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#995246 - 01/23/08 10:41 AM easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Babs_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 321
Loc: Gulf Coast
Hello

I am thinking about buying a recorder. I've been thinking that one way that I could improve on my piano performance is by recording and listening to my performances. I have spent many hours playing piano but I don't think that I have ever really properly listened to myself play. When I play I am more focused on reading the music than actually listening to myself play.

Being inexperienced as I am, I need a recorder that is really easy to use. What I have to work with is a standard laptop and an acoustic piano.

I also need a recorder that is relatively inexpensive too. I am not looking for a recorder with many options, I just want something easy to use.

Any ideas?

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#995247 - 01/23/08 11:29 AM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
BB Player Offline


Registered: 11/17/06
Posts: 2625
Loc: Not in Texas
Hi Babs1,

I'm not sure what you'd consider "relatively inexpensive" but the Zoom H2 & H4 both have lots of advocates here. I've got an H4 and find it makes decent quality recordings and is relatively easy to use both by itself and with a PC. The H2 can be had for a little less than $200 and the H4 is about $250.
_________________________
Greg

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#995248 - 01/23/08 12:53 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Monica K. Online   blank

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17786
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I am a hopeless Zoom fanatic. I don't think you can beat the combination of recording quality, ease of setup and use, and price.

If price is the overwhelming consideration, and you don't care about recording quality or uploading on the web, a basic cassette recorder would be very very cheap and easy to use.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#995249 - 01/23/08 01:10 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
MarkL Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/07
Posts: 728
Loc: Chicago Suburban
Another vote for the Zoom H2, which I use to record my lesson every week as well as other music forums that I attend. I went through several cassette recorders, the ones I used were probably good enough for recording kazoo music. Maybe there are better ones, but I would imagine the cost starts to get close to the H2.
_________________________
Yamaha P90

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#995250 - 01/23/08 01:30 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
gmm1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
A really cheap way out is use a mic with your laptop, but it will not be pretty.

Might work for you until you get a better recorder....
_________________________
"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

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#995251 - 01/23/08 01:37 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Babs_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 321
Loc: Gulf Coast
 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica K.:
.

If price is the overwhelming consideration, and you don't care about recording quality or uploading on the web, a basic cassette recorder would be very very cheap and easy to use. [/b]
  • The recording quality doesn't need to be "perfect", I just want it to be at least a "good"
    quality recording. I would like to upload on the web someday, so I don't think a cassette recorder would do.


I gather the Zoom H2 seems to be quite popular then? What is the difference between the H2 and the H4? Which is easier to use? I need one with only a "few" options. I can't handle too many buttons to fool around with. My present remote control that operates the cable,VCR, and DVD has over a 100[/b] buttons to fool with and it drives me batty !! :rolleyes:

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#995252 - 01/23/08 01:38 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
piano_deb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/05
Posts: 787
Loc: Memphis, TN
Does your laptop have a built-in mic? (Macs have them; I don't know about PCs.) If it does, just download the free Audacity audio recording/editing software, and you're set. You won't create high quality recordings, but you'll certainly capture sound well enough to study your performance.

And to participate in the Adult Beginner Forum online recitals, if you're so inclined. \:\)

As mentioned, a cassette or microcassette recorder will provide low-quality audio, but it might be fine for your purposes.

EDITED: Oops, I guess we were posting at the same time, Babs1. I just read your update. Sounds like the Zoom H2 or H4 would be a better choice.
_________________________
Deborah
Charles Walter 1500
Happiness is a shiny red piano.

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#995253 - 01/23/08 01:51 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Babs_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 321
Loc: Gulf Coast
 Quote:
Originally posted by gmm1:
A really cheap way out is use a mic with your laptop, but it will not be pretty.

Might work for you until you get a better recorder.... [/b]
  • On the other hand, maybe the smart and more economical way to deal with all this would be to simply invest in a mic and record from my laptop? Is there a specific mic for recording music that is better than others?


Maybe I should try that route first before I think about investing in a zoom. After all I am still getting bills from Xmas. :rolleyes:

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#995254 - 01/23/08 01:52 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4239
Loc: Arizona.
You may also want to consider a more "proffessional" setup sing two condensor mics and a cheap mixer for phantom power.

