I've searched around the internet and this forum seems to be the perfect place to ask my question, please have patience with me since i hardly know anything about sampling/midi/digital sound and so on...
I will probably ask questions that are covered in a FAQ or a beginner post somewhere. If so, i'm sorry. I've searched around a bit and tried to read up on what i want to know but there's just too much info everywhere.
So, what am i looking for? Actually, i'm not really sure!
I play the Piano, mostly classical. I used to have a Grand Piano but when i moved there was no place for it so i sold it and now i'm playing on a digital Piano (Kawai CA950).
I'm pretty happy with this piano, it's not a grand piano by a long shot but it's good enough for me to practise on.
I only play as a hobby, i've got no proffesional plans.
It sounds ok, but (and now i'm finally approaching the point) i've listened to demos of different samples of pianosounds on the net that are much better!
I didn't think much of it at first, there's no way i can change the samples that are in my Kawai anyway, i've thought.
But i believe i can "change" the samples? Not actually change the samples that the Kawai holds as much as using other means to get better sound.
From what i understand i have many options, of which all costs a fair bit of money. Hardware with samples i can plug into the Kawai or software for the PC and then plug the Kawai into the PC.
I've read about soundfonts, how does this work? What do i need to use theese, and how do i go about it. Are there any free soundfonts that are any good i could test?
I don't have my PC in the same room as the piano today, so a hardware solution would be better though. On the other hand, there are advantages with a PC solution (recording purposes, the possibility to upgrade to better sounds in the future and more).
My PC is a P4 2.2 with 512MB ram and a SB Audigy. I also have an old Yamaha SW60XG soundcard, but it doesn't fit in this PC (no ISA connection) to use this i have to put it in my old P3 933 PC.
So... Do you have any suggestions? Is there a way i can get better/richer, more real piano sound than from my Kawai CA950. It's a bit thin, especially in the bass.
Maybe there even is a way to change the actual samples in the piano? I don't know how they are stored in the Kawai.
Sorry for all the newbie questions, this is a new area (almost) for me.
Practically speaking, you can't change the sound of your Kawaii in any significant way.
You can choose a hardware solution - another electric piano, or an add-on module which can be played from the Kawaii, but there are many compromises made to get a piano sound into a hardware box. The sound can be quite pleasant, or not so good at all. Only you can decide what is 'good enough' for your purposes.
Hardware's major advantage is that it is 'plug 'n play', portable, and generally bug-free. Push the power switch and play. The same can't be said for a PC solution.
On the other hand, some of the sound design compromises which must be made in hardware electric pianos can be ignored when software and a computer are used.
With software you get advantages like:
Longer samples - full length recorded notes with no 'loops'
Chromatic samples - every note is recorded. No sample is 'stretched'.
More velocity layers - more samples recorded at different dynamics. Much less use of synthesizer filters to 'fake' real piano dynamics.
Improved sounds as technology advances - innovations like convolution reverbs and release triggered samples adds more realism to the result.
A lower cost of obsolescence. Once you've invested in the PC, updating from a 2003 piano library to a 2005 piano library is not anywhere near as expensive as updating from a 2003 Kawaii pianoboard to a 2005 Kawaii pianoboard.
With an ASIO compliant Audigy card and a P4, you should be able to simply purchase a midi cable and one of the NI Kompakt based piano libraries and be 'good to go'. The CA950 may even allow use of a 'line in' conection so that the computer's audio is amplified via the piano's speakers.
Which piano? That's a question few of us would be brave enough to answer. Have a look over the forum. There are some recent posts raving about one or two of the newer libraries.
BTW. Software pianos demand a lot of resources from a computer, especially if you want 'low latency' response equivalent to a hardware piano.
Before sinking a chunk of money into a new piano library, I would strongly recommend trying the software out on YOUR system. Although your P4 should be more than up to the task, it may also need some tweaking before you can perform without occasional clicks or pops in the audio. If your local 'hi tech' music shop is any good, they'll be able to help you out with optimising your PC settings.
Chad is right, but let me try to help to clarify some things. As far as upgrading your keyboard "sorry", your PC is your ticket to ride. As far as Soundfonts go, I don't think that's what your looking for. Many of us only use a Soundfont (if at all) after we've tweaked it to death for that one sound we couldn't find anywhere else.
First thing: buy a MIDI cable. If you don't know what that is, it plugs in from the back of your keyboard to your computer (either via USB or your soundcard). Google "MIDI cable or adapter" and you'll find plenty of info. Their cheap too ($15-30). Just so you know this cable doesn't send audio information, strictly MIDI. So you won't get any "sound" using this cable.
Second: What you are probably looking for is what Chad described. NI programs don't need a "host" program, the jist is it's easier to use and less expensive. Go to www.soundsonline.com and take a look at the Galaxy 5.1 and the Bosendorfer 290. I think they are both around $200 or so. (Cheaper than a new keyboard though) Personally I think you are best off buying one of these two. Go ahead and listen to the demo MP3s and see what you think.
