MIDI doesn’t suck.

It’s an amazingly useful tool, especially for us home studio folks.

But when it comes to piano, I decided to break away from the MIDI crowd and buy myself a used upright piano. Instead of reaching for a plugin and a MIDI keyboard whenever I need a piano part for a song, I’d rather reach for a couple of microphones and sit down at an ACTUAL piano.

And that’s what I did.

Well, I finally got around to recording this beauty (her name is Consuela), and I got some really great-sounding results.

Check out this video to see and hear what I did.

  • Pete Woj

    since when did you get solid on the ivories? ; )  You recording AND mixing your new album in Studio One? (btw – i downloaded the demo version of it and its scary how much its modled after Logic… just my $.02.) But for real, was that YOU playing or did you hire a piano player? I’m impressed. 

    • ‘Twas me playing…with a fair amount of punching in (as you can see from the edits). 🙂
      Yep, S1 reminds me a lot of Logic. Got some little workflow tweaks that make me really happy. Still feeling my way around it, though.

  • Hey, thank you so much for posting this video. I’ve been on a piano craze ever since, and I’m glad to hear you got such a good tone out of a ‘cheap’ piano =)

  • Peter

    Hey Joe – Thanks for the video.  I have a Yamaha U3 “upright grand” and am still experimenting with mic position.  My biggest complaint is that even with the mics really close, it sounds a bit distant in terms of the quality or color of the sound.  I’m using an AKG C2000 and C1000 in different positions.  As for pedal “thumping” I have that too.  I added a bit of window weatherstripping felt between the bottom of the pedal and the top of the wood frame.  That dampened that point of impact.

    • I think the “distance” is just a part of an upright’s sound.

  • Rich Grimshaw

    Nicely done, Joe.  You’re an inspiration.  The wooden soundboard is on the other side of the strings.  I know you like to try different things, so you might consider turning the piano around an placing the mics at the back.  It would keep the pedal noise out, too. 

    • Yeah, but there’s a big hunk of wood on the back blocking the sound.

  • David Olson

    The files are INSIDE the computer………..lol

    You’re the worst camera man ever.  just kidding.  

    Thanks for a great video!

    • HA HA. I completely agree. My wife wasn’t home to hold the camera that day. 🙂

  • Luis Cuebas

    Big fan of Consuela, Joe – well done, my friend!!  Sounds GREAT in the mix.. .Nevah stop rockin 
    Luis ;O )

  • Tal

    I think having the real piano adds more character for sure. I had a thought and I am not sure how it would fly. How about taking one of the stereo mics and place it over the top piano door? Would that cause phase issues? God Bless!

    • Potential phase issues maybe…I want that nice, left-to-right stereo sound.

  • Neilio-U

    Sounds good!  I actually like the semi-out-of-tune-ness of the piano … it adds to the ‘haunting’ quality of the song.  I’ll be recording our upright piano a lot very soon (an actual upright :).

  • William Alsup

    I really like the track you’ve recorded! It sounds really haunting, and at the same time, super chill. I’m looking forward to this new album!

    One quick question I do have, however. What is your opinion of the stock Para EQ in S1? I’ve been using it, and personally I think it’s super digital and I don’t really like it much for boosts…. I’ve mainly used it for cutting frequencies. But I’m just worried that I may be using the EQ wrong and that’s contributing to my confusion, so I just really want another opinion, but an educated one. 

    • CameronN

      I find it perfectly acceptable, even for boosts. What don’t you like about the sound you get? How big are your boosts? Experimenting with q and adding much more subtle boosts might help.

    • I’m probably not the right guy to ask, since I almost always cut and do very little boosting with EQ. I like it so far.

  • Good job, Joe!  I would suggest not using the pedal at all for your recording, and then adding the sustain using reverb and delay in PT.  Also, it’s critical that pianos get tuned by a professional twice a year to really be bang on.  Your song is very very nice!  Thanks Joe! x

    • Reverb and delay are VERY different from a sustain pedal. Playing without the pedal would be like telling a singer to sing short, quick notes, and that we could make them hold out longer by using software.
      The pedal noise is a part of the deal. I wouldn’t record without pedals. (But that’s just me.)

  • Now this is a nice awesome piano sound , without a lot of work done !
    I love the sound you got from it right from the “box” …
    I guess a little of http://wickedmonkeys.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/wd40_0.jpg WD40 can make a whole difference in the pedal noise , but this is kinda make it more natural and realistic sounding piano…. that sometimes is what you actually looking 4.
    great video ! 
    I love the board on the wall , in case you forget something lol 🙂

    • Ha ha. So funny you mention WD40. I wanted to use some before recording, but it our WD40 was in a closet outside our little boy’s room, and he was napping.
      So, to avoid waking him from his nap, I just went without the WD40.


      • Eric

         So ya, I guess that would have been noisier than PLAYING THE PIANO during his nap! Kidding. Great work…

        • Haha. Studio is on the opposite end of the house. 🙂

  • Evanlis81

    Very nice. Cool song, too. Loved the bass line and piano melody together.

  • Ishtiq ahmed

            lot of thanks for this lesson.last lesson was so meaningful for mastering audio and i hope it is work as international standard.please mail me about final effect of mastering.

  • Sounds cool, just tune better the piano  and you can have a very good piano sound

    • Your’e right. Had it tuned 3 months ago, but it’s already lost it a bit.

  • Akos Janca

    Hi Joe, thanks for the tip. How can you eliminate the noise of the pedals?

    • Yeah, I need to actually lubricate them a bit to make them less noisy. But otherwise that’s a compromise of having the mics down there.

  • Alan Collins

    Joe, would you suggest using ‘wind buffers’ on the mic to lose a bit of that ‘honky tonk’ sound I’m hearing? (I believe jazz pianist often remove that panel for that very sound. I know Fats Waller did!) or will you simply EQ it?

    • Not sure what you mean by “wind buffers.” Like windscreens? That won’t change the sound at all. An upright will have a bit of that “honky tonk” sound just because it’s an upright. This recording sounds very much like the piano does when I just sit in front of it and listen. If I need a different sound than that, I’ll need to record something else.