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I've been wanting to use acoustic piano in my songs, but the MIDI sounds available in my recording programs (Garageband, Ableton LIVE) don't cut it. Good ones like Pianoteq cost upwards of $300.

I know my Casio Privia has a real nice piano sound, and it has a 1/4" line out port, but how do I get that into my Macbook Pro?

Do I need an audio interface? Can I get one that goes to USB? Can I simply use one cable? I know my laptop has a line in as well; but it's 1/8" : will a converter/adapter suffice?

I'd like to use as little equipment as possible as I'm on a tight budget. My recording setup is minimal anyway: it's only the keyboard really plus occasionally a mic that goes straight to USB.

I know this is probably a really basic thing but I can't find any straight answers anywhere. Help is much appreciated!

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Smallest amount of equipment possible would be 1/4" to 1/8" adapter. That would work. –  JoshP Oct 16 '12 at 17:21
thank you very much! –  Robert V Oct 16 '12 at 17:54
will quality be a huge issue? or is this just something for fun? –  Travis Dtfsu Crum Oct 16 '12 at 20:01
Just a warning up-front: Recording piano can be a tedious and difficult task, if you want it to sound good. You need good microphones and placement is important. I thought I share a link on the technique: soundonsound.com/sos/jan08/articles/pianorecording_0108.htm –  Ken Fyrstenberg Oct 17 '12 at 3:42
This question is about recording a Casio Privia, which is a digital piano, so recording it is very easy. –  ObscureRobot Oct 20 '12 at 20:27

2 Answers 2

As has been mentioned in comments, the set-up you need is dependent on your budget and your desired quality. If all you need is a mono piano track recorded, then a 1/4" to 1/8" converter will be perfectly acceptable. Since you mentioned you had access to GarageBand and Abelton, then this will even work to layer the tracks and cover all the parts you need.

The point at which you actually need to step up past the converter is when you need to record stereo. Most keyboards have a left and right 1/4" output, and the tones coming from these two jacks are slightly different. This difference can make a huge impact on the stereo image of the sound. To capture this, you'll need an audio interface with at least two 1/4" inputs, or one with two XLR inputs and a pair of Direct Boxes.

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There seem to be quite different models of the Privia; the one I know doesn't actually have a real line out but a stereo headphones output. Now, this is normally not optimal for recording in a complex studio setup, but can work surprisingly well with computers' stereo line-in's. Apple is really quite decent in that regard, so you might in fact get absolutely acceptable results with a simple direct connection as already suggested. Try that first, as it's virtually for free!

That said, while this one Privia did sound quite nice on first sight, I wasn't happy at all with it on recordings. It somehow lacks depth. The virtual Piano that I use most now is the Tascam CVPiano (in MW mode), which is in fact free but can sound really nice; definitely better than this Privia's internal piano sound. You might have a newer and better model, but still I recommend you give the CVPiano a try and compare the sounds.

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