When musician and sound designer Paolo Principi was asked to record the authentic sound of a Fazioli Grand Piano for a new Silent System and Virtual Instrument multi-sample, there was only one microphone brand that he felt could do the task justice – and that was DPA.
“I wanted to capture the rich and complex sounds of this piano in the most natural way,” Principi explains. “For this, it was important that I used the best solution for each element of the audio path. I chose DPA for the microphones, Vovox for the cables and Apogee for the converter because each of these brands is renowned for delivering high-quality audio without coloring the sound in any way.”
Principi, whose company, PSound, specializes in sampling and creating virtual instruments, says he was delighted when Fazioli asked him to record its flagship piano – the F278 Gran Coda. To accomplish this task, Principi chose two matched pairs of DPA 4006 Omnidirectional Microphones (including one pair with nose cones for a perfect response across the whole audio frequency range) and a pair of 4015 Wide Cardioid Microphones. These were supplied by DPA’s Italian distributor, M Casale Bauer, and used to record ‘binaural,’ ‘close’ and ‘side’ sounds respectively.
“I was really delighted by the naturalness, precision and detail that all the DPA microphones delivered,” adds Principi. “I was also very surprised by the linearity of their frequency response, especially for the off-axis sounds – thanks to the incredible nose cones.”
Principi recorded the piano note-by-note (all 88 keys) and across numerous dynamic levels (12 main levels, plus noises and different articulation levels), so that he could accurately capture its entire range of sounds. He also used a special machine to play each key with the same dynamic level and spent a great deal of time working out the best microphone position for each of the three sounds (binaural, close, side) that he was recording. He then listened to the audio in his own studio until he was sure he was obtaining the real sound of the instrument.
“I knew I was getting a great sound during the recording session, but it was only when I got into my studio that I realized how wonderful the DPA microphones were because they didn’t color or change the real sound of the piano,” continue Principi. “What I was hearing was exactly what I had recorded.”
Principi adds that, as one of the world’s most famous and prestigious piano brands, he finds Fazioli pianos both technically and musically fascinating. “The company has been in existence for nearly 40 years, but this project was its first experience with digital sound, so it was important to get it right,” he explains. “Until now, Fazioli has been using a standard Silent System made by an external company. While this allowed customers to play an acoustic piano and hear a digital sound through headphones, it didn’t give them the original Fazioli sound. Now, thanks to this project, customers buying these very expensive acoustic pianos can hear the original and beautiful Fazioli sound when they play the digital version.”
The same attention to detail applies to the Virtual Instruments multi-sample that Principi is releasing later this year through PSound (www.psound.it) in collaboration with Fazioli. It will be the only official Fazioli digital virtual piano on the market, and will be aimed at composers, keyboardists and digital pianists who want the highest quality sound samples.
The recording sessions for this project took place over the course of one week in Fazioli’s own concert hall in Sacile, Italy, using a Gran Coda piano made in 2005 and signed and tested by Aldo Ciccolini.
“The binaural 3D sound, for the Silent System, simulates the F278 Gran Coda in the Fazioli Concert Hall, which has excellent acoustics and allows for the possibility of changing the reverberation by moving wooden panels on the stage,” Principi says. “The ‘close’ sound, which is incorporated into the Silent System and the Virtual Instrument, replicates the real sound of the piano from a pianist’s point of view. The ‘side’ sound gives the audience perspective and is only used for the Virtual Instrument. My greatest satisfaction is that when I play the virtual instrument in my studio, I can close my eyes and feel like I'm back in the Fazioli hall playing the Fazioli F278 signed by Aldo Ciccolini. As a pianist, musician and composer, the musical feeling is the best test.”
Prinicipi is so sure that he chose the right microphones to record the Fazioli that he has now purchased a matched pair of 4006s for his own mic locker and will be using them for all future PSound Virtual Instrument recordings.