What the microphone hears

13th January 2010 | Daily Life, Florestan Trio, Musings | 0 comments

outside Henry Wood Hall

outside Henry Wood Hall

Just finished three days of recording in Henry Wood Hall, a converted church in south London. I feel stiff and aching all over, as if a horse has been jumping up and down on me. Recording is such an arduous process!

Every time I do it, I wonder why on earth it is that, even though the microphones are inches away from the piano, I have to play extra-loudly to give the effect of strength and grandeur on the recording. Common sense seems to say that having a microphone close to you would make it far easier to give the impression of power. Yet for some weird reason it does not work like that at all. I listen to what we’ve done and often feel that what sounded gigantic as we played it sounds underwhelming on the playback.

I feel I end up bashing the piano harder than I do in concerts, where the listening ears are a lot further away than the microphones of the recording studio. I’ve asked sound engineers to explain this to me, but they say it’s a complex phenomenon with all kinds of factors, both physical and psychological. I should be used to it by now, but it still surprises and perplexes me.

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