Here are two short pieces of Frederic Mompou.:
“Musica callada I” is the first piece from his Musica callada set. It seeks to “express the idea of music as the very voice of silence.” (From the notes in the 2008 Salabert Edition.)
This piece is from his set “Paisajes” – “La Fuente y la campana” (The fountain and the bell).
Both of these pieces revel in the resonances and sonorities available on the piano. I try to capture the ethereal sound of his music through the use of the recording technique described below. More importantly, they faithfully reproduce, in a good set of headphones or on a good stereo system, precisely what I hear when playing. If I hear the dampers rising, you hear the dampers rising. If I hear the full frequency range of the piano at a very low volume, so will you. These two pieces do not have any reverb, compression, EQ, or normalization added. They are precisely what the mics and equipment recorded.
I am just starting the long process of learning how to record my piano. My interest is in creating a listening experience that is the same as I experience when sitting at the bench playing. My piano is extraordinary and, in spite of living in a small, low ceiling, dry room, sounds from the bench as if it is in a cathedral. My challenge is in the technical side of producing a recorded product that creates this sense of space. This page will feature the technical side, and eventually, I hope, the musical side of the art of producing recorded sound.
My piano is a 2009 Mason&Hamlin BB. I tune, regulate, voice, and play the instrument myself. This allows me to destroy the hammers and the music without being able to blame anyone else for the shortcomings. It is recorded close in with the lid on the short stick – one mic 2cm from the rim at the bend looking at the high treble, and one 2cm from the tail looking along the bass string line. Both mics barely peak over the rim and are inexpensive cardioid vacuum tube Apex 460Bs that I modified by changing out some components, adding a few capacitors and resistors to change the frequency response and changing the grid bias from cathode to fixed. The result is a more smooth response and lower distortion.
The mics feed a tube preamp which then feeds a Roland Quad IV ADC/DAC. The Roland converts the analogue audio stream to 96kHz, 24bit depth digital stream and communicates through USB to audacity on my Windows 10 laptop. In my living room the background noise from all sources – recording equipment and nature and machines – is about -65dBFS when the mics are set for -3dBFS at fff from the piano. The cardioid format really helps keep extraneous noise from the recording and, more importantly, removes the room influence on the recording.
Rachmaninoff Op.23, no.4 prelude in D major
This recording is of Rachmaninoff’s Op. 23, no.4 prelude and was done on my piano, a 2009 Mason&Hamlin BB. There is no equalization, no compression, or normalization added to the Rachmaninoff recording, just a tiny amount of reverb. This was added because the house humidity spiked due to intense rainstorms the previous day, so the hammers were producing a slightly more ‘veiled’ sound than normal – interesting, but lacking some of the brightness and space normally experienced. It is still a somewhat veiled recording. The Mompou, recorded a month later, does not suffer from swollen hammers, so no reverb was added.
Tuning and Miscellaneous
This video is for my friends at Piano World.
Octave Glissandi tests:
The temperament heard below is an ET produced by Dirk’s Piano Tuner, a software programme that records one string of each of 88 notes, measures the inharmonicity of the strings, and calculates a nearly optimal stretch tuning.
Temperament Octave Major Thirds recorded using trichords:
Same tuning showing arpeggios A0 ,A#0, B0, C1, C#1 and D1:
Sostenuto test for PW:
Using the double escapement action: