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Pro Guide To Recording Instruments: How To Record Piano

April 5, 2024 - Master how to record piano with our guide. Learn microphone placement, piano types, and tips for authentic, emotional piano recordings.

Woman playing piano

When you set out to record a piano, whether it's an acoustic grand or an upright, or even a digital model, there are a few key things to keep in mind so your recordings sound as true to life as possible. 

It's not just about hitting the record button; it's about understanding microphone placement, room acoustics, and the technicalities of your gear.

The most important detail is the placement of your microphones. Too close to the strings, and you'll capture certain notes disproportionately emphasized, disrupting the balance of your recording. Too far, and the sound becomes hollow or too reverberant, losing the intimate details of the performance. 

For digital pianos, it's much easier; your main concern is the connection between the instrument and your recording device and setting up the correct input device within your MIDI settings if you’re recording digitally. 

You can get great results from a digital piano, however nothing compares to the real thing. If you have the equipment and access to an acoustic piano, you will no doubt capture a more natural and better sound.

How To Record Piano

The goal is to capture your piano's rich and full spectrum of sound. 

The best way to achieve this is by following the basic principles of acoustics and considering factors such as microphone techniques and connectivity for digital instruments. This way, you can record the true tone of the piano, which resonates with the authenticity and emotion of the performance. 

Experimenting with microphone placement and settings is key to making a recording you can be proud of.

Understanding Different Types of Pianos

Grand Pianos

Notable for their horizontal string and frame layout, grand pianos offer a rich and resonant tone. 

Grand pianos come in various sizes, from the petit and baby grands to the concert grand, each progressively offering a fuller and more profound sound. These instruments have a greater dynamic range and a sensitive touch response due to their size and the mechanics of their action. They are typically used in professional recording studios and concert halls for performances where sound quality is paramount.

Upright Pianos

With vertical strings and a more compact frame, upright pianos are space-saving and generally more suited for home use or smaller venues. 

Their sound may not be as rich as a grand piano due to their reduced string length, but modern uprights are designed to offer a warm and clear quality that can be quite satisfying.

Upright pianos can be cost-effective and more suitable for home use. They are great for practice, music education settings, and intimate venues and studios with limited space.

Acoustic Vs Digital Pianos

Acoustic Pianos

Both grand and upright pianos fall under the acoustic piano category. They produce sound mechanically through hammers hitting strings. 

Acoustic pianos are appreciated for their natural harmonic overtones and nuanced tonal dynamics, which are often preferred in classical and live music settings. And real pianos of course don't need electricity and offer a more pure playing experience.

Digital Pianos

Digital pianos use electronic design and mimic acoustic pianos. 

They require less maintenance and can offer an array of sounds and features not available on their acoustic counterparts, such as volume control, MIDI and headphone connectivity, and built-in metronomes. Digital pianos also don't require regular tuning or maintenance.

Essential Recording Equipment

Choosing the Right Microphones

The choice of microphones can greatly impact the quality of your recordings. 

Here are the types you should consider:

  • Condenser Microphones: They are sensitive and capable of picking up the wide frequency range and nuances of a piano. They are ideal for studio settings where background noise can be controlled.

  • Dynamic Mics: Durable and less sensitive, making them better for live settings or where there's background noise.

  • Ribbon Mics: Known for their warm sound quality, these mics can beautifully capture the depth of a piano but are typically more fragile and expensive.

The Role of Audio Interfaces

An audio interface acts as the bridge between your microphones and your computer. 

Higher-end audio interfaces typically include better converters and preamps, which can result in higher-quality recordings so I recommend getting the best quality interface you can afford. 

For more complex piano recording setups, make sure your interface has enough inputs to match the number of mics you plan on using. Low latency capability is also important so you can provide a live headphone mix to the performer.

Digital Audio Workstations

Choose a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that suits your workflow best. Any modern DAW today supports multiple track recording and has MIDI support, so this mostly comes down to your own preferences.

Soundtrap is a great option as it comes with all you need to get going, and because it's completely online, it's set up perfectly for collaboration.

There are many other great options for DAWs too, like Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Cubase, Studio One etc.

Piano Microphone Techniques

When recording a piano, proper microphone techniques are essential to capture the full range of the instrument's sound. Your mic placement and type choice can dramatically affect the recording's clarity, balance, and overall quality.

Solo Recording and Mic Placement

A common approach is to use a single microphone; position it approximately 8 inches from the piano's hammers and a similar distance from the strings to capture a clear, direct sound. 

You should consider using a pair of mics for a more detailed capture. Place one near the low strings and another towards the high strings, both at a similar distance from the piano's hammers. Ensure your mic stands are stable to avoid any unwanted noise and that they stay put.

Capturing Piano in a Concert Hall

Recording a piano in a concert hall presents a unique set of challenges, as you want to capture the piano and the hall's natural acoustics. 

Utilize a spaced pair technique, placing two directional microphones at a wider distance apart to encompass the sound of the hall. 

