Harpsichords

Discussion in 'SAMPLE Talk' started by korgoasys, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. SoundChris

    SoundChris Active Member

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    I stil use the Premier Sound Factory Cembalo Harpsichord. But I think it isnt availiable anymore (?). Mayb they overhaul it or something.
     
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  2. muziksculp

    muziksculp Senior Member

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    +1

    Yes, VSL has a great sounding Harpsichord, and it is very reasonably priced.
     
  3. axb312

    axb312 Senior Member

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    The demos are really loud and show off very little dynamic range...
     
  4. ChrisSiuMusic

    ChrisSiuMusic Senior Member

    I purchased Cineharpsichord from Cinesamples specifically for this:



    The tone of the instrument is full and rich, and the Sony Room sounds gorgeous.
     
  5. muziksculp

    muziksculp Senior Member

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    +1 for CeineSamples CineHarpsichord.

    This and VSL Harpsichord are both great sounding Harpsichord Libraries, both have very good playability as well.
     
  6. rocking.xmas.man

    rocking.xmas.man Active Member

    Based on my experience with the light Version of spitfire harpsichord in the one side and cinepiano and all kinds of tuned or keyed percussion from cinesamples on the other side I'd prefer investing in cineharpsichord
     
  7. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    It helps to have studied and played the harpsichord. I also had the privilege of a half-day tour of a harpsichord factory, seeing each stage of the process, as the luthier (also a music school professor) was a friend of my best college mate. I will never forget ANY of the details I learned that day, as I am passionate about the instrument and absorbed everything he had to teach.

    Most harpsichord libraries are pretty bad. In some cases, only a few notes were sampled, and the others were derived from the ones that were. There's a lot of naivety about the instrument, such as velocity not mattering. Technically this is sort-of true on paper, but the best players have some very interesting techniques that eke out some differences; I learned some of them myself from my instructor.

    Be aware that there are two major schools of harpsichord, and then there's the related but different virginal (best known in England, but there are other varieties as well). The majority of harpsichords follow the patterns of one of those two major schools of harpsichord construction and design.

    For me, it is critical to have dual manuals, and stops. But there are times when a simpler design -- even a Virginal -- can fit the music better, or blend better with other instruments.

    It is frustrating to me that some of the best-recorded harpsichord libraries are missing critical features. I then have to make a compromise and decide which aspect is most important to the piece.

    I will itemize the top libraries in a separate post, lest this one become too difficult to follow.
     
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  8. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    I have 24 harpsichord libraries. And that's not counting specialty libraries like Realsamples Lute-Harpsichord (a recently discovered instrument that had no survivors, but which was recreated based on notes and plans, and then sampled -- Bach wrote for it, but as no one knew the instrument existed, people interpreted his designation as meaning "lute OR harpsichord").

    Broadly-speaking, I have a preference for French vs. Flemish designs -- but this is not universally the case, as will be seen in my rankings of software libraries. Italian comes close behind French.

    When searching for libraries, remember that the term Cembalo is often used. It's a language thing.

    Much to my surprise, the Spitfire Steven Devine Harpsichord is one of the best-sounding ones, as well as having a very complete set of manuals and stops (4', 8', mechanical mutes, and all combinations thereof), but frustratingly is recorded at Lyndhurst Hall (Air Studios) so can't be made very dry.

    VSL's Cembalo is well-recorded and dry, but is crippled by only providing 8' stops and a Tutti patch, and no muting. Sometimes this is OK, but I use it less and less now that the newer libraries have superseded it.

    Modartt Pianoteq, also surprisingly comes out near the top, above sampled libraries, so I often use theirs during mock-up stages until I am certain which "model" I want, and then I go to sample libraries for better detail and accuracy. I especially like their Blanchet, but also the Ruckers and Grimaldi are excellent. They offer every manual and stop combination, but no direct muting (though you can emulate that with some of the editable parameters).

    And now we come to the one I use the most -- especially for continuo work, where it blends so well with its partners, the Theorbo and Baroque Guitar. Soniccouture's Conservatoire Collection is simply a must-have. Buy it for the phenomenal Theorbos, if for nothing else! I use them a lot!

    The French Harpsichord in that collection is amazingly versatile and rich in texture, and responds well to specialized playing techniques. It includes every stop and manual combination, as well as muting (in harpsichord parlance, this is referred to as "buff stop"). Many temperaments are available as well -- an issue with a lot of the other libraries. As expected, the Flemish has two 8' manuals; no 4' stop.

    There is some weakness in that library that I don't remember off-hand; I can't think at the moment what feature is missing. Perhaps it was addressed in an update and that's why I've forgotten.

    Before that collection was released, my go-to was the Precisionsound Blanchet (French) -- their older Cembalo library is a Ruckert (Flemish/Dutch) model and not as much to my liking timbrally. It's not an essential library anymore as it is missing almost every important feature; it's an old library with no scripting or GUI and does not cover the range of stops or manuals that most of us depend on.

    For the Realsamples libraries, I rank the French the highest, then English, Italian, Italian II, Dutch, and German (the latter is a rare model by Christian Zell from 1741). The programming is inconsistent and the libraries often have flaws (missing files and mappings) that I alert the vendor to, sometimes specific to one of the sample rate or bit depth choices (they are now limiting these choices for new purchases). They are primarily musicians and don't have much time for marketing etc. But they're very friendly and responsive, and do great work. It's more of an academic nature though; I own these mostly to remind myself of the differences between the many design concepts that have come along.

