I’m part of a wonderful online community of pianists and players looking to learn and improve their skills. The community is Piano With Jonny. If you want to learn the piano from a world-class expert, with support from a wonderful community, I can’t recommend it enough. As part of the learning process, the group encourages its members to post videos of their performance.
I sometimes see friends struggling to understand how to record their playing or how to combine voice, piano, and backing tracks together. Therefore, I thought it might be useful to share my setup.
DISCLAIMER – I’m no audio expert but I have a setup that I am fairly happy with and a setup that produces good quality sound and video.
Here is a summary of my digital setup….
It might look at a little bit complicated but it really isn’t. Let me walk you through what I have and then the different use cases it supports. However, first, let me explain why I have any equipment at all.
The Yamaha digital piano has great sound. It samples the Yamaha CFX grand piano and even with the in-built speakers sounds really good. I used to record my playing with a Canon Digital SLR camera, but it was fiddly to keep having to change the battery and swap the memory card from the camera to the computer to download the videos. So, I created the setup above.
- Yamaha P-115 digital piano
- Connected to Audio Interface with 6.3mm TS cable
- Connected to Mac with USB Midi cable
- Focusrite 2i2 Audio Interface Studio (including condenser mic and headphones)
- 2 x Yamaha HS5 monitor speakers
- Connected from Audio Interface with 2 x TRS 6.3mm cables
- Mac Mini with small additional USB hub
- Logitech C920 webcam
- Quicktime Player
- LogicPro X
- If I didn’t have LogicProX, I could use Garageband which comes with the mac.
- Soundflower (free)
What do I use this configuration for and what does it allow me to do?
Use Case 1: Recording piano and video together
This is my most common use case. Recording my playing with both video and audio. For this, I use the MIDI input from the piano to the computer, not the audio interface. I capture the sound through Mainstage on the Mac, which allows me to apply different sounds to the input in real-time. My personal preference is the Steinway piano sample. I then use Quicktime Player to record the video from the webcam, whilst capturing the sound from Mainstage. The output is a video that sounds like I’m playing a Steinway (almost). Note that I could also use LogicProX here instead of Mainstage, but mainstage is a simpler interface for this simpler use case.
The volume on the piano will be turned off. I route the output sound to the audio interface where I can either pipe it through the speakers or attach headphones and listen through headphones.
Use Case 2: Duets
Since both of my daughters play instruments, we often duet. This is where the audio interface comes in really useful. It has two channels so I can input the piano on channel 1 and the 2nd instrument on channel 2. If we are singing then the mic will be connected to channel 2. I then use LogicProX to capture the two channels separately as two tracks. This gives me the advantage of being able to apply effects to one of the channels. For example, when singing, I will apply a reverb effect to enhance the vocal channel and make it sound richer, just like they do with professional singers.
Normally, the singer or 2nd player will wear the headphones to isolate their sound and the backing track and I will put the sound on for the piano so I can hear what I’m playing.
Use Case 3: Backing Tracks
Often when I am recording my playing, PianoWithJonny will provide a backing track, or I may have downloaded one from the internet (or even streaming from YouTube). In this case, I can also use the same approach as use case 1. I use the midi input, run the sound through Mainstage and record to Quicktime. At the same time, I play the backing track from the computer. I use the small piece of free software called Soundflower to allow me to combine multiple audio inputs into one channel as well as multiple outputs into one channel.
The only part of my setup that I’m not happy with are the HS5 speakers. Maybe the speakers built into the piano are too good, but I don’t really like the output produced by these monitor speakers. If I do have the speakers on, I will usually also have the piano volume turned up to balance the sound a bit, so it doesn’t sounds tinny.
I hope you found this article useful.