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I'm a composer looking for a 6-7 foot grand. I've been attracted to silent piano systems so I can use my piano as a MIDI controller, but I'm starting to fantasize about having singers over to my house to workshop the opera I'm writing. So, basically, I'm looking for experience and conjecture about the utility and value of player systems for composers. Here are some questions I'd greatly appreciate thoughts on.
Q - can player systems play MIDI from programs like Finale? (in case it's not clear, I mean making the solenoids play the piano itself, not the CFX samples in a system like Disklavier) A - yes. I found some videos of people doing this with Disklaviers
Q - if so, does anyone know if specifically Enspire and Spirio will be able to? A - ?
Q - if not, does anyone know a way to program them to play your compositions if you're not good enough to record them with your own fingers on the keys? A - now moot. Players systems can do it.
Q - If Enspire or Spirio can output from Finale or MIDI, does anyone have an opinion about whether either would be worth waiting for? A - ?
Q - Does anyone have experience workshopping or rehearsing from a player piano system? A - ?
Last edited by Aaron Surrain; 03/06/1609:48 PM. Reason: answered a few of my own questions
First let me say that I don't think I would recommend investing the amount that i would take for a Disklavier or a Spirio piano to work through pieces with singers. Why not get a good controller for playback through MIDI?
However, if Enspire and Spirio were the only two systems available, I would recommend the Enspire.
Spirio is a repackaged and remarketed LX system, and at this time it has the technical support of its founder, Wayne Stahnke, who recently sold his technology to the Steinway company. I do not know about the term of licensing or how they will go forward and support present product after Wayne is no longer involved.
Yamaha certainly has a broader spectrum of support.
I hope that helps,
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"Why not get a good controller..." is a good question. My primary motivation is to get a piano I enjoy playing, so a grand is the plan. The secondary motivation is less about having a midi controller for input (though that is also desirable) and more about having an alternative to samples and speakers for midi playback. The singers I'm talking to around town have been put off by the idea of singing to midi played back on speakers and prefer to work with a pianist. I am not good enough to accompany (or really play anything that I've written) so the player part is more about the quality and volume of the sound.
I picture having a rehearsal, taking some notes, updating the score, emailing that out to singers, and reconvening a week later at the piano that can play the updated music. If that's not possible, I won't lose any sleep over it. If it is possible but expensive, then it might be worth it to me which is where my curiosity after similar experiences from others comes from.
Thanks again for taking the time to write. Your info and insight into the Spirio vs. Enspire question resonates with me.
I plan to, and that might be the best option, but being able to accommodate a singer volunteering their time without coordinating with a professional would take a lot of pressure off. We could schedule more frequent work and be more flexible and that might make the difference between it coming together or not.
The player expert in my area who was installing LX systems says Wayne no longer can sell them. Steinway owns it all now.
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Hi What you are planning to do is an interesting way to proceed indeed. I think that the choice between the Enspire and Spirio systems is secondary to the choice of the acoustical instruments that hosts them. A Steinway is a Steinway... far off in my opinion from the Yamaha instruments. But, that is a very "pianistic" evaluation and also somehow, discutable depending of tastes... If you enjoy playing piano and the instrument will be with you for many years etc... then Steinway would be my choice. If your not much into piano playing and the instrument is more a tool for performance then a Yamaha would suit you just fine, they are very good instruments (i have one)... On the midi and electronics aspects Yamaha is master in making things that work very well, are sturdy etc. And the "new" Enspire line seems to (hopefully) bring improvement over older models. For the Spirio I have no idea, but the seriousness fame and reputation of Steinway's name would be enough for me to trust them fully ...(if I could afford it).
Finally there are maybe some characteristics that you would want, like the disklavier radio and tv channels (offered by yamaha) that could play a role in making your choice...
Its exciting ! like buying a car ...! LOL (lets be kids again)
and yes if money is around I would also hire a pianist and record his performance on the disklavier while he's rehearsing (edit later) since no real software can properly replace the human hand over the keys...
