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




How Much Should You Practice?

question-mark-easy-buttonThis is such an important question.  In my opinion, practicing an instrument should be given the same attention that you give to studying any subject that you take in school.  When you have good study habits, you get better grades.  The same concept is true for practicing.  When you have good practicing habits, you become a better musician.  Below are the 2 suggestions that I always make to my students:

  • Only practice on the days that you eat.
  • Your at home daily practice sessions should last as long as your weekly lesson.

The first suggestion may sound a bit harsh, and any reasonable teacher knows that there are just going to be some days when you’re not going to be able to practice.  I do not advocate starving yourself or your child in the name of music.  The reason that I use this particular wording is to make sure that I set the expectation for my students that sustained progress can not be achieved without consistent practice.  Even the most gifted musicians among us have to put in the hard work.

If your weekly lesson is 30 minutes, then you should practice daily for 30 minutes.  If your lessons last for an hour, then your at-home practice sessions need to last for an hour.  This is a general rule that works well for most students.  If you have aspirations of becoming a world-renowned concert musician, then you’re going to have to practice a whole lot longer than an hour on most days.  If this applies to you, then you should speak to your teacher in more detail so that he/she can make recommendations for keeping your body healthy and injury free during rigorous practice.

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Piano Practice Tips For Intermediate & Advanced Music
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Piano Maintenance and Care

piano-maintenanceWith the proper care, your piano can last for many lifetimes.  Below are some tips for taking the best care of your instrument so that you can enjoy playing for many years to come.

Do NOT eat or drink at the piano.
It’s never a good idea to eat or drink around your piano.  That’s just an accident waiting to happen!  Crumbs and liquid could potentially fall between the keys making them sticky.  If this should ever occur, you will need to call in a professional who will be able to safely remove the keys, if necessary, to clean up the mess.  Condensation from drinks can ruin wood or lacquer finishes.  If you have a digital piano, you risk frying the electronics inside of the piano.

Keep the lid and fallboard down when not in use.
This helps to keep dust and other debris from settling inside the piano or on/between the keys.  If you have a piano that won’t be used for very long periods of time, it’s a good idea to occasionally leave the lip open to allow some daylight and air circulation to help prevent mold from growing on the inside.

Do not use harsh chemicals to clean or polish any part of the piano.
When cleaning your piano, it’s best to use either a dry soft cloth or a slightly damp one (using clean water).  Feather dusters are also great for removing loose dust particles.  Don’t clean the interior of the piano on your own.  Interior cleanings are best left up to a professional to ensure that the fragile interior mechanisms aren’t damaged.  It’s highly recommended that polishing should be kept to a minimum.  Before polishing, make sure you know exactly what material the finish of your piano is made of.  Different materials need to be polished differently to avoid causing severe damage from the chemicals.

Get your piano tuned and serviced on a regular schedule.
This section only applies to acoustic pianos; not digital or electronic ones.  The general rule is that your piano should be tuned each season since seasonal changes are accompanied by temperature and humidity changes.  This breaks down to 4 tunings a year at 3 month intervals.  If you practice and play frequently, you should also get the felt hammers and internal action mechanics checked out approximately twice a year.  The parts integral to the hammer hitting the strings to produce sound and the felt on the hammers can wear down.  When these parts wear down, it will affect the sound quality of your piano in a negative way.

Only used qualified professionals for repairs and servicing.
You should never tune your own piano unless you are a trained professional certified in the art of piano tuning.  Also, you should never attempt to make repairs to the keys or internal parts.  You could potentially turn a minor repair into a more costly one.  Before hiring a professional, make sure you ask about their credentials and certifications.  You can also check with professional piano technician organizations for a registry of reputable individuals or businesses.

Keep your piano away from extreme humidity and temperature changes.
The wood, strings and other materials used to make your piano will contract or expand as the temperature and humidity changes.  This process will cause the pitch of the piano strings to go either flat or sharp.  Your piano should not be placed directly over or under heating or cooling sources.  You should also try to control the humidity in your piano room.

You may also find the following links helpful:
Music Terms and Symbols For Pianists
Suzuki Method For Piano
Parts of The Piano
Piano Pedals
Correct Piano Posture

I am a professional musician and music teacher.  For more information, please visit my website at www.AudreyWilliamsMusic.com.  You can listen to samples of my music by clicking HERE.