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VI Playability
#3048763 11/23/20 11:45 PM
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I'm usually on the acoustic piano forum, and having recently sampled my own acoustic, I was wondering how people define "playability".

I keep hearing that Pianoteq is really playable, but the sounds aren't quite as realistic as the sampled pianos. So what should I do to increase the playability of my sampled piano? Increase velocity layers? Make sure the timbre brightens with velocity? What are the key ingredients?


1928 Mason & Hamlin Model A
Play it as a VI HERE
Yamaha PF85, Formerly Kawai KG-1D
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Re: VI Playability
Dore #3048785 11/24/20 01:47 AM
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Pianoteq is really playable indeed, but to me it sounds bad, so I still can't play it.

I don't know how you would increase velocity layers on a sampled piano.

As far as my experience goes sampled libaries with great playability are:

- Vi labs ravenscroft
- VI Labs modern U
- Synthogy Ivory American D (probably all synthogy piano's play well.)
- Garritan CFX
- all vsl synchron piano's

I think these all have great playability, with the synchron piano's being the absolute best imo.

Re: VI Playability
Dore #3048800 11/24/20 03:18 AM
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Given that playability has no clear definition, it can be said that all VSTs are playable.
To be meaningful I think the discussion should drop playability and should instead focus on meaningful aspects of touch and tone.

To the OP ... What is it you feel a need to improve?
Originally Posted by Dore
So what should I do to increase the playability of my sampled piano? Increase velocity layers? Make sure the timbre brightens with velocity? What are the key ingredients?
You cannot add velocity layers. But is that related to "playability"?
Most VSTs allow you to adjust timbre. But is that related to "playability"?
Most let you adjust the velocity curve. But is that related to "playability"?

Re: VI Playability
Dore #3048811 11/24/20 03:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Dore
I'm usually on the acoustic piano forum, and having recently sampled my own acoustic, I was wondering how people define "playability".

I keep hearing that Pianoteq is really playable, but the sounds aren't quite as realistic as the sampled pianos. So what should I do to increase the playability of my sampled piano? Increase velocity layers? Make sure the timbre brightens with velocity? What are the key ingredients?

I downloaded your Mason and Hamlin sampling, and the tone of the piano is quite lovely, and also quite itself, not sounding like all sorts of other sampled pianos. Unfortunately, the touch curve of my digital piano is such, that I have to smash the keyboard at full force to get much sound out of your piano samples, so the most important thing with respect to playability, from my perspective, would be to add the possibility to change the velocity curve. Garritan CFX has that ability, and it uses the same sample player software, so it can be done. (But for all I know it could be very difficult).

However, as for "playability" for your own experience, where the implicit velocity curve is probably already fine, my guess is that adding velocity layers is most useful. I have a sampled VI which suffers from extreme timbre changes (on some notes only) by changing the velocity only a tiny amount. It has the effect of making the VI seem like a sampling of a piano with sticky keys. smile

Alternatively, maybe there is a software facility to blend velocity layers into one another to make the transitions between different velocities more smooth. I must add that I am definitely speculating here; I am no expert in sampling technology.


Roland FP-30, Roland E-28
Synthogy Ivory II Studio Grands, Production Voices Estate Grand, Garritan CFX Lite, Pianoteq 7.0 (Blüthner, Bechstein DG, Grotrian, Steinway D, K2)
Re: VI Playability
Dore #3048946 11/24/20 11:11 AM
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I probably should have been a little more specific. I'm trying to improve the sampled piano that I've created, and are trying to understand how people perceive playability (which I agree is a fuzzy term).

Because it's my creation, I own the mic's and piano - I can indeed add more velocity layers, tweak the velocity curves, change timbre, etc. I'm pretty new to this, but so far have gotten some good reviews and I'm thinking about how I can improve.

So, for example, what makes Pianoteq (in some people's opinion) more playable but sound less realistic than say, Garritan? (Anyway, that's the perception I get from reading forum posts)

Thanks for the feedback so far.