I admit that I haven't spent much time looking into systems like these, but what I have seen suggests to me that the Spirio system, as currently available, can only play back recordings made by Steinway in their own proprietary format. I don't think you can control it from Finale or any other sequencer, you can't load your own MIDI files, and I don't think you can even record your own performances. I don't see how you could get it to play back your own new compositions.
Spirio is equipped with a MIDI IN port supporting standard resolution MIDI and on/off pedaling. There's no MIDI OUT port, since current models are playback-only. Steinway wants to expand Spirio into the institutional market, so it's safe to assume that a model with recording capability is in development.
Although you can't load your own music files into Steinway's iPad app, you can convert MIDI files to Live Performance LX streams with MID2PianoCD, and those will play just fine on Spirio. The results of this conversion are superior to using the MIDI IN port, because the streaming format supports accurate timing, high-resolution velocity data and proportional pedaling.
Hah! Thanks, Mark. That's useful technical information that Steinway does not provide on the Spirio website.
Getting back to the OP's original question, if standard MIDI resolution, pedaling, timing, etc. were acceptable for the rehearsal situations mentioned, it sounds like a standard MIDI file could be created in a sequencer (the OP mentioned Finale), then played back on Spirio. Is Spirio's MIDI in on the piano, or do you mean uploading the MIDI file to the iPad and executing through the iPad app?
There's a wireline (5-pin DIN) MIDI IN port on the main box under the piano (power supply/processor unit). Spirio also has a Bluetooth audio receiver, so it's possible to convert a MIDI file to an LX MP3 file with MID2PianoCD, then stream that from the iPad (via Apple's standard Music app) or from a Bluetooth-equipped computer.
Aaron, I'll put in my 2 cents worth of comments in praise of Pianodisc:
I believe that you could get everything you want from something very similar to the set-up I have, which it is far less expensive than some of the options you are considering.
Five years ago I bought for $15,000 (US and Australian dollar were roughly equivalent then) a little used Pianodisc Empire style grand, 5' 9" long and made in the year 2000. I prefer its sound to that of the same sized Yamaha â€“ the sound board of the Yamaha seems by comparison to give a slightly disturbing artificial sounding amplification. The case, music stand, pedal lyre and lid of my Pianodisc Empire model are very elegant and finished in many tones of marquetry inlayed timbers â€“ far more attractive to me than a sprayed gloss black paint finish, so it is also an exquisite piece of furniture in my living room.
I have a professional pianist living in the house who only ever plays it live, as playing is his livelihood, but I use it every day for midi manipulation and playback via midi as my hands are now crippled.
DO NOT be deterred if you find a Disklavier or Pianodisc which only has a floppy disc player installed â€“ few people realise that the bandwidth and reproduction from floppies is far superior to what comes off any of the modern CD formats for Yamaha, Disklavier or Pianodisc and you can put down a session incrementally or have a session pianist play directly onto the floppy until it is to your complete satisfaction, then have it playback slower, faster, louder, softer as you choose to suit your singer.
For years, I believed that streamed CD input converted from midis was the new improved standard. It had, after all, superseded floppy disc, so I did not realise until a couple of years ago that CD streaming is actually a noticeably inferior standard, probably introduced to a) show that the piano manufacturers were keeping up with technology and b) because streaming from CD permits vocal or real instrument accompaniments to the track which plays the piano. Now, using a $30 USB to midi cable purchased on the internet, I input and output directly between computer and midi in and out ports on piano only using raw (unconverted) midi files.
Midi content from floppy discs can be read onto a computer, or the floppy â€“ or a live pianist â€“ can play and the computer will record the midi, note by note on the computer screen with pedals and all expression as it is played.
Having your compositions recorded as midis allows them (depending on the apps you install) to appear on screen as either music notation on the stave or as a virtual piano-roll and you can do any degree of editing to them, on screen. You can edit as you are playing back thru the piano, phrase by phrase, bar by bar or note by note and the whole of the midi or any selected parts of it can easily and uniformly be adjusted and the polished edit saved for playback thereafter.
