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Real Vs Sampled Piano, is the difference worth the effort?

Stephen Limbaugh

le nouveau 36 rue Ballu
At the same time if anyone finds that to be in the same aural universe that's a testament to what re-peat suggested about how we all listen in our own individual way.

This is the point made about how the consumption of recorded music over time creates a perception of what something *should* sound like to society. In 30 years, the discussion will be about how real pianos on recordings are “too noisy” compared the “clean controlled sound of a fine sampled instrument.” It is an unstoppable reality of how culture is generated.

This is analogous to the comment about the pianoforte vs the modern grand. Pianofortes sound like ass to the modern ear (with exception for some niche aficionados).

Small aside: LA studios are littered with these beat-to-hell C7s that are in no way preferable to coming in with a nice sampled recording for the track. Nobody here argues their superiority, right?
 

Stephen Limbaugh

le nouveau 36 rue Ballu
Also: that Olafsonn [sic?] Bach album is not really what a piano sounds like live in person either. Lots and lots of techniques utilized to capture a low-volume vibe irrespective of the player.

A brief foray into the challenge that a Synchron piano could “never sound anything like that” revealed that comment was unfounded, and even garnered the approval of other skeptics.
 

AudioLoco

Senior Member
2 99.999% of people who will ever hear our music are not the kind of cork-sniffers who would be able to tell the difference or care about it if they could. They will react emotionally to the musical content, and it's moot whether it was recorded on a real piano or a good VI (assuming a certain baseline of good taste and technical ability).
This point is not wrong per sè, in my opinion, but such a slippery slope.

Most people don't know the difference between anything and anything when they listen to music.
"Was it a triangle or a bass guitar on that song?" Not a clue.
They also really really don't give a flying ravioli about telling the difference, why should they?

Do I have the minimal idea about what technique was used to obtain this and that lighting, special effect etc in my favorite movie? Not a clue! I just know I like it, I just know I can feel a Spielberg movie looks much better then a 90s TV production.
But it's full of "cork sniffers" that nerd about this and that video-tech detail, and they know what makes a difference, and what element will do the trick, not me the final user.
They are the gatekeepers that are responsible for that final level of quality.

The boring car maker example should also fit: Does the consumer of a really nice car knows what components and engineering was used to make the car? The average consumer just knows if it goes fast and if the curves are smooth without knowing anything about car engineering.

It's the same for composers/producers. I know no one is going to care or notice if I used an actual hardware chain on my master bus or not for a rock track. And if i actually used a real piano for that super exposed passage. But I do, and I care.

So in line with what you wrote, we definitely agree, our goal is not to make them think we are using a real orchestra or a real piano etc.
Our only goal is to move them. This is what this is all about.

But, it's not just mental masturbational matters, it has to move and excite me before it moves the listener.
So when I hear certain sounds (like a real piano in this case), I am the one moved and inspired more then by using other sounds.

Having said aaall this, VIs and plugins are amazing and do an incredible job while also being big time and budget savers.

Sorry about the long post.
 

SupremeFist

Senior Member
This point is not wrong per sè, in my opinion, but such a slippery slope.

Most people don't know the difference between anything and anything when they listen to music.
"Was it a triangle or a bass guitar on that song?" Not a clue.
They also really really don't give a flying ravioli about telling the difference, why should they?

Do I have the minimal idea about what technique was used to obtain this and that lighting, special effect etc in my favorite movie? Not a clue! I just know I like it, I just know I can feel a Spielberg movie looks much better then a 90s TV production.
But it's full of "cork sniffers" that nerd about this and that video-tech detail, and they know what makes a difference, and what element will do the trick, not me the final user.
They are the gatekeepers that are responsible for that final level of quality.

The boring car maker example should also fit: Does the consumer of a really nice car knows what components and engineering was used to make the car? The average consumer just knows if it goes fast and if the curves are smooth without knowing anything about car engineering.

It's the same for composers/producers. I know no one is going to care or notice if I used an actual hardware chain on my master bus or not for a rock track. And if i actually used a real piano for that super exposed passage. But I do, and I care.

So in line with what you wrote, we definitely agree, our goal is not to make them think we are using a real orchestra or a real piano etc.
Our only goal is to move them. This is what this is all about.

But, it's not just mental masturbational matters, it has to move and excite me before it moves the listener.
So when I hear certain sounds (like a real piano in this case), I am the one moved and inspired more then by using other sounds.

Having said aaall this, VIs and plugins are amazing and do an incredible job while also being big time and budget savers.

Sorry about the long post.
Oh I basically agree with all this; I'm just in the demographic of composers who are excited enough by the possibilities afforded by modern VIs that I think I can get my artistic point across more than adequately by using a sampled piano, even if I know that in an ideal recording situation a $250k piano would sound better. :)
 

AudioLoco

Senior Member
Oh I basically agree with all this; I'm just in the demographic of composers who are excited enough by the possibilities afforded by modern VIs that I think I can get my artistic point across more than adequately by using a sampled piano, even if I know that in an ideal recording situation a $250k piano would sound better. :)
We are certainly not far apart at all as I do share the same excitement! :)
 

cygnusdei

Active Member
Allow me to put in another 2 cents. In 1999 Philips released the Great Pianists of the 20th Century series, collating the cream of the crop of piano recordings made by 100 superlative pianists from the last century. And among these are very old recordings in mono, with noisy hiss and even out of tune pianos! Simply put, these recordings were below par in terms of sonic quality, but why on earth did they belong in the collection supposedly representing the best? I think the answer is musicianship. These are great recordings because they offer keen insight, interpreting the design of the music with inspired execution, and the musicianship shines in spite of substandard sound. Sonic quality is important, but it seems that at the end of the day it is musicianship that is paramount.

