Piano World Home Page
Posted By: Radio.Octave touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/09/19 03:36 PM
I've tried a couple of digital pianos and keyboards lately, but the touch just feels off to me (compared to an acoustic). I tried a Yamaha P515, which has weighted, touch sensitive keys. It was OK, but I still felt that the level of expressiveness just wasn't there. I also just tried a 61-key Korg arranger, which has a synth action. Of course, this is nothing like a real piano, but I don't mind so much since I'd use it for other sounds.

The thing is, the touch response just feels weird. For example, it has a pretty good guitar sound, but dynamics are tricky. The sample will change tone depending on how hard I hit the key, but to get the loudest, sharpest sound, I really have to press the key hard. Sometimes it'll trigger the sample to switch when I don't want it to. It's the same for piano. Like on a real piano, the notes will get brighter if I play harder, but it's not really a smooth transition. I think maybe it's the sample switching that's bothering me.

Is it just that the keys aren't sensitive enough to small changes in pressure, or there's too few samples, so I hear the transition when timbre changes? I have adjusted the touch sensitivity settings, but it just feels awkward. This seems common with most digitals I've played. Some have had really great feeling keys, but the actual touch response just isn't like a real piano.
Just wanted to share this, in case anyone else is struggling with the issue. I think I may have found my own answer here:

https://www.reddit.com/r/piano/comments/5kia1z/digital_piano_touch_sensitivity/

Specifically, this part:

"For the 3rd issue, the sound of the digital piano is often not super-realistic, due to tricks employed to keep the size of the digital audio small (so less memory is required) and due to the manufacture wanting a sound that is "crisp" and without imperfection, as most consumers probably prefer this. So you may just not like the sound. But also, one way manufacturer's save on memory requirements is to only record each key at 2-3 different levels. The term is "velocity layers" and the # of velocity layers used is usually kept secret by the manufacturer unless they're bragging about their "4 velocity layers". E.g. for a 2-layer digital piano, for a given key (say, middle C) they record it once played fairly quietly (mp or mf) and once played really loud. Then they just adjust the playback volume for sample #1 as you play harder, and when you reach a certain hardness, they switch to sample #2. Or they may do some blending magic. Now, on a real piano, when you hit a note hard, it has a very "biting" sound, and a much different sound when you play quietly, and there are infinite variations inbetween as you hit a key harder and harder. On a digital piano, it can sound unrealistic to hear the exact same sample gradually get louder, and then it can be quite jarring as it switches to a different recorded sample when you reach a certain loudness... and it can be frustrating not being able to produce a sound "in the middle" of those two sampled sounds."
Posted By: JoeT Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/10/19 12:55 AM
The info about velocity layers is pretty outdated, as no manufacturer uses fixed velocity layers anymore (I think since at least a decade). There is always smooth transition from pp to ff and depending on memory size they sound more or less realistic. Except for single-layer there is no way to tell the number of sample layers used. As you can't tell if a certain velocity level (e. g. mf) was actually sampled or just modeled / calculated.

Only single layer entry-level instruments usually give it away, because they generate their pianissimo tones from filtered forte samples.
Originally Posted by JoeT
The info about velocity layers is pretty outdated, as no manufacturer uses fixed velocity layers anymore (I think since at least a decade). There is always smooth transition from pp to ff and depending on memory size they sound more or less realistic. Except for single-layer there is no way to tell the number of sample layers used. As you can't tell if a certain velocity level (e. g. mf) was actually sampled or just modeled / calculated.

Only single layer entry-level instruments usually give it away, because they generate their pianissimo tones from filtered forte samples.


Hmmmm. Maybe it it the physical key sensors then, or the software velocity curves. Whatever it is, I find that the level of control just can't compare to a real acoustic. The touch just feels wrong on most keyboards I've played. Some of it could also be the built-in speaker systems not being powerful enough.

With the Korg PA700 I just tried, when I played with the normal force I'd use for mf, the sound was very quiet (too quiet, IMO). To get ff, I had to slam the keys pretty hard. Now this just had synth-action keys, but even on the Yamaha P515, I wasn't that impressed with the feel. I think it was better, but even with the wooden keys and all, it still just felt fake.
Posted By: IosPlayer Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/10/19 06:49 PM
Most dps or keybds have touch velocity adjustments. Did you make the appropriate changes on the Korg PA when you played it? It often makes the difference between playable and not enjoyable.
Originally Posted by JoeT
The info about velocity layers is pretty outdated, as no manufacturer uses fixed velocity layers anymore...you can't tell if a certain velocity level (e. g. mf) was actually sampled or just modeled / calculated.

