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Topic: Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

  1. #1

    Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

    The pianos made for giga seem largely intended for solo classical pianists.
    After listening to all the mpgs at the three piano comparison web sites, I have yet to find a giga piano that has the sound I want.

    I want the sound of clear ringing notes, with overtones and without the brassy, metalic sound that appears to come from placing mics close to the strings instead of futher away, which would give the notes the space to form (without pushing us into the back of a hall). I also want good clear samples in the two octaves on either side of middle C, where I spend so much time.

    The sound of the Malmsjö Grand comes closest to this sound, but it seems a little quiet on the mpgs. (Is this my imagination?)

    The trouble may be that all of the pianos I\'ve heard are sampled grands, recorded with the lids up. I might better get the sound I want from a grand sampled with the lid down and from the player\'s position, or slightly further back. OR from a sampled studio, maybe a Steinway studio. I think, in other words, that the sound I want is the sound of the notes when the crisp, brassy string vibrations have been muffled\\muted\\absorbed and conditioned by the wood. After all, the sound I hear while playing a piano is not the sound of strings vibrating, but instead the sound made when the vibrations of the strings vibrate the sound board and cabinet. (My first instrument was acoustic guitar, and I learned there that a good recording captures not the vibration of the strings but of the sound board, which is after all responsible for amplifying the sound. To record the string alone and then amplify that sound is to get a loud version of a thin string vibrating, bypassing the wood that gives the intrument its timbre.)

    Clearly, I am not a sound engineer. Let me apologize in advance if my ignorance about the difficulties of sampling a piano are too clearly evident.

    On the other hand, does anyone know of a sampled piano that captures the full, liquid, woody timbre I\'m trying to describe, that would let me hold down a G major chord for example, or a Bud Powell 7/3 chord, and hear those great sounds without the metallic timbre?


  2. #2

    Re: Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

    I think almost all the piano samples I have heard are close mic\'d, lid open or off (malmso is probably one of the few exceptions to close micing).

    I also don\'t like metallic pianos, which includes too many pianos and way too many samples... To synthesize a metallic sound you use an inharmonic overtone series, and in a piano sample, you can get rid of some of that with a lowpass filter, which reduces the amplitude of the higher overtones.

    My favorite sample is the eastwest Boesendorfer, which I think is stunning. I\'ve modified it with lowpass filtering that opens up (lets the sample be brighter) with velocity and the mod wheel. I\'ve found it\'s necessary to modifiy most .gigs to get the sound I want, with mods this one is very versatile, clear, warm, and nuanced.

    Piano tone is really a personal thing, some people are not crazy about this sample (which amazes me, I wonder if their opinions would change if they heard my modifications, everyone who has played here has been stunned.) Anyway, no sample sounds like this one.

    > I want good clear samples in the two octaves on either side of middle C

    Seems reasonable doesn\'t it? I think the way our samples have been done this is often the most problematic range. With close stereo mics this area can fall between the two mics (ie aim the left mic at the bass, the right at the treble, and the mids appear off axis to both mics) So easy to get phase problems here with all the overtones, and since everyone knows exactly what a piano is supposed to sound like, so easy to spot. Even if it\'s done perfectly, it might not work in all monitoring environments, which might account for some folks\' preferences.

    > Bud Powell 7/3 chord, and hear those great sounds

    You probably also hear the sympathetic resonances and interplay, I don\'t (yet) believe this can be faked well with a sampler, hopefully you can find what you want without it.

    But maybe you can get where you need with filtering? A lowpass filter makes the sound more muted and distant, like closing the lid or listening from the next room (depending on the filters cutoff frequency).

    good luck!

  3. #3

    Re: Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

    Piano for songwriter.

    We have sampled the piano which was used by Elton John to write his entire new album.

    We used a binaural head in the position of \"Elton\" so you can be \"Elton\" in Virtual Reality. Also the piano was put in the exact same position in the studio (Sony).

    This is THE piano for writing. 4 layers and sustained samples 1.6 GB. Very warm and very inspiring 160 voices strongly recommended!

    Sampled with 96/24 Radar using NEVE preamps.

  4. #4

    Re: Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

    Franz, everything you post sounds like \"whatever you happen to be looking for, some vrsound sample is the ultimate\" though you never constructively add to any thread.

    Yamaha has to be the most metallic sounding piano ever made, and I would never mistake your demo for anything but a sampled piano.

