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.


34 Responses to “How to Record Upright Piano [Video]”

  1. 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. 

    • Joe Gilder

      ‘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.

  2. Anup J. Thomas

    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 =)

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 

  5. David Olson

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

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

    Thanks for a great video!

  6. Luis Cuebas

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

  7. 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!

  8. 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 :).

  9. 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.

  10. Charlotte Wrinch

    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

    • Joe Gilder

      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.)

  11. Avi Lutinger

    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 🙂

    • Joe Gilder

      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.


  12. 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.

  13. Akos Janca

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

    • Joe Gilder

      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.

  14. 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?

    • Joe Gilder

      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.


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