How To Mic A Piano

Upright Piano

The piano has the greatest range of any instrument, so it’s best to use a microphone that has a wide frequency response. Condenser mics are usually the best choice for a clean, natural sound. The choice between wide-diaphragm or pencil condensers is a matter of taste, but pencil condensers are a little more common.

Here are some placement options for an upright piano:

  • Over the open lid of the piano, place either a single mic, a spaced pair, or a coincident pair.
  • With the piano pulled away from the wall so the soundboard is facing the room, a pair of mics can be placed at a distance of 6–8″ (see Fig. 144). These can be either spaced with one at each end of the soundboard or together in an X-Y pattern.
  • A stereo pair in an X-Y or ORTF pattern can be placed above the pianist’s head.
  • With the kickboard removed (there is usually a metal latch holding it in place), one mic is placed at each end. This position can, however, be problematic on an instrument with squeaky pedals.

Miking the Soundboard of an Upright Piano

Grand Piano

For the grand piano, like the upright, condenser mics with a wide frequency response are a good choice, but the different shape and layout of the instrument requires that it be miked differently. Having the lid is open, closed, or taken completely off will affect the tone of the instrument. It is worth experimenting with the lid in different positions, but as with any instrument, if the performer has a preference, it can be worth catering to them to encourage the best performance possible.

Below are a few options for miking a grand piano:

  • X-Y or ORTF pair at distance of 4–6′.
  • One mic over treble strings and one over bass strings at a distance of 1–2′.
  • With the lid up, a mic or pair of mics can be placed just outside the lid facing either the strings (for brighter sound) or lid (for mellower, reflected sound) (see Fig. 145).
  • An X-Y or ORTF pair placed above the pianist’s head.
  • An X-Y pair placed 2–3″ over the point where the high and low strings cross. This delivers a punchier sound, so it is often favored for rock and similar styles of music (see Fig. 146).

Miking Outside the Lid on a Grand Piano

Miking A Grand Piano Over Crossed Strings

This is an excerpt from The Encyclopedia of Home Recording, a complete reference for the home recording studio by Mark Garrison. For more information about this book, please visit