Why should I care about Built-in Piano Samples?

General discussion about digital pianos

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paullebow
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Why should I care about Built-in Piano Samples?

Post by paullebow » 06 Oct 2009, 22:05

I'm in the process of researching a good digital piano option for my wife - can't use an acoustic piano in our apartment.

It seems as though the myriad of high quality piano sample software out there makes the piano samples inherent to, say a Yamaha CVP vs CLP vs C whatever...., irrelevant. If Yamaha, for instance, offers 3 or 4 different sampling levels and a software such as Synthology's offers 8 with all kinds of resonances and other "realisms" included, why even bother using the built-in samples as a significant criterion?

Specifically, if one wants to best recreate the feel of an acoustic and aren't concerned about the furniture the keyboard is housed in, wouldn't it be better to get a bare bones 88 key keyboard, with good "touch" (GH, GH3 or whatever feels best) possibly with -3-pedal capability as an extra touch, and let the computer take care of the sonic realism?

Thanks!

Paul

markymark
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Re: Why should I care about Built-in Piano Samples?

Post by markymark » 07 Oct 2009, 00:07

Well that's why software pianos and things like Native Instruments exist.

One of the main downsides however is that the samples take up huge amounts of memory and you do need a lot of space on your computer. Most people who prefer the intonations and resonance of an acoustic favour these software pianos because they actually create a more responsive playing experience.

The problem is that there isn't really any such thing as a "bear bones" keyboard with a keyboard action comparable with Yamaha's GH action keyboard. Most controller keyboards have a weighted hammer action as opposed to a graded hammer action. You could find something like a P70 or something like that second hand which would give you something close to what you are looking for.

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athomik
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Re: Why should I care about Built-in Piano Samples?

Post by athomik » 07 Oct 2009, 10:07

Or, if you had the money (around £12000), you could go for an Avant Grand and forget about the computer. Another option would be a secondhand GT2 or GT7, which also have a proper grand piano type of action, and use that with a computer.
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paullebow
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Re: Why should I care about Built-in Piano Samples?

Post by paullebow » 07 Oct 2009, 15:30

Thanks very much for the feedback. Since I am new to this avocation I was confused about the intense focus on the inherent samples when choosing a keyboard while there is all this activity and effort to create virtual software instruments that are far and away more sophisticated (at least according to the technical specs).

In addition to key action, it looks like polyphony (32,64, 128,...) is a firmware attribute that IS associated with the choice of keyboard. Is that correct? I wonder how significant that is beyond 64, especially if one is using a software midi synthesizer for the additional voices rather than using the keyboard as the generator.

I wound up purchasing a Yamaha P155 for my wife, a trained classical pianist and hopelessly non-technical. While she was fascinated and mesmerized by the voices and samples, her first comment was that the keys felt uncomfortably "heavy" - which, as you point out, action may be the determining factor - I guess she has expensive tastes.

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Re: Why should I care about Built-in Piano Samples?

Post by markymark » 08 Oct 2009, 00:20

Usually polyphony does not fall below 64 these days and even then, it is starting to be replaced by 128 note polyphony, even at relatively low-mid range keyboards. Once upon a time, 32 note polyphony was standard but is practically unheard of now!

Obviously the more you spend on an instrument, the more polyphony that comes with it. For example, Kawai's top of the range models offer 192 note polyphony which is collosal and almost over the top! 64 note is fine for day to day playing. Arranger keyboards and workstations tend to need more because of the programming and notes that get used up in performances/accompaniments.

The GH keyboard will feel stiff because it is brand new. Like acoustics, the heavier keyboard action on digitals need breaking in. The keys will loosen up somewhat with use. My CP300 was bought three years before the CP33 which is not even 6 months old yet and by comparison, the CP33 keys are stiff and possibly even lacking some response. The CP300 started that way but soon settled down with playing.

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Re: Why should I care about Built-in Piano Samples?

Post by paullebow » 08 Oct 2009, 14:48

Thanks again for the clarification comment on "breaking in" the keyboard, and also the feedback on the CP300. I am contemplating buying a used CP300 instead of the new P155 - a few hundred dollars more but get a much better sound system and other features - but its HEAVY!

Going the other direction - might it be a better choice, budget-wise, to purchase a used CP33, a good software virtual piano and other midi voice software, drum kits etc, and plug into a home stereo system? Given the immense CPU power and storage available to even low end computers and laptops these days, would it be better to look to external software with potentially better features rather than being locked in to a "swiss army knife" instrument such as the CP300? The CP300 seems more geared to a performing artist who needs a mobile self-contained system.

We don't foresee "taking the show on the road" in terms of performing. From the standpoint of recreating the acoustic piano experience, the only thing I see lacking is a 3rd pedal input and 64 vs 128-note polyphony for the CP33. Any thoughts?

Thanks!

Paul

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Re: Why should I care about Built-in Piano Samples?

Post by markymark » 09 Oct 2009, 19:13

I have never run out of notes on the CP33 which has 64 note polyphony, even when layering two sounds. The CP300 has a 16 layer sequencer which is likely to be the reason for it having 128 polyphony.

Unless you are looking for a furniture digital like a Clavinova, then three pedals just want be an option with stage pianos or portable digital pianos like the P-155. When you have volume control, the middle practice pedal is redundant anyway. These portable instruments don't even have two pedal units. You could just plug too single pedals into the sustain and soft sockets if that was a major issue for you.

To my knowledge, Kurzweil is the only one that produces a double pedal unit for their instruments.

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