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VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
#3010339 08/05/20 03:30 AM
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I've gone to some lengths to experiment with a VST setup, but it's starting to feel like it's more trouble than it's worth.

I've rescued a recycled Mac Mini and set everything up to be headless. I've wrestled with lag which I've completely conquered with help here. I've wrestled with ground loops, which I've made significant progress on, but still haven't completely conquered. And finally, I've been messing with endless VST settings and trying out all the various options.

I'm starting to wonder why folks even bother with all this? I find all the options exhausting and I seem to abhor having another computer in my music making chain. Could it be because I'm spoiled that my piano already has perfectly wonderful sounds built-in? I'm not seeing the point anymore -- is the payoff really worth it?

Maybe VSTs would be better as a post-production tool -- performing with the native engine, but also capturing the MIDI then playing it back through the VST. Do folks do it this way? What's a good workflow for this?

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010340 08/05/20 03:34 AM
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What did you get your lag down to if I may ask?


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Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
Terry Michael #3010343 08/05/20 03:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Terry Michael
What did you get your lag down to if I may ask?

This is the thread where I asked for help:

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2950314/novus-pianoteq.html

I wish I knew what exactly solved it because I changed many things. I got different cables, upgraded OS and software, and reduced audio buffer size to the minimum in the VST (64 samples -- 1.3 ms).

My problem went from very bad and noticeable lag to basically zero lag. I can now play my native piano sound and VST at the same time and not notice any difference between the two.

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010346 08/05/20 03:58 AM
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Originally Posted by navindra
I've wrestled with lag which I've completely conquered with help here.

I never had a lag problem using both a 2012 MacBook Air and 2018 Mac mini.

Quote
I've wrestled with ground loops, which I've made significant progress on, but still haven't completely conquered.

I never had a ground loop problem with my N1X. I did have a ground loop problem when I tried out the NV10 in the store. That's one of the reasons why I didn't buy it.

Quote
And finally, I've been messing with endless VST settings and trying out all the various options.

One of the benefits with modern VSTs is the ability to shape the sound. I find it helpful to try other people's settings. Once you find the basic sound you like you'll probably add a few tweaks here and there as your taste changes and different pieces are played.

Quote
I'm starting to wonder why folks even bother with all this? I find all the options exhausting and I seem to abhor having another computer in my music making chain. Could it be because I'm spoiled that my piano already has perfectly wonderful sounds built-in? I'm not seeing the point anymore -- is the payoff really worth it?

That's wonderful if you're happy with the internal sounds. It will potentially save you a lot of money. I've actually spent thousands on computer upgrade and samples. Don't even go down that path if you're happy with the native sounds. There might still be time to keep you from the Dark Side. smile

God bless,
David


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Mac mini 2018/Focusrite Scarlett 2i4/KRK Rokit 6 G3 Studio Monitors
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Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
David B #3010348 08/05/20 04:15 AM
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Originally Posted by David B
Quote
I've wrestled with ground loops, which I've made significant progress on, but still haven't completely conquered.

I never had a ground loop problem with my N1X. I did have a ground loop problem when I tried out the NV10 in the store. That's one of the reasons why I didn't buy it.

To be honest, I think I have conquered the ground loop but that I'm dealing with a different kind of problem now. I've just been too exhausted with all this messing around to test the theory so I'm still calling it "ground loop".

To fix the actual ground loop, I found an audio cable with those ferrite beads on it. I had it laying around but didn't realize those ferrite beads were actually good for something. I also had to give up on the USB MIDI interface and go old-school with a 5-pin MIDI to USB cable that I bought for under $15.

The signal is now completely quiet, when at rest. What remains now are things like when I move the pointer on the Mac Mini, I hear a corresponding noise in the audio signal. There are other similar computer noises that show up in the audio signal. Ridiculous.

However, this is a 2010 Mac Mini (Core 2 Duo) and I haven't checked if my newer MBP has the same problem.

Originally Posted by David B
One of the benefits with modern VSTs is the ability to shape the sound. I find it helpful to try other people's settings. Once you find the basic sound you like you'll probably add a few tweaks here and there as your taste changes and different pieces are played.

Thanks for articulating this! This has actually been my motivation -- shaping the sound to something personal. Your approach makes a lot of sense.

Originally Posted by David B
That's wonderful if you're happy with the internal sounds. It will potentially save you a lot of money. I've actually spent thousands on computer upgrade and samples. Don't even go down that path if you're happy with the native sounds. There might still be time to keep you from the Dark Side. smile

You are definitely right here! smile

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010351 08/05/20 04:22 AM
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My Kawai MP11 has a ground loop with the USB cable, so I use the MIDI ports instead. Best thing about VST is variety. Best thing about not using it is "sit down and play."


