5.2 Keyboards

Using hardware keyboards and synthesisers is still very popular in this digital age. Although MIDI keyboards and hardware keyboards can look similar, the main difference is that hardware keyboards will produce actual sound. So, depending on the model, they come in-built with thousands of patches, ranging from pianos to strings and even to some percussion.
Some vintage keyboards such as the Roland JUNO or Yamaha DX7 (popular in the 1980’s) are still said to produce a fuller and more solid sound than a re- created software plugin. Because there is still a love of keyboards in the recording studio, there will always be a desire to capture their sound.
There are a few different ways to record a keyboard in the studio:

Direct/DI:

Using a keyboard line out connection, usually a 1/4” jack, is one of my favourite and most common ways to record a keyboard. Using this method will allow you to record the in-built sounds on your keyboard.
From the keyboard line out connection, you can plug directly into your audio interface or preamp and record the sound directly into your DAW. Most keyboards have stereo outputs, so you can use either one 1/4” cable as a mono signal into your interface or two 1/4” cables into your interface and pan them hard left and right to have a stereo signal in your DAW. Setting your keyboard volume at half-way, is a good starting point for determining how much gain on your interfaces pre amp you should engage.

AMP:

A keyboard amp is different to a guitar amp. The keyboard amp is designed to keep distortion to a minimum as keyboard sounds are usually recorded as cleanly as possible.
Although you can use a guitar amp to produce a wider frequency range, a keyboard amp is recommended.
The classic Leslie speaker from the old 1970’s Hammond organ is the most typical example of when the use of a tube amp is necessary. When turned up loudly, the tube circuit overloads, producing a pleasing overdriven sound.

Connecting a keyboard to an amp is as simple as connecting the direct out, (commonly known as Mono (L) )of your keyboard into the INPUT of the amp you’re micing. You can record the sound of your amp using both dynamic or condenser mics.

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