I know that Ivory has been around a while, and that this forum contains a lot of opinions about its use, so I hope no one will mind yet another I've been kicking around the idea of going software onstage for a few years now, and now that I've finally done so I though it might be helpful to someone to hear how things have gone for me.
I've been playing live for many years, and have always used simple setup with a dedicated stage piano and internal sounds (no extra bits, just me, my board, my stand/amp, and some cables). I generally play in rock/praise groups. I rarely sequence anything, rather I'm more interested in just live piano. I find myself drawn to darker, mellower piano sounds with character, and generally prefer use the darkest settings I can get away with and still cut a mix.
I recently finally put together enough gear to try software piano in a live setting, and I decided to purchased Ivory for that purpose. Ivory sounded pretty fantastic at home - I have some gripes but overall it has the richest character and authenticity of any digital piano I've ever played. I play the Steinway exclusively (not to be trendy, but it's really just my taste - I love the sound of a good Steinway).
I took Ivory to band rehearsal, and it was aweful. Many people on this forum have said it's more of a recordable piano and performs poorly in a live band, and even though I'm not afraid of a darker piano, I figured after that rehearsal that it was just not going to work out. I had to finish rehearsal using internal sounds on my friends controller.
Not willing to give up on playing Ivory live, I spent a lot of time playing with the velocity response. I knew that with 10 layers, Ivory has amazing detail in the soft velocities which is just part of what makes it so authentic. However, these softer velocities were just useless in a big loud mix. I tried using the Ivory patches with fewer layers, but honestly these didn't do the trick - can't explain - maybe these layers still have too much soft velocity in them? I tried using Ivory's min/max velocity settings and playing with the curve, but nothing really sounded like it would work. I finally happenned upon my controller's velocity offset setting, which just linearly translates the curve it sends up or down. I found that using this linear translation with Ivory set to 10-layer + linear curve, that I could effectively skip over the soft layers altogether. Adding +20 from my controller started making a sound that I thought would work really well in the band, but it still had a curve that I was used to playing with (my controller's curve).
After this adjustment, I took it out to a real performance, and it was absolutely fantastic - beyond my expectations. Band members and audience members went out of their way to say how freakishly authentic it was - that it sounded like we had a concert grand on stage (some band members who knew nothing about the samples even remarked that it sounded like we had a Steinway). It was plenty bright, tasty, and the authenticity was there in spades.
Even at +20 velocities, I was probably still playing 5 or 6 steinway layers - just the upper 5 or 6. I still felt like I had enough dynamic range at this setting, and soft strikes still produced just a little of that fuzzy-mellowness - just enough. On songs where the piano needed to be big and aggressive or in a dense mix, I would play at +20. On songs where the piano had more space to breathe, I could roll back to +15 or +10 to capitalize on the softer layers and get a more pouty character from Ivory. I never changed Ivory patches throughout the set, I would just linearly translate the same curve up and down - always using the same 10-layer Steinway.
I can say that I am extremely happy my new sound, and I am glad that I went software. In terms of sound quality and overall tastyness, this is a definate upgrade. I may find a more elegant way to get the velocity response I want, but even if not I have a workable solution.
As far as Ivory complaints, I have only two currently (all about the steinway - I don't use the yamaha or bosendorfer). Complaint #1, the midrange has a tonal quality that I can't describe well, but sounds a bit fake-ish - maybe to do with the mic. It's often not really noticable, but sometimes it just appears, and it makes me think of tin foil (weird I know, just having a hard time putting it into words). It's approximately between -8 and +8 semitones around middle C. Complaint #2 is that there's one note in particular that just sounds like it came from a different piano or on a different day (b-flat, right below middle C). I'm all for the character of having 88 keys + 10 layers, but if I had the option I'd remove this one key from the piano. I'd very much like to see Synthogy add the ability to edit the keysets in a future release.
So after all that, if you're still reading, I have a question for someone about my live rig. It's so darn complex now - it takes me 45 minutes to setup. I have a laptop, emu 1616m, external firewire hdd, dac-1, a rackmount ups, and about a bazilliions little cables. I'd like to rack all this up. I know gator makes those studio-4-go rack cabinets that cater to a laptop based daw, and I might very well go that way (and attach my non-rackable items to a 1U shelf with velcro or something maybe). It just feels wrong to me though, and I'd prefer I think to build a dedicated rackmountable pc. The problem with that is that all the cases I see are like 20" - 24" deep, and I hate being forced to get a huge, expensive, custom made box to fit such a beast, when all my other gear is only around 8 or 9 inches deep.
Can anyone recommend a good shallow rackmountable pc case? Maybe something where the system is vertical - like in a mid tower - does that even exist? I don't mind tall, I just don't want super-deep. Ideally, I'd like to get a cabinet with rear rails and permanently attach my midi & audio connectors to faceplates on the rear, but it means that I'd have to have at least 24 - 26 inches between front and rear rail!!! Is there a solution that I am missing? Any help would be so much appreciated.
Yes, that was one of the first things I tried. It doesn't sound the same to me. I've theorized that maybe the keysets with less layers aren't always dropping the bottom-most layers, but I may just be being a bonehead. I'll grant that I'm not super proficient with all this yet.
One advantage of offseting my controller's velocity and using the 10-layer version is that I avoid loading time in Ivory when changing keysets. From song to song, I can dial in the fuzzy-mellowness or super-aggressiveness without incurring a load.
I realize my post is rather nontechnical, but I felt compelled to write it since I've heard so many bad things about ivory as a live instrument in a band, and I feel like I've been able to make it work for me.
I just built a Gigastudio Drum DAW w/ LSAD for a guy in NYC. Before I even asked for any money I assumed there would be 2 cases involved.
Nobody wants to carry anything anymore, but w/o a road crew, guess what.
Who knows, chance favors the prepareded mind. Pretend you are going to be travelling by flying, you might not like the idea of sucess, but if you are prepared now, you will only need to pay for your flight, instead of an ATA case, an ATX 4U, and a flight. Get it right the first time.
If you want to get really extreme, the Brotha's go to A & S Case Company Hollywood. They have the best looking cases, that's for sure. Snakeskin, etc. All synthetic, but I raked my key across one of these at the NAMM show, notta. No scratch, etc. They are excellent looking cases, and built with the highest quality parts, at the highest quality prices.
Check ebay for cheaper solutions, make sure you get recessed hardware, and shock mounts though. Ivory sounds like a great instrument, give it a nice home. Unless you're doing jobs like High School dances, etc. Dad can drive you then.