This article is for you if you want to record the actual sound of your keyboard or digital piano on your computer, iPad or iPhone. This is a complete step-by-step guide to the kit you need and how to connect it so you can make a great, high quality recording of yourself playing digital piano or keyboard. Perfect if you want to add keyboard tracks to your recordings, or to listen back to yourself (one of the best ways of making progress if you want to learn to play piano).
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[TL/DR] Our Favourite Interfaces For Recording Your Keyboard
- Completely cross-platform interface for Mac/PC, iPhone, iPad, or Android device
- Audio AND MIDI Recording
- Software For All Platforms Included
- Multi-platform: PC, Mac and iPad
- Audio AND MIDI on one interface
- Recording software included
- Perennial best-selling audio interface
- Most suitable for Mac and Windows (can be used with iPad or iPhone if you also purchase the Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter)
- Consistently well-reviewed
- Cheap and cheerful
- Works on PC, Mac, Raspberry Pi and Linux – no drivers required
- Massive Software Bundle. Good Value if you just want to record keyboard (no mic inputs)
MIDI or Audio Recording?
If you 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 (i.e. which notes you have played, how loudly you played them etc). This MIDI information can be used to play software instruments on your computer. But it is not a recording of the sound!
Wanna do both? No problem. If your keyboard already has the USB-MIDI connection then you can already record MIDI. So all you need is an interface to record the sound. If your keyboard does not have USB MIDI, but has standard MIDI ports, then choose an interface with MIDI and Audio (see the iRig Pro Duo or the Audiobox iTwo above). That way you can do MIDI AND Audio.
Record MIDI AND Audio at the same time?
Remember! Your USB To Host Will NOT Record The Sound!
Still confused about the difference between MIDI and Audio recording? Here is a short video that hopefully shows you the difference!
If after that you realise you want to make a MIDI recording then read our other post on how to make a MIDI connection from your piano or keyboard. Or if you are still raring to go, then here is our simple step-by-step method to how your record your live performance! And if you are itching to know more about MIDI then this post will help.
How To Record Your Keyboard Or Digital Piano
Let’s go through the step-by-step process of getting it right.
Step 1: Check Where The Sound Is Coming FROM
Check the manual/instruction booklet, or look online for the connectivity of your keyboard model. It may have something labelled ‘Aux Out’ or ‘Line Out’. This information will appear in the ‘Specs’ section. It might be labelled [L/L+R][R], or (MAIN) L/MONO, R: 1/4″ TRS Balanced.
Or, as is often the case with less expensive keyboards, it may be that the only output is actually a headphone output. That is OK. You can record from the headphone out if there is nothing else available.
Step 2: Will You Record On Computer, Laptop, iPhone or iPad? (Or All The Above!)
Step 3: Choose A Suitable Audio Interface To Record The Signal
While you are choosing, think what else you might want to do with the interface. Record vocals? Make sure your interface has at least one mic input (this will be an XLR input with mic pre-amp). Record guitar? To record acoustic you can use a mic. To record direct, make sure the interface has a Hi-Z input suitable for directly connecting the guitar (it will often have a picture of a guitar next to it!).
Step 4: Get Connected With The Right Cables
If you have L and R 1/4″ outputs and L and R 1/4″ inputs, then you need 2 x 1/4″ mono TS cables. Or if the outputs and the inputs are both BALANCED (the manual will state this) then you need 2 x 1/4″ mono TRS cables.
If you are connecting your headphone out – or your aux out is a single stereo port, then you will need a splitter cable of the right size. This will take the stereo output of the keyboard and split it into two mono channels – left and right – on your interface.
Step 5: Recording Software
Not too pleased with the sound? Read our in-depth guide to digital audio recording. You may be making fundamental recording mistakes that can be easily corrected with a little more knowledge.
Step 6: Listen To The Results
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)
Once you have decided which route to go, the only other thing you will need is/are the correct audio cables to connect from your keyboard to the input of the interface (or mic port if you choose to go that route)
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. If you want to see a demo, then watch this quick video which shows you how to record your keyboard through a simple external sound adapter.
Better: Entry Level Dedicated Recording Interface For Keyboards
The disadvantage .. you can only use it to record the sound of your keyboard, or other line out instruments. 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
At the entry level, my personal favourite audio interface for recording your digital piano or keyboard is the Presonus iTwo Audio Interface 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. And it is cross platform.
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 – all perfect for recording your keyboard then layering your vocals on top. Also good for guitars and other instruments. .
* Perennial Favourite *
* Our Top Choice For Keyboard Players and For iPad Recording *
* Good Value Package To Record Vocals As Well As Keyboard *
* Perfect For iOS and Android Recording as well as Mac/PC *
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!