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Most 'Forgiving' Digital Piano Tone ?


allan_evett

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Here's a topic that's been touched upon, a few times, in various other-topic threads over the past ten years. By stating 'forgiving', I refer to a tone that is able to be heard with clarity - and carry with a healthy degree of envelope sustain - both FOH and on stage, within a great variety of room and instrument/player combinations. And while much has been suggested regarding amplification/cabinet combos, EQ, etc. , I want to hear about that which stands well on its own, and tends to forgive challenging spaces and fretboard-based midrange space hogs.

I've been taking a Forte 7 out live for the better part of the past year. Organs, synths, EPs sound clear in almost every situation; pianos only about 50% of the time. To be clear, I dig the Forte. Overall, it's one of the best all-purpose keyboards I've owned; sounds and functions are stellar. But even with the low-mid range 'mud' totally scooped out, the pianos only cut-n-carry about half the time. This is with edited versions of the 9' and 7' grands, and while using three very different monitoring setups (Yamaha DXR12 w/sep. mixer, or one of two basic combo amps).

 

So who else experiences this problem, and what have you done to correct it ? I'm half tempted to look for an old P50m module to drive from the Forte. It was a royal ass pain to constantly ride my on-stage levels and EQ this past weekend (which still helped very little); it's a huge distraction when playing.

 

 

 

 

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The problem is your scooping your mids out, which sounds silky for solo playing. But in band context if you scoop your mids then you only leave low end which is doubling up on your bass player for either heavy bass or mud and your tinkling up in the 5k and up area leaving all that space for your guitars to eat you whole. And if you're guitarists are scooping their mids as well, which they love to do - and crank their bass then you have a very bottom heavy mix.

 

The trick is to sit down with the guitarists and play at the same time and make your settings giving each other some space of their own in the mid, range - preferably not exactly where your male or female vocal lives. Dave Weiser hangs out here and he's been programming gig ready piano sounds for a long time and you'll hear those patches (PX-5S comes to mind) are full of midrange and have deep bass cut.

 

The Kurzweil sounds are as good as any and the rest is just EQ/FX and finding your spot in the mix.

Yamaha CP88, Casio PX-560

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That's great advice, ElmerJFudd!

 

Our (mostly unamplified) group had a guitarist who also played gigs as a single with amplified 12-string guitar. He would set up the same way with us and proceed to cover and obliterate everything from bass up to the "tinkly" range of the piano. Grrr. I especially felt sorry for my colleague on acoustic piano who would sometimes get into that injurious feedback cycle of trying to play harder and louder.

 

Sonic space and balance are just so essential to live performance in a group. That's gotta be right before thinking about tone.

 

All the best, pj

 

 

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For me, all digital pianos are getting to be more and more frustrating to play and to try to draw inspiration from. I've spent a lot of time and money trying different ones, in addition to spending a sizable amount of dough on speakers and preamps. And in the end, basically they all still suck. ;)

 

I can see on the horizon the day is not far off when I'll not be gigging with them and just playing my piano at home on my own terms, and for my own satisfaction. Maybe when that day comes, I'll pull a "Hal Galper" and look for the closest bridge or river. :D

 

That said, the CP4 has been the one I've had the least amount of bad experiences with. The Bright Grand on the Nord Piano was second in rock contexts.

 

If you could somehow get the same sound and playing experience live as you do with headphones , they would be more tolerable.

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Push the mids don't cut them unless the EQ gives you narrow bands of control. Cut the mids you lose too much meat. I used to carry 31 banders in my rack so you could cut problem muddy areas. For me problem spots are sort of around 200hz depends on how your monitors are tuned. Compression may help sometimes.

 

A new stage piano I like the sound of is the SV-1. Not the biggest fans of the RH-3 ( yes it the action in my Kronos)... its OK but not my favorite action. But the SV-1 has punch and will work in a rock band.

 

I used to play out with the Kawai MP-5. Kawai I have always found to be very editable. The MP-5 was sluggish but my main piano patch worked great in a loud ass Country Rock band and in my Blues projects at the time.

 

Piano guys seem to hate it but I thought the Kurz triple strike sounds good in a band. Part of the frustrations a lot of us have with the Kronos pianos I think is because they are too detailed. The Kronos was a PIA to get right.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Piano guys seem to hate it but I thought the Kurz triple strike sounds good in a band. Part of the frustrations a lot of us have with the Kronos pianos I think is because they are too detailed. The Kronos was a PIA to get right.

