Bootstrapping Pensée No. 1 

Here's a new little piece written in part to test using three microphones on the idiosyncratic grand piano.

Two problems have haunted previous piano captures: Piano sounds too brittle and distant Too much room noise A warm, close piano sound with resonant bass has eluded me. In the past I was limited to two microphones, but we just got a gizmo that lets us interface with more. So I placed three borrowed mics basically in the three corners of the piano. A large diaphragm condenser mic went into the high end corner; another one was placed above the bass strings at the far back corner of the piano; and a small diaphragm mic was pointed on the left corner toward the low- and mid- range of the piano. I was hoping this would give me more low end flexibility to balance out the brightness of the higher notes. A heavy afghan was placed underneath the piano to diffuse reflections off the hardwood floor. Then a heavy blanket was draped over the lid to reduce some sound escaping from the top.

So, since I used three microphones, I had three audio tracks after recording the raw audio. The ReaFir plug-in in my software reduced some room noise. Then I opened an EQ plug-in. On the track that captured the high end of the piano, I reduced low frequencies; on the low end tracks, I scaled back the higher frequencies. I guessed this would help each track stay in its own lane and enhance clarity. ("Guessed" is a good word; true sound engineers are snickering at me now.) Panning the tracks created some width. What's panning? Well, you know how sometimes you hear sound coming from the left or right on your headphones? There's a knob you can turn on each track to produce that direction. The low end track was panned hard left; high end, hard right; and the low-mid track left in the middle. Maybe I should have used compression, but I didn't want to flatten the dynamics of this piece. The dynamic range, while important, was not that wide any way. I basically used compression in the end by using a limiter plug-in to raise the overall volume. If you ever tried to record something yourself, you probably noticed your recording was quieter than the normal music you listen to. Audiophiles, correct me if I'm wrong - the limiter squashes the loudest parts of the audio so that it can turn up the volume on the whole thing without having parts that are too loud. Here's the track before making any of these changes.

Here's the track now. I think panning made the biggest difference. I have no plans to distribute this piece - it was hurriedly done and the sound isn't where I want it yet.

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