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piano sound on '60s jazz albums


Dana.

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Is anyone on the forum a fan of the flat piano sound on all the Blue Note and Impulse albums from the '60s, ie. Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Duke Pearson, etc.? Rudy Van Gelder engineered a slew of those sessions and I think the piano used was a Steinway. Can anyone recommend a digital piano sound (either hardware or software) that can match or approximate it?
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No digital piano really sounds like the Blue Note piano recordings.

A real Steinway and a digital are different instruments.

 

To approximate a Steinway jazz piano sound, I use either a RD-700sx, FP7 or FP4. They are the closest of what's out there, imo.

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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A huge part of that "sound" is the mics, compression, EQ'ing, and analog tape coloration, rather than just the piano itself.

 

In fact, I'd disagree with Jazz+... given the "increased harmonic content" apparently found in the Roland line :rolleyes:, if anything the Rolands shouuld be too detailed to sound anything like classic Blue Note recordings.

 

:wave:

 

 

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j+, it's not just about emulating a Steinway sound (although I see that you have now edited your post after the fact, adding the remark that no digital piano sounds like a RVG Blue Note piano, which is correct, at least, not at this point in time)

 

D-Bon is asking about that particular sound, that Rudy Van Gelder sound. The Steinway piano is part of it, to be sure, but it's also about his mics, and recording techniques. I love that sound, and I wish I knew RVG's tricks of how to get it. Apparently, he has kept the secrets of how he acheived that sound to himself.

 

Besides Rolands, I think Kurzweil's piano sound is also from a Steinway, and there are also Steinway sample libraries.

 

I don't know of any dp or software that has the RVG sound, but then again, I haven't heard all the sample libraries.

 

 

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The FP7, FP4, RD-700SX have a dark Steinway like piano sound. A dark piano sound without some bright harmonic details sounds dull and muffled. You can always eq out frequencies but you cannot add harmonic details that are not there to begin with.

 

No digital piano really sounds like the Blue Note piano recordings.

A real Steinway and a digital are different instruments.

 

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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From wikipedia:

 

"Van Gelder's recording techniques are often admired for the warmth and presence he brings to the end result. However, this view is not universally shared, and, in particular, critics have expressed a distaste for a thin and recessed sound in the piano; critic Richard Cook[2] notes that the manner Van Gelder recorded piano was often as distinctive as the pianists' playing."

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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It's a thin sound, for sure, and I think you either love it or hate it. I find it strangely appealing. I'm surprised a software company hasn't tried to emulate it -- the "RVG piano" or something like that.

 

The more that I think about it, the more I think the Kurzweil sound comes close. Now if only that annoying overtone in the mid-range could be eliminated...

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From wikipedia:

 

"Van Gelder's recording techniques are often admired for the warmth and presence he brings to the end result. However, this view is not universally shared, and, in particular, critics have expressed a distaste for a thin and recessed sound in the piano; critic Richard Cook[2] notes that the manner Van Gelder recorded piano was often as distinctive as the pianists' playing."

 

what's yer point?

 

 

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Bill Evans didn't like recording with Van Gelder because of the piano sound he got. I think a lot of people admire the Blue Note piano sound because of what the pianists played. RVG captured wonderful performances that were, sadly, not very well recorded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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Bill Evans didn't like recording with Van Gelder because of the piano sound he got. I think a lot of people admire the Blue Note piano sound because if what the pianists played, not the flat, sometimes distorted, squashed piano sound itself.

 

Oh, I see - you don't like the RVG Blue note piano sound. Why didn't you say so? :D

 

Well, everyone's entitled to their opinion. Yes, it's distorted, squashed, boxy, and unnatural sounding. I love it.

 

 

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That piano sound RVG got in the 60's was has closely guarded a secret as Deep Throat. Everyone tried, to no avail, to emulate that sound.

 

I LOVE IT!!! Herbie's 60 Blue note recordings are some of the most definitive sounds of modern jazz piano. As well as Sonny Clark, McCoy, Duke Pearson, Horace Silver, Cedar Walton to name a few more.

 

I have friends that recorded there in the 80's and 90's. They always said the sound in the cans was pure SH..T, you couldn't hear what the F..ck was going on....you'd ask for a little more of this or a little less drums and you'd get this this grumpy old German guy who would basically give you lip service. In the end, somehow he worked his magic and the finished product sounded like the definition of a jazz recording. Some people hate working there...they didn't dig working w/ Rudy and the sound is a bit dated to them.

I don't know how much he's doing today...I think he's still pretty active though.

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It wasn't only the piano.....the way he made the Tenor and Trumpet unisons and octave spreads sound....man....that's some of the warmest sounds you'll ever hear. He made 2 horns sound like 4!

The sound he got for Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan.....

If that's not one of the greatest sounds ever heard on earth..I don't know what is!

