Find The Tempo of Any Song

I came across a really cool website the other day when I was working on a cover song and couldn’t find my metronome to figure out the tempo.  I usually tap in the beat of the song in question to figure out the speed of the recording.  Since I couldn’t put my hands on my physical metronome, I decided to do the next best thing and scour the internet for a quick online solution.  Below is the great web page that I found.

Feel free to try it out right here by using any key on your keyboard to tap a steady beat or visit http://www.all8.com/tools/bpm.htm

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Using a Digital Piano To Record Audio Tracks

Sometimes I practice on and use an 88-key Casio Celviano digital piano that also doubles as my MIDI controller.  I occasionally use this digital piano to create piano audio tracks in Logic Pro by using the headphones jack to send the signal to my x1204usb interface in stereo.

Step #1:  Plug the single end of an 1/4 inch cable into the ‘Phones’ input on the digital piano.  See the photo below.

Pic 1. - Phones input jack on digital piano
Pic 1. – Phones input jack on digital piano

Step #2:  Connect the 1/4 inch dual ends of the cable to channel 5/6 on the x1204usb interface.  (You can also use channel 7/8.)  See the photo below.

Pic 2. - Dual end into Channel 5/6
Pic 2. – Dual end into Channel 5/6

Step #3:  Make sure that the ‘2-TR/USB TO MAIN’ red button is NOT pressed down.

Step #4:  To adjust the volume of the recording, you can play around with turning the volume knob on the digital piano and/or adjusting the ‘MAIN MIX’  R/L faders on the x1204usb.  See the photo below.

 

Pic 3. - Main Mix faders
Pic 3. – Main Mix faders

Step #5:  Make sure that the audio interface is connected to the DAW.  In this specific scenario, I’m using Logic Pro 9 on an iMac.

Step #6:  In Logic Pro, follow the navigation in the photo below to change your audio preferences.

  Logic Pro —> Preferences —> Audio

Pic 4. - Audio preferences navigation
Pic 4. – Audio preferences navigation

Step #7:  Select the ‘USB Audio CODEC’ option for the ‘Input Device’ field.  (I have this same CODEC option selected for the output device since I like to listen to my tracks through my Yamaha HS8 monitors which are also connected to my audio interface.)

audio CODEC
Pic 5. – Input Device CODEC option

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Enhancing The MIDI Piano Sound

In Logic Pro, you can either create a real audio track or a software instrument track.  Sometimes, I prefer recording my piano tunes by connecting my Casio digital piano to my computer with a USB cable and using it as a MIDI controller.  I’m able to achieve clarity of sound without having to spend the extra time figuring out optimum microphone placement for an acoustic piano.  I wouldn’t use this method to record a Chopin etude, but it works fine for composing at home.

Recording into Logic Pro through USB doesn’t record any actual audio.  Digital signals are converted into MIDI notes and events that are interpreted by the settings of the software instrument that you select in Logic.  I’ve found that certain nuances of sound, style and phrasing are lost in the digital translation which is why I tweak the settings in order to try and create a more natural sound.  The recordings below show how the sound of a software instrument can be enhanced to sound more like a real acoustic performance.

Song Before Enhancements:


      OverTheRainbow - Audrey Williams

Everyone has their personal taste when it comes to what they feel sounds good.  Below is what I don’t like about the ‘before’ file:

-Some of the note placements are slightly off and sound stilted

-Some notes sound brash and tinny

-A few of the pedal events didn’t translate properly

-The overall resonance and volume levels are low

Song After Enhancements:


      After - OverTheRainbow - Audrey Williams

There’s always something that could be done differently or much better than what I’ve done here.  Below are the fixes that I experimented with to change the sound for the purposes of this brief demonstration:

-Quantized the software instrument track to eighth notes (1/8 note setting)

-Modified the preset software instrument channel EQ settings

  • Cut 1 – 2 kHz to reduce tinny sound
  • Cut 300 Hz to reduce muddiness
  • Boosted 5 kHz to increase presence
  • Boosted 100 Hz to round out the bottom end

-Converted the instrument track to an audio track so that I could use the ‘Normalize’ function to increase the volume.

-Added a multipressor with the ‘Final Pop Compressor’ pre-configured setting

-Added a Linear phase EQ and reduced 20Hz, boosted 2 kHz, boosted 10 kHz

-Added an Adaptive Limiter using the default setting