 

Agree on the Kurz. And in general, I find both the pianos and the CX3 organs on the Kronos to be far too bright and sparkly - and loses warmth as a result.

 

Still working on dialing back that ish for live work. Studio work? Knock your bad self out...although I wouldn't use the Kronos to record either piano or organ sims.

..
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Upright pianos, the funkier and more loosely tuned the better, sound much better than grands in a band situation. IMHO.

 

Agreed. I have one or two "pure" acoustic piano sounds for quieter moments, the rest are intentionally imperfect sounds: upright, detuned, chorus, layered, etc. They all sit in the mix far better when the band starts cooking.

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It's funny how slab gigging boards preset patches are largely designed/EQ'd to sound attractive solo. It's good to get the spectrum right on the patches you use with the band. This is easiest to an extent on clonewheels since the drawbars are of course designed to bring in and out the frequencies/ partials/overtones you want. Some workstations have the ability to assign eq bands to the faders which can be useful when adjusting where you fit into the mix yourself on the fly.

 

Otherwise you stick an EQ and compressor in the rack, maybe even ones with MIDI patch recall. But it's hard to find a good one at a good price that doesn't add noise or just strip the life from your tone.

 

 

Yamaha CP88, Casio PX-560

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Strictly with regard to organ sim (hijack a piano thread, sorry not sorry), I find PC361 KB3 is so much more appealing than Kronos CX3.

 

Obviously, neither are comparable to dedicated clone wheel, but my present gig types don't require that and I'm not looking to schlep yet another board.

 

I wish it was easier for me to get CX3 closer to the apparent warmth of KB3.

 

But I've got OB6 programming to do and that piano isn't going to practice itself.

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Picking up from what some others have said... the Forte still should have the old Kurz triple strike pianos in there somewhere. They may not have the finesse of newer sample sets when played solo, but people have often liked the way they sound in a band, when the subtleties of today's "better" sample sets are often unlikely to be particularly noticeable anyway. So I wouldn't avoid the "old" stuff just because intellectually you know the board has something technically "better" available. Try it and see what you think...

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Push the mids don't cut them unless the EQ gives you narrow bands of control. Cut the mids you lose too much meat.

+1

 

I found this out the hard way. I had my pianos sounding beautiful with the mids scooped but they became lost in the live mix. Stopped cutting the mids, problem solved. Meat is good.

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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I've been trying out some of Nord's upright samples, but none of them really speak to me. Can anyone recommend a Nord upright for a noisy band situation?

 

Cheers, Mike.

 

I use the Blue Swede but that isn't loose enough so I layer it with the ancient Rain Piano, and push a bit of mids and highs on both. Sometimes I add a little chorus to one or the other if I want it really detuned. Works a treat for anything from Little Feat to Lady Madonna.

Moe

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I've been trying out some of Nord's upright samples, but none of them really speak to me. Can anyone recommend a Nord upright for a noisy band situation?

 

Cheers, Mike.

 

I like the Black Petrov.

 

James

x

Employed by Kawai Japan, however the opinions I express are my own.
Nord Electro 3 & occasional rare groove player.

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I've been trying out some of Nord's upright samples, but none of them really speak to me. Can anyone recommend a Nord upright for a noisy band situation?

 

Cheers, Mike.

 

I like the Black Petrov.

 

James

x

 

I love the black Petrov. So much character. I use it in a duo context, which is obviously different than a full-band outing.

Yamaha CK88, Arturia Keylab 61 MkII, Moog Sub 37, Yamaha U1 Upright, Casio CT-S500, Mac Logic/Mainstage, iPad Camelot, Spacestation V.3, QSC K10.2, JBL EON One Compact

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Appreciate all of the responses so far. I agree that cutting mids - in a broad sense - does remove the 'meat' of the sound. But significantly reducing the 'mud' - roughly between 160 and 400 Hz has often been helpful for me.

 

In the opening post, I mentioned the Yamaha P50m, an AMW2-based piano module. One thing I have found with the core AWM piano Voice (and to a slightly lesser extent Roland SN pianos) is a sound 'carry through' that is rather resistant to being stepped on in both stage and FOH mixes. Whereas other heavyweight digital piano tones often end up sounding as if their amplitude envelopes are cut short in a dense mix. And while I do own a great AWM-based stage piano - an S90XS, the Goldilocks size of the Forte 7 has much more stage appeal - not to mention the greater strength of its electro-mechanical tones. Don't know quite where I would've put the S90XS this past Saturday night - as the band that supplies the majority of my live work usually plays very small stages. The S90XS is my go-to for country / country-rock; but the gig I've been trying to land for two years - a premier (and very busy) country act in the region - continues to roll w/o keys.

