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Topic: How are layers really used in piano libraries?

  1. #1

    How are layers really used in piano libraries?

    I\'m sorry to take up bandwidth with such a basic question, but I\'m new to this part of MIDImusic manipulation. I\'m trying to understand the value of layers and how GigaSampler uses them. Can someone help me with a basic explanation?

    My assumption has been that each layer covers just a range of volumes played for a certain note, and that the set of layers then covers the full ranges of volumes. I\'m guessing that MIDI volumes 0-31 map to one layer, 32-63 to the next, and so on. (Assuming 4 layers in the library...)

    Since the better libraries advertise pedal up and pedal down layers, I\'m assuming that which set of layers is called when I play a key is changed based on whether I\'m on the pedal or not.

    Beyond that, I see release samples. I\'m not at all sure if they are layers, or just more audio information played back when a key is released.

    To confound my confusion, I\'m totally unclear whether each of these audio layers takes up a MIDI channel, or do they all appear in the same gig file and get loaded into a single entry within GigaSampler?

    I\'m certainly interested in understanding this before I go buy a multi-layer library and find it\'s not going to fit into my system or something.

    Thanks in advance for helping a new guy figure this out.

    With best regards,

  2. #2

    Re: How are layers really used in piano libraries?

    You\'re confusing the word \"layer\" and \"dimension\"

    In GigaStudio you are allowed 32 dimensions. this allows for a multitude of variations on the ay you \"split\" the dimensions

    Yu can have 32 mono velocity splits, or 16 stereo (2 voices per \"dimension/split)

    or 8 velocity split stereo with two key trigger \"dimension switches* (8*2*2= 32)

    There are a multitude of variations...that most devloprs still find limiting.

    Anyhow, you\'re on the right track with pianos

    Typically ey use 4 stero velocity split, meaning 4 differnt samples per note (if chromatically sampled), and which note that plays is dfined by how hard you strike the key on your keyboard/controller. then there are two sustain pedal triggers (on/off). which, dpending on if the pedal is depressed or not, triggers different samples, then 2 Release triggers, that automatically trigger \"decay\" samples when a key is released on your keyboard/controller. thats 16 stereo dimensions. Since its stereo this means the maximum amount of Dimensions is being used.

    All of this is ONE gig file. Meaning its all one instrument you loaed up and play. Most developers give variations on this instrument within the same gig file. Allowing you to choose a \"lighter\" piano if you have memory constraints (Pianos take lots of smples and is heavy on memory requirements).

    Maybe I\'ve jsut confused you more.. I dunno

    there are ways to get around the limitations, by some inventive programming. Its quite possible to crete a piano instrumet with 8 velocity layers and no release triggers. Or even more inventive a 16 layer one with multiple gigaports and even more creative 3 gigaports and still having release triggers.

    hoever the polyphony count would get extremely high without the aid of an extra MIDI tool.
    Really...I am an Idiot

    [This message has been edited by KingIdiot (edited 01-30-2002).]

  3. #3

    Re: How are layers really used in piano libraries?

    Hello Mark,

    It looks as though you have pretty well figured this entire concept out on your own, with intuitive thinking.

    Yes, each velocity layer is a different group of samples, which were played and recorded at that volume, and also there are completely different groups of samples at all of the velocity layers, which were played and sample recorded with both pedal up and pedal down, and finally, the release samples are the sound of the notes when you let up on a key, such as the sound you hear on a real piano when you let up on a key, which is the diminishing resonant sound. Even though the damper on a real piano comes down on the strings in order to dampen the sound, there is a resonance which continues for a short period of time, and will vary depending on the acoustics and the size of the room.

    Release samples are especially effective on pianos, and stringed instruments, such as acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins, banjos, etc., where you can actually have the sound of the finger coming off of the finger board on those instruments, which adds a great deal of life and realism to these instruments.

    In response to the second part of your question, all of these various velocity layers of both pedal up, pedal down, and release, are all contained in a single instrument file, which is loaded and played on a single midi channel.

    Bardstown Audio

  4. #4

    Re: How are layers really used in piano libraries?

    KingIdiot and Kip,
    Thanks for the responses. This is helping.

    As I drove home from work this evening I realized that I really should not confuse the idea of volume with velocity. While they may lead to similar audio in the end, they are certainly different. I am thinking that GigaSampler must map the velocity of a key strike to a layer in the library, and then apply a MIDI volume number to scale the audio in that layer to have the right output volume. (All of this on a note by note basis IF the piano is sampled note by note...)

    Is this a bit closer to the truth?

    Now, knowing nothing at all about this 3 days ago, I went out and bought an inexpensive piano sample disk. I hadn\'t found the Digital Piano Shootout site, so for $40 I got the East West Ultimate Piano Steinway disks to play with. While they are serving the purpose of getting me going, I must say that so far I\'m really, terribly disappointed in the sound I\'m getting from this. I\'m sure that some of it is \'You get what you pay for\', but I\'m curious as to whether I messed something up in the conversion or have not determined how to get the most out of this thing.

    I\'ve posted a Bach piece:

    This is a 500MHz PIII using GigaStudio and an Audiophile 2496 card. I\'ve streamed it out using s/pdif into my Pro Tools LE system, recorded, bounced and normalized only. At no time did anything approach clipping on either the PTLE machine or the GigaSampler machine. I think the process is clean. I listened a few times and can\'t spot any clicks and pops. PTLE was playing the MIDI file, so I can do this test for other libraries or other settings on this library.

