New to using virtual instruments? Wondering why on earth you would buy a software piano? This article on using Synthogy’s Ivory II pianos lays it out for you in black and white.
Recording with Ivory II
By Laura B. Whitmore
The sound of a well-tuned grand piano is unmistakable. The resonance and the overtones created by a classic instrument and its distinct idiosyncrasies culminate in an experience that is amazingly difficult to duplicate. Think of all the factors involved – the wood of the cabinet, the shape of the body, the strings and how they resonate to affect other strings that are not even struck—not to mention the hammers, the felts, the response of the keys and the pedals, and dozens of other internal and external factors. These and so many other characteristics result in a distinctive tone and sound that is complex and unique to every piano, from instrument to instrument, and model to model.
That’s why when Synthogy created their Ivory II virtual pianos, they knew that it was all or nothing. Every note is a sum of many, many parts, all coming together to give you the most realistic and natural piano experience you could ever hope for in a virtual instrument. Each note is made of multiple samples, or ‘multisamples,’ that take into account every nuance and characteristic that affects the tone. And Ivory’s samples don’t loop. Each note is allowed to decay naturally, for a full, rich tone every time.
Your dream piano
Ivory II is a superb performance companion, no doubt. But there are some special characteristics of this virtual piano collection that make it perfect for recording. First consider the pianos they’ve sampled. When was the last time you sat down in front of a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial Grand? With Ivory II you not only have access to this and other fine instruments, but you also get a multisample of these pianos that has been painstakingly recorded and programmed at the highest quality at up to 18 discrete stereo dynamic levels. As you play louder or softer, Ivory II seamlessly blends these samples. The result is a natural sounding and feeling musical instrument. You simply have to hear it to believe how amazing it sounds.
Ivory II virtual pianos in many ways far surpass any audio recording of any piano that you could make yourself, even if you had access to such a fine instrument and to the microphones, studio, engineers and processing gear that you’d need to get that clean, lush reproduction. Plus, consider the expert tuning and voicing, just the right pedal and ambient noise, the perfect acoustics. It’s the most ideal representation of a world-class piano imaginable, and you can record with it every day!
Mix it up
You’ve recorded the piano track of your future masterpiece with the Ivory II Bösendorfer. It sounds amazing. But try this. Once you’ve tracked the rest of your instruments, you can easily go in and swap out the Bösendorfer for another Ivory II piano sound and see what you like the best for your mix. Try the Steinway D from the Ivory II Grand Pianos collection. Or the amazing 10' grand piano of the Ivory II Italian Grand. When you record with a virtual piano, your performance is MIDI information so you can change virtual piano sounds whenever you wish.
In fact, virtual pianos are Synthogy’s specialty, and they offer a fantastic variety of them. The Ivory II Grand Pianos collection not only includes the Bösendorfer 290 Imperial Grand and the Steinway D Concert Grand, but also the very popular Yamaha C7 Grand. Want something truly amazing? Select the Ivory II Italian Grand, a complete virtual instrument that combines the extraordinary Italian 10 Foot Concert Grand Piano with Synthogy’s award winning Ivory II piano engine. Perfect for rocking out or laying back, the Ivory II Upright Pianos collection presents the unique, intimate sound of upright pianos, including the Yamaha U5 Modern Upright, the 1914 AM Hume Vintage Upright, Honky Tonk Barroom, and Real Tack Piano.
So go ahead, select whatever piano you like and see what fits in best with your mix. You might be surprised at how much the tone and voice of these distinct pianos will change the overall feel and style of your performances and recordings.
There’s nothing like the energy of a live recording. The synergy of performing with other musicians is priceless. But when you record an acoustic piano in that situation, there’s one big downside: bleed. You don’t want the other instruments or vocals in the band leaking into your piano track, or the other way around. Well, if you’re recording live with Ivory, problem solved. Your Ivory II piano track will be pristine and untainted. It’s perfect for playing live, too, as similarly you won’t have your piano channel affected by instrument leak from your other band members, and you’ll be able to adjust it for the best possible sound whenever you want.
Edit to perfection
When you record with Ivory, it is as easy as the click of a mouse to adjust every aspect of each individual note, without replacing or negatively affecting other notes being played. One or two bum notes or small timing errors can be fixed in seconds. And not only tuning, but also note duration and other parameters can be adjusted to absolute perfection.
Of course, controlling the pitch is just the beginning. Don’t like the tempo in a specific spot? Want to see what it will sound like in a different key? Recording with Ivory II gives you full control of tempo and key signature, allowing instantaneous adjustments for every aspect of your recording.
In addition to the spot-on recreation of the piano of your choice, Ivory II comes loaded with a number of extra features. There is built in reverb, an EQ for fine-tuning, and even chorus effects. All these features help to enhance the sound and fit the specific needs of your recording. Keyboard noise, velocity response; all of these things are fully customizable. Any sound you can imagine for your piano, you can recreate with Ivory.
Notate it now
Did you realize that because your piano recording consists of MIDI data that you can actually have other programs create notation from your performance? Imagine playing your Ivory II track into a DAW or notation program and then with just a few keystrokes creating beautiful scores of your work to share with friends, band mates, students and more. Not only will you save time, but you can preserve your exact intentions with very little effort. Then you can use a notation program to add lyrics, markings, chord symbols and more for professional-looking lead sheets and scores. And the reverse works as well! Load your notation score or any MIDI file and hear it performed with an Ivory II piano.
Tips for seamless performance
Virtual pianos come with a lot of possibilities, and it is important to remember that it takes adequate processing power and memory to use the instrument in the studio or through your Mac or PC. While Ivory II is very CPU efficient, these are very large files – that’s one of the reasons that they sound so realistic! Check your computer to make sure you have enough RAM and hard drive space to run them while recording. (See Ivory II system requirements.) This will ensure a smooth recording session and a seamless integration. You also might want to consider running Ivory II on an external hardware plug-in player, like the Muse Research RECEPTOR 2. This will enable you to keep Ivory II loaded and ready to go at all times!
One tip that may be helpful to avoid overload while recording multiple samples is to “print” a piano part in your DAW once you’ve adjusted it to your standards. This means that your piano track will now become an audio file – and will be a separate audio track in your recording. Of course, you won’t be able to edit the MIDI data once it’s an audio track, so be sure to save a copy of your recording with the MIDI data in it just in case! However, this does allow your memory to be freed up to record another piano track or other virtual instruments.
Ivory: the key to flexibility
Ivory II virtual pianos are about more than amazing sound. They offer the ultimate in flexibility for performance and recording. Why not record with the best-sounding virtual pianos available today?
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter, author and the owner of Mad Sun Marketing, an agency specializing in marketing and public relations for music and audio companies. Find out more at http://madsun.carbonmade.com