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August 1, 2023

Best Piano Microphones for Church Worship

The best choice of microphone depends on your desired tone, style of worship music, and, of course, budget.

Acoustic pianos are a staple instrument in church worship services, both traditional and modern. Capturing the intricate and delicate nature of this instrument requires the right microphones. The best choice of microphone depends on your desired tone, style of worship music, and, of course, budget. This article explores the different types of microphones commonly used for pianos in the church and provides suggestions for specific makes and models to ensure your microphone fits great in your mix.

Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphones:

Large-diaphragm condenser mics offer the widest frequency response and generally provide the best sound quality. They also have the highest price tags and are more prone to bleed from other instruments. When positioned properly and well isolated, a large diaphragm condenser is the best microphone for capturing the natural tone of an acoustic piano.

  • AKG C414:

The AKG C414 has been a staple for piano recording and it works great in live sound reinforcement. It is a pricey microphone and you’ll likely want a pair, but if it fits your budget, you will find a high-fidelity microphone with wide frequency response and great flexibility.

  • Audio-Technica AT4040:

The Audio-Technica 4040 is a fantastic mid-range option. It offers a cardioid pickup pattern, which means it doesn’t provide as much flexibility as the multi-pattern AKG C414. However, cardioid is the most common pickup pattern used for pianos and the AT4040 provides great warmth at a reasonable price.

  • Rode NT1-A:

The Rode NT1-A offers excellent sound quality at an affordable price, giving you the most bang for your buck for the large diaphragm condensers. While it lacks additional features, the cardioid pickup pattern works well on piano and its natural warmth is a good compliment to any instrument, including acoustic guitars or string instruments.

Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphones:

Small diaphragm condenser mics may not provide the same warmth as large diaphragm condensers, but they compensate for it in transient response and convenience. Their increased transient response allows them to reproduce the attack characteristic of acoustic instruments like pianos more accurately. Furthermore, their smaller form factor makes them easier to position inside either a grand piano or an upright piano. Small diaphragm condensers tend to be the most popular choice to capture a well-balanced piano sound for live performance.

  • Neumann KM 184:

The Neumann KM 184 is a world-class small diaphragm condenser microphone commonly used in the recording studio and live sound reinforcement. It offers good warmth for a small diaphragm condenser and often provides the best results of any small diaphragm condenser on a piano.

  • Audio-Technica ATM350PL:

Specifically designed for acoustic pianos, the Audio-Technica ATM350PL is a small diaphragm condenser microphone that covers the full frequency range of pianos. It comes with a mount allowing you to magnetically attach the microphone to the piano's frame above the soundboard, eliminating the need for microphone stands.

  • Rode NT5:

Similar to its large diaphragm sibling the NT1-A, the Rode NT5 offers great sound quality and an affordable price. Often sold in matched pairs, the NT5 offers flat frequency response and good transient response, making it a reliable option for most church settings.

Dynamic Microphones:

While dynamic mics may not offer the same level of accuracy as condenser microphones, they are more budget-friendly, rugged, and less sensitive to loud stage volumes. For churches with budget constraints or challenging acoustic environments, dynamic microphones can be a suitable alternative.

  • Shure SM57:

The Shure SM57 is the quintessential dynamic instrument microphone, making it a great option for a dynamic microphone on a piano. While it may not match the sonic fidelity of a condenser microphone, it offers solid performance, better rejection of unwanted sound, and is more affordable than even budget condenser microphones.

  • Sennheiser e 906:

The Sennheiser e 906 is designed for use on guitar amplifiers, but it still works well as a dynamic piano microphone. As an added benefit, the e 906 includes a presence switch to enhance or minimize the high frequencies, providing additional flexibility in getting the exact right piano tone.

Boundary Microphones:

Boundary mics are designed to capture sound based on the surface on which they are placed. With a piano, this means you can place the boundary mic directly on the frame inside the piano and capture the tone of the instrument. While they may not offer the same fidelity as other microphone types, boundary microphones have the advantage of allowing the piano lid to be closed, providing better isolation on noisy stages or when other instrumentalists are nearby.

  • Crown PCC160:

The Crown PCC160 is often placed on the edge of a stage to capture sound, but it can also be used inside a piano to capture its distinct tone. Experimentation is key to finding the right position, whether it's sitting the microphone on the frame near the holes above the soundboard or taping it to the side or underneath the lid.

  • Crown PZM 30D:

With its flat form factor, the Crown PZM 30D is ideal for taping inside the lid of a grand piano. By positioning one or two on the lid and securing them with gaff tape, you can achieve a present and naturally compressed tone that works well with more rock and blues-inspired musical styles.

Digital Pianos:

Digital pianos can offer a compelling alternative to acoustic pianos in church settings. They provide portability, a smaller footprint, and simple audio output options. Additionally, digital pianos offer versatility with various sound options beyond traditional piano tones.

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