Live Mixing Tips: Loud Keyboards

by Alex Benn

You learn something new everyday:
Last night’s mix included a keyboard player – always a nice touch. Though I was surprised to hear, at their last big song, a lot of high pitch squealing coming from the keyboard! (Yes, direct in, listening on the cans). Weird!


Apparently, if the keyboard player is using something like a rock piano, or some other fairly bright piano patch (from a recorded sample library (as is the case with many of the best piano synths out there), and is really hammering on the keys, the inherent slight ring that all real pianos have, can take over in a most unnatural way. This is because when each key is hit, it plays the recorded sample of that specific key, at that specific dynamic. – So we can end up with six, seven, eight keys being pressed at once, with all corresponding samples playing at the same time. Now with an acoustic piano, there is only one piano body or frame. With these samples, we end up listening to many of the same piano frames, greatly exaggerating their response. Add it all up, and bang! 7 notes, and effectively 7 entire piano’s worth of inherent acoustic properties.

So pro tip, remember to check with the keyboard player during sound check, to see if any of their patches react like this. Get them to play some of the material from their loudest parts, and listen and see. It’ll really make a difference!