    The first half, at low volume, isn\'t too bad, but there is no real life to the sound. It\'s just sort of lifeless to me. Possibly a little reverb or EQ might help...

    At 2:00 minutes into this piece it goes to a louder passage. I must say that I really dislike the sound at this point. It seems totally saturated. It hardly sounds like a piano to me. Granted, it\'s better than a lot of sound modules, but you\'d never fool anybody in my opinion.

    Now, I don\'t want to pick on East West. This is a low cost product. I\'m just trying to understand the capabilites of a library like this before I purchase an expensive one. Since I had to create the GIG from Akai samples, I presume that means there are no variations that I can choose? Or are there somewhere and I haven\'t found them?

    Also, since this 2-disk package had wave files, and each note had only one wave file, is this a single \'layer\' library?

    I truly dislike the sound of this library on a key release. I cringe every time I let go of a key. I presume there are no key release samples because there was nothign like that in the wave directory.

    Thanks again for your help. Hopefully my questions are not truly stupid.


    [This message has been edited by Mark_Knecht (edited 01-30-2002).]

  5. #5

    Re: How are layers really used in piano libraries?

    Mark, in case you\'re interested, I\'ve posted two versions of the C Major Prelude (Bach) at http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/42/john_lewis_grant.html

    For slower connections: http://www.mp3.com/stations/bach_wtc_1_part1 http://www.mp3.com/stations/wtc2

    Without giving away the secrets of the midi file, which is the product of years of on and off work, it never exceeds vel 96 and stays entirely within the middle vel layer of the Steinway B. I also use a bit of the MAG sample to soften the harshness of the Steinway.

    BTW, that prelude, simple as it is, is the hardest piece I have ever sampled.

    John Grant

  6. #6

    Re: How are layers really used in piano libraries?

    Thanks for sharing your site with me. I\'ve been enjoying it for about an hour now.

    This is a great body of work you\'ve put together. How long have you been doing this?

    I certainly wouldn\'t ask for any of the secrets (or at least not in public!) but maybe you\'d share a bit more about how you\'ve gone about putting all of this together? Where have you done the work? What sort of equipment?

    I\'m sure this must be the more expensive East West Steinway? (if it\'s EW at all) The one I\'m using I think is much lower quality.

    I\'m sure it\'s been quite a project.

    With best regards,

    [This message has been edited by Mark_Knecht (edited 02-03-2002).]

  7. #7

    Re: How are layers really used in piano libraries?

    Well, I\'ve played a lot of the material personally for years. I started the midi work about a year and a half ago. The real challange at this point is to get the sample to sound completely real, indistinguishable from the real. That\'s a matter of fiddling with ALL three of the midi file, the samples, and the reverb.

    It\'s a lot of fun, and at this point nobody out there in piano land even suspects, much less actually guesses, that the work is midi and uses a sampled sound. That wasn\'t true in the early stages, but I\'ve managed to improve over time.

    The weakest part of the project at this point is the reverb, then the sound of the sample itself. Yup, Steinway B is the EW product, and I do it all on my antiquated pentium 2 pc with a mere 256 meg ram. I\'m thinking of upgrading to 512, because I\'m running into problems with a few pieces. I\'ve got a bottom of the line Fatar controller for input purposes.

    I\'m impressed with the Post demos for his new Steinway sample. I may anti up the CAN dollars (about 500) to buy it.

    It sure would help if someone were to come up with a simple, and I mean SIMPLE, guide to the inner workings of editing samples with GS. That\'s been pretty hard. The manual is useless, or close to it. (That\'s an old story.)


    PS The \"Moonlight\" is pretty bad IMO. I haven\'t had time to revamp it.

    [This message has been edited by john g (edited 02-03-2002).]

  8. #8

    Re: How are layers really used in piano libraries?

    I agree. I really don\'t think most people would ever guess that it\'s sampled. That part is becoming quite convincing.

    What tools are you using for your MIDI work? I\'m in Pro Tools. (PTLE/001) It\'s just fine for normal recording, but it\'s MIDI interface seems somewhat difficult. Sort of difficult to edit individual parts and all.

    I\'d like to find a simple tool for editing MIDI only. I\'d still need to merge that MIDI back with my other instruments to build the final songs.


    [This message has been edited by Mark_Knecht (edited 02-03-2002).]

  9. #9

    Re: How are layers really used in piano libraries?


    I did a bit of research before settling on Cakewalk. Cake isn\'t considered a \"serious\" midi program by the pros. But it works for me because it allows 1) simple and yet ultra precise graphic tempo changes. You\'ve got to have that for any kind music where phrasing is important; 2) colour-coded tracks, which is incredibly useful for Bach where each voice can be given its own colour code (you can quickly see the relationship between the voices of a fugue); 3) tempo down to a usefully low value. Also, Cake\'s totally compatible with GS. I had trouble with audio logic and cubase, although I imagine that\'s been fixed in later eds.

    I\'m not that happy with cake\'s hot keys and cal scripts. It\'s a pain to compress velocities, something which can be key to the audio quality of the wav. file.

    Trust that\'s of some use.


  10. #10

    Re: How are layers really used in piano libraries?

    Yes, it is useful. Thanks!

    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size=\"1\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by john g:
    Trust that\'s of some use.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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