In this tutorial I assume you already recorded a good piano sound or chose a good one if you’re using VST instruments or samples. I’ll show you how to mix a piano using an Equalizer, Compressor, how to get good Width and Depth to make a piano sit well with other sounds in a mix.
Before diving into mixing piano you need to determine what’s the role of the piano in the entire song. Does it have a percussive touch or is it playing chords? Are there any other instruments playing or is it an acoustic song?
If it’s an acoustic song then the piano needs to dominate and become bright. For instance, a piano sound should be mixed bright on a POP song while a dark piano sound works well on a blues or jazz song. When you know what the end results should sound like then you’ll have half of the battle won.
If you know what the piano should sound like then you have a good advantage. If you don’t then listen to other related songs to get an idea.
Piano Eq Settings
As always, the best practice to getting good eq settings is to use a bandpass filter and sweep around the frequency spectrum to find all the problem frequencies and cut them out or boost where necessary.
Below I have a piano eq guide or chart that will help you determine the right eq settings for your piano sounds. This eq guide will help determine whether you are benefiting or ruining the sound when you boost or cut.
Here are the piano eq settings:
50Hz-100Hz ~ Adds bottom
100Hz-250Hz ~ Adds roundness
250Hz-1kHz ~ Muddiness area
1kHz-6kHz ~ Adds presence
6kHz-8Khz ~ Adds clarity
8kHz-12kHz ~ Adds hiss
If your piano sound is muddy then cut around 300Hz that should get rid of the mud. If it’s too thin then a boost around 100Hz to 250Hz will add some roundness to the piano.
If you need the piano to be bright then add some air using a High Shelf eq to boost around 15kHz to 20kHz. Boost till you can hear the sustain pedal sound then drop it down a bit. Don’t forget to remove all the rumble below 50Hz to avoid any low-end mud and make space for the kick and bass.
Compressing Piano Sounds
When you choose a compressor for a piano you have to choose one that won’t mess up with the timbre of the sound. The piano needs to sound as natural as possible.
If the piano is playing chords then a compressor with a fast attack and a medium to long release will mostly work well. If it’s percussive like a solo for instant, then you’ll need to use a fast attack with a fast to medium release. Depending on the dynamic range but a ratio of 4:1 or less should work.
Just add enough compression to tame out all the loud peaks without messing up with the tone/timbre of the sound. Don’t make the piano distort by using an attack that is too fast, let the transients go in 1st then let the compression kick in gradually and fade out smooth without creating a pumping effect.
Mixing Piano – Width and Depth
The final step would be to make the piano sound good in the stereo field. Use Panning and other stereo image tools to deal with the sides. When I’m mixing, I usually pan a piano sound left or right (never in the center) if it’s a percussive sound like a solo.
If it’s chords then I prefer keeping them in the center and use a stereo image tool to make it wide instead. Use the reverb effect to push the piano back or front in a mix and use other effects such as delay to create width and depth.
Reverb and delay will help you find a good balance for the piano to sit well with other sounds in a mix. Too much reverb on a vocal or piano sound will make your entire mix muddy so add enough without making the piano washy.
To add more movement and feeling to your piano sound mix then use effects such as phaser, flanger and auto-filter. If you decide to add more movement then use a small amount of reverb to make the piano intimate and add some delay.
Hope you find this tutorial helpful and as always, if you have questions leave them below and I’ll get back atya. Have a great day and stay tuned for more music production tutorials.