How I record and edit my piano parts

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How I record and edit my piano parts • CharlotteBax.nl

Hey guys,

Today I’d like to show you how I record my MIDI piano parts! Basically, this is one of the most important steps in my entire production process. If it’s not an all-piano song, then it will be a dynamic and expressive guide for the orchestration.

You ready?

1 – Prep your lead sheet

Print it and not down the intensity of each section from 1-10. Until quite recently I never used to to this, but the fun thing is that The Addiction Formula and my vocal teacher both say this is important.

And indeed, it helps so much with figuring out where your song comes from and where it goes! You can adapt your playing style to the intensity of the section, instead of just playing the same thing over and over just because it feels comfortable.

2 – Hook up your MIDI piano to your audio setup

Well, first things first: I actually never record piano audio. Virtual piano instruments are so advanced right now, you can make it sound like the real deal. So having some extra room to edit and perfect your takes is quite nice!

In my case, I just leave the cables on permanently because they all run pretty much along the wall. Perks of a small home studio 😉 I use a Yamaha S90ES, an Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 and Logic Pro.

Don’t forget to choose the right External MIDI source in your DAW! When I was a beginner I totally didn’t get why I couldn’t record MIDI parts. I mean, the cabls were in the right ins and outs! Took me a while to understand I had to actually select the MIDI source. Ah well, you can’t be a pro in everything right from the beginning!

3 – Record all sections

Sometimes I record the whole thing at once, but most of the time I record all sections separately. Especially when it’s a totally new song and I haven’t practiced much, mistakes happen quite easily. It’s so much easier to just record sections in such a case!

When you turn on recording mode, don’t forget the clicktrack and TAKE YOUR TIME. You don’t have to start playing after one bar already. Especially when recording section by section, you can just glue them together afterwards. No stress!

After recording I put all the right takes in a track with East West’s Steinway piano (from Gold Symphony Orchestra).

4 – Timing

Check your timing and nudge everything that sounds off. Mind you, SOUNDS off. Sometimes stuff looks off, but it sounds perfectly fine. It’s natural to have slight tempo changes in every musical phrase.

Usually I move entire chords, to not damage the human element too much. Remember that nobody plays perfectly on time like a robot! Only on rare occasions I move a single note.

5 – Velocity

One of the things I love about recording MIDI parts, is that I can edit everything afterwards. Not only timing but also velocity is very important to fix before you start recording vocals. Usually I make the softer parts a bit softer and the louder parts a bit louder. This is very helpful for expression and dynamics in your vocal recordings. In music it’s hard to overdo it!

6 – Playback

Don’t forget to play back the whole thing to check if it’s exactly as you want it to be!

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4 things to keep in mind when recording ambiences

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4 things to keep in mind when recording ambiences • CharlotteBax.nl

Hey folks,

Recently I showed to you a few things you absolutely need for recording sounds in the field. But of course there is so much more to say on this topic! Today I will teach you some things you should take into account when recording ambiences.

1 – Is it special?

Yes, there are a million recordings of rain and thunderstorms. Yes, there are a million recordings of forests and creeks and rivers. Ask yourself this one simple question: is your sound special?

What makes your forest ambience, your thunderstorm, different from all the others?

It could be because the rain you’re recording doesn’t fall on houses, but in a desert. Or in a pool. Or a wide meadow. These sound all very different. Or your forest recording contains a bird you can only find in your area.

2 – Is it loud enough to record?

This works both ways round: Is the sound loud enough to record AND is your equipment good enough to pick it up without too much noise?

You always have some microphone hum in your recording. You can hear this clearly when you turn up the volume of a quiet recording. Sometimes you can even see it when you zoom in on the visible wave form!

Quality microphones and amplifiers have less of this kind of noise and are more sensitive to quiet sounds. Most of the times the sensitivity of your microphone is listed in the specs (dBV/PA) and it should b as low as possible.

3 – How noisy are the surroundings?

Listen for all the tiny background sounds you usually don’t notice. Airco hum, traffic, fluorescent lighting, airplanes, et cetera. Unless you specifically want to record these sounds of course 😉 This is why I prefer recording ambiences at night time: far less chance of unwanted sounds.

4 – Can you see it in a different perspective?

Sometimes a sound you hear every day and automatically ignore, can be something really cool in a totally different environment. For example, all the extremely loud and annoying airco and cooling system sounds at the bar where I work, make super awesome industrial background loops!

What things are important for you when you want to record some background ambiences?

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5 things you need for recording your own ambient sounds

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5 things you need for recording your own ambient sounds • CharlotteBax.nl

Hey folks,

Lately I’ve really been thinking about recording ambient sounds and some more sound effects to create pretty sound kits for my shop. There are a lot of sound in my surrounding are that are really nice or special, if you just take the time to listen and appreciate them.

Maybe you found THE ultimate ambient background sound for a part in you game simply somewhere in your neighbourhood! But how to capture it? Field recording isn’t that hard! When you have the right gear, you’re halfway to getting a professional sound.

1 – Field recorder

First and foremost, you need something to record that lovely sound (duh!). Field recorders used to be quite bulky, but nowadays you can get wonderfully compact handheld recorders.

For example I’m using a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder, which comes with two very fine condenser mics, XY positioned, for great stereo recordings. But it also has two XLR / jack inputs, so you can use your own mics. When done recording, you simply remove the SD card so you can download the files onto your computer.

2 – Wookie condom

Yes. It’s really often referred to like that. Or fuzzy rat (or in Dutch “dooie kat” which means “dead cat”). Use this hairy windshield to minimize any noise from the wind blowing into your microphones. Do you know how it sounds when you’re calling someone who’s outside in a windy place, or cycling? (Yes we Dutchies call people when we’re on our bike…) Not pretty. absolutely not pretty at all.

3 – Remote

You don’t want to catch your own little noises while recording ambient sounds, right? Like breathing, or the sound of your clothes when you’re moving. Best to keep a little distance and start/stop your recording with a remote. Also comes in very handy when you’ve rigged your recorder in some really uncomfortable to reach place.

Take a picnic plaid as well, so you can sit down and relax while your recording is taking place. No chairs! They always creak. Even if you brough one that’s perfectly silent, suddenly it will squeak and creak.

 

4 – Tripod

You don’t want to really hold your recorder in your hand, even though it’s called handheld. Trust me, even something that small can get very heavy when you’re holding it for a few minutes still. And may I refer to those few sentences you just read? About not recording your own breathing, clothes moving, heartbeat, grumbling stomach, etc?

Make sure you have a proper standard to put your recorder on, so it stays still (and doesn’t get dirty). My Zoom H5 recorder fits on my camera tripod just perfect. Lucky me 🙂

5 – A quiet and uninterrupted time frame

You want to record that one sound, and that one sound ONLY. No birds. No stiletto footsteps from your sexy neighbour. No cars. No delivery guy at the door. No place is as quiet as a studio or a dead room, but you can still pick the best time to record! As captain Jack Sparrow says: Wait until the opportune moment!

I live at a student campus, so I have to carefully pick my timeframe. Neighbours may come home from a party at heretical times like 2 or even 3 AM. But almost all students hate getting up early. So I have a 4 to 6, maybe 7 AM timeframe. Very rock ‘n roll. 😉

That’s all you need for recording ambient sounds! If you have any questions, just ask! The comment section isn’t there for nothing 😉

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