Theo Verelst Local Diary Page 77

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June 9, 2009

High Technology.

The best epiano in the world?

For non-synthetisists, electric piano can mean a piano with electromechanical or electronic piano, traditionally, which both makes not for a piano sound replication, but something a bit piano-like, bright fast attack of the wave and slow duller decay with an interesting sound spectrum, and a possibly damped release curve.

The (Fender) Rhodes and Wurlitzer were probably the most well known electric piano but short string based machines like the Yamaha CS80 and such are also known and appreciated.

Currently I suppose electric piano could included sampled pianos, which of course a whole generation grew up with. I´ve witnessed quite a few being avaible for the computer, which is yet another branch, but of the same principle: sampled. Those were available for a long time already in keyboard form (or as rack unit), in all kinds of variations, probably often more musically made and possibly more complicated, requiring special computer-type circuits being built in.

Other piano type sound can be made with FM synthesis (Yamaha made digital pianos with that, too) or combined wave tables and other general synthesis forms.

Traditionally since a lone time, preceded by mostly not so great imitations or special machines (like Roland did a special synthesis type series I think were called MKS-1000 and derivatives, which I think I had a sequel of some kind of with the HP3000s which is similar to the well known stage piano RD300, same synthesis) Kurzweil (mainly the man himself, Ray Kurzweil, who also invented digital automatic reading machines) made famous piano imitation with a form of sampling and advanced processing, which still now is probably amoung the most recognized good and varied sounding digital pianos on the planet.

Now, probably at least with slight influence of my Free and Open Source, publically demonstrated String Simulator (Physically Modelled Strings), which in turn were inspired by Yamaha´s Physical Modeling based synthesizers, there is another form:

The Roland V-piano.
That´s a algorithm which simulates the behaviour of the strings vibrating and even the cross-coupled vibrations, and the harp and enclosure of the piano to get a realistic (grand) piano sound, with 128 strings being simulated.

Listen to the Duke (A well known Jazz/Fusion keyboardist originally from San Fransisco, who was an influence on me when I started to play such music) on the Roland site to get a good impression of the difference between samples and this alive sound..

Can't demo that one for you, sorry...

Working with the PC3

See my Wiki page on the Kurzweil, too.

A short musical excerpt I tried some combined sounds on, recorded with Cubase and some processed with the Lexicon Pantheon plugin:

    kurz1 [.wav] (5.6 MB, 24 bits, 44.1kHz)   kurz1 [.mp3] (0.7 MB, 256kbps)

I used the digital output, which sounds great on the Omega converter. I think I noticed a difference after playing back the Cubase recording, but I didn´t really check the recording sync settings this time.

Within a week I have made these sounds, and recordings of them, using 24 bit 44.1kHz TOS link:

  brasssynthtv [.wav] (7.4 MB) brasssynthtv [.mp3] (1.3 MB)

  effbassdrum [.wav] (9.4 MB) effbassdrum [.mp3] (1.7 MB)

  hammond1 [.wav] (13.1 MB) hammond1 [.mp3] (2.4 MB)

  piano1kurz [.wav] (8.1 MB) piano1kurz [.mp3] (1.5 MB)

  synthsupermoogtv [.wav] (8.1 MB) synthsupermoogtv [.mp3] (1.5 MB)

  synthsupermoogtvpad [.wav] (5.0 MB) synthsupermoogtvpad [.mp3] (0.9 MB)

This is an absolutely great patch for the fusion and advanced theatre organ combi sound lovers, which consists of the mega layer combination of using a 6 operator FM with 4 osc moog AND 2 layers with samples. Very musically usable, for the advanced, and also nice sound for playing a basic song with (I think it was a great succes anyhow). Lots of sliders available (see info).

To be able to put the sound together:
Aux 1 FX: ConcertHall (this is a version tuned for this sound)
Layer effects:  1:  Stereo Chorustv2 ;    8,9: 724 Fagen Phaser
Algorithm layer 3: 1030 from below algos (this could be 130 too, in principle, I didn´t test)

  threelayer [.wav] (15.1 MB) threelayer [.mp3] (2.7 MB)

Don´t forget the big and High Fidelity Speakers/Amps with lots of power (I suppose 50W is a good start, in not too sound sensitive spaces), than these sounds work (as tradionally) the best.


It can talk to a windows PC over USB to exchange files (one at a time often it seems), and of course fast USB midi, which is great to connect it to another good controller like the S90 to play two (or more) sounds of the plentyfull 128. I can get to the limit of that number of voices though that sounds unlikely.

It can also be connected to  Linux machine, like the server this page is on (Fedora 8/64), and get files like midi music files or sounds or backups from the machine:

MIDI fiels can work absolutely great (though the GM sounds aren't smashingi n every way) but regularly (I tried more than a few) they need quite some work. Probably the S90 is a touch midi playing (but it doesn't have a built in player) friendlier as it is.

In fact playing a PC3 piano (It appears the Horowitz is a Steinway, I made a version with a lot of effects which can actually do concert things link hammering and sounding in chords, though certainly not everything for free) on the S90 is pretty great, leaving the upper keyboard free for a bass for instance. I use Usb midis connected to the server and qjackctl to get quick response.

Testing the sound editor with midi connectopns (non-usb):

works, but there is no usb copy of the output (inputs get merged).

Comparing sounds I can make

That is a hard thing at the level of equipment like the Pc3, the S90 I played, large multisamples and complex computer synthesis programs, and newer things like the Complex form of Physical modeling I refered to above.

In all cases, the added effects are important, too. Both the S90 and the PC3 have a large number of varied quality effects.