Standard midi systems or LX ?
Standard midis register and play back note velocities from zero to 127, where zero is inaudible and 127 is so loudly struck that it could break the piano string. By comparison the LX system apparently uses a HD midi which can register and play back over 1020 different nuances in note velocity. This would be marvelous if the human ear could distinguish 1/1020th of a change in note velocity, but in my opinion, it can't. So, yes, on paper it is a superior system, but other factors are not always pointed out:
I have exceptionally good hearing and my ear can just detect an increase or decrease of about 7 points in for example a change of note velocity from 62 to 69. This means that over a range of 127 possible note velocities, I can detect about 18 distinct degrees of the loudness spectrum â€“ because 127 divided by 7 = 18. Music notation by comparison only allows us to differentiate 8 degrees from softness to loudness â€“ from ppp thru pp, p, mp, mf, f and ff, to fff.
Each midi note is assigned a note velocity when it is put down in a midi recording. Similarly, I can create a midi scale where all notes are given the same note velocity. Being mechanical, hoowever, each felt hammer in a piano will escape a little differently from its neighbour upon being struck and, in even the best regulated pianos, not all notes of that one pre-set midi velocity will cause the felt hammers to strike their strings with the same force. Generally, well regulated solenoids and hammers will play back each note at the approximate expected note velocity, but ultimately, as explained above, these are only detected by the ear as being within one of 16 or 18 levels of volume between almost silent to extremely loud.
It seems that Edmund Welte came to the same conclusion in 1904 when he devised the first Reproducing Welte Mignon Piano. He decided that a lifelike 'reproduction' of a performance would only be possible if his piano could reproduce the full loud to soft spectrum of playback using 16 degrees of expression and his rolls are thus encoded, giving 16 levels of nuance in playback â€“ from very loud to very soft.
So, for all the reasons above, if a system can impart a full spectrum of note velocities on playback, I believe it matters little, whether you are listening to 1020 or 127 possible different note velocities as a) your ear cannot detect a 1/127 change, let alone 1/1020, and b) the mechanics of the escape of the hammer do not permit that finesse of registration either.
No doubt there will be objections to my reasoning. Yes, I would love to own an LX system in a 9' Bosendorfer, but for only for similar reasons as to why I would prefer to own a Bentley to a Volvo.
Speaking of PianoDisc MIDI playback AND recording capability, I just had fun posting a little video demonstration on the PianoWorld MY NEW PIANO Subforum a couple of nights ago... using my new Mason & Hamlin 7â€™0â€ Model BB, with factory installed PianoDisc iQ, ProRecord III and SilentDrive HD!
I recently recorded Edvard Grieg's Lyric Piece - Op. 68, No.5 Cradle Song ('Badnlatâ€™) on a March morning before work. I selected this composition to test the lyrical and singing nature of my new Mason & Hamlin 7â€™0â€ Model BB, and to test the capability of the PianoDisc ProRecord system in dealing with subtle keystrokes and pedaling.
So as I digitally recorded this in stereo using my TASCAM DP-008EX Digital Recorder, I also made a standard MIDI recording using the new ProRecord system (Soft-Pedal information is also captured and used to reduce piano volume during playback). I thought it might be fun to create a sample video demonstration comparing the original live recording with a PianoDisc SilentDrive HD playback of the ProRecord MIDI recording on my Mason & Hamlin BB:
My take, I think standard 0-127 MIDI capture for recording and playback purposes is fine and that ProRecord and PianoDisc offer a relatively low cost, high quality aftermarket MIDI record and playback option for folks who cannot dish out 101K Euro for a new Steinway Spirio with playback capability only. I am looking forward to the addition of a soft-pedal solenoid to my SilentDrive HD setup (now available) and understand that a proportional pedaling playback option (currently supported by ProRecord) is in the works. Following is one of the better Harold Bauer Duo-Art 7316/7317 roll recordings (from 1929) of Bach's Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue in Dm transferred to a standard 0-127 MIDI file and recorded on my Mason & Hamlin BB:
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