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It wasn't only the piano.....the way he made the Tenor and Trumpet unisons and octave spreads sound....man....that's some of the warmest sounds you'll ever hear. He made 2 horns sound like 4!

The sound he got for Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan.....

If that's not one of the greatest sounds ever heard on earth..I don't know what is!

 

:thu: yep!

 

 

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Thanks for the suggestion Kanker, I will check that out.

 

Isn't the Malmsjo piano included in the Nord Electro?

I don't think they used this particular Malmsjo library, which is a fairly dark sounding library, but yes, there is a Malmsjo sample set available for the Electro.
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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That piano sound RVG got in the 60's was has closely guarded a secret...

I LOVE IT!!!

:thu: +1 on that, Dave.

It wasn't only the piano.....the way he made the Tenor and Trumpet unisons and octave spreads sound....man.....If that's not one of the greatest sounds ever heard on earth..I don't know what is!
:thu: and another +1 on that!! ( I wore out my copy of "Speak No Evil" - yes I actually wore out the CD!)
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This is a bit dark.....If somebody said "what do you want to hear on your deathbed"? I'd have to say some of Herbie's solos on Speak No Evil. A close second would be the Well Tempered Clavier Book II...maybe Angela Hewitt or Andras Schiff playing.

Ok maybe that should be Desert Isle stuff....not as dark.

Sorry, just got home from another sucky gig...too many these days.

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I love the Blue Note sound too. I find it intriguing as well, much because of the piano sound character. With the compression and the occasional distortion, the piano gets a real mystic sound, it's hard to pick out exact voicings and so on... I dislike a lot of newer jazz records because of the too detailed piano sound, the Blue Note sound is more of a mystical aural experience... There's a Mamlsjö piano for the Nord Electro and Stage which I really dig. I've heard about the Art Vista Malmsjö, but I haven't tried it. Perhaps it'll be my next purchase! :)
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This is a bit dark.....If somebody said "what do you want to hear on your deathbed"?

Well Dave, also a bit dark... but come to think of it, a musician's funeral would be one's last opportunity to expose a 'captive audience' to new music... like one last clinic. :)

 

Just specify the music you wish to be played.

I think something dramatic... maybe some Albert Ayler records blasting away. :rawk::deadhorse::rimshot:

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Weren't these records all in mono? That alone might make it difficult to reproduce the sound with a stereo digital piano sample.

aka âmisterdregsâ

 

Nord Electro 5D 73

Yamaha P105

Kurzweil PC3LE7

Motion Sound KP200S

Schimmel 6-10LE

QSC CP-12

Westone AM Pro 30 IEMs

Rolls PM55P

 

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Recording in stereo and stereo recordings can be two wholly separate things. One can use a variety of stereo arrays to record in stereo. A stereo recording on the other hand may consist of panned mono sources. Not that these terms are actual and specific, just noting that there is a difference between something that is truly recorded in stereo, and things that are panned to form a stereo image.
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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If you have control over effects on your digital piano try experimenting with those. My PC1X has a full multi effects unit in it, with compressors, amp and speaker models, EQ etc. With some smart EQ, reverb and compression you might get close.

 

Instruments recorded with tube pre-amps often have some built in compression and limiting going on, which colours the tone slightly. Typically a digital piano will have been recorded 'dry' (no reverb) with a linear response pre-amp, giving quite a different sound to a 'wet' (room reverb) with tube pre-amp setup. Then the synth engineer makes a decision as to what reverb they put it for the patch (which usually has both echo and high frequency attenutation), and may or may not use a compressor (most will be compressed, stage pianos would usually be compressed more). Most digital pianos reverb settings would be either a room or hall - try a studio setup, or maybe studio + another reverb type (to simulate some post-recording reverb). If you have editable effects you can make your own choices around these parameters.

 

Also, if you digital piano is a programmable synth you can create your own piano sounds. This gives you a lot more control over the EQ settings by playing with the filter settings and such. If you can assign some effect and synth parameters to real time controls then you might be able to play around and get closer to that sound fairly easily. Most stereo digital piano sounds these days go for a wide separation (sounds good through headphones in a shop). Some keyboards have both narrow and wide piano samples. The narrow ones would probably sound closer to the 60's recordings. Try finding a narrow stereo piano sound, or roll your own.

 

A very simple suggestion is to try different keyboard touch sensitivities. On most digital pianos you get fine control over a limited range of velocities (usually ~40-80) with much less control over lower and higher velocities. If the sound you are after is a more subtle, gentle use of the piano going to a less sensitive touch setting will get you playing in that range with more control. You can also do it the other way so that you can play with more control over high velocities.

 

Some keyboards let you do velocity off sets and non-linear velocity scaling. My PC1X does, and I have just made a piano setting with the negative offset and 130% expansion which gives me full control down to velocity 1. This is great for getting more expressive range out of the piano sounds.

