I've trying to record a piano either using a portable recorder as Tascam DR-07MK2 or a B2-Pro but every time I get confused about what would be the correct audio level for the input audio.

If the recording audio level of my recording is too low, this will lead to a huge volume difference between other songs. However, increasing the recording audio level usually leads to distortion at high velocity notes and also captures the background noise.

So, my question is. What would be better: 1) To record using low level, avoid distortion at all and then increasing the volume after the recording via software or 2) to let some distortions occurs in the high velocity notes and then attempt to correct them via software or 3) other suggestions? :)

Actually, I can do 1) with no problem. However, I don't know if using a low volume level on recording will miss some important frequencies that I would be able to get using a high volume level.


  • I don't do a lot of piano recording but generally you never want a digital recording to clip/distort. Set the level so it stays out of the red for your loudest playing.
    – charlie
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 1:16
  • Great! So you think that if I increase the volume after the recording, will not be a problem, right? Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 1:19
  • Depending on the quality of your recording equipment, yes you usually can. It looks like the Tascam you mentioned records at 24 bit, so that generally means you can get away with lower levels during recording and make up for it later during mixing.
    – charlie
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 7:38
  • 2
    If by "other songs" you mean professional recordings, you need to consider that they are usually heavily post processed. Many use mastering tricks to get a very loud recording. So you can not expect to get comparable volumes from just recording your piano. Avoid (unwanted) distortion at all costs. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 11:06

3 Answers 3


Distortion cannot be fixed after recording, you want to keep safely below it. Recording with too low volume will mean that the "noise floor" is amplified along with the useful data.

Recording devices tend to have less than 16bit of usable data above the noise floor, so basically you have to juggle between an annoying level of noise and the risk of distortion, probably getting both.

Professional recordings for piano use large diaphragm condenser mics (which have a rather high yield compared to the noise floor) and high-quality digitization with significantly more than 16bit (after mixing and processing, 16bit is pretty fine, but for the raw material it just is too hard to get right). Handheld recording devices may offer 24bit recording, but that's usually snake oil, meaning that you get 8 additional bits of noise as compared to a 16bit recording.

For practice recordings, expect noise. Better than distortion. For genuinely enjoyable recordings that can be played approximating the original volume, expect effort and expensive equipment.


Recording and mixing are two different processes. Multitrack recording levels are very simple - turn the gain down until the "clip" light doesn't come on anymore. You adjust it for each piece, or each movement if one is Pianissimo and the other is more than Mezzo (either one). The idea is each track is recorded at maximum signal-to-noise, but without clipping or other distortion. The performer can even be asked to level out the volume if there are huge differences, like Piano and Forte on alternate measures.

Actual playback levels are adjusted during mixdown.


You want to record your loudest volume part of the song just below the red peak level. I use the Tascam DR-05 for recording my piano. Using the just below peak level method gives me the same volume level of most all songs in my library. For adjusting the volume after recording as well as all kinds of other adjustments I recommend Audacity. Audacity is free and works great. http://www.audacityteam.org/

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