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Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
#2926550 12/24/19 08:54 PM
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One of the main drawbacks on a digital piano (at least the Clavinova I'm familiar with) is the limited dynamic response. It feels there are 3 or 4 levels you can produce with normal play as opposed to the continuous spectrum on an acoustic, and playing the treble louder than the base can be a challenge in particular. Is there any way to get around this? I think I heard about Pianoteq as a possible workaround but am not familiar with the software. Anything that may not require hooking up a computer?

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2926558 12/24/19 09:14 PM
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Which Yamaha are you referring to?

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
MacMacMac #2926571 12/24/19 10:14 PM
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CLP 645

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2926721 12/25/19 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoman1987
One of the main drawbacks on a digital piano (at least the Clavinova I'm familiar with) is the limited dynamic response. It feels there are 3 or 4 levels you can produce with normal play as opposed to the continuous spectrum on an acoustic,
Yes, in most digital pianos there are 2, 3 or 4 velocity layers (some cheap models use just 1 velocity layer!). Maybe some top-model DPs have some more layers, but not many more (I think). Often, the layers are interpolated so that you don't feel sudden timbral changes when you play, but of course the timbral variations are not so rich and detailed compared to an acoustic. DPs that create the basic waveform with modeling algorithms (Roland, Viscount) can produce many more timbral variations, but some (or many?) users feel their timbre is a little cold and artificial sounding, too metallic, too bright, etc...
Quote
and playing the treble louder than the base can be a challenge in particular. Is there any way to get around this? I think I heard about Pianoteq as a possible workaround but am not familiar with the software. Anything that may not require hooking up a computer?
On my Kawai DP I can lower a little the volume of the lower registers, so that it will be more easy to "voice" the main melody over the base. But I think it's not an optimal solution, because then if you want to play more strong on the low registers you cannot do it anymore (unless you reset that option). So, I think the best solution is to use an heavier touch curve (and play more strong on the melody line).

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2926737 12/25/19 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoman1987
It feels there are 3 or 4 levels you can produce with normal play as opposed to the continuous spectrum on an acoustic...


Are you talking about the key action response or the sound?

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2926739 12/25/19 01:59 PM
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the sound in response to key presses

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2926745 12/25/19 02:16 PM
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Hello 1987. 1951 here. Happy Holidays.

The short answer is: Set the touch to the Hardest, and if available, set the velocity curve concave (slow to rise). Then turn your keyboard’s volume way up so that you play more in the P and MF range.

Your keyboard may not show you everything that’s going on behind the curtains, but if you’re interested, here’s some of what’s going on.

In my experience there are four different factors that can all be involved. Each of these is a technology based on MIDI. MIDI translates each key stroke into an ‘On’ message, accompanied with a ‘Velocity’ value from 0 to 127.

1). How hard do I have to hit the key to achieve a highest value of 127? If you can picture a classical pianist playing FFF, you’ll think of raising the body off of the bench. Well, very few if any DPs give you this feel, but many have a setting for playing, like Heavy, Medium, Light. Most only change the velocity curve (see #2), but a few will have actually change the range of velocities required to get to 127. In general you want that setting to be the hardest to achieve because most pianos are pretty strident when given a maximum hit, and accidentally hitting a note with that timbre sounds awful. However, I have only found a few VSTs to actually use the samples for those extreme velocity levels and usually reviews of these complain about the harshness of the tone without realizing it’s because their DP is way too easy to get to a 127 velocity level.

2). The Velocity value can then go through a transformative re-mapping that can change how quickly or slowly the timbre and volume increase as you increase the velocity. If it increases more quickly than normal my piano sound will get louder and more bright with less velocity making it easier to play a FFF sound without actually striking the keys as hard as a real grand piano. Vice Versa, lowering the curve makes it easier to play PP sounds, especially on a keyboard that that costs 1/50th of what a concert keyboard costs.

Now that the keyboard has sent a Note On message with velocity, the software has two independent decisions to make: what timbre to play (which sample) and how loud to make it?

3). The timbre range is rarely settable. Most DPs eliminate the highest value because their keyboards really can’t handle them. This is where the number of samples is relevant. Note that some software can interpolate the values between samples, so your ear is the best judge. How the samples are chosen is directly from the transformed velocity value.

4). Last but very important. The keyboard has determined the velocity of the key strike, the transformation algorithm has modified the velocity curve, and the software has determined which sample to play. But how loud? Many VSTs give you the ability to set the Dynamic Range (loudest vs. softest) for the software piano. This is extremely helpful for musical, technique, and hardware reasons. Musical: if I’m playing Bach Inventions on a piano rather than harpsichord I want a fairly small dynamic range. Chopin larger. Rachmaninov largest. Technique: I don’t want to set a dynamic range larger than I can musically handle. Hardware: typically my keyboard can’t handle the very heavy weight used for late Romantic playing.

