How to Record a Keyboard on the Computer

by Contributor

The keyboard is the lifeblood of computer recording. If you're triggering software instruments, you can play guitar, drums, cello and other instruments on the keyboard. If you have an old keyboard without MIDI capability, you'll need other options.

If you're recording an old synth, you're going to need to plug into a soundcard or FireWire interface to either plug the keyboard in directly via the line out port, or record the keyboard live with a microphone. Miking a keyboard is more imprecise than direct-line recording.


Check the sound quality of your soundcard. If the sound quality is poor, you may need to upgrade. A USB or IEEE 1394 device is recommended for both latency and the quality of sound.


Use a MIDI controller to record a keyboard. The controller doesn't have any internal sounds of its own, but instead triggers sounds in a software program. The number of instruments depends on the depth of the software program. Many free virtual instruments are available online, or you can buy instrument packages.


Change the sound. With a MIDI controller, you can change from cello to piano to guitar and back again. With a standard keyboard, you won't have the same leeway, but you can change EQ and add distortion, chorus or other effects.


  • check A MIDI controller is recommended. Purists might scoff at it but you can find software instruments for all types of vintage keyboards.
  • check A MIDI controller can also be used with piano tutor programs. If you're primarily a guitarist, it can be really be helpful to learn some piano to help with composing string sections, synthesizer parts and everything else a controller can handle.

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