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Topic: I need help understanding/choosing piano software instrument

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  1. #1

    I need help understanding/choosing piano software instrument

    Hi everyone,

    this is my first post. I'm new to software sample libraries (not even sure I'm using the terminology correctly...), having always played using just the onboard sample of my now very old and outdated Roland RD-500 digital piano.

    I need some help understanding how these software instruments work (e.g., the Garritan Steinway instruments available for download); what I can do with them; what other software (if any) I need to "run" them on my PC, etc.

    My most immediate use for them (if this is possible) would be to re-record some hundreds of MIDI files of my performances that I've recorded over recent years. So far the only versions I have of these use the very limited onboard piano sounds of my old RD-500. Is it possible to generate CD-quality recordings of these files just using one of these downloadable software instruments? Would I run into problems with the articulation, note duration etc. on these files, given that my performances were based on the limitations of the RD-500 samples I was listening to while recording them?

    Also, which library/libraries might suit me best? My style is mostly jazz-influenced improvisation, with minimalist/experimental/atonal inflections (think Keith Jarrett solo stuff, The Necks (great Oz piano trio), etc.), although I do love the sound of the classical Steinway, Kawai and Yamaha concert grands.

    Finally, is it also possible to run these libraries "live" from my old Roland RD-500? Would there be any advantages in getting a newer DP or other sort of keyboard controller? (This wouldn't be for live gigs, just for my own listening, while recording new MIDI files for later editing.)

    Hoping there's someone reading this who can help me with these sorts of questions

    Many thanks!

  2. #2

    Re: I need help understanding/choosing piano software instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by kotrab View Post
    I need some help understanding how these software instruments work (e.g., the Garritan Steinway instruments available for download); what I can do with them; what other software (if any) I need to "run" them on my PC, etc.
    The software instruments either run out of the box, or need for you to buy a sampler application to run them (usually Kontakt). The Garritan Steinway runs out of the box. Roughly half of the pianos you could get run out of the box, and the other half need a sampler - you'd just need to check their web page and you could find out.

    You'll need a MIDI interface on your computer too, in order to hook up your RD-500 to the computer. Really... you'll also want an audio interface that supports ASIO too. If you don't have any of this, just get an audio interface that supports ASIO and has a MIDI in, and you'll be good.


    My most immediate use for them (if this is possible) would be to re-record some hundreds of MIDI files of my performances that I've recorded over recent years. So far the only versions I have of these use the very limited onboard piano sounds of my old RD-500. Is it possible to generate CD-quality recordings of these files just using one of these downloadable software instruments? Would I run into problems with the articulation, note duration etc. on these files, given that my performances were based on the limitations of the RD-500 samples I was listening to while recording them?
    You could do this with the Garritan Steinway, and I expect with most (though not all) other software pianos. Again, a check of the web page will do the trick. You probably won't have any significant drawbacks regarding note duration, but note velocity never scales exactly from one keyboard to the next or one software instrument to the next. So that will be a drawback. Even so, I'd expect you'll find pretty much any modern software piano to be such a step up from the RD-500 sound (I used to have one in 1998), that you'll prefer the results from the software renderings.


    Also, which library/libraries might suit me best? My style is mostly jazz-influenced improvisation, with minimalist/experimental/atonal inflections (think Keith Jarrett solo stuff, The Necks (great Oz piano trio), etc.), although I do love the sound of the classical Steinway, Kawai and Yamaha concert grands.
    It's hard to say. You might want to check out the different products on the web to see what you like. Just so you know, I do most of the work on the Garritan Steinway. I think the chances are good the Steinway basic edition would suit you nicely, as it's an under the lid perspective and very well voiced. There are other pianos out there that are good too.

    Finally, is it also possible to run these libraries "live" from my old Roland RD-500? Would there be any advantages in getting a newer DP or other sort of keyboard controller? (This wouldn't be for live gigs, just for my own listening, while recording new MIDI files for later editing.)
    You can probably use most any software piano live from the RD-500 (provided you have an audio/midi interface). You'd probably save quite a bit of money keeping the RD-500 and getting one or two software pianos, and you'd likely get better sound that way too. On the other hand, if you find that you can get a new DP with an action you like a lot or if your RD-500's action is shot, a new DP or a new MIDI controller could be a good idea. As I said before, you'll want a decent audio/midi interface for your computer if you use any software piano.

    Hope this helps!

  3. #3

    Re: I need help understanding/choosing piano software instrument

    A few other things you may want to think about long term are first, getting a separate large hard drive for your sample libraries. These libraries tend to be large. You'll want a HD that's at least 7200 RPM and it would be a good idea to get one that has a nice cache like 32MB or better.

    Most newer PC's already have at least 2G of RAM, but if you have an older PC, you'll probably want to make sure you have at least 2G or RAM.

  4. #4

    Thumbs up Re: I need help understanding/choosing piano software instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Hurchalla View Post
    The software instruments either run out of the box, or need for you to buy a sampler application to run them (usually Kontakt)...
    That's a great reply Jeff -- so detailed and helpful -- thanks!

    Re interfaces: do you have any ideas about what I should be looking for in an audio interface? (I'm not really sure what one of these is.) I have a Windows 7 laptop with 4GB RAM, 2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 500GB hard disc, with Firewire, eSATA and USB ports.

    I do have a MIDI to USB cable somewhere, but when I tried to get it working a few years ago I couldn't make anything happen. (Can't remember the brand, but I doubt that the software would run on Windows 7 anyway.)

    Thanks again

  5. #5

    Thumbs up Re: I need help understanding/choosing piano software instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by elcabong View Post
    A few other things you may want to think about long term are first, getting a separate large hard drive for your sample libraries...
    Thanks for these suggestions. BTW: I've just watched a demo of Alicia's Keys software piano on youtube -- sounded pretty good for $100, but some of the comments suggested that I'd need a very powerful processor as it was very demanding in this area. Do you have any thoughts about this? (My Windows 7 laptop has a 2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo processor with 4GB RAM.)

    Thanks!

  6. #6

    Re: I need help understanding/choosing piano software instrument

    Alicia's keys is the best sounding I have tried it was sampled by the best people in the industry and from a very good piano. I wish native Instruments would have a demo for all its VSTs.

    You have enough Ram to run it you will proberbly be fine running it on it's own and with decent ASIO drivers.

    With Alicia's Keys being such a huge sample you might need a faster hard drive too but I'm not sure.

  7. #7

    Re: I need help understanding/choosing piano software instrument

    agree on Alicia keys, also you may have a look at Galaxy Steinway for about the same price, or their new Steinway, a tad more expensive though...

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