As others have said, the Zoom h2, h4, are probably your best bet considering ALL criteria (ease of use, price, quality), however, you WILL have the *potential* to obtain better quality recordings by using two good quality condensor mics in the "X", and "Y" position. [I have a pair of Rode NT5 mics and a Behringer mixer].

Although the condensor mics have better recording *potential*, that is assuming you get the room acoustics and mic placement in their respective optimum conditions/location. I have not been able to do this yet and also consider getting the room acoustics accurate as well as finding the optimum mic placement an art onto itself!.

Now that you are armed with lots of confusing info, my vote would be for the Zoom H2, H4 unless you REALLY want to spend the time obtaining the best possible recording. If so, look at the condensor mic setup (hooked into your computer).

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#995255 - 01/23/08 01:53 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Babs_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 321
Loc: Gulf Coast
No Debbie, my laptop does not have a built-in mic.

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#995256 - 01/23/08 02:00 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
piano_deb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/05
Posts: 787
Loc: Memphis, TN
 Quote:
No Debbie, my laptop does not have a built-in mic.
In that case, you'll need a set-up like what mr_super-hunky is talking about, or a Zoom (or other product) that does the same job. At least you have a laptop to start with, and that's a big plus, since you can set it up near the piano.

*whispers*
By the way, it's Deborah or Deb, please, never Debbie. Thanks!
_________________________
Deborah
Charles Walter 1500
Happiness is a shiny red piano.

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#995257 - 01/23/08 02:05 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
The Samson C01U mic is a condenser that plugs directly into a free USB port on your computer. Unlike other condenser microphones, you don't need a separate mixer unit or phantom power for it. Of course, a single mic only gives you mono sound but that's fine unless you want to do professional recordings.

By the way, I'd be surprised if your laptop doesn't have a built-in microphone. Almost all of them do. Open the Control Panel in Windows, go to Audio Devices, and look under the Audio tab. There probably is something listed under Recording.
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No idea what chords you are playing? Reverse Chord Finder Pro will tell you!

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#995258 - 01/23/08 02:06 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Babs_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 321
Loc: Gulf Coast
 Quote:
Originally posted by Babs1:
No Debbie, my laptop does not have a built-in mic. [/b]
  • SH I think I'll try that condensor mic setup, first and see how it sounds, if I don't like the quality of the recording , I'll think about the Zoom .

Did I hear a rumor the other day about a tax rebate coming my way ? \:D

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#995259 - 01/23/08 02:11 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
gmm1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
OK, Babs, you woke me up. Tax rebate, eh?

Now I won't be able to sleep wondering just what new toy is in my future....

BTW, Mahlzeit is probably right, almost all laptops have built-in mics nowadays. How old is yours? Perhaps you can excape with no expense.
_________________________
"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

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#995260 - 01/23/08 02:26 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Babs_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 321
Loc: Gulf Coast
  • That's right, Deborah , I can move my laptop near the piano , so that is an added plus.


  • Mahlzeit, ok I looked on the control panel, under Audio[/b] and I clicked on Sound Recording[/b] and the only option on there was Sigma Tel Audio[/b]. Is this what I need to be using to record?


  • gmm My laptop is 4 years old.




You guys must think I'm a moron by now. \:D

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#995261 - 01/23/08 02:38 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4239
Loc: Arizona.
Babs1:

Remember, the two condensor mic setup IS the optimum setup but like I said, you MUST get your room acoustics accurate as well as the mic placement.

You would be very hard pressed to find any proffessional recording studio using the Zoom to record their music as they DO have the optimum setup. for this reason, they almost (if not always) use two condensor mics (usually in the "X" and "Y" position) for studio recordings.

I happen to know a lot on this subject (even though I have NOT been able to find the optimum setting yet!!) as this is what my father is an authority on. [He and Ray Dolby developed Dolby "C" noise reduction systems in the late 70's and marketed in the early 80's].

An osciliscope does'nt lie and as I've said, the condensor mics will reproduce the most accurate and trueist sound reproduction.