1928 Mason & Hamlin Model A
Play it as a VI HERE
Yamaha PF85, Formerly Kawai KG-1D
Re: VI Playability
Dore #3048959 11/24/20 11:44 AM
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My impression of Pianoteq playability lies in its responsiveness. I think that's what people here mean regarding Pianoteq. Not sure about what it means with respect to other VSTs.

Maybe we should drop "playability" and stick with case-specific terminology?

Re: VI Playability
MacMacMac #3048991 11/24/20 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
My impression of Pianoteq playability lies in its responsiveness. I think that's what people here mean regarding Pianoteq. Not sure about what it means with respect to other VSTs.

Maybe we should drop "playability" and stick with case-specific terminology?

Basically, I'm trying to translate what people mean by "playability" into that case specific terminology so I can focus on trying to improve my VI. So I agree, but I lack the understanding about what people find most important. We can start to list these things:

response time (which is more related to your audio interface (?))
velocity response:
velocity curves
velocity layers and timbre changes according to velocity
piano noise layers (pedal, dampers, release triggers, etc)

Suggestions on what I'm missing? Opinions?


1928 Mason & Hamlin Model A
Play it as a VI HERE
Yamaha PF85, Formerly Kawai KG-1D
Re: VI Playability
Dore #3048999 11/24/20 01:10 PM
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‘Playability’ means different things to different people. Here is what it means to me:

  • How easy it is to configure the player with low latency - without getting any audio cracks or dropouts. For example, Emberton Walker D (which I own) always has problems with audio drops or cracks. And, it always feels that the sound is not reproduced immediately after touching the keys. it is not a sound card settings issue. I use Cakewalk as DAW for hosting VSTs. For the same ASIO buffer settings in Cakewalk, if I open Pianoteq, VSL Synchron D or Garritan GFX - I have zero issues. All 3 VSTs respond immediately to the touch. But, Embertone Walker D just doesn’t. It is perhaps an issue with Kontakt scripting or whatever (I don’t really know), but the VST is not ‘playable’.
  • How easy it is to configure velocity curve to suit your keyboard.
  • How responsive does the piano feel when pedals are pressed. How responsive it is to half-pedal? Can you play pedals with the same level of control as a well-tuned grand piano?
  • How easy is it to play ppp to fff with control? It is not just enough to have a wide dynamic range. It has to be wide and controllable so I feel that sound changes as expected in line with how soft/hard the keys are pressed.


The things that playability does not include (for me at least): timbre/tone of the VST, whether it needs a dongle, whether it is sampled or modeled. All these matter of course, but they are other aspects of the VST and not ‘playability’.

Osho

Last edited by Osho; 11/24/20 01:11 PM.

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Current VST favorites (in the order of preference): Pianoteq 7/VSL Synchron Concert D//Garritan CFX/Embertone Walker D Full

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Re: VI Playability
Dore #3049005 11/24/20 01:27 PM
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@Osho: If I number your items as 1 through 4 ...

1. I've never found latency configuration to be difficult. Either you get good latency ... or you don't. It's quite dependent on your hardware.
2. Configuring the velocity curve is easy ... if the VST has one. I use an outboard velocity curve program instead. But either way ... it's quite easy.
3. Responsiveness to pedaling. That's a big fish!
4. Ease of control at all dynamic levels. Another big fish!

Awaiting other opinions ...

Re: VI Playability
Dore #3049007 11/24/20 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Dore
I'm usually on the acoustic piano forum, and having recently sampled my own acoustic, I was wondering how people define "playability".

I keep hearing that Pianoteq is really playable, but the sounds aren't quite as realistic as the sampled pianos. So what should I do to increase the playability of my sampled piano? Increase velocity layers? Make sure the timbre brightens with velocity? What are the key ingredients?

There are numerous videos concerning pianoteq, you can tell if you like the sound by browsing through them.


