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). Or maybe you want to teach piano online, so need to master how to record the sound of your keyboard.
By the way, if you are also a vocalist, you may want to refer to our new post on how to record keyboard and vocals at the same time. We look at the easiest way to do this in a modest home recording studio setup.
How To Record Your Keyboard or Digital Piano – Quick Links
- How To Record Your Digital Piano or Keyboard: Step-by-Step Video Tutorial
- Our Favourite Interfaces For Recording Your Keyboard
- MIDI or Audio Recording?
- Can You Record MIDI AND Audio at the same time?
- NOTE! USB-Host will Not Record The SOUND of Your Keyboard
- MIDI vs Audio Video Tutorial
- How To Record Your Keyboard Or Digital Piano Step-by-Step
- Home Recording Setup From Scratch – The All-In-One Solution
- Further Reading on Home Recording Studio Setup
How To Record Your Digital Piano or Keyboard: Step-by-Step Video Tutorial
If you want even more tutorial videos then we have a free video course on everything you need to know about how to connect and record your digital piano or keyboard.
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Our Favourite Interfaces For Recording Your Keyboard
The iTwo AudioBox Interface is a brilliant choice for keyboard players. Not only does it have two line inputs on the front so you can record the sound of your keyboard it also has MIDI in and out on the back. It comes with recording software, an app which can be used on iPad, and is multi-platform (PC/Mac/iPad) out of the box.
The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 Audio Interface is the one I currently own. Brilliant because it has 4 line inputs available – so plenty of scope to record the sound of your keyboard or other line level instruments, 2 built-in pre-amps for microphones, and MIDI ports on the back too. You can see and hear it in action in all my latest home recording studio videos.
MIDI or Audio Recording?
First, let’s get a common confusion out of the way. Many people get confused about the difference between making a MIDI connection from their keyboard and actually recording the live sound of it (audio recording). If you want more detail, then our detailed post on what is MIDI will help you out – it includes a video tutorial
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!
Can You Record MIDI AND Audio at the same time?
Wanna do both? No problem. If your keyboard already has the USB-MIDI connection – many do – or you already have a USB-MIDI interface 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 (both the Scarlett 4i4 or the Audiobox iTwo above have both). That way you can do MIDI AND Audio.
Here is a post that explains how to record MIDI and Audio from your digital piano or keyboard at the same time.
NOTE! USB-Host will Not Record The SOUND of Your Keyboard
This is such a common confusion. If you can connect your piano or keyboard to your computer via a USB lead then in most cases this will only be a MIDI connection. To record the sound you will need to follow our steps below (or detailed in the video above)
Still confused about the difference between MIDI and Audio recording? Here is a short video that hopefully shows you the difference!
MIDI vs Audio Video Tutorial
If after that you realise you want to make a MIDI recording after all, 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!
How To Record Your Keyboard Or Digital Piano Step-by-Step
Here’s how to record the audio signal from your keyboard/piano in a nutshell. You connect the line output signal from your keyboard or piano to a suitable audio interface. Then connect the interface to your laptop, computer, iPad, smartphone or iPhone. Finally listen to the results … using headphones or studio monitors.
Let’s go through the step-by-step process of getting it right.
Step 1: Check Where The Sound Is Coming FROM
Your digital piano, electronic keyboard or synthesizer may have speakers. But to record you need to find the line level output(s).
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!)
In step 3 below, you will consider how to choose the right audio interface for the job of recording your keyboard. The audio interface is simply the box you need to take the sound from your keyboard, convert it to a digital signal, and transmit it to your computer. (If you want, read more on what is an audio interface). But there is NO POINT buying an audio interface for a Laptop if you only want to record on an iPad. So think carefully where you want to make the recordings. Or for most flexibility, choose an interface that will work with more than one device.
Step 3: Choose A Suitable Audio Interface To Record The Signal
You will need some kind of audio interface to make a decent quality recording of your piano or keyboard. There are literally hundreds available, at all different prices. So here is the critical things your interface must have: 2 x line level inputs. Without line level inputs you will not be able to make a good recording of your keyboard.
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 I could count the number of messages I get asking me which cable to buy. The answer is … it depends. So do your homework. Look at the OUTPUTs of your keyboard and the INPUTs of your interface. The correct cable is simply the one (or more) that will join the two things together!
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
Do not get too hung up about the recording software at this stage. Make sure you get the hardware right first (see steps 1-4). Chances are, the audio interface will ship with some recording software that you can use to record. OR there are plenty of free or inexpensive apps. On a Mac or Windows Laptop or computer, you can use Audacity. This is free – and excellent. And easy to use. Or on a Mac you can use Garageband. There are plenty of free or inexpensive recording apps for iPads and iPhones. Garageband is great for Apple products.
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
When you record through an audio interface you will usually listen to your recordings back through the interface. So you will almost certainly plug your studio headphones or monitors into the headphone or audio outputs of the interface. The exception would be if you have a recording interface that does not have outputs.
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.
Home Recording Setup From Scratch – The All-In-One Solution
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. .
The complete home recording studio – Scarlett’s best-selling interface, millions of musicians use 2i2 to write and record every day. This pack is a complete package with headphones, cable and mic.
You can start recording today with this complete, all-PreSonus package. It is based on the AudioBox USB 96 audio/MIDI interface and includes production software, headphones and mic.
Contains all you need to record – USB Audio Interface, Microphone, Shock mount, Cable, Headphones and Software Suite from M-Audio
2-2 Audio/Midi interface With Pro Tools First/Tracktion Music Production Software Studio Bundle with Professional Recording Condenser Microphone
Further Reading on Home Recording Studio Setup
This is a really brief intro to the world of Recording – if you want to know more, then refer to our beginner’s guide on home recording studio setup. We also have a detailed guide to Digital Audio. And you might also like …