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2926792 12/25/19 05:10 PM
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PianoMan51 has done a good job of describing what actually happens, between the keypress and the sound coming out. Thanks!

Originally Posted by PianoMan51
. . . Technique: I don’t want to set a dynamic range larger than I can musically handle. . . .


With high settings of "Dynamics" (= dynamic range) in Pianoteq, I can't play a scale evenly. Most of the Pianoteq models have a stated range of 40 dB. My scales are reasonably even, then.

I start getting into trouble at 50 dB, and can't handle 60 dB at all.

. . . So be careful what you wish for.

I don't know if Pianoteq's "Dynamic" number is the difference between MIDI velocity 1 (or 2) and velocity 127, or if it's for some sub-range of that.

An experiment would be worthwhile . . .


. Charles
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PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / EV ZXA1 speaker
Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
Charles Cohen #2926828 12/25/19 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
PianoMan51 has done a good job of describing what actually happens, between the keypress and the sound coming out. Thanks!

Originally Posted by PianoMan51
. . . Technique: I don’t want to set a dynamic range larger than I can musically handle. . . .


With high settings of "Dynamics" (= dynamic range) in Pianoteq, I can't play a scale evenly. Most of the Pianoteq models have a stated range of 40 dB. My scales are reasonably even, then.

I start getting into trouble at 50 dB, and can't handle 60 dB at all.

. . . So be careful what you wish for.

I don't know if Pianoteq's "Dynamic" number is the difference between MIDI velocity 1 (or 2) and velocity 127, or if it's for some sub-range of that.

An experiment would be worthwhile . . .



I can understand, and concur with this. You get an irregular sound coming out; sometimes the velocity curve can seem faster in some areas which makes playing darned unpleasant.
Most digital manufacturers realise this, and take it into account.
With Pianoteq and other VSTs you have to sort it out yourself! That's the hard bit. . . .


"I am not a man. I am a free number"

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Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2926855 12/25/19 10:13 PM
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Thanks for the answers guys. When I set the touch response setting to hardest, it seems to mute the sound across the board. And from your answers it appears that augmented software like Pianoteq can be more trouble than its worth. Maybe I'll look for an acoustic upright to supplement the digital. They are much heavier and louder though. Makes you wish digital piano makers took more care with sound sampling than all the bells and whistles. Are hybrids any better in that regard? From the demos I've heard (dynamics stuck in one plane) I'm skeptical.

Happy Holidays

Last edited by pianoman1987; 12/25/19 10:14 PM.
Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2926863 12/25/19 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoman1987
One of the main drawbacks on a digital piano (at least the Clavinova I'm familiar with) is the limited dynamic response. It feels there are 3 or 4 levels you can produce with normal play as opposed to the continuous spectrum on an acoustic, and playing the treble louder than the base can be a challenge in particular. Is there any way to get around this? I think I heard about Pianoteq as a possible workaround but am not familiar with the software. Anything that may not require hooking up a computer?


I own the cheaper (but similar) Yamaha P-515 and have none of these issues. It's dynamic range is larger than any upright AP I have access to and voicing melodies both in RH and LH is working perfectly fine.

Try a factory reset and see a technician to check if your DP isn't broken.


Richwood RD-17C-CE | LaMancha Rubi CM-N | Yamaha P-515
Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2926873 12/25/19 11:43 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoman1987
Thanks for the answers guys. When I set the touch response setting to hardest, it seems to mute the sound across the board. And from your answers it appears that augmented software like Pianoteq can be more trouble than its worth. Maybe I'll look for an acoustic upright to supplement the digital. They are much heavier and louder though. Makes you wish digital piano makers took more care with sound sampling than all the bells and whistles. Are hybrids any better in that regard? From the demos I've heard (dynamics stuck in one plane) I'm skeptical.

Happy Holidays


Yes -- when you set the touch to "Hard", if you're not used to it, you lose the FF-FFF range, because your fingers _think_ they're hitting the keys hard. But they're just tickling the ivories . . .

. . . Leave the touch on "Hard" for a while, and do a few minutes of practice of _loud_ playing every day, and see if things improve.

If you leave the "stock" settings alone, Pianoteq works OK "out of the box". One nice feature is that you can re-calibrate the touch response of the keyboard -- there's a mapping from the keyboard's MIDI velocity, to Pianoteq's internal MIDI velocity -- and you can change it if you want. So my PX-350 keyboard (which generates roughly MIDI velocity 15 - 115) can produce the whole MIDI 1 - 127 range from Pianoteq.

i don't know what model Clavinova you have, or what action Yamaha put into it. VST's can be a deep rabbit-hole (you'll see that in some memeber signatures), or they can replace a sound generator that you don't like, at reasonable cost if you have a computer available.