AFAIK, most manufacturers use fixed velocity layers in most if not all of their boards. Roland uses modeling on most (though not all) of their current boards... Yamaha uses it on just a handful of models (they call it SCM)... I don't think Nord, Kurzweil, Kawai, Korg, or Casio use it at all. (Some of them use modeling for other sounds, but not piano.)

Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
With the Korg PA700 I just tried, when I played with the normal force I'd use for mf, the sound was very quiet (too quiet, IMO). To get ff, I had to slam the keys pretty hard. Now this just had synth-action keys, but even on the Yamaha P515, I wasn't that impressed with the feel. I think it was better, but even with the wooden keys and all, it still just felt fake.

This is a common complaint on synth action boards, but not really on hammer action boards. I'm surprised you didn't notice more of a difference in the controllability/responsiveness of the dynamics on the Yamaha vs. the Korg.
too late to edit, but also, some of those manufacturers may use modeling for some piano attributes like resonance, but are still just playing back specified samples at specified velocities for the piano tone itself.
Posted By: JoBert Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/10/19 08:09 PM
Originally Posted by anotherscott
Originally Posted by JoeT
The info about velocity layers is pretty outdated, as no manufacturer uses fixed velocity layers anymore...you can't tell if a certain velocity level (e. g. mf) was actually sampled or just modeled / calculated.

AFAIK, most manufacturers use fixed velocity layers in most if not all of their boards. Roland uses modeling on most (though not all) of their current boards... Yamaha uses it on just a handful of models (they call it SCM)... I don't think Nord, Kurzweil, Kawai, Korg, or Casio use it at all. (Some of them use modeling for other sounds, but not piano.)

If I understood Joe correctly, I don't think he meant modelling in the sense of how Pianoteq is modelled, but he meant blending/extrapolating between layers in real time, to create smoother transitions between the layers. This is indeed being done. I know Kawai does, and I assume the other sampled pianos do too, these days.
I have read that the Korg Pa700 only has 3 velocity layers on its main piano. It is a cut-down version of the Pa4x piano which has more layers.
If the Pa700 is yours then the good news is that you can load a 6 velocity piano from here
http://www.korgforums.com/forum/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=113029
This 6 layer piano has enough layers and blending to make the timbre change smooth over the entire velocity range.
(Full disclosure - I am the compiler of this piano and it was sourced from the Creative Commons Salamander Grand and tailored for the Korg Pa series).
Originally Posted by JoBert
blending/extrapolating between layers in real time, to create smoother transitions between the layers. This is indeed being done. I know Kawai does, and I assume the other sampled pianos do too, these days.

Yes, the idea of crossfading is to blend two velocity-adjacent samples to smooth the transition. I'm actually not sure how common it is. And I really don't know what Kawai does in terms of velocity transitions, do you have any info on that?
Posted By: JoBert Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/10/19 09:16 PM
Originally Posted by anotherscott
Originally Posted by JoBert
blending/extrapolating between layers in real time, to create smoother transitions between the layers. This is indeed being done. I know Kawai does, and I assume the other sampled pianos do too, these days.

Yes, the idea of crossfading is to blend two velocity-adjacent samples to smooth the transition. I'm actually not sure how common it is. And I really don't know what Kawai does in terms of velocity transitions, do you have any info on that?

Well, I don't work for Kawai smile, so I have no technical details. It's just what I gathered from their marketing material about the HIXL engine.
Agreeing with Radio.Octave. I've not yet found any digital piano that has sensitivity comparable to an acoustic piano. I was playing around in a store the other day, and playing a short classical music piece on a digital Yamaha Clavinova (forgot which model, but its price tag is about $7K or $8K.) Still, its touch sensitivity is not comparable to my quite old Baldwin Hamilton acoustic piano. You can play popular music pieces or jazz music on a digital piano, but when it comes to classical music, I still think an acoustic piano - even a much older one - still yields a better sensitivity when your fingers slide over the keys.

By the way, if I ever spend $7K or $8K for a piano, I'd not buy a digital piano, no matter what brand. That sum could fetch a quite decent acoustic upright or even a baby grand.
Posted By: Groove On Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/11/19 05:34 AM
Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
The thing is, the touch response just feels weird.

