This is another question we get asked time and time again. How do you record the actual sound of your keyboard onto your computer? Many people get confused about the difference between making a MIDI connection from their keyboard and actually recording the sound
If you do want to record the sound of your keyboard, then a MIDI connection will not do the job. A MIDI interface will only transmit your performance data (for example which notes you have played, how loudly you played them etc) then this information can be used to play software instruments on your computer. It is not a recording of the sound!
Because there is so much confusion about the difference between MIDI and Audio recording, I made a short video that hopefully shows you the difference!
If you want to record the actual sound of your keyboard on your computer then you need to connect the line out (or headphone out if no line out) from your
keyboard up to your pc, mac or ipad. The way you do this really depends on your budget.
We have divided this article into four sections:
- Spending the minimum: record keyboard on a tight budget
- A Better Solution: the entry-level USB interface for recording sound of keyboard
- THE Best Way To Record Keyboard: The Professional USB Audio Interface
- Kickstart Your Home Studio: All-In-One Recording Packs With Mics + Headphones (this is the easiest way to get started. Read our reviews of the best all-in-one studio packages. For Keyboard players we particular recommend the Presonus iTwo studio pack. Contains everything you need – except for the cables to connect your keyboard to the interface – and has MIDI i/o as well)
Low Budget: Record The Sound Of Your Keyboard On The Cheap
Up until relatively recently, most people had a computer or laptop with a separate microphone port, and it was possible to simply connect an audio cable from the audio output of the keyboard to the mic port on the computer – and if you have this port available then you will find this method documented in my complete FREE video course on how to record your keyboard.
What if you don’t have a mic port and you want to use this very cheapest method, just to get started? I suggest you buy an external sound adapter that has a separate headphone and mic port and simply connects to a USB port. These work really well on iPad too, if you have an iPad-USB adapter. Although this is not the most high quality way of recording your keyboard, it is definitely the cheapest and will get you up and running. If you want to see a demo, then I created a quick video showing how to record your keyboard through a simple external sound adapter (see below)
Better: Entry Level Dedicated Recording Interface For Keyboards
What if you are looking for a cost effective and reasonable quality solution, and want to spend a little more? Then for a small investment you could purchase the Alesis LineLink or equivalent line out-USB interface. The LineLink will connect your keyboard straight to your USB port, bypassing your existing soundcard and outputs studio quality stereo, 16-bit, 44.1 kHz digital audio. The LineLink will connect direct to your keyboard if you have left and right quarter inch mono jack outputs. If you only have one stereo output you will also need to invest in a y-cable converter. This is a lead that has been designed from the ground up to record the sound of your keyboard – pure and simple. Again this will also work on an iPad with the appropriate iPad-USB adapter.
The disadvantage .. you can only use it to record the sound of your keyboard. Nothing more. So it does one job well. But if you are looking for a more complete home recording studio set-up then read on …
Best: Getting A High Quality Professional Recording Result With An Audio Interface
To get the best recording quality recording result, invest in a professional audio interface – and if you don’t know what that is then we have written a complete beginners guide on what is an audio interface. Choose one with line inputs. Then pick the appropriate cables to link from the audio output of your keyboard to the inputs of the interface. Choose a good brand like Focusrite or Presonus. They may cost a little more but will give you a good quality recording result.
At the entry level, my personal favourite audio interface for recording your digital piano or keyboard is the Presonus Audiobox 2×2 USB which you can buy here on Amazon. Why that one? It is well priced and is the only one at this price point that also has MIDI i/o as well as dual audio inputs. So you can record the sound of your keyboard, but you can also make a MIDI connection.
Focusrite, M-Audio and Presonus also make fantastic all-in-one recording bundles which are fantastic if you want a complete solution with mic, interface and software (scroll on down to see them …)
If you go to the complete video course on how to record your keyboard, then look at the videos which show you how to record using a professional audio interface. This is my preferred method and will definitely give you the best result. You can view the specific videos which show you exactly how to record your keyboard with a professional interface by watching the videos below, that I have put together in a playlist:
The Total Set-Up: All-In-One Home Recording Studio Packages
Buying an all-in-one home recording studio package can be a great way to record your keyboard on your computer, and have the option of recording vocals and maybe guitar. Most of the good manufacturers put together packs that contain an audio interface, microphone and headphones all in one box. The benefits of this are: it will usually work out cheaper than buying the items separately; you know the separate items will be compatible with each other and there will be one set of instructions to follow; they all come with good software packages as well. Here are a few recommendations – beware that the iTrack is a lovely recording interface that works brilliantly on an iPad in particular, but it is mono only.
This is a really brief intro to the world of Recording – if you want to know more, then there is a fantastic guide to computer music making written by Cakewalk, The Desktop Music Handbook – which covers MIDI in depth, and also features a great guide to Digital Audio.
And once more, do check out my complete step-by-step video guides to recording your digital piano or keyboard. I cover audio and MIDI recording, plus how to sync your playing to video if you want to upload stuff to YouTube!