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Thread: Recording Vocals and Digital Keyboard with Scarlett 4i4 (newbie question)

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    Recording Vocals and Digital Keyboard with Scarlett 4i4 (newbie question)

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    Hello Everyone!

    I am new to the world of recording music, and just finished my setup! My ultimate goal is to be able to film video of myself singing covers while playing chords on a digital keyboard (Yamaha P-125).

    I am using the following equipment:
    - Focusrite Scarlett 4i4
    - Macbook Pro
    - Garageband as my DAW
    - Neewer NW-700 condenser microphone
    - Yamaha P-125 Digital Piano (connected to 4i4 via 2x TS cables)

    After playing around with my new setup, I ran into a few issues, and was wondering if you guys could please help me out. I have connected my microphone to input 1 of the 4i4, and connected my Yamaha P-125 digital piano to the back two line inputs 3 + 4 via two TS cables. Problem is, when i record my digital piano via Garageband, the volume is extremely low. To test something out, I connected the P-125 to the front two inputs of the 4i4, and through adjusting the gain controllers, I was able to receive a much stronger signal in Garageband; problem is, I need one of the front inputs for my microphone.

    My questions are:
    - is there a way for me to increase the recording volume of my digital piano when connected to the rear 3+4 line inputs in my DAW?
    - do i need to purchase the Focusrite 18i8 instead, since there are four preamp inputs?
    - are TS cables the right cables to use from my P-125 to Scarlett 4i4? I know the inputs in the 4i4 are balanced, but I think the P-125 has unbalanced line-out; not sure what the right answer is.
    - is my setup okay? or am I missing something?

    Thank you so much in advance!

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    Neewer into Input 1 via XLR, Yamaha into line inputs 3 & 4 via TS = all good. So you have connected everything up ok, and you should be getting good levels from the keyboard.

    However, the Scarlett doesn't have any gain controls that I can see for inputs 3 & 4, so you would have to control the level elsewhere.

    What is the keyboard volume setting at? The line outs might be tied to that.

    In any case, if you are recording vocals and keys on separate tracks in GB, it is a relatively straightforward thing to increase the level of the keys.

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    Hmm, from the specc' of the 4i4 I am not surprised at the low level. FR'rite quote the maximum input to 3/4 as +18dBu but the line out is max 15.5dBu for 0dBfs! That means a net LOSS of 2.5dB.
    I have no idea what level the keyboard puts out but previous investigations have shown, not a lot! Usually around -10dBV.

    As Gecks' says, are you sure the Yamaha is set to 127 max levels? You might get more drive from the headphone jack.

    The other solution is to drop the level of the mic to match the keys. Recording at 24 bits there will be no noise penalty if you boost both levels post tracking. Faff with capitol F I know but what can you do?
    You might ask "why do Focusrite provide such low sensitivity line ins?" The only answer I can come up with is that they are expecting them to connect to a mixer? That would put out +18dBu nay bother and the standard OP level of +4dBu would hit a handy average around -12dB fs.

    All this is both annoying and confusing to the newb (and NOT so noob!) The fact is, recording gear, mixers and especially interfraces, have improved immeasurably in the last ten years. The last thing the manfctrs need to get their corporate fingers out about is STANDARD LEVELS!
    I do understand that lower priced gear and/or bus powered kit cannot run +4dBu 'pro' levels with a +22dBu headroom but gear COULD be specc'ed to run properly at neg ten and the up market, ext' powered stuff at pro levels.

    Dave.

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    Timely thread! I was recording my keyboard yesterday, plugged into line inputs 3 & 4 of my 8i6. Opened up the Focusrite software, pushed the hardware input sliders all the way to the top. With my keyboard volume control all the way up, I am getting input signals between -20 and -25dB. I have to mute the keyboard's built-in speakers with an adapter into the headphone jack, or it would be horrible. I had to lower the volume on previously-recorded tracks to be able to monitor what I was tracking.
    I guess I will try the headphone jack split out when I get a chance. Don't really want to pull out my full-size mixer, and I got rid of my smaller backup mixer.
    Mike B My new album on CD Baby: Fact and Fiction
    My Bandcamp site: http://mikebirchmusic.bandcamp.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by mjbphotos View Post
    Timely thread! I was recording my keyboard yesterday, plugged into line inputs 3 & 4 of my 8i6. Opened up the Focusrite software, pushed the hardware input sliders all the way to the top. With my keyboard volume control all the way up, I am getting input signals between -20 and -25dB. I have to mute the keyboard's built-in speakers with an adapter into the headphone jack, or it would be horrible. I had to lower the volume on previously-recorded tracks to be able to monitor what I was tracking.
    I guess I will try the headphone jack split out when I get a chance. Don't really want to pull out my full-size mixer, and I got rid of my smaller backup mixer.
    Gahh! You would think some enterprising Co' would market a simple NE5532 in a tin to give a -10dBV ish to +4dBu boost, powered by a couple of PP3s? (better 5V from a USB port and a DC-DC converter) but AFAIK, nobody does, not at least at a sensible price.