    Just to reiterate, as those libraries have been released over a lengthy period of time, only the newer ones have any scripting or much control over the manuals and stops (if at all). But the raw sound is quite good, and the user manuals are incredibly informative.

    Fluffy Audio's Rinascimento is an affordable library that gets you a few hard-to-find instruments. I probably need to spend more time with it before formally ranking it below the other choices, for Harpsichord, which isn't what I bought it for. It's kind of a moot point though, as it is so low on features and sampling resolution and depth.

    Similarly, Wavesfactory's Demonic Virtuoso (overhaul of W-Harpsichord) has no harpsichord-specific features to speak of, but is a deeper sample set than some of the others, so sounds nice enough.

    Older libraries such as Sampletekk's and PMI's, and even Precisionsound's Cembalo library, were sampled at intervals of a third or more, so don't sound remotely realistic unless you write pentatonic music that only uses the notes that were actually sampled. :) And of course Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra and Goliath, as well as near-freebies like Boldersound's historic collection, the stock sounds from Falcon/etc., and SONiVOX Harpsichord, aren't worth bothering with anymore.

    The main library that I do not own and which is often commended, is Cinesamples, which someone above gave praise to. I almost bought it during a sale, but read the user manual and decided I'm done with harpsichords due to the excellence of Soniccouture's offering (and other top choices). But I might find I need it at some point anyway, if the others don't blend well with Cinesamples Viola Da Gamba.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2019
  9. fcangia

    fcangia XPERIMENTA Project

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    Hi,
    Harpsichord has no dynamic range...there's some techniques to imitate the velocity but is quite hard and nearly impossible to sample. The XPERIMENTA Harpsichord has still the possibility to simulate the velocity, has Round Robin, resonance samples and IR, accurate recorded release samples and plenty of mic positions to imitate the sound of the Harpsichord as close as possible.

    I'm sorry if you didn't like the demos, maybe I had not a good environment where to make them and I'm still searching for demo composers. Please consider the SoundCloud compression and the fact that all the demos are usually full of reverb, that makes the instrument more apparently "dyanamic".

    I changed the demo, maybe this one fits better to what you are searching for:


    In the website you can find also the dry version.

    (https://www.xperimentaproject.com/xperimenta-harpsichord)
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  10. leogardini

    leogardini Senior Member

    There isn't dynamic range on a harpsichord.

    1+ for Pianoteq. I don't use it a lot but whenever i need I don't think of any other one.
     
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  11. axb312

    axb312 Senior Member

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    Learnt something new today. The previous demo was a little too loud for my taste. This one is nice.
     
  12. jaketanner

    jaketanner Senior Member

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    You have 24 libraries and Cinesamples isn't one? That's incredible..LOL I also had no idea there were so many choices...however, I have it and love it..but that's all I have. I do want to get the Soniccouture's at some point, but were a bit pricey if I recall. I get EDU discount with Cinesamples.
     
  13. Lee Blaske

    Lee Blaske Senior Member

    Another vote for the harpsichords in SonicCouture's Conservatoire Collection. I've got quite a few harpsichords, but the two in the SonicCouture Conservatoire Collection are my top choice.
     
  14. Casiquire

    Casiquire Senior Member

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    Thanks again for your always interesting insights on these forums!

    Do you not find that harder playing results in some more body resonance? I'm sure you've played much more than I have so your input truly interests me.
     
  15. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    Hmm, not sure, as it's now been too long since I've spent more than a few borrowed minutes on someone else's acoustic harpsichord. I owned the Roland Digital for many years. Not the current one but the previous generation (late 90's).

    Playing harpsichord is VERY different from piano; the notes speak more slowly, and you have to be careful about force even if the volume difference is for the most part the same (some of the tricks to get different perceived levels involve slight sideways motion and/or multi-strike techniques that cause some slight phasing due to irregular release, thus resulting in a thicker sound). They also have to be returned pretty frequently (like, every 15-20 minutes :)). Depending on your tolerance levels. :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  16. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    So, back to the resonance issue, I was pretty sure that it isn't affected by how hard you play, and that the playing strength is more a matter of respecting the delicacy of the instrument as well as accommodating the more complex attack that results from the mechanism (quite different from a piano's).

    But I also remembered a bit of the "why", so I looked up the actual physics behind it again (which I won't link here as I doubt many have the physics background for it, so it would just bore). To sum it up in layman's terms, the bottom board of the harpsichord contributes little if any to the sound, including the resonance: it is solely there for structural support.

    I have frequently seen resonance boards placed beneath the harpsichord, and also under fortepianos. I have meant to review the user manuals of all of my harpsichord libraries to see if any of them recorded samples with something like the following platforms in place:

    http://www.resonanzio.com/podiums/harpsichordpianoforte-resonance.html

    In the SF Bay Area, I almost never see a harpsichord played without one of these in place, except for recitals at the early music society in Berkeley, which is run out of a private home.
     
  17. Mike Fox

    Mike Fox Senior Member

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    Cineharpsichord is the best sounding, imo.
     
  18. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    At this level of detail, I wonder whether it doesn't make more sense just to hire a harpsichordist with a real vagina.
     
  19. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    Really, I'm only half kidding. Okay, three quarters.

    My point is that these are samples, and by the time you've bought 37 sample libraries, you may as well have a real harpsichord!
     
  20. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    From the point of view of a hack keyboard almost-player, the Pianoteq ones sure are fun to play.
     
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