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Yes, the "imperfection" aspect is a good one.

Makes me think could people believe a perfectly tuned acoustic is a very good digital piano in a blind test of recordings. (Maybe not in a real life blind test.)

There's a simple "imperfection slider" in the Pianoteq virtual piano. It goes from perfect to unplayable. Somewhere closer to perfect is probably the ideal setting. Unless one is neurotic about perfect unisons and such.

(And I "somewhat neurotically" commented on your words above as they were the whole basis for this topic. Just some more points of view to the discussion.)

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As a DP ignoramus may I ask about sound generation methods?

Do some DPs use recorded sounds and others synthesised sounds? Are chords processed as a combination of notes or as separate entities?

How do they handle staccato, legato and damping? Repetition?

How do they handle case/frame sounds and resonances emanating from the attack?

Last edited by Withindale; 09/30/21 04:27 AM.

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Originally Posted by Withindale
As a DP ignoramus may I ask about sound generation methods?

Do some DPs use recorded sounds and others synthesised sounds? Are chords processed as a combination of notes or as separate entities?

How do they handle staccato, legato and damping? Repetition?

How do they handle case/frame sounds and resonances emanating from the attack?

I'll have a go ...
Originally DPs used synthesised sounds and were .... poor. Then they started using a few actual samples (recordings of a note from a real piano) so different sections of notes were pitch shifted from a few samples. Then as computing power got better you had one sample per key, then longer duration samples instead of a short one stretched for the sustain, then higher resolutin samples. Then multiple samples for each key at different velocities. This is generally considered the most realistic method of sound reproduction and most DPs today use this method.

Except for those that don't :-) just like sampling modelling of notes has got better and there are some, generally reasonably expensive, modeled pianos available as well. You could say that they perhaps are not quite as realistic in tone as the equivalent sampled models but they can offer more expression to the pianist.

Re staccato, legato and damping. DPs know when a key is released so they know at what point to 'damp' the note just like a real piano does.

Case/sound/frame resonances are not modelled at all. It is possible that some of this might be properly included in the recordings of a piano that comprise the samples but I think this is unlikely as they will presumably be close miked recordings.

In better DPs there is an attempt to reproduce sympathetic string resonance i.e. resonance from undamped notes when another note is played. My DP does this, probably better than most, but it is still a pale shadow of the real thing in this regard.

Personally I am extremely impressed with how even a really basic level cheap DP (anything modern with 88 weighted keys really) can make rewarding and remarkably piano like music. I'm much less impressed with the improvements expensive DPs bring to the table. Ther are clearly are better, until you play a real acoustic and then you realise how big the gap is. There again, there are big gaps between one acoustic and another as well. I guess the more you think music played on a good hifi system is similar to a live performance then the more likely you are to like the DP.

Last edited by gwing; 09/30/21 04:56 AM.
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Digital pianos do have things like e.g. "Cabinet resonance" as well. That one appears at least in Kawai's terminology.

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I think a key difference between acoustics and digitals is, as Peter Grey pointed out, IMPERFECTION.

When I was young I thought it would be boring to be a concert pianist playing the same piece over and over again. It didn't seem creative enough to me. Of course years later I realised that every time I play a piece it is different. Every play is a creative act and the imperfections of acoustics encourage that. On most days I play my acoustic maybe 2 - 3 hours during the day and the digital for up to an hour in the evening, and reading through this thread and going from one to the other did make me think about those differences, particularly the consistency and controllability of the digital and the imperfections of the acoustic.

And this reminds me of what I had been reading about pianists comments on practice. Here is Horowitz on recording.
I never listen to my own recordings because I don’t want to influence myself. As
I said earlier, each time I play it is different. The great danger in listening to
records is imitation. When Chopin taught and his pupils tried to imitate him, he
sent them home and told them to bring something of their own. So many times
people who are studying piano study with recordings, and they are so used to
hearing note-perfect performances on the record that they want to duplicate the
same note-perfect performance in the concert hall. They are not concerned
about projecting the spirit of the music because they are concentrating so much
on the notes; it becomes an obsession with them. If they make a smudge or
something, they think it is a bad performance. A few wrong notes are not a
crime.


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A pianist is equally capable of hitting wrong notes on an acoustic or digital piano. And tuning can be manipulated on a digital piano as well, so I don't get the point about imperfection.

In fact there is a virtual instrument developer called Imperfect Samples, who also offers piano products - although in this case it's strictly on the software side.


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Originally Posted by cygnusdei
A pianist is equally capable of hitting wrong notes on an acoustic or digital piano. And tuning can be manipulated on a digital piano as well, so I don't get the point about imperfection.

In fact there is a virtual instrument developer called Imperfect Samples, who also offers piano products - although in this case it's strictly on the software side.
Your first sentence has nothing to do with acoustic imperfections - playing wrong notes is an imperfection in the pianist not the instrument - and the second re tuning is not an imperfection anyway.


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Originally Posted by Withindale
Are chords processed as a combination of notes or as separate entities?
In virtual guitars, single notes (plucked) and chords (strummed) are treated as separate articulations, because they do sound different - there is no way to authentically imitate the sound of a strummed guitar by combining plucked samples (with/without arpeggios). Whereas in virtual pianos chords are just treated as combination of notes - because, well, that's what they are and that's how they sound.

I thought this was illustrative of how far from "infinity" piano mechanics is. Even a guitar is more complex than a piano.