    Oh! If only I was forty, fit and free again I would be a miwgyonare this time next year Rodney!

    Dave.

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    Thank you gecko, ecc83, and mjbphotos for your replies!

    To answer a few of your questions:
    - yes I have turned the volume up to max and still am receiving considerably lower volume when compared to my microphone.
    - i plugged the two TS cables into the two frontal headphone jacks from the Yamaha and received a bit louder of a signal; however, i found sound quality was lost (sounded a bit more muffled), and still does not match the mic volume.

    I am pretty new to all of this, so this next question might sound kind of ridiculous; please bear with me!

    Let's say i decrease the mic gain to match the Piano's (as Dave has suggested); how would I post-process the tracks to increase the volume so that I can see what I am working with in GB? (the visual sound wave is very flat) I tried to google this solution, and there are posts that talk about "merging normalization", which I tried to execute. All the tutorials about merging normalization are from old GB version, and the new GB v10 is looking completely different (cant find the merge function anywhere!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by ecc83 View Post
    That would put out +18dBu nay bother and the standard OP level of +4dBu would hit a handy average around -12dB fs.
    Um -14dbfs(???)

    That’s still awful low headroom. It seems to be a sort of half-assed compromise between pro and consumer levels. Luckily we have 24 bits to work with, so it’s not that big of a deal as long as the analog side of this can keep up (or down) with the noise floor.

    @mjbphotos reports levels pretty consistent with everything you said, though. -10dbV should fall right around -25dbFS

    As long as there’s no unwanted noise, it’s not an issue. Do not adjust recording levels to meet your monitoring needs. There are plenty of other ways to do that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
    Um -14dbfs(???)

    That’s still awful low headroom. It seems to be a sort of half-assed compromise between pro and consumer levels. Luckily we have 24 bits to work with, so it’s not that big of a deal as long as the analog side of this can keep up (or down) with the noise floor.

    @mjbphotos reports levels pretty consistent with everything you said, though. -10dbV should fall right around -25dbFS

    As long as there’s no unwanted noise, it’s not an issue. Do not adjust recording levels to meet your monitoring needs. There are plenty of other ways to do that.
    Ooops! Yes, 14dB but the level from the hypothetical mixer would be adjustable and so keep a decent headroom but with the line level being quite strong.

    I have found this : ART PowerMIX III 3-Channel-Stereomixer | DV247 | en-GB

    Which I am sure would do the job but a bit of a hurt at over 80 sovs. There is a slight paradox here in that OP is using a capacitor mic* and so getting a good level into the DAW. Were he using a dynamic the level would be a good 10dB down and a better match to the keys. Assuming of course he did not crank the mic gain, no likely as that would get noisy.

    *I would be interested in a clip of that mic. Voice at an average of -20dBfs, then hold your breath for 20secs. The Neewer, aka 'BM-800' mics are very popular you see (had two) and work very well for their quite silly price but QC is poor so I would like to know how good that one is.
    BTW. Once you have level matched mic and keys...SAVE the tracks! Then put it up again and play with 'Normalization' that will allow you to boost everything to any desired level up to a gnat's below 0dBfs.


    Dave.

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    Given all that's been said in the earlier replies ^^^, I want to clarify one thing from the OP.

    Are the vocals and keys being recorded on separate tracks in Garageband?

    If so, the poor levels coming out of the Focusrite are annoying but not unmanageable, because you can deal with these after the event.

    As an aside, in Reaper 6, you can now add FX to the input, so it would be possible to adjust the levels at this point and prior to being recorded.

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