Once again, the Zoom is a much easier and realistic option but if you want to learn the *best* method from the start, try the two condensor mics.

Btw, this method is NOT that expensive. I paid around $300 for the two Rode NT5 condensor mics and about $50 for the Behringer mixer. I actually don't do anything with the mixer but it is needed to supply the phantom power. I'm not sure if there are any other condensor mics (of the same or better quality) as the Rode NT5 that do not require phantom power.

As Mahlzeit mentioned, there may be other mics available that do not require phantom power, I just do not know about their respective frequency range. Something to research!.

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#995262 - 01/23/08 04:25 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
Babs, download and install Audacity. Run it. Choose "Microphone" for recording in the top of the window. Put its volume slider all the way to the right.

Click the big red button. Shout something. Press Stop. Press Play. If you can hear yourself, you have just successfully recorded something on your laptop.

If you put your laptop close to your piano, you can record this way.

If your laptop has an input for an external microphone -- most do -- then you can buy a $5 microphone and use that instead, which will give you better sound quality. (Although it will still pick up some background noise, but less than the built-in mic.)

If you have an MP3 player or a digital camera that can record audio, you can also use that to record your piano.

You could even record using an old-fashioned tape recorder and hook that up to your PC with a stereo cable going from its headphones output to your laptop's microphone input. \:\)

Lots of options.

See also:
http://www.originalsolopiano.com/how-to-record-piano.html
_________________________
No idea what chords you are playing? Reverse Chord Finder Pro will tell you!

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#995263 - 01/23/08 09:37 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
J. Mark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/06
Posts: 1323
I hate those Zoom things. I bought an H4 and sold it at a loss a couple of weeks later. It was absurdly difficult to use, requiring multiple steps just to transfer files to the computer. If you did it via USB connection, you had to go through like five steps to make the stupid thing talk through the USB; if you did it by removing the SD card, you had to practically disassemble the thing to get the card out...and then you needed long fingernails or needle nose pliers....

And that's just a couple of problems. Overall, the thing was very very poorly designed.

I looked at the H2, and while it seemed to have a better design in terms of ease of use, it did not have the features that made the H4 attractive...like XLR inputs and phantom power, for example.

A cheap (less than $100) mixer, from Alesis for example, with a USB connection to the laptop, a couple of condensor mics, and free software (Audacity) is a pretty darn good setup, imo. I did this with some Oktavas I had on hand, and a Yamaha USB mixer (cost $129 from Music123). A straight USB into the laptop with Audacity would seem to at least get you recording.

Overall, I've been frustrated with the recorders I've tried. The Boss units are stupidly over-engineered (designed for guitar shredders). Others use lousy storage systems, have no XLR, or otherwise just don't cut it. I still haven't found a recorder I like. ... Then again, nothing I do is worth recording, so it doesn't much matter...

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#995264 - 01/23/08 10:30 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4239
Loc: Arizona.
You know, I just can't resist making another comment. It seems that everyone is looking for the best/perfect recording method while the recording method used is probably the LEAST important factor.

Zooms (digital recorders), condensor mics, microphone inputs to laptops, even digital videorecorders/camera's are ALL capable of fairly good quality recordings. The problem is similar to an ugly person looking in the miror. No matter how good the mirror, the person is still ugly!.

SO many people forget about the MOST important critera to ANY good recording......that being proper room acoustics.

Piano's are not really "boomy" or overly bright; the rooms are.

There is no optimum setup for everyone as things like the floor covering, window coverings/treatments, rugs even piano placement will make a HUGE difference.

Try taking a subwoofer and place it in the middle of an empty room. Not a whole lotta bass. Now take that same subwoofer (in the same room) and place it approx two inches away from a corner wall. BaBaBOOM!!. Nothing in the room changed other than the placement of the driver.

This is why concert halls, ampitheaters etc are designed the way they are. Even using the best possible equipment will result in terrible sounding recordings if the room acoustics are all screwed up.

It takes a LOT of time and trial and error to get this right and is only half as difficult as finding the correct mic positions!.