Sampled pianos always give me ear fatigue - the velocity changes are too abrupt and/or the note decay is off. Have you tried a modeled or semi-modeled digital to see if it responds better? There is a trade-off between the two: sampled pianos generally have a more 'authentic' timbre, while modeled pianos have a more 'authentic' response; you have to see if you can live with either one.

Personally, I found the original semi-modeled Supernatural Roland sounds (FP-30) and then Pianoteq (with a decent sound system) were "good enough" for me. Interesting thing about Pianoteq, you can make it more sensitive than an actual acoustic piano.
Originally Posted by JoBert

Well, I don't work for Kawai smile, so I have no technical details. It's just what I gathered from their marketing material about the HIXL engine.

I read in the DPBSD about the ES100 : “This is most likely a smoothly blended multi-velocity sample set.” I suppose the HIXL which should be more advanced to be blended too.
Originally Posted by Groove On
[Have you tried a modeled or semi-modeled digital to see if it responds better? There is a trade-off between the two: sampled pianos generally have a more 'authentic' timbre, while modeled pianos have a more 'authentic' response; you have to see if you can live with either one.

That's a good point, that many find that the modeled pianos play more naturally in terms of dynamics. For a self-contained DP, the Roland RD2000 includes both the purely modeled V-Piano engine, and the hybrid sampled/modeled SuperNatural piano engine, and there are numerous lower priced models that have just the latter. If he wants a model with built in speakers, you can go from the entry FP30 model to the higher end FP60 or FP90 if you prefer a different action. You can also get a modeled hardware piano in the Physis models from Visount. For software, as you mentioned, there is Pianoteq, But you're still not going to get the best expressivity playing it from an unweighted action like that Korg arranger, you definitely want to pair it with something better.
Posted By: JoeT Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/11/19 05:53 PM
Originally Posted by Frédéric L
Originally Posted by JoBert

Well, I don't work for Kawai smile, so I have no technical details. It's just what I gathered from their marketing material about the HIXL engine.

I read in the DPBSD about the ES100 : “This is most likely a smoothly blended multi-velocity sample set.” I suppose the HIXL which should be more advanced to be blended too.

The ES100 most likely is single layer, with 88 keys sampled. The filter applied to the one (forte) sample per key is pretty obvious and you can remove it via Virtual Technician, which gives it away.

The DP has three piano programs based on that 88 sample set (shifted by an half-tone up and down) and five based on a different even older sample set, where only every fourth key was sampled.
Posted By: kensdavid Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/12/19 04:16 AM
I had a Casio PX860 which I thought had great feel with regard to the sound.

Since upgrading to the Yamaha P515, I love the weight of the keys but despise the default settings. There is something very weird with the midi velocity config, which maxes out around 60/127 making everything sound super weak and unresponsive. Finally I’ve found 2 tricks to solve this for onboard sounds and for controlling Logic Pro.

The trick I’ve found to fix the onboard sounds is to change Voice > Voice Edit > Touch Sensitivity from 64 to 100. This get me an awesome rich sound with each instrument.

The trick for Logic Pro is to use the velocity processing plugin, and shift the top of the velocity curve down to about 64. This makes the max midi value sent by the keyboard match the max value Logic is expecting. After this it’s been blissful.

One additional observation about the midi implementation has to do with Note On vs Note Off values. It looks like Yamaha reserves the 65-127 range for Note Off values. No clue why they would do this, but seems to explain the flaccid default performance.

Hope this helps someone else with the same issues!
Posted By: Gombessa Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/12/19 02:15 PM
Originally Posted by kensdavid


One additional observation about the midi implementation has to do with Note On vs Note Off values. It looks like Yamaha reserves the 65-127 range for Note Off values. No clue why they would do this, but seems to explain the flaccid default performance.!


How odd. Can you describe how this works? Min note-on is 1, Max note-on is 64, min note-off is 65, max note-off is 127?

The note off range probably doesn't matter a huge amount, but halving the note-on range cuts the dynamics in half for almost any application.
Posted By: kensdavid Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/12/19 04:06 PM
I'm pretty sure the Note Off messages are meant to relay info about release velocity to enable staccato vs legato, but you're right in that it severely limits Dynamics.

Using the velocity processor plugin within Logic really does help and once configured to my preferences it works great for me.

