Rickety Ibach

An old Ibach piano captured with figure eight mics...

The story

Hey hey, it’s Hidde, this time with a piano library.

So I’m studying composition for the media at the HKU in Utrecht, and one of the hallmarks of its Music & Technology department is that first years, regardless of which specific course they’re taking, all have to take the same classes. This means I’m also having to take classes in creative coding, sound design, and various other topics. A few months ago, halfway through the second semester, we started a new class called Production Technology: Recording -it’s here where I discovered my love for working with microphones, actually. Basically, during the course of this class we had to record three instruments for a self written track using various predetermined recording techniques: one instrument had to be recorded mono, one stereo by using two mics, one in stereo with support, and then a fourth in any way we wanted. Due to a small misunderstanding in the definition of “stereo with support,” which was meant to be two mics for a stereo recording with a third offering mono or room mic support, and the sudden addition of an additional fourth instrument, my group was lacking one of the required stems to pass the class. I decided to take this task upon myself, and booked 90 minutes in one of the school studios to record in. This studio, which was mainly used to record foley for film, didn’t have any instruments save for an old Ibach piano that had definitely seen better days. That said, it still sounded good enough, so it did the job just fine. In the end, I finished recording the final stem much faster than anticipated, and was left with a full 40 minutes before I would have to start dismantling the recording setup. Deciding to make good use of the time I had left, I decided to go ahead and sample the piano; the it was already mic’ed, after all!

I decided to follow the example of Christian Henson, whom I had seen sample a piano in a video I had watched a few days prior (I think it was the claustrophobic piano), and sampled the piano in fifths, filing the empty spaces by tuning the notes down. As this was only my second time sampling an instrument, coming just off of finishing the LaPaz guitar, I took it somewhat easy with this one as well. I tried recording four velocity layers for the piano, with no round robins.

The recording setup on this one might be a bit strange, I’ll admit. I had been reading “Mixing With Your Mind,” by studio engineer legend Michael Paul Stavrou, in which I had read about the idea of using figure eight microphones to not only capture the sound of the instrument, but also the sound of the air that surrounded it, and so I decided to give it a try. I used two figure eight mics, one on either side of the piano. For one of the mics, the one near the lower strings of the piano, I turned the sensitive side of the mic (figure eight mics, despite being supposed to pick things up equally on both sides, almost always have a more sensitive side) towards the piano, and did the exact opposite for the mic towards the higher strings of the piano. I then scoured the room for a good place to put the omnidirectional mic I wanted to use as room support, and eventually found it sounded best in a high corner of the room.

This experience turned out to be quite enlightening on what I like in terms of recording, and how mic position can drastically change the sound of the recorded instrument. It also helped further cement my interest in sampling.

Admittedly, this isn’t the best piano library on the site, but I still quite like how it turned out despite its flaws. Hopefully you guys can find some use for it!

Cheers!
Hidde

Reviews

Leave a review to let others know what you thought of the instrument!

  • Needs an update...

    It's definitely a piano full of character. The nice rustic and “grandma's piano” sound that comes out of this instrument is truly beautiful, and although not my favorite, I'm sure there are definitely people out here looking for this type of sound. I have two main concerns with the library, first, everything seems to be pitched at least an octave up on the keyboard which can make it difficult to reach the top notes. Secondly, it sounds as if the samples were not gain corrected based on their velocity, so you have to hit the keys very hard to get an audible sound. Other than those two things it's a nice library that people will definitely enjoy once fixed.

    christopher13 October 2021
  • A great story, but not the best instrument

    So first off, it was cool to read about your experience making it in such depth and detail, very cool to hear about your experience in a music school setting as someone in music school currently as well. To provide a review on the instrument though, as you noted, its very unpolished and clunky. The sounding pitches on the keys are 2 octaves lower than the key struck, it's got a very overly punchy sound quality, and the volume changes very wildly with very little change in velocity. I don't think I'll be using this in the future, it's just a little to frustrating to work around its faults, even for it's unique sound.

    Murph Elyria12 October 2021