  5. #5

    Re: Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

    I\'m looking for the piano you described also, and I was most impressed with the Malmsjo (MP3s).

    You probably already know this, but just in case: Malmsjo has now got an \'added\' velocity layer and there is a \'rock model\' as well. I\'m not sure if there are any MP3s showing the new \'louder\' versions. There are so many choices, it\'s going to take me forever to decide. The good thing is that they are all pretty cheap. But I haven\'t heard anything negative at all about the Malmsjo (apart from the original lacking in \'loud\' dynamics - but then I suspect that\'s the character of the piano). I\'m almost certain I\'ll go for it (but not yet).

    (Or you could go for Franz\'s piano - it\'s intimate and warm and loud and brassy, it\'s recorded closely and from far away; it makes the coffee and you get to have with Elton John after every session (just kidding Franz ;-)

  6. #6
    Senior Member LHong's Avatar
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    May 2000
    San Jose, Ca, USA

    Re: Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

    unmetallic piano? hardly found one yet! Since everything are mastering digitally even mixers, effect/dynamic/mastering-tools as well as in digital domain. Not only piano-samples, try to listen on other samples like guitars, basses, brasses, strings, which are same metallic personality (crystal-clear sounding)

    1> analog recording, sampling and mixing.
    2> using digital in lower sample-rate like 32khz or lower.
    3> using good acoustic-simulated-processing or good analog-verbs.

  7. #7

    Re: Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

    Thanks for all the replies and information. I\'m not sure I understand Mr. Hong\'s response, however.

    I want a crystal clear recording. My impression has been that the piano samples I\'ve heard were highly accurate reproductions of the sound, but of the wrong sound--of the air vibrating very close to metal strings instead of the more distant air (where the overtones \"mingle\") and vibrating wood that create much of the timbre.

    I don\'t notice the metallic sound Mr. Hong refers to on all samples. Not for example, string samples like the Dan Dean solo strings cello. On the other hand, I\'m aware of the argument that analogue sounds warmer. But for a sample to be a sample available on a computer, as I understand these things, the analogue sound would have to be converted to digital, so we would get a sample of a sample. Not good, I would think. On the other hand, this might give us a sound closer to what we want, if I may say \"we.\"

    I am clearly out of my depths here. Can those of you with a good understanding of contemporary recording techniques weigh in about the results of using analogue samples, or lower sampling rates to achieve a less brittle sound? Has anyone tried sampling good, all analogue based recordings to get a less brittle sound?

    And please help keep my goal in mind here in this discussion: to find a sampled a piano without too evident brassy reverbations after each note. Please let me know if such a piano sound already exists. Thanks, Sam, for the discussion of the Bos, and thanks, Z6, for the discussion of the Malmsjo. These seem to be the best candidates so far.

    Thanks again for all the responses.

  8. #8

    Re: Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

    I am currently working in Sweden, and have the opportunity to play a Malmsjö in a local church after hours. It is only an upright, but it has a full bodied, beautiful mellow tone. The 16th century churches reverb doesn\'t hurt either. It convinced me to go with ArtVista\'s Malmsjö Acoustic Grand. What a sample. I prefer it a great deal over the original Gigapiano, and the Bosendorfer. I haven\'t heard the Steinway samples though.

    I didn\'t base my purchase decision on the mp3\'s either, I was just lucky enough to try out the real thing. For $90US, you can\'t go wrong, and Hans Adamson at ArtVista is a great guy to deal with.
    Good luck

  9. #9

    Re: Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

    To Sam.

    I have sampled a lot of instruments this year and I have a lot of very good stuff to offer for GS. I don\'t know what could be more constructive.

    \"whatever you happen to be looking for, some vrsound sample is the ultimate\" I never said it, but it is true. Thanks for the quote!

    I would also like to add that the sound in a piano is generated by soft hammers striking metal objects which are suspended within a metal frame. Maybe that\'s why it sounds \"metallic\".
    Yamaha pianos are used by many of the best pianists of our time!

    [This message has been edited by franz (edited 11-09-2001).]

  10. #10

    Re: Best, unmetallic piano for a songwriter

    Hi Cave, at the moment I\'m only using an old Roland D-70, but the Malmsjo sounds great with it. I have my eyes on a Yamaha S80, so I hope to really make the Malmsjo and all my other instruments come alive with it. I don\'t compose orchestral music, so I can\'t help you there.

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