Recording Keyboards and Piano

Recording keyboards is pretty straightforward. Most have stereo outs so plug those into two channels and pan down the center for recording. You can adjust where you want them in the mix when you actually mix. An alternative which will save hard drive space is to record the keyboard parts in MIDI. MIDI is a form of storing the notes played, how fast the key was depressed, and how long the key remained depressed. This takes up a fraction of what the same recording in audio does. Then when you get to mix down, you let the computer play the keyboard part and mix it in with the rest of the song. The reason I do this almost exclusively is that it gives me more options at mix down. If I want to I can change instruments, vary the amount of effects, etc. When in doubt always go for what will give you the most options.

       Recording piano has itís own challenges. If you canít get a good piano sound from an electronic keyboard (which is more often than not), your only choice is to record a live piano. Much of this will depend on how much the piano contributes to the song. Also, pianists will almost exclusively prefer playing a piano versus a keyboard because of the touch, feel and sound. The main problem is that pianos can be noisy instruments with squeaky pedals, sticking keys, etc. Make sure before you record that the piano is tuned and maintenanced and that the piano is acclimated to the room before itís tuned. Theyíre notorious for getting out of tune when moved from one room to another because of humidity and temperature changes. There are several ways to mic a piano that all have different results. In order to get a stereo image with a natural balanced sound, place one mic about 8 inches above the high strings and another about 8 inches above the low strings. It also doesnít hurt to use a room mic aswill but keep in mind that the room will affect the sound. Thatís why piano samples are recorded in an ultra quiet room unless they are meant to be in a particular space. Play around with mic placement to make sure youíre not getting any phase problems.  If the piano almost disappears when switched from stereo to mono, youíre having phase problems and you can try moving the mics further from each other or flipping the phase on one of the mics. This is usually done at the mixing console. Usually, no compression is needed and getting all this right will result in a gorgeous piano track that will sit in the mix beautifully with little or no equalization. For other options, consult page 9 of Shure's online PDF on microphone placement.



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