Digital Piano to Youtube: Recording Separate Audio / Video and Syncing in Edit

No hymn today.  Just an overview for anybody interested in posting their own music video from digital piano (or any other instrument with a line out) onto Youtube.  When I started out, my computer skills were decent, but the focus was on playing the piano.  There were several goals.  Playing music I love, getting back in practice on the piano, trying to improve and learn more.  And, let’s be honest, a modest paycheck as well.  I use Adsense and Amazon affiliate links, and once in a while they pay me.  :^)

My first approach was to haul out the Flip video camera and record while I played songs over and over and over.  It was frustrating.  I’d forgotten what it was like to actually practice… thought I could just knock the song out and be done.  So, first lesson:  Practice first.  Sometimes an hour or two was enough.  Sometimes a few days.  It depended a lot on the individual song.

Once I felt ready to record, haul the Flip back out.  Let everybody know we’re “going quiet”.  Phones and dogs weren’t always cooperative.  Plus, the Yamaha dgx-640 I use is kind of noisy.  The foot pedal squeaks and thumps.  (Might be my fault, my playing tends to get enthusiastic.)  The keys have a fairly loud noise aside from the music they play.  Not unbearable, but they do contribute to the overall extraneous noises in the video.  Below is a comparison, playing the dgx-640 with volume up, and then volume off.  You can see for yourself how loud the keys and pedal are:

If everything came together well, the rest was easy.  Trim off the excess video, and upload to Youtube.

There were a few flaws with this approach.  Aside from my audio being hostage to fate (and the dogs being quiet), and aside from the extra noise created by simply hitting the keys and pumping the foot pedal, my ability to record was based on the house schedule.  If I’m struck by inspiration at 3:00 am, nobody in the house is going to appreciate me trying to record anything.  Sure, I could practice in silence.  But no recording.

Eventually, it occurred to me to record with the flip, but simultaneously record direct line-in on the computer.  Then I just had to sync the audio and video together in edit.  There were some technical hiccups.  Use the wrong ports, and you can fry your sound card.  Have too much power/volume going in, and the audio suffers from distortion.  With the basic ‘recorder’ function in Windows, trying to set the audio levels manually was difficult.  First, it was a lot of guesswork.  Second, it reduced the sound too much during actual playback.  I couldn’t hear myself play.

Below is a video where I ‘guessed’ the volume settings.  You can hear the distortion especially in the bass notes:

We all start learning somewhere.  This was a whole process for me.  The ultimate solution was twofold.  For editing, Corel Video Studio Pro X5.  It suited my needs perfectly.  I like PowerDirector a lot, but it tended to let the audio sync drift.  The longer the video, the farther out of sync it got.  I gave up on Pinnacle years ago for that same reason.  Corel VSP X5 stayed perfectly synced.

The other solution, critical to the needs of recording audio into the computer, was Audacity, a free audio recording and editing program.  It offers far more function than I need, but within its myriad of options, there’s an easy way to adjust audio line-in levels with graphic meter displays.  You don’t have to guess, you KNOW when the audio levels are good.  To set my levels, I just turned the keyboard up near the top, and slammed out some fast and furious chords.  If that didn’t peg the meters to the top, then it was good.’

Below is my first recording done with Audacity and Corel Video Studio Pro X5.  Huge difference between the two videos!

I know there’s more to it than that.  But for my level of knowledge, that was sufficient to have good audio.  Now I can record anytime without waking family up.  The video doesn’t require sound, so playing with headphones works fine.  Audacity records the audio perfectly.  And Corel VSP X5 puts them together easily.

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