 

@AnotherScott: I will try your Triple-Strike suggestion on tomorrow night's gig. Have gotten some sonic mileage from Dave Weiser's 7' grand Programs. So I'll try applying the FX from those Programs to the Triple-Strike core sound, then save it to a couple of new Programs. Otherwise it might provide greater relief to find a cheap AWM half-rack piece, then Velcro it to the Forte to cover the rock 'n roll bar pianos..

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I agree that cutting mids - in a broad sense - does remove the 'meat' of the sound. But significantly reducing the 'mud' - roughly between 160 and 400 Hz has often been helpful for me.

 

Cutting or boosting "mids" leaves an enormous spectrum. Are we talking 250hz or 2.5Khz? There is hardly any instance where cutting some mids somewhere in that spectrum would not benefit a digital piano sound.

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I cut low-mids because with a band there's a lot of them going on and I find myself adding to the "mud." Even solo playing sounds better to me; there's just more clarity to the sound. With mids cut you can boost the overall level of the piano and hear yourself better too. Of course you can go too far and the piano will sound thin, so use your ears and adjust for taste. Piano samples differ, every room is different, and speaker types and placement affect the sound too.

 

A while ago I nerded out and wrote an OSC layout on my iPhone to control a single band of a parameteric eq on my laptop rig. I could walk around a room, start & stop a sequence and listen to how my piano sounded while futzing with the center freq, Q, and amount of cut. It worked great but, for the kinds of local gigs I was doing (like a jazz jam or restaurant duo), it was kind of overkill so I retired that particular setup.

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For me, all digital pianos are getting to be more and more frustrating to play and to try to draw inspiration from. I've spent a lot of time and money trying different ones, in addition to spending a sizable amount of dough on speakers and preamps. And in the end, basically they all still suck. ;)

 

Totally agree. When we all talk about this digital or that digital we're still talking DP's. Against a real grand to say they all suck is a disservice to suckers. 10-12 years ago I had a gig in a nice restaurant/lounge with a Yamaha grand. Since the band also had tunes where I did some EP, organ and a couple of synth parts I had my Kurz PC2X set up right next to the Yamaha with my Barbetta speaker. At that time this was a top notch keyboard setup. We were doing a standard jazz tune like Green Dolphin or something and I'm doing it on the Yamaha and thought, lets check out how the Kurz sounds right next to it so I slid off the bench onto my drum throne and played the AP on the Kurz. Holy crap! My Kurz sounded like a damned kazoo, it was so bad I played maybe 8 bars and switched back to the grand and never looked back for that gig.

 

The thing that kills me is big shows that we've all seen a DP can sound just killer but that's with a gazillion dollar sound system with real experts running it. That's a whole other universe from us little schleps playing through maybe a $1,000 sound system. I know you have better stuff than that Dave but even then, if you're not playing at a true professional venue with all that stuff it will never sound close to the real thing. It's like when I saw you at Peets last year, the sound was ok for a DP but jeesh, a corner coffee shop with a tile floor and glass windows all over the place? How can you sound great in that situation? If there was a real grand in there the sound would be bouncing off that floor and probably hurt your ears.

 

Bob

Hammond SK1, Mojo 61, Kurzweil PC3, Korg Pa3x, Roland FA06, Band in a Box, Real Band, Studio One, too much stuff...
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I know we've been down this road a zillion times but my personal feeling is this: there's nothing like a great acoustic piano, and when all the elements fall into place, no VI piano or DP can touch it. Those being: a quality instrument, tuned and regulated, and played acoustically in a good sounding room. One minor problem on my end is that all three of those elements are missing from 99.999999999% of any gig I do. Can't say 100% I've done two gigs in the last 25 years that ticked all those boxes both at an extremely upscale assisted living facility near me that has a little theatre in it.

 

Other than that, for the ridiculously few times I run into an actual acoustic piano on a gig, there is no way in hell it sounds better or is more satisfying to play than my particular VI laptop rig. In my not-so-humble opinion of course.

 

But I'll happily admit that when I get to play the real deal I have an urge to do a "Hal Galper" on my gear!! I should probably be happy it doesn't happen too often! :)

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It's like when I saw you at Peets last year, the sound was ok for a DP but jeesh, a corner coffee shop with a tile floor and glass windows all over the place? How can you sound great in that situation? If there was a real grand in there the sound would be bouncing off that floor and probably hurt your ears.

