There are as many ways to mic a piano as there are types of pianos. For that reason, it’s important to think about what type of sound you want to achieve when recording. Even a grand piano can yield a variety of sounds depending on mic selection and placement.
For example, a pair of small diaphragm condensers like [Neumann] KM84s placed directly over the hammers on the piano will give you more attack – ideal perhaps for faster tempos in pop or more contemporary songs.
If it’s a slower tempo song and you’re looking for a warmer sound, I always go for some tube mics or large diaphragm condensers and put them over the strings.
There’s also the idea of how you pan the mics relative to their placement. Sometimes you want a stereo sound on the piano, which the KM84s are really good for, and sometimes you want a warmer sound that kind of surrounds you and isn’t as rigidly left/right, in which case you may want to add some room mics or pull the mics further back to get a more overall picture of the piano.
Imagine the microphones are your ears; what are they closest to? Which part of the piano are they going to pick up? Is it a very close and detailed thing, or is it a further back, surround type of thing? It’s all about what serves the song best.
As the head engineer at Metalworks Studios in Mississauga, ON, Kevin Dietz has worked as an engineer on albums by The Cranberries, Alexisonfire, Silverchair, Bachman-Cummings, and many others. He can be reached at