For an even more ambient sound, use an omnidirectional microphone to absorb the hall's reverberations. 

Proper mic technique here includes finding the 'sweet spot' where the piano sound and room acoustics balance perfectly.

Stereo Recording and Mic Positions

Stereo recording can offer a more realistic and immersive listening experience. 

A popular method is the spaced pair technique, which involves two microphones spaced apart to create a stereo image. This way the mics are positioned to capture the breadth and nuances of the piano. 

Another effective stereo technique is using a pair of mics in an XY configuration, where the two mic capsules are placed close together but angled apart, capturing a strong center image with good stereo separation. 


Don't be afraid to experiment with different mic positions to achieve the perfect stereo width and depth in your recording

Woman recording piano in Soundtrap.

Optimizing the Recording Environment

Achieving the best possible recording of a piano involves more than just placing a microphone and pressing record. It's about managing the acoustics, removing unwanted noise, and knowing where to position your piano and microphones.

Managing Acoustics and Ambient Noise

Your recording environment should be as quiet as possible. Ambient noise, such as traffic, HVAC systems, and other interruptions, can undermine the clarity of your recording. 

Look for a good place with minimal noise, or record at times when ambient noise is at its lowest. Use rugs or carpets on flat surfaces to dampen the sound and prevent echoes.

Finding the Sweet Spot for Your Piano

Every piano and room has a "sweet spot" where the sound is at its best. 

Experiment with opening the piano lid from a little bit to completely open; each position changes the sound projection. 

Placing the piano in the center can sometimes offer a balanced sound in a concert hall or large recording studio. However, smaller spaces might sound better with the piano closer to a corner position.

Finding the Sweet Spot for Your Piano

Every piano and room has a "sweet spot" where the sound is at its best. 

Experiment with opening the piano lid from a little bit to completely open; each position changes the sound projection. 

Placing the piano in the center can sometimes offer a balanced sound in a concert hall or large recording studio. However, smaller spaces might sound better with the piano closer to a corner position.

Utilizing Room Sound and Microphone Arrays

My biggest tip here is that you'll capture your piano with the most richness and depth with the right combination of room sound and microphones. Using room mics can be a great option to incorporate the natural acoustics of the space. 

Place a stereo pair of microphones at a distance for a broader sound or closer to the top of the piano for more clarity and less room ambiance. Close mics near the strings or hammers inside the piano can help capture yet more detail.

Finalizing The Piano Recordings

Once your piano tracks are laid down and you’ve captured the essence of the performance, it’s time to put the finishing touches on your recordings.

Editing The Takes

To begin editing your audio recordings, trim any long silences from the start and end of your tracks. 

Check takes for any external noises and use the cleanest recordings. You can combine a final edited track from multiple takes so that the final edit features all the best performances.

Mixing The Piano

EQ Adjustments

It's usually best to start with EQ adjustments to ensure clarity and balance in your mix.

Begin by applying a high-pass filter around 80-100 Hz to eliminate any unnecessary low-end frequencies that can clutter your mix. Next, identify and reduce the boxy or muddy frequencies, typically found around 200-500 Hz, to make the piano sound clearer and more defined. 

Boost the mid-range frequencies around 1-3 kHz for added warmth and body. 

You can often also enhance the piano's clarity and presence by boosting the high frequencies around 5-10 kHz. Sweep through the spectrum and keep an ear out for any harsh or resonant frequencies, then cut them using a narrow notch filter.

Applying Compression

The goal here is to even out the piano's dynamics while maintaining its natural character. 

Set a moderate threshold and a low ratio, such as 4:1, to gently control the piano's dynamics. 

For the attack and release settings, opt for a slower attack time of around 20-30ms to allow the initial transients of the piano to pass through and a medium to fast release time of about 80-120ms to control the sustain

After applying compression, adjust the makeup gain to bring the overall level of the piano back up to match the rest of the mix. 

For a more natural and dynamic piano sound, consider using parallel compression by blending the compressed and uncompressed signals. 

If you want to control specific frequency ranges more precisely, multiband compression can be a useful tool, helping to tame harsh frequencies or enhance the sustain.

Overall Mix Adjustments

Always listen to the piano in the context of the entire mix to ensure it sits well and doesn’t overpower or get lost. It's easy to over-EQ or over-compress the piano, so remember to use a light touch and trust your ears. 

Adjust these settings to fit the specific needs of your mix and the character of the piano recording you're working with.


Learning how to record piano, whether it's an upright piano, grand, or a digital piano, requires a thoughtful approach to achieve the best results. 

The proper placement of microphones, understanding the nuances of different piano types, and optimizing the recording environment make a big difference in capturing the piano's rich and full spectrum of sound and guarantee better results from your recording sessions.

Leveraging the capabilities of a modern digital audio workstation like Soundtrap, can streamline the recording process and enable you to deliver a more balanced sound and a professional mix.

About the author

Tero Potila is a professional music composer and producer. His career combining knowledge and experience from music, TV, film, ad, and game industries gives him a unique perspective that he shares through posts on

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