. . . You're not _required_ to go down the rabbit hole.

People who really want an acoustic piano, tend to acquire one. That may be your future, and it's perfectly honorable.<g>


. Charles
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PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / EV ZXA1 speaker
Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
Charles Cohen #2926923 12/26/19 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
[...]I don't know if Pianoteq's "Dynamic" number is the difference between MIDI velocity 1 (or 2) and velocity 127, or if it's for some sub-range of that.

What Pianoteq (and every VST with a "dynamic" knob) does is just to set a different volume for the lowest velocity that makes a sound. The max volume (0db) is not affected by this setting.

So, if you set 10db, it means that the lowest volume will be -10db (and you will not feel much difference in volume between min and max velocity).
If you set 40db, it means that the lowest volume will be -40db (and you will feel a clear difference between min and max vol).

Unfortunately most DPs don't allow the user to change the volume dynamic independently of the timbre (with the touch curve you change both the timbre and the volume of the sound) but sometimes they have some variations of the main piano sounds (the so-called "Mellow" piano sounds) that, in addition to generating softer timbres, they have a slightly reduced volume dynamic range to make a more intimate sound feeling (as if you were closer to the piano).

I wonder why most (if not all) DP manufacturers don't expose this simple option (volume dynamics) in their user interfaces...

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
magicpiano #2927021 12/26/19 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by magicpiano
I wonder why most (if not all) DP manufacturers don't expose this simple option (volume dynamics) in their user interfaces...

Dynamic range on digital pianos is controlled by the volume slider: put it on "MAX" and it will provide the maximum dynamic range available. Your neighbors might not like it, but this is how acoustic pianofortes are and always have been.

The dynamic response to keyboard input (discussed on this thread despite the subject being dynamic range) is realistic (enough) using factory settings on mid-range digital pianos and above. Playing quiet requires proper pianissimo technique and playing loud requires manual effort. This is true for acoustic pianos as well.

Being unable to voice melodies on a Clavinova CLP-645 either calls for a technician - because it's broken, if it only produces three distinct levels - or piano practice - lots of.


Richwood RD-17C-CE | LaMancha Rubi CM-N | Yamaha P-515
Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
JoeT #2927070 12/26/19 07:10 PM
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Are you saying that the CLP645 has only three sampling layers?
Originally Posted by JoeT
Being unable to voice melodies on a Clavinova CLP-645 either calls for a technician - because it's broken, if it only produces three distinct levels - or piano practice - lots of.
If that's true then I'm very surprised. My CLP240, released in 2005, has three levels. Is today's midrange Clav no better after all these years?

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
MacMacMac #2927073 12/26/19 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
Are you saying that the CLP645 has only three sampling layers?

No.


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Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
JoeT #2927093 12/26/19 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by JoeT
Originally Posted by magicpiano
I wonder why most (if not all) DP manufacturers don't expose this simple option (volume dynamics) in their user interfaces...

Dynamic range on digital pianos is controlled by the volume slider: put it on "MAX" and it will provide the maximum dynamic range available. Your neighbors might not like it, but this is how acoustic pianofortes are and always have been.[...]

Yes, raising the global volume will increase the dynamic range, but what if you want a reduced dynamic range (to make a more intimate sound) or a wider dynamic range without affecting the max volume? In this case, the "Dynamics" knob of Pianoteq will do the job, because it works on the lowest volume allowed, not the highest. Maybe it's not realistic, but that's not the point... The point is that one of the benefits of Digital Pianos is that the user should have much more control on the sound output (min. volume, max volume, different timbre, etc.) compared with an acoustic. More options means greater customization possibilities, and to me that's a good thing. Of course, if you from a Digital Piano want only a decent acoustic piano emulation and nothing more, then you would disagree with me.

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2927114 12/26/19 10:16 PM
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Increasing master volume has nothing to do with the dynamic range of your board. But if it seems to increase it, then you have been playing with the volume set so low that you haven’t been hearing the quietest tones of the board. Try this: sit down and play as softly as physically possible and increase the piano’s master volume until you hear the volume that a real piano gives at ppp. You may find that FF is shockingly loud, but this will start the re-training needed to normalize hand and arm weight for mF.

I’ve played more than a thousand jazz gigs on DP, and this is how I set my volume at gigs. Try it at home.

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
pianoman1987 #2927187 12/27/19 08:30 AM
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I agree with you that changing the dynamics and changing the master volume are two very
different things. If you raise the master volume of +4db you will get +4db for both the lowest and the highest velocity. If you raise the "dynamics" knob of +4db, you will get +4db on the min. velocity sound, but the volume of the highest velocity will always be the same.

Re: Dynamic Range on Digital Piano
magicpiano #2927192 12/27/19 08:49 AM
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I think you’ll find that as you raise the dynamics setting that the softest volume becomes softer, not louder.

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