Posts Tagged ‘sound’

Advice on Home Recording of an Acoustic Piano

November 10th, 2010
4,323 views 1 comment

Here’s a question and answer about home piano recording from a friend on Youtube, which I thought might be useful to others.


Hey Geoff

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.

Home recording of an acoustic piano using two SM-57 mics.


Hi W.,
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!


Idea / Invention: Music recordings that sound different on each play

June 11th, 2010
4,017 views 7 comments

I had a neat idea as I was driving to a gig. I get really fed up with the recordings (stack of cd’s) in my car as I’ve listened to them so many times, and every time I listen to them, they are the same!

I thought, why not make a recording that sounds different every time you play it?

Sound crazy? Well, it’s really quite possible to do, and wouldn’t be very hard.

Usually when a band records a song, they might do multiple takes, say 4 or 5 takes. For certain sections of the song, such as an instrumental solo, it would be cool if it would sound different every time. The artist or recording engineer could “program” the song to play a different, random take for a certain section of the song, each time the recording is played, or combine together parts of any of the takes in a new or somewhat random way. A single solo section could be further broken down into segments, such as a certain number of bars, and each segment could be swapped in with a different take, as the music is played.

There are a bunch of extensions to this idea:
– if this is on a website, allow the user to save their particular performance that they heard, and share it with others (and rate them, etc)

– instead of a purely random choice of the takes, the user could give input into the choices such as “I’d like a really upbeat and lively version of this song”, or “I’d really like a version of this song with a longer sax solo and less Britney”.

-if the “intensity” of the performance was hooked up to a foot pedal (e.g. the recording would become more excited as the pedal is depressed lower, and more relaxed as the pedal is released) an actual live musician could play along with such a recording, while controlling the intensity of the background recording, and have the background music follow his/her performance.

Please – let me know what you think!! And please take this idea, expand on it, and develop something new, as I mostly have time to think these days and not implement something, even so cool as this!


Update, Sept. 11, 2010: I’ve created a player which implements this concept, and made it open source. Check it out at Includes an example song.


TonyFrog – Orchestral music video about a green stuffed animal frog

October 30th, 2009
1,583 views No comments

I tried out my new video camera (a Panasonic AG-DVX100A) and filmed my stuffed animal frog which I bought at the Daiso Japanese dollar store in Richmond, BC, Canada.

The very same evening, I christened my green friend with the name of TonyFrog. So here is TonyFrog’s debut performance on video.

The rather “epic” classical music for this video was composed, orchestrated, and recorded by me, about 5 years ago. I used Cakewalk Sonar and the Edirol Orchestral module, along with my Yamaha P-80 keyboard hooked up to my PC via MIDI. I always intended for this piece to be used in a film, and its time has finally come! The credits music is another song that I wrote, an electronic dance music piece called Birds in the House that I recorded with my synthesizer (Korg MS-2000B) and mixed with some drum sounds from the Roland Virtual Sound Canvas (VSC).

The video was recorded in 60i mode and recorded directly into iMovie on a Mac using Firewire. I used a white balance card to calibrate the color settings (using the AWB button on my camera). I had to increase the Gain Boost on the camera to Medium because of the low light, and used the Auto Iris setting. I used iMovie to edit the footage and pick out parts which would go along with the music. Starting from the beginning of the music track, I edited clips to fit with the rhythmic and thematic changes in the song. I added a few effects such as a ripple and blur, just for fun.

Hope you enjoy the video!!
Until next time,
take care!
-Geoff Peters


Free Online Book – Digital Sound Processing

May 1st, 2005
1,279 views No comments

My friend Sigal pointed me to a very good (but very technical) free online book on the topic of digital sound processing (click here). It explains (in very technical terms) such things as how the human ear works, and how humans are able to tell the direction that a sound originates from (i.e. “Spatial Sound Perception“). Regarding pitch perception, it says:

So far, we have described pitch phenomena referring to the position of haircells that get excited along the basilar membrane. Indeed, the place theory of hearing is not sufficient to explain the accuracy of pitch perception and some intriguing effects such as the virtual pitch.