Recording Acoustic Piano

Hey guys, I’m getting into recording acoustic piano and need some help.

What are some settings/effects that work best for piano to make it sound as natural as possible? Right now my recordings sound almost metallic like, it isn’t too strong but enough to notice


Let’s assume you have a reasonable studio. No traffic noises or echoes.

Metalic sound, honky, or playing into a milk jug sound can be caused by microphone processing. A lot of microphones are going to be used for spoken word, so they come out of the box with auto echo cancellation, noise reduction, and reverb processing. Great for Zoom, not so good for the Bösendorfer.

If your microphone had custom software, open it and make sure there are no auto correction settings.
Then into Windows control panels and make sure Windows isn’t trying to “clean up your voice” or apply other enhancements.

Last, make sure Audacity is the only thing running. Never leave conferencing or chat software running when you’re trying to record music.

Clean Shutdown Windows.

Shift+Shutdown, Wait, Start.

That help?


Audacity doesn’t apply corrections, filters, or effects during recording.


Just now thinking about this. Windows can apply effects and filters on playback. I once got a new computer from the Systems Department and someone left “Cathedtral Effects” running on all my speaker and headphone connections.


I don’t think my mic has any built-in effects… I have a Shure SM57

Audacity is the only thing running when I record, that is the only program I have on my computer.
What I’m wanting to know is what effects I can use after recording to improve the sound, while still keeping it as natural as possible. (For clarification: I’m talking about the effects tab audacity has; such as Compressor and Normalize)

There’s a good article about recording an acoustic piano here:

Audacity is the only thing running when I record, that is the only program I have on my computer.

my recordings sound almost metallic like

Check the Windows Control Panels.

Are you sure your room is OK? What kind of piano is it?

Billions of years ago, I was along for the ride to work on an FM station in the basement of a TV station after hours. I wandered up to the stage/studio area (everybody’d gone home—and I was there by invitation).

I never cared much for grand pianos—they sounded “fake” to me, but they had one in the large, high-ceiling scene dock and the keyboard was accessible. I sat down and struck a few keys. It was a revelation what the large, high-ceiling, cluttered room did for the sound. They had to drag me out of there when it was time to go home. I understand now.

If you don’t have a quiet room, you’re going to be stuck recording the wall and ceiling echoes and there’s no filter or effect for that. It’s always going to sound a little like recording in a kitchen.

Close micing is the solution, but it changes depending on the piano type. My grand upright could pop the top and pull the front forward and open a little for louder and more “open” sound.

I’m going on about the actual recording because about a third or more of common sound and recording errors are forever. Once you record it wrong, that’s the end.

Effect > Amplify, Normalize, Loudness Normalization and others in that camp are simple volume controls. Not change it over the course of the performance, I mean change it once for the whole piece.

Effect > Compressor does change over the course of the performance, but the trick is to set them so they don’t make the music “sound funny.”

Much better avoiding them.

You might try Chris’s Compressor. Chris wrote it so he could listen to Opera in the car. It actively evens out volume variations on the fly and removes expression in favor of overall even volume.

It does have one known bug. It doesn’t like suddenly running off the end of a performance. I put a minute or two of unimportant stuff on the end, run the effect and then cut the stuff off.

I change the first variable, Compress ratio: from the default 0.5 to 0.77 and Chris will produce a dynamic-restricted performance like the local FM station. I’ve never changed any of the other settings.


One more common New User error. When you get to the end of a live performance recording, File > Export the sound as a WAV (Microsoft 16-bit) sound file and move it to a safe place. That’s your backup if anything happens to Audacity or your machine during editing. Edit a copy of that file. If you get a final you like, Export another WAV as Edit Master. Then make the MP3 if you need/want to.

Never do production directly in MP3.