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Topic: Pedal-down sample troubles with pianos

  1. #1

    Pedal-down sample troubles with pianos

    I have found out that sampled pianos have trouble with notes played with pedal-down. The sound of a note that is played with pedal-down on a real piano depends on when do you press the pedal down. Before or after pressing the note.

    If you press the note prior to pressing the pedal, the resonances will not be the same since the initial note atack will note spread to the other strings as hard. If you do it after you press the pedal the resonances will be stronger.

    So, when you sample piano for pedal-down you are doomed to do it wrong:

    1. you do note-on followed by pedal-down for all notes

    2. you do pedal-down followed by note-on for all notes

    3. you are inconsistent and you do it randomly

    All three approaches are bad since many piano performance need precise control of when is pedal pressed down since that affects the sound a lot!

    Any comments/ideas? Is it possible to fix this?

    Some samples sound weird since with pedal-down you almost feel they are played like a soft stacatto, although you may play long notes. Completely destroys the feel of a real piano.

    Which sampled pianos do not suffer much from the above effects (personally I do not like pedal-up only samples...)?

    Is it possible to sample pedal-down notes always with a damper pedal to compensate, or press notes a bit softer and keep them long if sampling with pedal-down prior to note-on?

    Is there a sampled piano that would sound realistic no matter when the pedal-down happens?

    Is there any advantage using specific sampler (GS vs. Halion vs. Kontakt) in this respect?


  2. #2

    Re: Pedal-down sample troubles with pianos

    Hi Bodgan,

    The magic word is re-pedalling. It boils down to the limitations of current sampler playback software. You simply had to decide BEFORE playing a note wheter it should have the pedal down or the pedal up sample. Thus you press the pedal before you press the note on.
    This is basicly worng, as you indicate. In normal piano playing you are allowed to use the pedal whenever you need. And the sound responds to that.

    This is exactly what PMI had in mind when we developed the GRANDIOSO FX software tool for Giga. In short this utility enables us to crossfade from the pedal up sample to the pedal down sample when you press the pedal. True re-pedalling. You can for example: play note on, add pedal, release pedal and then release the note. The sound will respond as in a real piano.
    i have two small clips demosntrating this effect on our website:

    The GRANDIOSO FX plug-in can be used with GigaStudio on all PMI GRANDIOSO grand pianos (PMI Bosendorfer 290, the PMI Steinway D and the PMI POP/ROCK piano (C7)).

    You can read more about this plug-in for Giga here: Grandioso FX
    or on our website:

  3. #3

    Re: Pedal-down sample troubles with pianos

    oh... forgot to mention that the new GigaStudio version 3 software will have this functionality built-in. So in a few months you will have this option available in the standard application. Piano libraries will have to be re-programmed to use this feature, but since it is vital for realistic results I believe every serious piano library developer will use these features.

    We have also implemented the true-repedalling in our Kompakt player version (Virtual Instrument) of the PMI Bosendorfer 290. And in the Kontakt and HALion versions of the GRANDIOSO grand piano series. Visit www.postpiano.com for details.

  4. #4

    Re: Pedal-down sample troubles with pianos

    In Kontakt you can program re-pedalling manually (I use it for my piano libs, plays much better):

    - set \'group start\' to \'always\' for every non-release sample group. Now the pedal-up and pedal-down samples will always be played together.

    - add a \'midi-cc\' moderator to the \'amplifier\' of the pedal-up sample groups; set the controller to 64 (the sustain pedal) and set the slider to -100%, then set the crossover-time in the digit-box behind the slider. (I use 1500ms.) Now the pedal-up samples will fade out in the crossover-time when pressing the pedal.

    - add a \'midi-cc\' moderator to the \'amplifier\' of the pedal-down sample groups; set the controller to 64 and set the slider to +100%, then set the crossover-time in the digit-box behind the slider to the same time used for the pedal-up samples. Now the pedal-down samples will fade in in the crossover-time when pressing the pedal.

    This greatly improves the control you have over the piano, since the sustain pedal is now a direct sound-effect. I often press the pedal just after playing a chord, so the chord will be more focussed when hit (more like a percussion instrument), while it will then smoothen to give you a full range of harmonics to back melody playing.

    The only down-side is, two samples will be played on every note, thereby reducing the polyphony by two.

  5. #5

    Re: Pedal-down sample troubles with pianos

    Thanks for the answers. I was guessing crossfading would do the trick.

    Still, in some sampled pianos there are problems with pedal-down samples themselves. The sound would depend on the quality of the pianos. Although some older or \"ancient\" pianos could have generally good sound (even better than many new pianos), their mechanics is often in bad shape and certain notes do not play as well as others. Some call it character, I call it simply bad piano [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img] As a pianist I consider myself the one who gives a character to the piece of music, and I\'d prefer piano not to stand in the way of that creative process.

    As a consequence pedal-down on some notes of some sampled pianos does not behave well across even small sections of a keyboard. In some cases it is the piano mechanics that is deteriorating and the hammers do not act the same way if pedal is up or down. Shouldn\'t happen, but may happen.

    In other cases it is inappropriate recording techniques where people try to squeeze out as much dynamic range even from p or pp notes by boosting the microphone sensitivity or pre-amp to the point of saturation which results in less than natural sound of notes that are supposed to be quiet. Some parts (artifacts) of the sound that normally you wouldn\'t hear at so low loudness suddenly start to dominate the sample. Ugly!

    In other cases pedal-down notes are played very short by the person who samples the piano. You may think it wouldn\'t make a difference since the pedal is down anyway [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img] Well, it does make a difference. When people play short notes with pedal-down, they tend to play them with a bit more of attack (a bit more of a force impulse). When playing a long note (keep your finger down with a key pressed down throughout the complete resonance of pedal-down sample) the initial attack tends to be less dominant. Hence, the sampled sound would be different, based on how you play the notes that are with pedal-down.

    Somehow, I think the problem is that most of the sampled pianos out-there fail to achieve all of the following:

    a) perfect condition of the mechanics (some pianos are good for museums not real performance, especially if you plan to capture all 88 or more notes)

    b) extremely well controlled note excitation during recording process. All mf notes should be mf with small margin of error in loudness. Normalization as a method of reducing variance in loudness is not a good way to go since the piano sound depends a lot on the strength of actual excitation. Once the damage is done, no normalization in the world would be possible to correct it since individual notes would have too much of a different \"character\".

    c) proper recording procedure (no artificial microphone boosts, or extreme sample normalizations or eq-filterings that kill realism of the sampled sound, plus relatively dry recording allowing controlled reverberation during mixing)

    d) minimum 4 velocity levels (preferably 6). I think there should be 4 levels (p, mf, f, ff) with addition of extreme soft (ppp) and extreme loud (fff). Optimally, one should add (pp) as well for total of 7 levels. The low level sounds are more important than very loud ones. (it may be OK not to sample pp on some pianos...)

    If you bang on a piano, you do not need much than 2 levels (ff, fff). Especially if you have piano as a part of a band you may get away with 4 or less levels and you probably do not need anything below p or mf. However, for solo piano pieces it is not responsible to try producing real great samples without considering the above 7 levels (ppp,pp,p,mf,f,ff,fff). (with (pp) as optional)

    Recording should be done using software controlled robotic arm or something that can be controlled more precisely. The pianist will add human component while playing. No need to add human talent for inconsistency and error during the recording/sampling process!

    Clearly, producing a perfect sampled piano is both art and science at its best.

    Are there any sampled pianos that would meet all of the above minimum requirements? [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]


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