc, often with a cardioid pointing towards the low end and the mic aimed at the high end in omni mode. The important thing here is because the mics are spaced about the width of a human head apart, the arrival time makes sense to our ears. This is important for the piano, and even more important for any bleed that gets into the mics. Do NOT take my word for it...try it yourself!

Ike nailed it. This method works. Used it with two 414's a few times.
Paint stir sticks (or any piece of thin lath) are your friend for making a quick sturdy mounting bar for mics. Gaff tape bridges across the harp eventually sag at the worst possible moment.
Or you can spring for one of these excellent  mounting options...
https://pianomount.com/gallery/
I can't find the link but Tom Young had some nice wooden clamps for mounting mics off the harp that were available to buy at one point.
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Kemper Watson

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Re: Piano Pickup
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2021, 02:46:38 PM »

Kemper, I have a Helpinstill if you want to try it out.

Thank you but there is only one more show this year (this Friday) and I'm going to rough it one more time. They will do more in the spring. I may take you up on it then. They're planning on quite a few indoor shows throughout the year so I may just get one and let it live in that piano. I'm also trying to talk them into a large curtain behind the stage area.
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: Piano Pickup
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2021, 02:46:38 PM »


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