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#995265 - 01/23/08 10:40 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
BB Player Offline


Registered: 11/17/06
Posts: 2625
Loc: Not in Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by J. Mark:
I hate those Zoom things. I bought an H4 and sold it at a loss a couple of weeks later. It was absurdly difficult to use, requiring multiple steps just to transfer files to the computer. If you did it via USB connection, you had to go through like five steps to make the stupid thing talk through the USB; if you did it by removing the SD card, you had to practically disassemble the thing to get the card out...and then you needed long fingernails or needle nose pliers....
[/b]
I'll just say that hasn't been my experience and leave it at that.

My only complaint about the Zoom H4 is I wish the screen & fonts were bigger so I wouldn't have to put my glasses on to read it. Fortunately, I've got most of the basic operations down well enough (and I find them simple) that the vague outline of text I can make out is enough.
_________________________
Greg

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#995266 - 01/23/08 10:43 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
BB Player Offline


Registered: 11/17/06
Posts: 2625
Loc: Not in Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by mr_super-hunky:

It takes a LOT of time and trial and error to get this right and is only half as difficult as finding the correct mic positions!. [/b]
I completely agree. One of the additional challenges that most of us face is there's only one pianist in the house so it's difficult to optimize the sound for the room rather than for when you're seated at the bench playing. Stereo and recording equipment is difficult enough but at least you can position it and then step back (or sit down) and listen to the results.
_________________________
Greg

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#995267 - 01/23/08 11:15 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3165
What exactly is X and Y placement of microphones?
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#995268 - 01/23/08 11:24 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7218
Loc: torrance, CA
I can't comment on the Zoom models because I'm a social deviant who bought a M-Audio Microtrack instead of a Zoom. But I assume a Zoom can function the same way that a Microtrack or other small flash recorder can. If my assumption is wrong, someone can correct me.

A Microtrack can function with its supplied stereo T-mike that easily pops into a 1/8" jack on the top. I believe Zoom's supplied mike(s) is/are built-in, but either way it's no big deal.

It can also function with external mikes (phantom-power or non-phantom) that feed into 1/4" jacks on the top. So, if you buy a Zoom or a Microtrack and want a better quality recording, you can upgrade to better microphones.

You can also work out the X Y placement suggested here and experiment to minimize room acoustics. You will never get rid of them completely when recording an acoustic piano though.

But here's the thing. Even though I own a pair of Audio-Technica AT's, if I want to check on how something sounds, I don't want to spend the time setting up and making connections, and I have zero interest in getting my laptop involved. I just pop in the T-mike, place the Microtrack nearby, push the record button to begin and push it again to stop recording. Then I listen to my recording through the supplied earbuds. It's never a state-of-the-art recording, but if your purpose is what you described [to check on your playing] it will do the job admirably.

Now if you want to set up a pair of mikes in a semi-permanent position and put together a home-recording studio, a flash recorder should not be the core of your system (as others here have pointed out). The pre-amps on all of the mini flash recorders are simply not up to that task.
_________________________
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#995269 - 01/23/08 11:41 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
BB Player Offline


Registered: 11/17/06
Posts: 2625
Loc: Not in Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by rocket88:
What exactly is X and Y placement of microphones? [/b]
Here's a picture that shows x-y placement.



This came from the Shure web site . The article it's from shows different microphone positions for various instruments, including grand and upright pianos, and their characteristics.
_________________________
Greg

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#995270 - 01/23/08 11:44 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4239
Loc: Arizona.
Another shot:


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#995271 - 01/23/08 11:50 PM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
epf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/07
Posts: 658
Loc: Central Texas
I, too, use the Zoom H4 and find it easy to use. I originally tried using it strictly from an audio standpoint using the built-in microphones. Because of spurious noise in the house I was not pleased with the results (too much background hiss). So, I now record directly from the line-out on the DP to the input jacks on the H4 -- and I'm very happy with it. Transferring files to the PC is not intuitive -- you have to turn the H4 off, plug in the USB cord, select the connection function and then it acts like an external disk drive. Not terribly difficult, just extra steps.

Ed
_________________________
"...a man ... should engage himself with the causes of the harmonious combination of sounds, and with the composition of music." Anatolius of Alexandria

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#995272 - 01/24/08 12:03 AM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4239
Loc: Arizona.
btw, you could use very good quality external microphones(condensor) plugged into your zoom and get the best of both worlds!.

