Mic Technique for Piano, a fifty-year perspective from an audiophile, piano player and piano recordist.

Larry Villella playing a 1910 Steinway O he lovingly had restored.  He’s since traded up to a model B.

Larry Villella playing a 1910 Steinway O he lovingly had 
restored. He’s since traded up to a model B.


The first album Sam Rivers, Jr. played piano on led to the first album credit for yours truly.

1971 – Hue’s – Sam Rivers, Jr. / ABC Impulse (Vinyl baby!)

The same year I was honored to co-engineer a project with Chick Corea.
Life-Changing moments!

The ensuing half century has been spent in the pursuit of sonic beauty in so many forms!

However, at the core of it is a passion for pianos and finding ways to bring them to life. As with guitar microphones, with piano microphones the one-size-fits-all approach will not give you the very best recordings. You need a palette of tone-color options to best meet the requirements of your sonic canvas. What I know now, that I didn’t know in 1971: different pianos have different sonic signatures requiring different mic selection for best result. And even the Genre of Music informs the mic selection.

For Bernie Becker’s Bosendorfer, it’s a pair of ADK Custom Z-67 Tube Microphones.

Bernie Becker’s Bosendorfer using two ADK Custom Z-67 Microphones going on ten years!
Bernie Becker’s Bosendorfer using two ADK Custom Z-67 Microphones going on ten years!
ADK Z-MOD 67 MICROPHONE 



For Chuck Ainlay on Yamaha for modern country and rock,
ADK Custom Z-12 Mics his go-to Mic Solution.
Chuck was a part of the original beta-test team, and has every flavor of Z-Mod in his collection. I told him how counter-intuitive it was to me for him to choose a brilliant mic on a brilliant instrument. Again it’s all about how you want the tracks to sit in the mix. In dense tracks,
the Z-12 bursts to front-of-mix!
Chuck Ainlay using two ADK Custom Z-12 Microphones on Yamaha Grand for modern country music.

Chuck Ainlay using two ADK Custom Z-12 Microphones on Yamaha Grand for modern country music. ADK Z-MOD 12 MICROPHONE



It’s as much about context as it is the individual sound of a musical instrument! In a band with drums, bass, horns, guitars, etc., the more Brilliant Z-12 flavor allows the piano to POP in the Mix. If you were tracking Yamaha for a Jazz Ensemble you might want to use one of our less brilliant 67/47 flavored Mics.

Which brings us to Live Microphone or Stage Microphone Options:

In ensemble, the use of a Small Diameter Piano Microphones – in a stereo a/b technique as seen at Jazz at Lincoln Center - works to contain the sound better in a room full of many loud horns. These Small Diameter Piano Mics have a more neutral character best suited to the Steinway at Lincoln Center which already sounds fantastic, paired with neutral 3 Zigma SD-C you get the a more transparent, honest sound. If you need a bit of coloration, you use the 3 Zigma Lollipop. If you want near-neutral, 3 Zigma Lipsticks in stereo pairs are a must-have choir mic, instrument mic, ambient room mic, super useful!

Chick Corea with Jazz at Lincoln Center using two 3 Zigma SD-C Microphones on Steinway Model D
Chick Corea with Jazz at Lincoln Center using two 3 Zigma SD-C Microphones on Steinway Model D 3 ZIGMA SD-C MICROPHONE


However, when on Tour with the 9’ Yamaha Grand Piano, the best piano microphone changes! Here you can see an Asymmetrical a/b with a Small Diameter Cardioid with a Small Diameter Hyper-Cardioid.

I’m told it’s a carefully guarded secret as to which mic is treble and which is bass
(See if you can tell!).
 3 Zigma SD-C and SD-H Microphones on Concert Grand Yamaha on Jazz at Lincoln Center Tour.

3 Zigma SD-C and SD-H Microphones on Concert Grand Yamaha on Jazz at Lincoln Center Tour. 3 ZIGMA SD-C AND 3 ZIGMA SD-H MICROPHONES



When you want to take it the other direction and mellow out a really brilliant piano the C-Lol-47 FX have found great favor as piano mics at the Benaroya Hall Ten Grands event. On Super Bright Pianos, 47 tailor the top-end in a way that makes it much less harsh, especially on Yamaha, Kawai, any bright piano.

3 Zigma C-Lol-47 FX Microphones on Multiple Yamaha Grand Pianos
3 Zigma C-Lol-47 FX Microphones on Multiple Yamaha Grand Pianos 
3 ZIGMA C-LOL-47 FX MICROPHONES



What a lifetime of passion for listening to, tracking, and playing pianos has taught me is that you often get a surprise answer as to finding someone a great pair of piano mics. What’s great about the ADK approach is that there are solutions in a wide-variety of price points to satisfy both live and studio needs for a world-class piano mic. I am blessed to have a Seven Foot Steinway and play it every day. So when it comes to building a piano mic for my friends, I take it personally. I’m super picky for their sake!!

Chick Corea, Larry J Villella, and Herbie Hancock back stage on opening night of their second duet tour.
Chick Corea, Larry J Villella, and Herbie Hancock back stage on opening night of their second duet tour. 



First thing out of Chick’s mouth was ‘where are the tapes we made with the Circle Group in 1971’?

What is really great - you can find a piano mic from All Three ADK Microphone Collections.


3 Zigma, ADK T-FET and ADK Z-Mod Microphones are Tone-Tailored to Please Golden Ears!

If you want to talk about what stereo pair of mics might be your piano’s soul-mate, contact Larry@adkmic.com or call 503-296-9400 (Pacific Time Zone). At ADK we listen with big ears!