the piano

The tracks on “single #1” are live piano/vocal takes, with virtual string overdubs. Here’s some history and details on my piano…

I am a piano sound fanatic. Ever since I started playing, it’s been incredibly frustrating to not be able to get a good piano sound. Back in the ’70s, you might play a Rhodes (heavy) or Wurlitzer, neither of which are anything at all like a piano. Then came the Yamaha Electric Grand. Closer. But not the same. And way too fucking heavy!

Then came the first affordable sampler, the Ensoniq Mirage (I do wish someone would produce a Mirage sound library – there were some cool, lo-fi sounds). This was what I played on the Red House’s “There is a Window” album, and at countless live shows at the Green Parrot and Stone Pony. Again, close, but not the same.

That was followed by an Emu Emax, used on “Circus Life” (unreleased Red House album). Same piano story as above. I think I might have played the synth sound on “Silhouette” with this on the SBK release.

In the early 2000s, I picked up a Roland RD-600. This was played on “sitting/waiting”. A really good emulated piano sound, but still not the whole way there.

Fortunately, it has a really nice keyboard feel, so I am still using this as my piano MIDI controller. I have had to replace a few of the key mechanisms over the years (see for how to do that), but the RD-600 has served me well.

The actual piano sound is produced by the Native Instruments Alicia’s Keys virtual instrument. This thing just sounds outstanding. It does one thing, and does it masterfully.

The piano sound is run through a compressor (to exaggerate the sustain) and EQ (to give extra brightness) – to my taste. The compressor is Waves CLA-2A  and the EQ is Waves PuigTec EQP-1A which are both really nice sounding. The EQ especially, which is modeled after a Pultec EQP-1A, is unlike any EQ I had used previously – you can dial in quite a lot of high end, yet it sounds natural without harshness.

Virtual instruments are a godsend for the home recordist (particularly pianos and drums) as there are so many (insurmountable) challenges to recording the real thing in a small, home environment. Using a virtual instrument gives me 1) a top quality instrument, 2) top quality microphones and processors, and 3) a fantastic sounding virtual room.

A long way from bouncing back and forth between two cassette decks!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s