How to Record Digital Piano to a Mac

By Shawn M. Tomlinson

Recording a digital piano directly to your Apple Macintosh computer will give you clean, crisp sound without the bother of using microphones. Using software that comes with all new Macs, you don't need a third-party application to do it. You can record the digital piano to your Mac as a stand-alone instrument or use it as part of a multi-track recording. It takes a little time to set up and some equipment will be optional.

Things You'll Need

  • Mac OS X 10.2.6 or later
  • GarageBand software
  • 1/8th-inch male-to-male cable
  • MIDI connector
  • Mixing board (optional)
  • External hard drive (optional)

Step 1

Determine what kind of line-out port your digital piano has. Almost all of them have MIDI ports, but some also have 1/8-inch jacks. If your piano has the 1/8-inch jack, you can record directly to your Mac. If the instrument only has MIDI, you will need some form of interface between the piano and the Mac. For the mini-jack, plug one end of the stereo male-to-male cable into your piano's line-out and the other end into your Mac's line-in. If you have only the MIDI port, connect your piano to a mixing board. Then use your mixing board's output --- whether it has a mini-jack, USB or FireWire --- to connect to the Mac.

Step 2

Click your "System Preferences" application on the Dock and then click "Sound." From the three buttons at the top, select "Input." Then select "Line In Built-in Input." This cuts off the Mac's internal microphone and turns on the line-in input you have connected to your digital piano.

Step 3

Open the GarageBand software that came with your Mac. It is part of the iLife suite of software. The icon in your Dock on your Mac will look like a guitar. If GarageBand is not already in your Dock, go to the "Applications" folder and find it. If your Mac does not have GarageBand --- it is standard with all Macs since iLife '04 in 2004 --- you can purchase it from Apple as part of iLife. When GarageBand opens, select "Create New Music Project." Name your project in the pop-up dialog box and click the "Create" button. This will open the full interface of the software.

Step 4

Go to the "Track" menu in GarageBand and select "New Track." This will bring up a pop-up dialog box asking whether you want a "Software Instrument Track" or a "Real Instrument Track." Select "Real Instrument Track." This opens a panel to the right of the main screen. At the bottom of this side panel, make your choice of how you want to record the piano, whether as a stereo instrument or mono.

Step 5

Play a few notes on your digital piano to judge the recording level. You can adjust this at the bottom of the right panel with the "Recording Level" slider or click the "Automatic Level Control" box. Once you are set with levels, click the red "Record" button at the bottom center of the GarageBand window. Start playing. When you have finished, click the "Record" button again to stop the recording.

Tips & Warnings

  • Recording high-quality music takes up a lot of hard-drive space. You might need one or more external hard drives on which to keep the recordings of your digital piano music.