Setting Recording Levels for Analog Keyboard


I have been working with Cubase 6 for some time. This is the first time I’ve noticed this. When I try to set recording levels for my keyboard (not midi but analog), I watch the waveform, and it seems to be clipping. When I try to adjust the level using the channel fader as the Quick Start Guide states, it makes no difference in the waveform. The ONLY way I can affect the waveform is to adjust the volume of the keyboard itself. The exact same thing applies with the guitar (Martin E/A). Is this the way it should be? If so, what does the channel fader do? It clearly does not affect recording levels (at least where it concerns the waveform).

I am using an M-Audio Fast Track Ultra with the keyboard plugged into 3 & 4.

Thanks for any help. ckelloggjr

This is the way it should be, there are input faders if you open the mixer but they should generally be left a 0dB.
The function of the mixer faders it to set the replay volumes.

When recording an analog signal the level is always set before the converters. either on the soundcards input gain and or from the source, in your case the keyboard.

If the signal is too loud (clipping) at the converter then no amount of gain reduction within the application will help as the damage has already been done to the signal at the converter.

As a side note the Getting started manual instructions for setting the recording level are not very well written!!!

Thanks Split! That really helps.

To add to what Split said, when recording analog signals, it is important to keep in mind the signal chain. IOW, you have to make sure that there’s no clipping anywhere throughout the entire audio path, yet maintain a good signal level. In your case, make sure that the output from the keyboard is not clipping (as you’ve found out by lowering the master volume). If you have to lower the volume of your keyboard too much in order to get a clean signal, then you may want to adjust the level of the patch itself. It could be set too high.

I personally try to aim for a peak level around -12 dBFS max in Cubase. It’s fine if it goes over this a few dB, but aiming for this target level will give you the best results in your recordings. It’ll also make it easier to mix your tracks since your levels will be around ballpark for each track. Recording too hot is just as bad as recording too low. Keep that in mind and you’ll be one step ahead :wink:.



Thanks, but what do you mean by ‘adjusting the level of the patch itself’?

To clarify, I am using a Yamaha CP300 Stage Piano. I have it set up for MIDI using USB. But, in this case, I am using 2 1/4 TS to connect stereo analog. I am not concerned with MIDI at this point. Thanks!

I think Jose means the input gain on the Fast Track.

Hi ckellogjr!

Just for clarification - are you looking at the waveform in the project window? Sometimes it looks like it’s clipping just because the display is gained up, even though the actual data may not be clipped. Two ways I use to confirm if I’m clipping (or if it just looks like the waveform is clipped in the project window): 1) open up the recorded waveform in the sample editor, gain it up so that you are at the sample level of gain, and then see if the samples are all flattened at 0dB; also, 2) do an “Audio>Statistics” check on the recorded audio, and read what the max samples levels are - if they are all below 0dBFS, there was probably no significant clipping (and almost certainly not any at all if all less than -0.2 or -0.3dBFS), no matter what the waveform in the project window looks like.

As far as I know, the channel fader only affects the input level to the next downstream thing the audio is routed to. For example, that might affect the level to a downstream Master Stereo output, or a Group or FX channel, a piece of outboard equipment, etc. It does not affect the input to the channel.

I second the methods described above (I use an analogue keyboard as input to Cubase as well): Turn the analogue keyboard volume up all the way, turn the interface input trim to unity, don’t mess with the input trim in Cubase, and record, banging away to include bits that are pretty loud. Hopefully the loud bits won’t clip - if they do, I turn the analogue keyboard output fader down a bit, and get it so that the in the Cubase fader for the input channel is about -12dB.

Oh and just to add to all that :laughing:

Make sure the waveform display zoom handle, it’s at the top right of the arrange page, is all the way down, otherwise it can look like all the waveforms are clipped when in fact they’re fine.

One more addition: Make sure you are recording at 24 bits at least. This gives you enough headroom to work with and avoid clipping at the DA stage.

No, I meant the volume level of the patch in the keyboard. This also needs to be checked, especially if it was a custom made patch that was created without a reference level (i.e. it is comparatively louder than the factory patches). However, this doesn’t seem to be the case here. The point is to always check your signal chain from beginning to end in situations like this where your signal is either clipping or very low in volume. The suggestions to check the waveform zoom level in Cubase are also excellent.

Thanks everyone! This is great information.

One more hint that I read a long time ago that I use:

If your keyboard volume is via an analogue control (e.g., slider or knob) - always record with it up at max output. Why? Because, it is one less variable in your gain structure chain you will have to worry about, making it sooner that you will instinctively know (with practice) where your audio signal will peak on the Cubase track for any given combination of [“loudness of playing” plus preamp trim level]. In other words, it makes it a little simpler to set up your recording so your audio signals are at the right level on the Cubase track.

If the signal comes out too hot from your analogue keyboard at full max (in other words, if it clips in Cubase at usual playing loudness/velocities), you can compensate by turning down the input trim in Cubase, and making that a fixed variable as well.

Happy tunes!

I’d leave that alone and just turn the KBD down at the KBD, turning down the Cubase input trim will not stop it clipping!
Just make the clipping quieter!

My mistake, so sorry. The clipping from the keyboard, if present, obviously takes place at the A/D conversion stage. My keyboard at full volume doesn’t clip there, and I made a careless extrapolation to a situation not backed up by my experience … :blush: .

Thanks for the correction -

No problem Alexis… we’re always here to drag the unwary over hot coals :mrgreen: