Here’s a question and answer about home piano recording from a friend on Youtube, which I thought might be useful to others.
How are you doing? Hope all is well in your part of the world. Things here are good! I am writing to ask your advice on something – if you have the time, please could you help me out with this? Would really appreciate it.
Basically I am doing some recordings at home, – for my YouTube, but also for myself. I have made an album of original music which I put up on iTunes etc. It’s okay, but the sound quality is just not very professional, and this is because I have a Mac, and a digital piano (some rubbish Yamaha DGX thing) and basically I record via audio cable, using Garageband. Up until now it’s been fine. But I wanted to take my recordings to the next level!
I have been listening to your efforts quite a lot, because I love your playing. And all of your recordings are super super quality. So, I was wondering, might you have any advice for me as to what I might do to improve my set-up?
I have sort of guessed that I really ought to go the home recording route, i.e. get a couple of microphones, and do it that way, rather than via audio cable. Am I right?
Thing is, I am on something of a budget so that is a consideration. I want to do an album of covers next, and my friend suggested to me that I just go to a recording studio. But they are very expensive in London, and it seems it would make more sense for me to buy the stuff for home use, since I am going to make a lot of use of it.
Sorry for all the waffle, and no worries if you do not have time to reply. But if you had any ideas for me I’d be very grateful. What I wanted to know centrally was, I guess:
a) do I need microphones, and if so, are there any you’d recommend? Is one enough, or must it be two, etc.?
b) do I need a proper piano, or can I get a good quality sound with just a digital/electronic machine, like what I use now?
c) any other info you could share!
Thanks so much for reading this, and best wishes to you
Home recording of an acoustic piano using two SM-57 mics.
no problem… here’s some free advice
I find acoustic pianos always sound better than electric pianos, especially if they are well tuned. There will be no benefit to using external microphones unless you get an acoustic piano… the current way you are doing it is the best that you can do for an electric piano.
For micing my acoustic piano, I open the top and place two mics close to the sound board, to the left and right of center. It’s important to be equal distance from the sound board or else you will get strange stereo phase problems. Pan the left mic all the way to the left and the right mic all the way to the right. I find that the SM-57 mic (made by Shure) is really worth the money you will spend – they are quite affordable considering that they are also used in professional studios. You can always buy a cheaper mic but you’ll likely get a poorer quality recording.
You can also just buy one mic and record in mono, but I find stereo adds another dimension to the sound and is better for making into CD’s.
Regarding mic position, the best way to find a good place to put the mic is to use headphones and try playing keys at various volumes throughout the range. Keep making little adjustments to the positions until you hit the “sweet spot”. Also make sure that the gain isn’t set too high when you play loud or else you will get annoying pops due to clipping.
Check out some tutorials on home recording, I’m sure you can pick up some more tips too.
For an audio interface, you will need some way to plug in the mics into your mac. There are various kinds (I have a MOTU 8-Pre which has fabulous sound and 8 inputs, but this might be overkill for what you need). I’ve also used smaller units made by M-Audio that have only two inputs but excellent sound.
I usually like to apply some sort of Dynamics Compression to the audio. This partly flattens out the dynamic range, and makes the sound clearer and more vibrant. In Logic Pro there are some compressor tools that I play around with, but I am still figuring out how to do this. A good book on mastering audio is called “Mastering Audio” by Bob Katz.
Ok there’s some ideas…. good luck!