Now that you have spent some time on the piano, you may have become curious about how to record yourself playing the piano.
There are many reasons a musician would want to record themselves. Likewise, there are many different ways a musician can go about recording a performance; all of these factors depend on your goals as a musician.
You might be surprised to find that you don’t need a load of expensive equipment to make a recording. A general rule to always follow is: Use what you have. Another rule of thumb to follow is: Don’t be afraid to be unconventional.
There is nothing wrong with taking a DIY attitude towards things; it is often what stands between saving cash and spending it.
Here are some items to keep in mind as we delve into the different ways to record yourself playing piano (we’ll get into the “How-To” later in the next few sections of the article).
- Digital Camera/Handycam
- Field Recorder (Audio Only)
- DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, a.k.a. “Recording Software”)
Perhaps you have been practicing scales, or maybe you have been employing techniques to practice efficiently. Naturally, you will want to know what you sound like, and if any of the time you’ve been spending on practice is paying off.
Fortunately, recording (both audio and/or video) is a fantastic tool to be able to hear yourself, and if what you are playing sounds good. In addition to this, recording is highly useful with the integration of new techniques.
Recording a video of yourself is also very helpful in correcting any physical mistakes that you might not have been aware of previously. Believe it or not, a recording is also a great marketing tool, as it allows you to share your performance with an audience of a limitless size, without having to be physically present in the same location to perform in real-time.
- Superb tool to hear what you sound like
- Highly useful for the integration of new techniques
- Ability to correct physical mistakes oneself would not be able to see
- Ability to share a performance with others without the necessity of being present in real-time
Setting up Your Space
Now that you have decided to record yourself playing piano, it is time to set up your space. There are a few different factors to keep in mind when setting up your space: convenience; lighting; sound; and comfort.
Often, a recording space is chosen out of its convenience. Your practice area can work great, especially if all you are doing is recording audio. If you are choosing to record for a more professional purpose, perhaps a room with ideal lighting and acoustics (depending on your project) is what you are looking for. If you are recording video, ensure that your space is clean, tidy, and (ideally) full of natural light/minimal shadows.
No matter what route you go, perhaps the most important (and overlooked) factor is that you should be comfortable.
Be sure to do all of your preparation work before you decide to actually sit and record, as you may find that your preparation takes longer than planned. When putting your space together, keep in mind what gear you will need, and, if applicable, how much physical effort is required to move said gear.
Here are some items and recommendations that will be extremely handy to have in your space.
- The UBeesize Phone Tripod (found here on Amazon) will be useful if using your phone to record video, as it will allow you to record from custom angles.
- If you are using actual microphones, On-Stage Microphone Boom Stands like this one are an invaluable tool for placing the microphones wherever your ears and heart may desire.
- Audacity is a free-to-use, open-source DAW that is highly recommendable, especially if you are new to recording, and/or have always wondered how DAWs work. While it is fairly barebones and minimalistic, it will allow you to learn the ropes about how to record and edit audio on a computer at the most basic level.
- If you have a little cash to spend the Zoom H4N field recorder is a worthwhile investment. The Zoom H4N acts as a mobile recording unit, with 2 on-board microphones, along with the option of adding 2 more microphones via XLR cables. This is extremely practical, as one can record from multiple areas simultaneously, while also remaining highly portable. Side note: The purchase of the aforementioned On-Stage Microphone Boom Stands is recommended, as the H4N comes with an adapter to conveniently mount into a microphone stand.
Recording Yourself Playing Piano
So, you’ve put in the practice, you have your recording space set up…Now it’s time to record! Whether you are recording for practice purposes, or you are recording a cover to upload to YouTube, these tips will come in handy.
- Ensure that your space is clean, and well-lit with plenty of natural light to diminish possibilities of unwanted shadows.
- Take proper means necessary to ensure that you are in a calm and relaxed state of mind. Depending on your goals, recording can often become frustrating, but with the right state of mind, a solution always presents itself.
- Place your recording device of choice (cellphone; microphones; cameras; etc.) in the necessary location. If using a cellphone, you can record audio in your Voice Memo/Sound Recorder app for instant playback. If using a cellphone for video, consider what angle you want the video to be shot from, as well as the use of a tripod (even if it has to be make-shift).
- If using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, such as Audacity), ensure that you have the proper microphone input selected in your Input/Output preferences. While your on-board microphone may work for most personal applications, you may need an audio interface for uses other than personal.
- Now is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Make sure you’ve hit the record button(s) on your devices. Take extra care to remain in the moment during your performance without worrying about the periphery. Breathe! You have an unlimited amount of takes. Play until you are satisfied with the outcome!
All in all, recording yourself is a very basic concept once all of the technical jargon is stripped away. Here is a video you may find helpful.
You’ve done it! You recorded the take that you are satisfied with….Now what? This depends on what route you’ve taken (of course).
- If you have used the Voice Memo/Sound Recorder app on your phone, the post-production options are limited (unless exported to a DAW via email), yet you have a recording available for instant playback. For audio/video post-production on your phone, you might consider an app like Splice (free app by GoPro) to edit your video.
- For a combination of a camera(s) and microphone(s), you will need to take a different route. After editing the audio in your DAW of choice, import it into a Video Maker/Post-Production program (the basic program that comes installed with most computers will work here). Align the audio with the video, and apply any other post-production effects.
- Depending on your goals, you may want to upload your video to YouTube. This is as easy as going to your channel, and uploading the video. Alternatively, you may want to contemplate the possibility of doing live streams on YouTube. A free program like OBS will allow you to create a live stream. This program comes chock full of extras including multiple camera possibilities; text-to-screen; a live chatbox; multiple source input and outputs; as well as the possibility to broadcast to multiple platforms (such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, etc.,) simultaneously.
Now that you’ve gotten your first recording under your belt, you may find that recording isn’t as complicated as you may have once thought. While it is true that the process tends to be only as complicated as your intended goal, one thing to remember is that recording always begins and ends with the simple press of a button.