 

Also, how about trying other tunings? It is possible that their piano did not use stretch tuning, or used an alternative stretch tuning. Some boards have different tunings available. Look for Solo, 440, or some such designation .

 

Michael

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I'm no engineer by any means, so my very non-technical observations are: I agree with what's been said about the RVG recording techniques, and the mono or stereo applications in the studio. And of course, some of those recordings were originally in mono and remastered in stereo later. It also has a lot to do with the types of microphones and less sound separation so there's a certain amount of desired bleed in the mics from other instruments, to give that 'not so stereo' effect.

 

And you can make a DP sound a little more like a Blue Note recording of a real piano, but I don't think I'd want to. Each dp piano sample out there has an optimum quality for that sample that you can't tweak too far or surpass by much, without causing distortion in levels, mids, etc. And filtering or tweaking it down causes loss of tone quality. So altering the sample quality too much or diffusing it with compression, etc. will result in a less than optimum tone.

 

Translated: I think we pretty much have to go with the samples we have on DPs, and tweak it for the truest, best result for each specific sample.

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This stuff was recorded in the 1960's.......in stereo. But the piano may have been recorded in mono.

 

I recall my audiophile LP-collecting brother-in-law telling me that most recordings from that era were mono. He hasn't replied to my email query.

 

This eBay listing would seem to bear that out:

 

http://cgi.ebay.com/HERBIE-HANCOCK-MAIDEN-VOYAGE-BLUE-NOTE-4195-FROM-1965_W0QQitemZ150151690620QQihZ005QQcategoryZ306QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

 

Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" from 1965 recorded by Van Gelder in mono. The bro-in-law prefers mono recordings, says they have a "front-to-back" depth of sound missing from stereo recordings. :rolleyes:

aka âmisterdregsâ

 

Nord Electro 5D 73

Yamaha P105

Kurzweil PC3LE7

Motion Sound KP200S

Schimmel 6-10LE

QSC CP-12

Westone AM Pro 30 IEMs

Rolls PM55P

 

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This stuff was recorded in the 1960's.......in stereo. But the piano may have been recorded in mono.

 

I recall my audiophile LP-collecting brother-in-law telling me that most recordings from that era were mono. He hasn't replied to my email query.

 

This eBay listing would seem to bear that out:

 

http://cgi.ebay.com/HERBIE-HANCOCK-MAIDEN-VOYAGE-BLUE-NOTE-4195-FROM-1965_W0QQitemZ150151690620QQihZ005QQcategoryZ306QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

 

Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" from 1965 recorded by Van Gelder in mono. The bro-in-law prefers mono recordings, says they have a "front-to-back" depth of sound missing from stereo recordings. :rolleyes:

 

Got an email reply from the bro-in-law. He is umm... really into this stuff, obviously.

 

"Van Gelder recorded (and issued) Blue Note releases in mono up until 1958. During 58 and 59, many of the mono issues were, in fact, stereo recordings issued in mono, as Rudy didn't quite have the stereo thing down and didn't necessarily like it. Starting (I believe) in 59, Blue Note released both mono and stereo versions, which I think continued through the early 60s. Around 62, stereo was the norm for all labels. Earliest jazz stereo recordings from anyone came around 56 (Columbia?). Contemporary was heavy into the stereo thing as early as 57/58. This is all from memory, so I may be off a bit. Do a google on Rudy and you'll easily find a history. Same for jazz recordings + 50s + stereo + mono.

 

Isn't there a mono switch on the keyboard? RVG recordings which did not feature the piano as lead often left the piano sounding a bit in the background (similar to the drums). Many of the recordings, although cherished for the RVG sound, left the ivories a bit dead. Mono, dead, hmmmm. If you can, listen to the early McCoy Tyner (The Real McCoy) or Herbie Hancock stuff (Maiden Voyage, Taking Off--remember our conversation?). That was all stereo and featured the piano, so it would be a good base point for the RVG stereo sound. For old mono, listen to The Amazing Bud Powell Volumes 1 & 2 (I believe from 49/51). For middle to last, great RVG mono piano, try Sonny Clark (Cool Struttin', Trio, Dial "S" for Sonny, Sonny's Crib--All some of my favorites) the Man, Horace Silver (HS with the Jazz Messengers, Six Pieces of Silver, The Stylings of Silver) or as a point of comparison, late Bud Powell (Bud! The Amazing Bud Powell Volume 3 (GREAT ALBUM) or Time Waits)."

aka âmisterdregsâ

 

Nord Electro 5D 73

Yamaha P105

Kurzweil PC3LE7

Motion Sound KP200S

Schimmel 6-10LE

QSC CP-12

Westone AM Pro 30 IEMs

Rolls PM55P

 

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