That said, I wish Yamaha would make this configurable, or fix it to conform to typical DAW standards.
Posted By: Gombessa Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/12/19 06:02 PM
I simply haven't heard of a DP, including Yamahas, that limit max note-on to midi value of 64. Is it possible you have smacked some kind of weird midi controller or touch response seeing? Perhaps a factory reset might be in order to just confirm this is how it should respond?

I think it's common for DPs to max out between MIDI 100-120, but a hard stop at 64 is like not being able to play above m/mf.
Posted By: MacMacMac Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/12/19 06:22 PM
By what means has this 64-limit been observed?
I wonder because it's so very absurd.
Posted By: kensdavid Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/13/19 01:19 AM
Plugged into Logic Pro, opened Velocity Processor plugin which shows where Note On and Note Off values fall on a line, Note On never gets past halfway, and Note Off starts in the middle and goes all the way up to 127
Posted By: MacMacMac Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/13/19 01:26 AM
Can you post images?
Posted By: kensdavid Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/13/19 02:31 AM
Here's a screen grab of the P515 in Logic (seems to go up to around 80 today, single notes top out around 100): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BJfto21fc0

Here's the P515 recording midi notes directly with Midi Monitor - shows that banging as hard as I can does not produce values over 90! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFJ1ANpO21g

Here's a Nektar Impact GX61 midi controller - very easy to get low values and high values (but impossible to get nuanced control): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9Pf37B5nUw

Quick updates: Just did Factory Reset - no change.
Just tried Fixed Velocity on the keyboard settings - this does indeed allow fixed values from the keyboard up to 127 to be sent to Midi Monitor (with 64 sent as Note Off).
Given that the velocity does change in response to that setting I tried all the options from Soft2->Medium->Hard 2 - In all cases the highest Note On value I ever achieved was 100 - literally once, the rest of the time low 90's was the highest...
Posted By: Gombessa Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/13/19 02:55 AM
While 100 is on the low end of the max range in DPs, I don't see anything especially out of the ordinary here. There are other DPs that max out at around 100 (I think my mp11 did that). The important thing is it is not hard-limited to 64 or tied to the note off range.
Posted By: kensdavid Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/13/19 03:30 AM
Thanks for having a look Gombessa!

Glad to know that other DPs max out lower than 127. I think what sparked my concern in the first place was that out of the box the keyboard sounded super weak.

Since finding the additional volume and touch sensitivity controls I can get it to a place that sounds great to me ears, I just wonder how many people will strongly dislike this board due to some very weird default settings...
Posted By: JoeT Re: touch sensitivity just not cutting it? - 01/13/19 08:03 AM
Originally Posted by kensdavid

Given that the velocity does change in response to that setting I tried all the options from Soft2->Medium->Hard 2 - In all cases the highest Note On value I ever achieved was 100 - literally once, the rest of the time low 90's was the highest...

My ES100 had a similar issue few years ago: It sounded very dull and was limited to MIDI velocity 102, regardless of any touch settings, factory resets etc. I returned it to the dealer. They couldn't find my issue and returned it to me unrepaired. Since then it produces velocity levels up to 127 just fine.

It's a complete mystery what happened there. I guess it got some percussive maintenance by shipping it again...

Originally Posted by IosPlayer
Most dps or keybds have touch velocity adjustments. Did you make the appropriate changes on the Korg PA when you played it? It often makes the difference between playable and not enjoyable.


Yep, I tried the different curves. It made the Korg more playable, but still felt a little off. I'm used to an acoustic grand, so I guess I can only expect so much. I've never played any digital that felt like the real thing.

I think the P515 could be played a bit more expressively, but still not great. Those keys kind of hurt my fingers after a while, which is weird because they do seem to have some cushion at the bottom. Nevertheless, when playing harder, I could feel the impact in my finger bones.

Another thing I don't like with these digitals is it's hard to know when the max volume is reached for a note. For example, on a piano, the note gets louder each time I play harder. However, on a digital, I might reach the max value, but not know it, so I play harder and harder to no good effect.

Anyway, it's probably a combination of several things, but I find it hard to play a digital after being so used to acoustics.
Did you try the free Yamaha C5 Grand that is loadable to your Korg? It is much more expressive than the default piano.
You can listen to a demo here:
https://youtu.be/iRJWOn_c050

and it is downloadable from here:
http://www.korgforums.com/forum/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=113029
© Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums