piano sounds great going in, lousy in Audacity

<<<I got sound (the “clip” light illuminated, so I knew I was getting a signal.)>>>

That’s a valid diagnostic test, but you didn’t leave them on, did you? During the show, those lights tell you the amplifier channel is turning your show into popcorn.


Hey Steve – I’m using the Beta 1.3 version. I tried going into Preferences, and when the USB cable is being used (from the mixer to the laptop), I choose it for “Playback” and “Recording.” However, it seems to force the sound into mono.

Hey Koz. Didn’t leave them on. Only did it to check the signal.

Aside from any nuts and bolts type issues that have been discussed, here are a few other things I think are worth mentioning.

Your headphone signal is different from your monitors in a couple important ways. Firstly, it exists without entering the air. This means that any phase cancellation issues are going to be entirely different in the cans. Your headphones also are going to sound more ‘direct’ in general than your monitors.

Right and left channels of piano are rarely “true stereo”. You may find that one channel tends to give you a more appropriate tone for your mix.

But in my opinion, one of the most critical things to keep in mind is that the piano has a very broad spectrum. Your mix, with all its cool drums, bass, etc, probably doesn’t really need the full range of the piano. In fact, as those low and low-mid frequencies build up, it is quite likely that the piano will seem dull. Instead of boosting the top of the piano, I would suggest cutting the bottom. You probably don’t need anything below 80-100Hz (roughly). The buildup in the 300Hz range will also tend to obscure the brightness of the instrument. A broad notch of a few dB thereabouts can do a lot to make this better.

Although not directly relevant to your dilemma, there are a few articles on recording (acoustic) piano on our studio website. There may be some concepts in there that shed some light on this tricky business. http://www.doghouseNYC.com/articles/piano1.htm

Are you using Vista? Apparently Vista will commonly set USB audio devices to mono (on the assumption that it is a mono microphone I suppose). There is a setting in the Windows Control Panel to change the default recording setting for the USB device from mono to stereo. I’m using Linux, so I’m not able to give more precise details at the moment, but hopefully you will be able to find it.

Thanks, DogHouse. I like the idea of cutting some of the low frequencies. My mixer has a high-pass filter. Would that work?

Yep. But it may require more sculpting. Keyboard piano sounds are designed to sound good in the showroom. I find they rarely sit in a mix without some adjustment.

Steve – that was the trick!!!

Listen to this new sample – panned out and stereo (finally):
Old sample (mono and dull):http://www.snapdrive.net/files/372235/sample%20solo%20piano.mp3
New sample (stereo and panned)http://www.snapdrive.net/files/372235/sample%20piano-panned%20out-stereo.mp3

P.S… I didn’t even use any extra EQ. However, there’s a bit of hum. But the overall sound is much better!

Thanks again guys, for sticking with me on this!

You’re welcome.
If you have the time, perhaps you could post a note describing where you found the setting - could be useful for other users.

In Windows Vista, go to Control Panel.
Under “Sound” go to “Manage Audio Devices”
Click the USB device/mixer you’re using (it won’t show up unless it’s plugged in to your latop)
click the “Recording” tab.
Click your USB device/mixer again.
Click the “Advanced” tab.
Under that tab, there’s a pull-down menu. Choose the “2-channel, 16 bit, 48,000Hz-DVD quality” option.

I finally got the piano to record in stereo. However, on this track, you’ll notice that the piano falls behind the rest of the track by almost a click. Is this a latency issue? How can I correct it? http://www.snapdrive.net/files/372235/Score-Threshhold-tracking%20off.mp3 I’m even pushing my tempo on the piano as I record it, but it doesn’t help much. Any ideas?

Well it’s actually for recording anything that’s Line level via USB in Vista, but thanks, that’s very clear.

No, I don’t think so - in fact I don’t think that it has anything to do with the “recording”. The “timing” is fluctuating quite noticeably, but there is no fluctuation in the “pitch” of the piano. If the recording speed was varying enough to cause such variation in the timing I think there would be noticeable “wow” in the pitch (much like playing a warped vinyl record or a stretched cassette tape), but that is not happening. It sounds more like the piano is just playing at the wrong (and inconsistent) speed.

This music is “sequenced” in some way? Perhaps you can describe what you are doing - how the parts are played and how you are putting them together.

Thanks, Steve. I had already recorded the rhythm track and synth track. I’ve now been trying to play the piano line over the top. I’m using the “overdub” playthrough function. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m not used to playing against an exact rhythm track (vs a ‘live’ drummer) or not. In my head, as I’m recording the piano over the other tracks, it feels like I’m in sync with the other tracks. I’m even pushing my tempo a bit, (not consistently, I guess) in order to make sure I’m playing in sync. That gets a little frustrating – concentrating on not getting out of sync rather than allowing musicality.

I thought that maybe there’s a very slight delay happening somewhere as I’m recording the piano. Or…it could be just me not used to playing in metronomic exactness. :wink:

The trouble with playing against a metronome is that metronomes never keep time :smiley: (or at least it seems like that).
It is a task that is much harder than most folk would imagine, until they try to do it.

There WILL be a delay between you playing a note and it being “written” to the hard drive (latency) but that should not be a problem. The important thing is that you have your equipment set up so that you can hear the piano sound immediately (without any delay) and that you play in sync with the rhythm track that is playing in Audacity. If you fulfil both of those conditions then even though there is “latency” that puts the new piano track slightly later than the rhythm track it will be “out” by an equal amount throughout the track and can be adjusted automatically with “latency correction”, or by dragging the track a little way with the Time Shift tool. The hard bit is playing in time with the “metronome”.

Hi Steve,
I tried the latency correction test. http://manual.audacityteam.org/index.php?title=Latency_Test
I followed the directions exactly – even did it twice – but the latency correction didn’t take effect.
I figured out the latency, entered the correction amt in the “Recording” preferences, and re-recorded the click-track with latency correction – but it didn’t change at all. It didn’t correct for latency. (.180)
Any ideas? Is it different for the Beta version of Audacity?

When I record the piano on top of the other tracks. I’m using headphones through the headphone jack in the USB mixer. I can hear the rhythm track fine as I play piano overdubs.

There are three delay problems in audio production. Latency is adjusted using the tools provided in Audacity 1.3.11. Live Headphone Delay (not playback delay) and Duration of Show issues are burned into the computer and sound card and are not adjustable.

So if you sung the words in perfect sync and the result was perfect at the front and wrong at the end, that’s most probably the sound card.

If it annoys you that your own live voice comes back to you late, that’s probably just life. Audacity has preferences for Hardware Playthrough (good) and Software Playthrough (bad). Many computers do not support Hardware – Macs for instance – and Software is always late.

Not all computers can be changed into Digital Audio Workstations.


Hey Koz – thanks. I went through the steps for Latency correction exactly as the tutorial suggested, (even checking my steps), but the latency correction didn’t happen. When I applied it, nothing changed. Any ideas?

Latency correction is only possible in the 1.3 versions of Audacity. I see questions about “The Beta Version” like you may not have it yet. 1.3.11 is the current version of Audacity, no matter that the labels say. Many machines won’t run Audacity 1.2 properly – some not at all.

Try this. Record or find a short piece with clear rhythm. Go into Audacity Preferences and turn off both Software Playthrough and Hardware Playthrough. Leave “Play tracks while recording new ones on.” Restart Audacity.

Now play the existing rhythm track while you tap a pencil or other rhythm noise in time to the music and record it. You will not hear yourself tapping. It will sound a little weird. Save that work. Test1

Close the Project and start a new one. Go into preferences and change the second latency number 200 points different from where it is now. Either direction. Restart Audacity.

Play the rhythm track again and again record pencil tapping or other rhythm sound to the music. Stop and save. Test2

Now play both shows back. The matchup between the pencil and the music should be very different between the two performances. Are they?

Did you get weird echoes while you were recording the pencil taps?


Hey Koz – thanks for the tips. I ended up having to manually adjust (with the time-shift) tool the keyboard track to sync up with the others. I finally got the latency to start changing – using really big numbers. Something still seems funky. I’ll have to keep playing with it.

This is going to be easier if we keep it in one topic.
Since this is a different subject to the original title for this topic, let’s move it to the new topic here: https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/tracks-arent-syncing/13484/1