 

Bob

 

Don't know if you recall but I was borrowing the Space-station amp for that gig. The CP4 sounded particularly more muddy and less clear/ little definition with that amp. But to be fair, that room is one of the worst sounding spaces I've played on a semi-regular basis. I always dread it because of the acoustics.

 

The RCF TT08As and the JMk Audio Di/pre do make things quite a bit better in there then the amp, in the clarity department, but it's still sounds basically like a nightmare.

 

To compound the negative, the leader had to use an electric player as all the guys he called on acoustic were booked. Also if you might remember, he was playing way too loud for the room and musical context. :rolleyes:

 

Regarding the shock of going from acoustic to digital piano- a few years back on a casual gig at a country club, I was told to play the house piano. It was an older Steinway. I think it was around 5'8" (whatever model that is). Testing it out, the condition was horrible! The tuning was way out in a few places , the action was terrible, it needed voicing - basically in total disrepair mode. Feeling it was un-playable, I then decided to bring in my NP88 from the car and set it up next to the acoustic.

 

To appease the powers at be who made the request, I thought I'd play the dog Steinway on the first song as people were walking into the room and then switch over to the Nord for the rest of the night. I figured people wouldn't be paying attention, in addition to the fact they wouldn't know or care after the first song.

 

But after a couple of tunes on acoustic , I started to play the Nord and the difference was night and day ! The bass player and drummer looked over at me like wow what happened ? :o

 

The acoustic sounded MUCH fatter and sustained WAY better with the Trio then the NP88, even coming through my excellent sound system. The digital basically sounded like a toy next to the funky old Steinway with all the glaring imperfections. Of course this was in a more jazz/Standards context at acoustic lower volume.

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Cutting or boosting "mids" leaves an enormous spectrum. Are we talking 250hz or 2.5Khz? There is hardly any instance where cutting some mids somewhere in that spectrum would not benefit a digital piano sound.

 

This? Which MID frequency?

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I scoop a bit at around 200-250 Hz, I'm calling that "low mids" but maybe that's wrong? Regardless, it definitely helps the sound of my piano. On a laptop rig it's super easy, throw up the EQ plug in and move the center frequency as you play until it sounds good.
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In the past couple of years I've gigged on some really nice grand pianos (a few Steinways), my rig (CP4 through a pair of TT08A's), and a mediocre acoustic (old/tired Story and Clarke spinet). To my surprise I much preferred playing the mediocre spinet than my CP4/TT08A rig. There's no question that I was better able to express myself on the mediocre spinet. The ability to express myself is how I evaluate the various options because if I can't or if I'm struggling it doesn't matter how good the instrument sounds.

 

I'm not a fan of DP's and have a better experience playing organ or EP when on an electric gig. So, the majority of my recent gigs have been jazz organ using the Mojo which is a very comfortable, enjoyable, and even inspirational experience. Nevertheless, I've spent a lot of time and money trying to get this DP thing right. Tried Pianoteq on my laptop through the TT08As on a gig this past weekend. Thought I would it enjoy it more based on the experience of others, but it didn't thrill me. Bought The Hammersmith yesterday and will give it a try too. The pursuit continues but at least with the CP4 / TT08A it's tolerable.

 

Sometimes I question how much rig has improved from 30 years ago when I was using an MKS20 piano module for DP. As I remember it didn't sound quite like an acoustic piano but it reacted in a similar way and was easy / comfortable to play. I could express myself pretty well with it.

 

 

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I had an MKS20 too and enjoyed playing it. Unlike most here (it seems), I prefer my laptop VI piano to a less-than-optimal real one. You might want to try identifying exactly why the real piano feels better to play. I suspect it's a matter of dynamics. I spent a lot of time adjusting my controller's velocity response curves and touch sensitivity, plus I futzed a bit with the velocity switch points in the software itself. I believe our brain is conditioned to hear the timbre of a piano tone evolve in a certain way as we play from ppp to fff. There may be other markers that are almost subliminal too. For example, I don't think I would enjoy playing a DP that didn't have release samples, sympathetic resonance and sustain pedal resonances built in things my VI piano has that I've gotten accustomed to. And, for myself, it needs to be stereo I'd probably prefer a beat-to-shit spinet over any DP played through one speaker. My .02.
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