Personally, I also find that when it comes to enjoying music, interpretation comes first and sound is secondary. It's subjective, but I think performing is like speaking a language - there is a logic to it. For example, a single questionable articulation can ruin a whole performance for me, first because it totally changes the character of the piece, and second it makes me second guess if the performer understands the music at all. This is analogous to articulation in the linguistic sense: it's eCOnomy, but it's ecoNOmic. One is expected to know this as second nature and if you say it wrong people will immediately take you as non-native speaker.

That's why it's rarely that you find a performance that totally nails the interpretation from start to finish in an elusive, massive work like the Rachmaninov Concerto no. 3 for example (it's the Thibaudet/Ashkenazy recording for me, mediocre sonic quality notwithstanding). In this respect, I see a promise in VI in that if it takes 100, 1000 recordings until you find an interpretation that you absolutely love (if any), you can make the equivalent number of attempts yourself with VI, that is if you have the musicianship to pull it off (and the gear to do it).
 

Living Fossil

Senior Member
Personally, I also find that when it comes to enjoying music, interpretation comes first and sound is secondary.
The interesting thing is that often there is a strange correlation between sound and music. That's why sometimes period instruments shine a very interesting light on pieces.
It may happen that a "not very good" instrument adds a very unique quality to the music, or even gives a clue about the composer's intention.
Maybe you know this video about the "Mondschein-Sonate" (the piece itself starts around 7:05):


That's why it's rarely that you find a performance that totally nails the interpretation from start to finish in an elusive, massive work like the Rachmaninov Concerto no. 3 for example (it's the Thibaudet/Ashkenazy recording for me, mediocre sonic quality notwithstanding). In this respect, I see a promise in VI in that if it takes 100, 1000 recordings until you find an interpretation that you absolutely love (if any), you can make the equivalent number of attempts yourself with VI, that is if you have the musicianship to pull it off (and the gear to do it).
To be fair, you could already do this with the Yamaha Disclavier, where you have a real instrument replicating midi performances.

BTW since you mentioned Rachmaninov: there are some recordings of himself playing his music on YT. They are simply fantastic, e.g. this one:

 

JohnG

Senior Member
Small aside: LA studios are littered with these beat-to-hell C7s that are in no way preferable to coming in with a nice sampled recording for the track. Nobody here argues their superiority, right?
I do.

I don't know why you think your opinion represents a consensus, Stephen. I doubt anybody polled a bunch of composers in Los Angeles and concluded that they don't want to use a real piano.

I wrote a score quite some time ago that in part featured a pretend live performance (onscreen playing) by one of the characters and, coincidentally, we did use one of those C7s, which totally crushed the samples then, and would today too. All the rattle and resonance and sympathetic vibrations from all over the place utterly crushed then, and would today crush, the "clean" samples.

It was a pretty busy piano part.

Rattle and Hum

On a related topic, check out the score to "The Mummy" by Jerry Goldsmith. The brass buzzes, rattles, hums. The percussion likewise.

I realise that some people prefer the aesthetic of film music that's been tracked like a rock song -- everything separate, every note edited to within an inch of its life. But really a lot of it ends up utterly sterile and boring, sonically.
 
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Vik

A lot of this has, IMO, to do with the fact that a grand piano is a large instrument, and sounds very three-dimensional when playing on it. There's nothing I've heard that's sampled which is even remotely close to playing a good version of a Hamburg Steinway D or a good Fazioli – and there are even Yamaha grand pianos that more or less have copied what Steinberg has done (even if Steinberg has patented are what they do). They sound brilliant, and it's easy to hear that even in a large piano hall where lots of other people are walking around, talking, testing out pianos etc.

And while there's no reason to assume that one could buy something very close to an instrument which costs, say, between $170,000 and $240,000, in a recorded stereo version for $350, I guess a question about this topic on a forum like this isn't about comparing a real vs a sampled piano, but comparing a recorded version of a real piano with a sampled piano. So what I just wrote is irrelevant – I just wanted to mention the unbelievable experience it is to have a chance to play on pianos like those mentioned, for those who haven't done it yet. :)
 

cygnusdei

Active Member
I just wanted to mention the unbelievable experience it is to have a chance to play on pianos like those mentioned, for those who haven't done it yet. :)
I did play on what must have been a Yamaha CFX once (not sure, but it must be the largest concert grand). It felt like cheating, the action was so light yet the sound huge.
 

Stephen Limbaugh

le nouveau 36 rue Ballu
isn't about comparing a real vs a sampled piano, but comparing a recorded version of a real piano with a sampled piano.
Totally. This has been my position all along, that when standing in a room, a real concert grand is going to sound better than anything that could come out of a set of speakers.

Though, between a recording of a concert grand and a recording of a sampled concert grand from a top flight developer (like VSL), the sampled grand not only can beat it, but is eventually going to be considered the standard piano sound... it just takes a lot of effort and time to get it right so it can beat it.
 

SupremeFist

Senior Member
No, it's not a put-down. It's an utterly different way of recording, as I'm sure you would agree.
It is now, but it's also become the way that sounds most "real" to consumers, which tends to argue in favour of Stephen's point of view.
 

AudioLoco

Senior Member
Though, between a recording of a concert grand and a recording of a sampled concert grand from a top flight developer (like VSL), the sampled grand not only can beat it, but is eventually going to be considered the standard piano sound... it just takes a lot of effort and time to get it right so it can beat it.
I think you are in the wrong thread, the correct thread to post this assertion is this one:


;)
 
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