How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pianist

Soren Pedersen | 04/09/2021 How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pianist

The piano is one of music's most versatile and prominent tools in Houses of Worship, but its large size and sonically cumbersome nature can make it appear challenging to mike.  In this guide, you will learn proper miking techniques and our most recommended mics for the piano.

The morning service is about to start, and the pianist sits down to lead the congregation in morning worship. After adjusting their sheet music one last time, they lift their fingers to the keys. As they begin to play, you notice that the piano's sound fails to reach the back of the sanctuary, and congregants are straining their necks toward the front of the sanctuary to hear any notes. 

Miking a complicated instrument like a piano can appear to be highly challenging. The piano is a massive instrument capable of producing a wide range of sounds, so it can be challenging to know where to start. 

In this guide, you will learn critical factors to consider when determining the best mic for your House of Worship's piano to avoid poor audio from the piano and our most recommended mics for piano.


Dynamic vs. Condenser Mics 

The piano generates an extensive frequency range, starting at around 27.5 HZ (the frequency of the lowest note) to 4186 Hz (the frequency of the highest note). Because of the nature of the piano as an instrument, certain types of mics lend themselves better to it than others. 

There's a big difference between dynamic and condenser microphones. A dynamic microphone may have a hard time capturing very high frequencies. When you use a dynamic mic with a piano, it may fall short in capturing the high-frequency notes of the piano sound. But there are a few exceptions to this rule.

On the other hand, condenser mics are typically the most appropriate mics for piano sound because it covers an extensive range for frequency capture. A condenser mic will cover almost all sound frequencies produced by a piano.


Mic Placement on the Piano

The piano is a relatively sizeable acoustic source whose sound comes from the soundboard, the strings, and reflections from the lid and other body parts. Although you typically hear the piano from a distance, it's not feasible to use a distant microphone on a piano for sound reinforcement due to gain-before-feedback limitations. The standard procedure for miking a piano is to place the microphone close to or inside the piano.

Depending on your preferred placement, you can utilize several physical designs for microphones. One option is to position a conventional, full-size microphone close to or inside the piano (with the lid open) using a stand and boom.  By setting a mic over the treble strings, you will yield a bright sound. If you place a mic over the middle or low strings, you will produce a sound with more bass. You will hear a sharper attack by placing the mic near the hammers and a softer sound farther away. For increased isolation from other sounds and reduced feedback, you can attach a boundary microphone to the underside of the lid, which is then partially or entirely closed.

Since very close microphone placement may not pick up the full sound of a large source, it is sometimes desirable to use two (or more) microphones, especially for stereo reproduction. In this case, microphone placement becomes more subjective due to the possibility of interference effects. A good starting point is one microphone over the treble strings and a second over the bass strings. These placements will often produce a more balanced sound and do allow a more fantastic range of control. However, some experimentation will be necessary to get the best sound from a specific instrument in a particular room.

The techniques mentioned above give you a good idea of how to best mic a piano. Yet, you still need to ensure that you are using suitable microphones for the piano. You can't simply use any mics out there. You need to carefully select the mics that are most responsive to the piano sound. For your convenience, below are the three of Shure's most recommended mics for pianos.


Recommended Microphones for Piano

BETA 181
Shure's BETA 181/C Cardioid Compact Side-Address Microphone is a side-address condenser microphone that you can mount horizontally in the piano so that you can close the lid. The microphone features a wide frequency response range and rugged build, making it great for the House of Worship stage. 

 

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KSM137
Shure's KSM137 produces studio-quality sound for live performance. This microphone is an end-address condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern rugged enough for live sound applications. The KSM137 offers a wide frequency response and can withstand extremely high sound pressure levels making it a flexible microphone for various applications, including piano.

 

 

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PGA81-XLR
Shure's PGA81-XLR is an affordable professional-quality condenser instrument microphone that offers an unobtrusive visual presence.  The PGA81-XLR can be used to capture audio in several environments for applications such as a piano. The PGA81-XLR features a cardioid capsule built with the same durability and performance attributes as other Shure microphones.

 

 

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Shure: The Perfect Choice for Your Pianist's Sound Needs 

Whether you're looking to mic the piano, the pastor, or the entire choir, Shure can equip your House of Worship with all your sound needs.  Contact us today to get started!

Here are a few other resources you might find helpful:

Shure's Central Hub for Houses of Worship

How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pastor

How to Choose the Right Wireless Microphone System

How to Choose the Best Mics for the Choir at Worship

How to Choose the Best Mics for Brass, Wind, and String Instruments

How to Choose the Best Mics for the Guitar at Worship

How to Choose the Best Handheld Mics for Worship

How to Choose the Best Mics for the Drummer at Worship

 

Soren Pedersen

Soren Pedersen

Soren is a Product Specialist for wired microphones at Shure. He led development efforts on the MOTIV™ and PG ALTA product lines and is a Shure earphone enthusiast. He studied Audio Arts and Acoustics at Columbia College Chicago and has been recording music since the age of 15. Outside of Shure he plays drums and is an ambitious home cook.