"Music Is Inherently Evanescent. Once You Play It, It's Gone In The Air" ~ Eric Dolphy

Selmer Mark VI Tenor Saxophone (1973), Selmer Mark VI Alto Saxophone (1956), Yamaha YSS-62 Soprano Saxophone (1987), Yamaha WX5 Wind Synth (2013), Kawai 11, Casio PX5S, Roland VR-09, Hammond E-112 (1969).
Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010360 08/05/20 05:10 AM
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I'm not sure I understand the question. Why do people bother with piano vst's in general?

I never had a dp with a (good) sound in it myself, so that's where my need started. I now have a vpc-1 which obviously doesn't have sound at all.

But my answer to the question would be quality and choice. Sometimes I also am kind of overwhelmed by all the options in vst's, but the fact you can shape the sound to your liking is great in the end.

After trying buying and selling some libaries I have come to a point where I use 4 different virtual piano's, which I all like, and switching between them really keeps practicing more interesting.

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010364 08/05/20 05:21 AM
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For me, it was quite the opposite. I have a rather cheap digital piano with good action but not very good sound, and was thinking about buying a more expensive piano, but my financial situation was insecure, so I didn't do it. Then I got Pianoteq and all my thoughts about buying a new piano just stopped. I just love the sounds that my piano makes - or, that I create when playing the piano - and its automatic recording of everything I play many times has proven invaluable. For instance, it is hard for me to listen and play simultaneously, so when I want to hear what I just did, I simply play back from Pianoteq. So for me, VST added hugely to my joy of playing the piano. smile


Playing the piano is learning to create, playfully and deeply seriously, our own music in the world.
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Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010369 08/05/20 05:39 AM
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VST pianos can provide a more natural playing experience IMO. I don't notice the computer sitting on my digital.

As I have never had any significant technical problems, and I don't spend hours agonising over settings, I can just sit down and play.

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010376 08/05/20 06:18 AM
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If you find the right sound a VST it can be a joy. I've been lucky and not had ground loop or latency problems except when I bought the Bösendorfer Imperial VST from VSL and my 2012 model laptop struggled to keep up so I increased the buffer size quite a bit. In the end that didn't stop all the crackling so I bought myself a new mac mini.

My MP11SE has no speakers so I don't need a return cable for the sound to go into the MP11SE from the mac mini so that minimises the chances of a ground loop.

Like Animisha, I really enjoy playing with my VSTs. The Vienna Imperial (VI) really is wonderful and I feel a real connection between my playing and the sound. But I also enjoy the Bösendorfer Imperial and the TrueKeys German grand. I've wasted money on a couple of others that now don't get used.

My mac mini is always on, so for me it is close to sit down and play. Not quite as it takes the MP11SE about 15 seconds from turn on to sending midi. But I can put my headphones on in that time and settle myself on my piano stool, or turn on my speakers. I've nearly always left VI running, but about once a week I have to reboot the mac-mini, as CoreAudio gets itself in a mess.

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010377 08/05/20 06:23 AM
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Originally Posted by navindra
-- is the payoff really worth it?

Maybe VSTs would be better as a post-production tool -- performing with the native engine, but also capturing the MIDI then playing it back through the VST. Do folks do it this way? What's a good workflow for this?

Yes and Yes. My Yamaha has my favourite sounds (jazz piano) but Pianoteq records everything I do.
So if I make a mistake and actually play perfectly, it's there waiting for me.
I can also play and audibly record the Yamaha voice using the already recorded SMS (MIDI) file.

In addition, I have 2 pairs of identical headphones. One for PTeq, one for Yamaha piano. Both are working whenever I play. I spend at least 45 minutes making up my mind . . . smile by which time lunch is served.

Everything remains switched on, so simply I sit down and procrastinate.

Last edited by peterws; 08/05/20 06:27 AM.

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Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010390 08/05/20 07:24 AM
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These are all good points.
Personally I have to say that the piano sound coming from the internal engine of my CN37 it is nowhere near comparable to that of a nice VST piano library but... With VST you have to get a PC with good hardware, a good software setup to minimize lags (with Windows it's better to disable antivirus, automatic updates, maintenance, indexing, unused background services, etc.), cables connected between the keyboard and the computer, you have to load the OS and then the software to play the VST, and so on. I don't like the idea to keep my PC always on just for the piano.