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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Your first sentence has nothing to do with acoustic imperfections - playing wrong notes is an imperfection in the pianist not the instrument - and the second re tuning is not an imperfection anyway.
Which is what your Horowitz quote alluded to, no?


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Originally Posted by cygnusdei
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Your first sentence has nothing to do with acoustic imperfections - playing wrong notes is an imperfection in the pianist not the instrument - and the second re tuning is not an imperfection anyway.
Which is what your Horowitz quote alluded to, no?
Indeed. Wrong notes is not relevant to the theme of acoustic imperfections. What I am suggesting is that acoustic imperfections encourages the sort of creative playing which digitals do not. One of the delights of playing different acoustic pianos is finding out what they are capable of.


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Originally Posted by j&j
Besides no one ever buys a digital piano as a piece of furniture. 😎
This is not true. A friend of mine bought a digital piano because he likes to see a piece of furniture resembling a piano in a room of its house. At first, he tried to learn to play the piano (well, maybe for 1-2 weeks...) then he stopped after realizing that too much time and dedication was required... But he didn't sell the instrument. IMHO he just likes to see the nice piece of furniture in its room. And I agree with him... It looks really good in that room! smile

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And acoustic instruments can change from day to day and season to season, sometimes influencing the way one plays. Digitals do not change of their own accord (except when a circuit fails and it doesn't work). Though these days they seem to be pretty reliable.

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Just my 2 cents: I've been working on sampling my piano (and now others) for a couple of years now and see the issues with sampled instruments from the maker side now.

I think to a certain extent, since people are used to listening to stereo recordings, it is acceptable and convenient for them to reproduce digital pianos and samples using external stereo speakers or headphones. And because people are used to a piano's sound over speakers from listening to recordings of other musicians, reproducing that type of sound is acceptable and even desirable for them. I sometimes describe that sound as "head in the piano" sound, especially using headphones, since many recordings of pianos are indeed with microphones inside the piano.

So a majority of digital piano users are either forced to, or choose to make their piano sound like a recording because they are used to hearing recordings of pianos done this way. (I hope I'm conveying the meaning clearly (?)) There are binaural and player position samples, but I don't think they're actually that popular. Everyone wants to play a recording of their head in a concert grand with added artificial reverb of a concert hall.

Anyway, I've been trying to use binaural/ambisonic plugins and mic arrays to create "The Experience", which is basically a VR piano. I've succeeded in making a decent binaural soundstage, but I've also found that hearing a re-created soundstage of a piano (with head tracking) can be disconcerting without actually seeing a real piano in front of you. I think its fascinating. So what I'm saying is that even if you could make a perfect replica of a piano, there is a visual element that can't be overlooked.


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Originally Posted by Dore
I think its fascinating. So what I'm saying is that even if you could make a perfect replica of a piano, there is a visual element that can't be overlooked.

On the acoustic side there also an aural element as I discovered by chance the other day. I had removed a couple of floor cushions that live under the piano. Lo and behold the sound was more immediate and the piano more inviting to play.

Do any digitals have speakers underneath as well as above?


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People often focus on the tonal aspects when comparing digital and acoustic pianos, but one very important difference has to do with how our ears not only capture frequencies and amplitudes, but also direction. The surface area of a soundboard of even a small acoustic piano is much larger than the surface area of all the speakers in a digital, and thus propagates the sound in a much more "3-D" way that our brains perceive as "presence". I've often compared this to how you "feel" the presence of a pipe organ in a church vs hearing a recording of one. It's not necessarily louder, but the sound comes from many directions all at once.

A similar comparison is often made with Hammond organs and Leslie speakers. The Leslie speaker creates its effect from changing the actual direction of sound source using rotating horns. Electronic Leslie simulators are excellent at reproducing the sound of a recorded Leslie, but can't match the presence of a live one because our ears can't be fooled regarding directionality.


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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
One of the delights of playing different acoustic pianos is finding out what they are capable of.

Some might say that different digital pianos are capable of different things, but I don't think anyone is delighted to find out their limitations. πŸ˜‰

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Originally Posted by Withindale
. . .

Do any digitals have speakers underneath as well as above?

Lots of DP's have multi-speaker (more than 2 woofer/tweeter pairs) setups, with speakers firing in different directions. That's especially true in high-end models.

Take a look at the specs for Yamaha Avant Grand's and Roland "digital grands" for examples.


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Digital differs from acoustic in the same way CD recording differs from real performance.


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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
And this reminds me of what I had been reading about pianists comments on practice. Here is Horowitz on recording.
............................................... "A few wrong notes are not a crime".

Thank God! smile

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Originally Posted by guyl
People often focus on the tonal aspects when comparing digital and acoustic pianos, but one very important difference has to do with how our ears not only capture frequencies and amplitudes, but also direction. The surface area of a soundboard of even a small acoustic piano is much larger than the surface area of all the speakers in a digital, and thus propagates the sound in a much more "3-D" way that our brains perceive as "presence". I've often compared this to how you "feel" the presence of a pipe organ in a church vs hearing a recording of one. It's not necessarily louder, but the sound comes from many directions all at once.

A similar comparison is often made with Hammond organs and Leslie speakers. The Leslie speaker creates its effect from changing the actual direction of sound source using rotating horns. Electronic Leslie simulators are excellent at reproducing the sound of a recorded Leslie, but can't match the presence of a live one because our ears can't be fooled regarding directionality.

This ^^^^ is one of the best / most valid comments in this thread in my view.

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