One more thing, unless you do have an audio return on your Kawai you will need to listen to your music through your soundcard on your PC. So if you need to, get a nice pair of headphones or some good computer speakers. Good luck!
Thanks a lot for your input.
I do have a midicable, i got it bundled with the piano. I have had it plugged into the PC for a while just to test and it worked good.
But the sound in the PC (i believe theese sounds/samples are the ones that is in the soundcard...the SB Audigy) isn't good, the pianosound in the Kawai itself is MUCH better.
I've looked in the Kawai manual but i don't really know if i have "audio return".
I have the following jacks on the piano: Headphone, midi in, midi out, midi through, line in and line out.
The manual says something about "Multi-timbral", don't know what that is though. "16 part multi-timbral capacity" it says.
I do have a pair of fairly good headphones: Beyerdynamics BT531, which i think sounds great. Much better sound with theese on, than with the Kawai internal speakers atleast.
I'll take a look at soundsonline, and check out thoose programs you mentioned. But i think i need to visit a store and hear thoose sounds "live" before i spend $200 though.
Thanks again for all the help.
I've been doing some research, and i've been looking at solutions to get my piano hooked to my computer.
Conclusion... I'd MUCH rather go with a hardware solution, and skip the computer part alltogether if it is at all possible to get really good pianosound without the PC!
As it is now, i have my Digital piano in the livingroom and my PC in a (small) office. There's no way i can have the PC in the livingroom, i have too much other things i need the PC for so that's not an option.
Moving the piano into the office is not a good solution either...it will be very crowded in there and i also loose the possibility to play some pianomusic for friends which i do from time to time.
So, a midi hardware module is the only good solution.
I visited a musicstore to check out some modules but they didn't have much, and what little they had wasn't hooked up so i could listen to it!
I've checked around for reviews on different hardware, and found lots i can add, but i haven't found ONE review that says anything about pianosound!?
I simply want to know if there is a module out there which will make my Kawai CA950 sound more like a real Grand Piano, doesn't seem like there's a big market for this since no one mention this in the reviews.
Most modules comes with heaps of different sounds and stuff, which i will probably not use at all since i'm only interested in the pianosound.
I also looked at new digital pianos, and to get better sound/action than my current one i need to spend almost $7000!! (The Yamaha GT20).
The action in my Kawai is quite good in my view, if i could get as good sound as the GT20 with a module, i'd be happy to spend $500 for it.
Just for info, my main interest is just playing the Piano. Classical mostly, i don't need lots of sounds and stuff. I just want the piano to sound as good as humanly possible without spending too much money.
If i had $7000 to spare, i would go out and buy a Grand Piano! But i don't have that kind of money.
Do any of you know which (if any) modules have great pianosound, or is a new piano the only way to go??
Most soundmodules I've encountered probably wont have piano sounds that can better the ones in your Kawai.
I'd recommend purchasing a decent P4 laptop (something small that can perhaps sit on or by the piano so's not to take up too much space) that has as much RAM in it as possible. Purchase an Echo Indigo PCMCIA card for it for audio purposes and low latency (when you hit a note on the keyboard, the sound delay will be small enough to be pretty much un-noticeable). Then purchase the software/samples needed. There are a mass of choices but, as it seems you are someone who just wants to do as little setting up as possible, then maybe the Bosendorfer 290 rompler piano will be a good choice as this can run without any additional software and is a very playable instrument. You'll just have to turn the laptop on, wait for XP to load and then click on the icon and load the desired piano preset. Very simple and pretty quick - and a LOT cheaper than shelling out all that extra cash.
Thanks T Park, seems a PC is the only way to go. A laptop would be a good solution i think, but a P4 with sufficient grunt to run this will cost over $1000 i guess. I'll have to think about it.
I don't mind fiddling around with the software to get what i want, it's just that i thought it would be cheaper to get a module than to buy both a computer and then software for it.
A 30ft midicable would do the trick otherwise But i don't think they come in that length, and if i would make one that length myself do you think it would be too much resistance in such a long cable for it to work properly?
Walking to the office and start the software (for example Bosendorfer 290) and then go back to the livingroom would work otherwise.
Tocca... Yeah I am not pulling your leg when I say go with the PC/software solution. I can't tell you the money I wasted on hardware before diving into sampling! I'm p r e t t y sure that midi messages would degrade over the 30 ft. distance, but don't quote me on that. If you really, really HAVE to go with a hardware solution. I remember listening to something called a "nano piano" module several years ago that sounded good. I think it was made by Kurzweil. Keep in mind though this was BEFORE my introduction to the realism provided by sampling. You won't find ANY module that will be as realistic as a software solution. Most modules base their piano sounds off of 64-256 MBs of memory whereas your software based piano are 256-1000 MBs. Huge difference in sound!