With my DP, I turn it on and after 3 seconds I can play (and I don't have to see a computer nearby and so I don't have to ear noises from cooling fans inside the PC). Of course, the piano sound of my DP doesn't have all those details you can get from a good VST (well, we are talking about 3-4 short looped samples for each note VS dozens fully unlooped for each note) but the internal piano engine does some little modeling so you don't hear abrupt changes of the layers and you get enough dynamics to play (or learn to play) a classical piece with reasonable expression. The sustain of the notes is very strong with the SK-EX piano patch, so legato notes sound good. The repedaling of the right pedal works well. Sometimes you would like a slightly more percussive and clean sound, and then the EX piano patch is right for you.

Since I'm no longer an avid user of VST I'm learning more to play the piano. What I miss more from piano VSTs is a good reverb effect (I like very much the reverb quality in the Galaxy Vintage D).

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010392 08/05/20 07:29 AM
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Thats why i moved back from a VST setup to hardware...
This week finally got my MP7SE from Kawai..
Great piano sounds for my living room,
That allmost rival the best VST’s..

There is nothing better then just sit and play..
While still being able to create sounds..
Actually i am stunned by how wide the range of the kawai instruments is editable..
But when playing, everything is just one button away..

Combining it with my Genos and an ipad give me all i need..
(Somehow the ipad feels more intuitive then high end pc software, and serves for my Synth needs)


I just love the hardware setup..

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010397 08/05/20 07:53 AM
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you have a Genos with VSTs and moved from VST to MP7SE?

Genos is an awesome keyboard. sorry, that sounds a little bit strange.


RD 2000, Yamaha CVP, Pianoteq, Garritan CFX Lite, Modern U
on Ipad: Ravenscroft 275, Ivory Amercan D
Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010432 08/05/20 10:33 AM
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I work in IT, and as they say "the cobbler's kids have no shoes" -- I tire easily of "IT work" when I'm not working. Especially when it comes to music.

So, I work on VSTs a little.. then leave it as-is for a while. (Default settings, ground loop noise, whatever). In a few days or weeks, when inspiration hits or the annoyance gets too high, I'll mess with it again for a bit and make incremental improvements. Finally I arrived at a point with my very old laptop the VSL BI that I am very happy with its sound, low latency, wires tucked neatly away and out of sight, and everything else.

I know these VSTs have all these little switches and knobs to turn. I don't like messing with them too much so I typically leave defaults.

In the future, I'm considering getting a little MIDI controller with knobs and sliders to make adjusting easier. Then I may get into the tweaking game. smile

Incremental improvements are how I keep sanity with VSTs and playing!


Previous owner of a Yahama P-120 - now has new life with a student
New owner of a Kawai CA79 (and love it!)
Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010442 08/05/20 10:52 AM
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Too many options and settings available can easily distract from the joy of just playing.
Main reason why I frequently come back to my old but lovely Vienna Imperial!

Last edited by VladK; 08/05/20 10:52 AM.

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Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
VladK #3010444 08/05/20 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by VladK
Too many options and settings available can easily distract from the joy of just playing.
Main reason why I frequently come back to my old but lovely Vienna Imperial!
Absolutely. Set it to a hotkey or, if you don't use your PC for much else - put it in the autostart.

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
navindra #3010447 08/05/20 11:01 AM
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Ia there any difference between the resulting performance of recording with a vst live using the piano aa a midi controller and recording a midi file for example with the onboard piano sample and then putting that midi file into a vst after?

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
mwf #3010449 08/05/20 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by mwf
Ia there any difference between the resulting performance of recording with a vst live using the piano aa a midi controller and recording a midi file for example with the onboard piano sample and then putting that midi file into a vst after?

Only if you change the settings. When you play you respond to what you hear, so if you change the settings too far from what they were when you recorded the midi, the midi might be optimal for those settings.

Having said that for example with the VSL synchron pianos you could play with only a couple of microphone positions turned on and a small buffer to keep latency low, but then when you replay the midi file you could turn on more microphone positions and increase the buffer size since latency won't affect you and record that.

Re: VSTs seem to kill the joy out of actually playing the piano
mwf #3010453 08/05/20 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by mwf
Ia there any difference between the resulting performance of recording with a vst live using the piano aa a midi controller and recording a midi file for example with the onboard piano sample and then putting that midi file into a vst after?
Yes, of course there is a difference. The built in sound module is going to respond to the received MIDI data differently than your VST or any other sound source. This isn’t about the particular piano sound, reverb, or mic position. It’s about exactly what you hear from a velocity message of 64 vs 86 as you play. The real art of playing any instrument is the feedback loop between your hands and your ears. Once you have captured a real performance, then changing mic positions, or EQ settings is perfectly natural.

This is why many of us view a comparison of VSTs played from the same MIDI file as a non-starter.

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