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I have been recording myself playing piano and posting to Youtube, just so friends can take a look at how my progress is with the instrument for the most part, but also to post tutorials for some songs I've learned and just for fun in general. I have been using the built in webcam on my laptop (the only recording device I have) and the quality is of course not very good.

I would like to invest in upgrading my equipment so that the recordings actually sound decent. I'm looking more for "not bad" quality rather than really good quality, as this is strictly amateur and fairly unimportant so I'd like to spend as little as possible. What do I need to do this, and how much will it cost? Do I need a separate mic for the vocals and the piano? What about software? I know approximately nothing about recording.

The piano is an upright Cable Nelson CN216.

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2 Answers 2

Before you buy any microphones, you will have to consider how you will connect them into your laptop. It sounds like you don't have a separate sound card, and the microphone input on your laptop is likely to be poor quality.

There are several options. First you could get a microphone that has a built-in USB interface (eg the Samson C01U). This will be the cheapest option, but may start to prove awkward if you want to use more than one microphone.

Another option is to get yourself a budget USB audio interface. For example, the Alesis iO2, will allow you to connect two microphones at once, and provides "phantom power", which is important if you want to use a condenser microphone.

The third option is to get a camcorder with external audio input and use a mixer to feed the signals from the microphone into that.

On to the microphones themselves, you can spend almost as much as you want on a microphone. One example of an entry level condenser microphone is the SE Electronics SE2000. Dynamic vocal microphones are a bit cheaper (e.g. Sennheiser e-845)

As for whether you need one or two microphones, it will be easier to get a good balance if you had one microphone for voice and one for piano, otherwise, the piano could easily overpower your voice. However, with good mic placement you should be able to get a decent recording with just one microphone, certainly a lot better than you were getting before.

Finally, on the software question, there are a lot of choices for budget audio recording. The free audacity program may well be all that you need, and will let you adjust the levels between each microphone. I'm not sure that it can capture video at the same time though, so you may need to find a different video capture program, preferably one that lets you do some basic editing and mixing of the two channels of audio after capturing.

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This is a very tricky question because much of it is subjective. What may sound acceptable or even good to you may not be bearable for someone else and vice versa.

That said, there are several tiers of techniques and equipment that need rising levels of money and expertise. So I will try to answer the question as simply as possible.

The simplest way to try to improve the quality of sound would be to get two or more microphones (and stands), a small mixer, and some cables. One or more mics for the piano and a good vocal mic with good off-axis rejection through a mixer will give you much more control over your audio quality into your camcorder. If you haven;t done this before, you should talk to someone who at least dabbles in recording to give you some basic instruction on the use of a mixer.

Once you do this, I imagine your biggest challenge will be getting a quality sound from your piano. amateur acoustic piano recordings on Youtube are uniformly boomy and overbearing. You can reduce this effect through the use of some sound absorption (blankets), but the placement is HIGHLY dependent on your environment. anything that cannot be solved by mic position and treatment of the space might be addressed by using an outboard equalization unit, but this may be beyond your scope.

Obviously, there is much more you could do, but without involving a computer or some outboard gear that requires at least a rudimentary knowledge of audio production, I think the steps above will help you get the sound you are looking for :not bad. It will at least be better than it is. There are many, many microphones and mixers that would fit the bill...you really need to specify a budget to get concrete suggestions.

If the software you are using to edit your video enables you to edit the audio separately from your video, there is a lot more you can do.

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