In this episode of the show I want to walk you through the process I use to record a piano. In this demo project, I'm going to be using a free VST virtual instrument to do this. Using the 4-3 Framework we will create a very realistic sounding piano track.
Ep 21 | Record Piano using the 4-3 Framework
by David | 11 comments
I’m looking for a 49 key Midi Keyboard Controller. What would you recommend? I’ll spend up to $200.00
Hey Dominic, I’d highly recommend the
M-Audio Oxygen 49 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
When I record I use only the left and right outputs from my keyboards, (Yamaha PSR S910 or DGX 650) I only have two audio tracks to work with that contain all of the instruments, not separate tracks for each one. I use Studio One as my DAW. How do I enhance the recording to make it sound professional. It sounds muddy not crisp and deep.
Thanks for the questions Michael. I feel your frustration and have been there myself before I started this long journey of learning how the pros create projects. Let me say this first, I’ve heard it said that great projects aren’t the result of any one major decision but the sum of lots of little choices we make along the way.
First I would take a listen to this episode of the show. In it I give the framework that needs focus to build any pro mix. https://homemusicstudio1.com/ep-20-building-a-professional-mix-with-the-4-3-framework/
Next, I would suggest moving towards getting your instruments on their own tracks. Your extremely limited with post processing when everything is in 1 stereo track.
I haven’t used your keyboards personally but here are a few thoughts that I would look into first. 1.) if your building everything with the onboard midi sequencers of your keys you might try looking for virtual instrument replacements to build these tracks directly in studio 1. If your keyboard allows, you might even be able to export midi files of your sequences to load directly into a virtual instrument plugin in studio 1. With midi, you would then use that file to trigger the sounds from the plugin.
#2) option 1 may be a big learning curve for you so you might also consider this first. Record each track/instrument on 1 stereo track at a time in studio 1. You can do this by adding a 4 count click (like a hi that) at the start of each track within your sequencer. Then playback one instrument at a time starting with your drums/percussion. Just mute the others and record each instrument adding adding 1new stereo track to your project until you have all your instruments recorded. You can then line them all up after their recorded by syncing the 4 count click in the wav form (just make sure each track is line up exactly with the click started with drums first).
If you can let me know what instruments your using and how your creating them I can better help you out as well.
Keep in touch
Hi Michael. When I started recording I did the same thing as you. My Roland XP80 Workstation had all the programming in it, and I recorded L/R outputs to my DAW. The result was never very good.
Then I changed to recording each track’s MIDI out into my DAW one at a time. This let me improve the arrangement of the song in the DAW very easily, and then I played the MIDI tracks one at a time into the XP80 and recorded each track as audio. This has worked well for me, but does require some extra work aligning the tracks. I like David’s suggestion about adding a 4 count click to the start of each track for easy aligning. Going to try that next time!
Also, be careful about turning off effects and recording the synth parts. I thought that was a good idea at first after reading about recording things dry. But a lot of my patches sounded terrible when recorded dry. I seldom could match the effect using plugins.
Regarding the 100% rule, how would deal with a song that had several prominent instruments at once? Would automating the volume of tracks be viable solution (to reduce certain tracks at key points)?
Great question Dan. I can’t think of any reason not to use automation for sure. However that’s really only part of the equation. Multiple tracks done right can create a nice big mix but the reason I mention the 100% rule has to do more with how those tracks are played and only then their dynamic volume controlled by compression or automation. Think of it this way, as most professional producers do when creating a mix. How much is just enough to get the job done, or how much can i take out and still get the job done. I know that seems counterintuitive at times but you can have a lot tracks and still accomplish this. Think of the 100% rule as a way to think of a give and take dynamically from one track to another. If I have a spot with a guitar solo, that solo may need to take up 45% of the total dynamic or audio picture so to speak for that part of the song. That simply means everything else must take up less to make room. A case in point here. I never play full chords on a piano when I have a guitar and bass in the mix. I also stay away from the bass and guitar octaves as well. I let the bass do what I would do with my left hand and let the guitar keep the rhythm. Typically i would play the piano in the octave Above the guitar. i would then play broken chords to fill a portion of what is appropriate. No one instrument should ever take up 100% of the dynamic unless nothing else is playing. This is how a pro band would play with each other as musicians. Your simply trying to create this in your tracks. Hope this helps.
Thanks. You gave me a lot to think about in my own songs.
Dynamic range is a problem for me. My mixes seem to lack it. I can even see it when looking at the wave forms of my mixes compared to professional ones. Maybe I’m running too many instruments at the same time as you mentioned (the 100% rule).
How would you handle several strong instruments competing at the same time? Would you use automation to lower the volume of some tracks at key points, or some other trick?
Really enjoyed this video, David. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
Your welcome Marc, thanks for your comment. Have a great weekend.