Instruments: Current - Kawai MP7SE; Past - Kawai MP7, Yamaha PSR7000
Software: Sibelius 7; Neuratron Photoscore Pro 8
Stand: K&M 18953 Table-style Stage Piano Stand
Re: VI Playability
Dore #3049224 11/25/20 03:47 AM
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Since I changed from a high end CA keyboard to a E200 hybrid upright, I feel like Pianoteq doesnt give me the best playability anymore, which was the best for me before. So it also depends on the midi controller used. I think it might be because not Kawai Silent System,afaik, can output Release information, and apparently Ptq relies on that a lot. It feels very difficult to play dry staccato. But as for now I love the Grandeur, Garritan and the VSL CFX too


Kawai E200-ATX3
Mostly VSL's, Garritan, Modern U, Grandeur
Re: VI Playability
Dore #3049287 11/25/20 08:46 AM
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Playability to me means:

1. A really good overall dynamic range from ppp-fff.

2. Easy to control the dynamic range.

3. I have to feel connected to the instrument (i.e., no discernible latency).


I actually find that the internal CFX sample on my N1X has the best playability of anything I own (VST's included). Pianoteq is second in terms of playability, but last in terms of sound.

Playability is becoming more important to me lately and therefore I've been finding myself playing the internal CFX on my N1X more consistently now. It doesn't have the most authentic acoustic sound, but I appreciate the softer sounding timbre and the evenness throughout the register (i.e., #2, easy to control the dynamic range).

God Bless,
David


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Re: VI Playability
Dore #3049350 11/25/20 11:49 AM
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Hi Dore - Playability is a tough one to define. What factors focus more on sound quality vs. playability?

I think the VI market traditionally focuses on recording and composing work, so maybe playability is not a critical consideration for a lot of developers. VIs typically are recorded dry (to facilitate mix and ambiance) so that is not a realistic environment for us (although we can add effects).

VI marketing historically promotes such benefits as: number of layers, chromatic sampling, round robins, pedaling features, number & types of mics, studio, piano type, sample rate/bit depth, size of software in GB, etc. Which factors are tilted towards sound quality vs. playability vs. fluff?

The piano, regulation, room, recording, and other production might tilt at "sound quality" but probably impact the perception of playability, particularly with respect to scripting. A well regulated piano and even samples are important out of the gate I think.

For playability, there are plenty of complaints here about pedaling on VIs. Including the Kontakt implementations. CyberGene provides some under the hood clues about Garritan CFX's pedaling in the Aria Player.

Also, I sense timing and jitter are fundamental issues but plenty of people here disagree. Integrated digital pianos could bypass typical slow serial MIDI implementations for some performance advantages (I'm not sure if any actually do but IIRC the AvantGrand schematics indicate Yamaha could).

Search for some great posts at PW that you should read through to get a flavour for the key factors of playability. Here are a couple to get you started.

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...vsl-steinway-d-released.html#Post2796438

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...garritan-cfx-lite-59-95.html#Post2644745

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2827501/garritan-cfx-noise.html

Re: VI Playability
newer player #3049370 11/25/20 12:38 PM
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That is a really good point about recording/composing vs playing. I can also see that the piano playing community is very different from the film scoring community.

When I started the thread, I was trying to figure out where to focus my effort in fine tuning my sampling. So many places to optimize....

Thanks for the threads.


1928 Mason & Hamlin Model A
Play it as a VI HERE
Yamaha PF85, Formerly Kawai KG-1D
Re: VI Playability
Dore #3049392 11/25/20 01:37 PM
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By the way, below is a quick & dirty summary of sfz protocol that you can review it in 5 minutes:

https://web.archive.org/web/20090215223249/http://www.cakewalk.com/DevXchange/sfz.asp

Re: VI Playability
Dore #3049397 11/25/20 01:49 PM
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Evenness of timbre and volume across the 88s for each MIDI velocity value. If I’m playing chords and lots of notes I might not notice this. But when I play a legato line, say mezzo forte, and certain notes either stick out, or drop out, regardless of my playing, that is un-evenness. And it sucks.

Evenness is much easier to accomplish via modeling. The most evenly sampled piano I have is Ravenscroft, and I imagine it’s because this is a very modern and expensive piano which has the evenness built and regulated into the piano itself.

Re: VI Playability
Dore #3049640 11/26/20 07:59 AM
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Often it's all about the attack, for example in a DP the attack sounds better when you mix acoustic piano with the electric piano, and the result is a better "playability".


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