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#995273 - 01/24/08 12:38 AM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
lizzy's dad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 256
Loc: Suburb of Seattle
Hey Babs1,

"...really easy to use."

The Zoom or something similar fits this description. Self contained, convenient, decent software.

Mr. S-H's recommendations are very good, represents higher end, professional, recording techniques - obviously.

I fall in the group that recommends a cheaper alternatie, buying the laptop a microphone. Here's a good link that talks about cheap mics (link)

Either use recording software that may have come with your computer or download some freeware (like Audacity), preferably something with an equalizer.

Window's Sound Recorder (All Programs -> Accessories -> Entertainment) being the absolute, bare minimum, but might be enough to get you started.

Make short sample recordings (loud and soft...sorry...ppp and fff), move the mic around the room (laptop attached), the piano, making any adjustments your software allows, until you get the sound you like.

You should be able to find at least one spot in the room that will give you the best compromise in sound. Depends on the piano, the location in the room, the nature of the walls, ceiling and floor covering, this spot might be on or near the piano or some place further away. It might not be the same spot for every piece.

Cost effective and simple.

If you don't like the sound of the resulting recordings, or are getting tired of having to run to the far corner of the room to press the Enter key on the laptop, \:D start saving your pennies.

I've got to learn how to write shorter posts...

l's dad

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#995274 - 01/24/08 09:16 AM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Monica K. Online   blank

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17786
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
The mic + laptop option is indeed a cheaper alternative. I just want to point out that, while others have managed to produce very nice sounding recordings with such a setup that had no clipping or distortion, I personally was never able to do so. I tore my hair out repeatedly trying to get my Samson USB mic to record something, anything, without distortion, and yes I fiddled for HOURS with mic levels and placement. \:\(

That is why I am such a Zoom fanatic. Just plop it down, press the red button, and you've got yourself a distortion-free recording. \:\)

I love my Zoom.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#995275 - 01/24/08 10:20 AM Re: easiest recorder to use/inexpensive
Babs_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 321
Loc: Gulf Coast
 Quote:
Originally posted by mahlzeit:
Babs, download and install Audacity. Run it. Choose "Microphone" for recording in the top of the window. Put its volume slider all the way to the right.

Click the big red button. Shout something. Press Stop. Press Play. If you can hear yourself, you have just successfully recorded something on your laptop.

If you put your laptop close to your piano, you can record this way.

If your laptop has an input for an external microphone -- most do -- then you can buy a $5 microphone and use that instead, which will give you better sound quality. (Although it will still pick up some background noise, but less than the built-in mic.)

If you have an MP3 player or a digital camera that can record audio, you can also use that to record your piano.

You could even record using an old-fashioned tape recorder and hook that up to your PC with a stereo cable going from its headphones output to your laptop's microphone input. \:\)

Lots of options.

See also:
http://www.originalsolopiano.com/how-to-record-piano.html [/b]
  • Mahlzeit, thanks for the tip. Well I did what you asked me to do, AUDACITY was easy to install. That was the easy part. Well I did what you told me to do, I clicked the Big red button and I shouted, the cat ran , I clicked stop and play and there was NO sound. And yes I made sure
    the volume button was on , I also went into the control panel to check audio setup and it was fine. I did 5 takes of this holllering and still no recording. The cat heard all the hollering and is now hiding under the bed . Then I got an error message code #C00D1199. which translated into audio output device error[/b]. So i guess that means I need to invest in a mic . I don't have a MP3 player or a digital camera. :rolleyes:

  • Lizzy's Dad, the mic idea doesn't sound bad, I still don't know what brand of mic to buy.

  • Ok guys, so what is the difference anyway between the H2 and H4?


Maybe if that rumor holds up about Uncle Sam sending out tax rebates , I could invest in a ZOOM. That is ONLY, if the mic to laptop idea doesn't play out. That is if the mailman puts it in the right box. We've gone through 5 mailmen in the last 2 years around here. I can't even get a decent pizza around here. \:D

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