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 Post subject: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 12:51 pm 
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Location: Carbondale, IL
This is a poem I wrote recently, it is called Acoustic versus Digital:

Acoustic versus Digital

Some pianists like playing digital pianos.

Some pianists like to play on acoustic pianos.

Maybe in five years a digital will sound exactly like an acoustic.

But if a man thought a digital was an acoustic, on he would be played a trick!

An acoustic is an acoustic; a digital, a digital.

The difference between the two, however, I should say is rather critical.

When you press a key on an acoustic, a pitch sounds when strings vibrate.

When you press a key on a digital, high latency means you must wait!

Another thing most digitals are made of plastic, but the wood of a Grand--it's fantastic.

While its true-over time acoustics lose their tune, the touch of these pianos is much more elastic.

And though pieces can be played back on digitals via MIDI, the result of basic note entry is all but stony.

The acoustic came first, followed by the digital. The first is authentic, the second; a phony.



What do you think? Hope it isn't too offensive to you digital players. :twisted: Keep in mind, however, that I am a digital player, and I think most would, given the option, want to play on a Yamaha Grand rather than some digital or Virtual instrument like Synthology's Ivory line and the VSL Grand that we've heard in the Audition Room earlier this year. That was a rigmarole of a thread, IIRC :P

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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:04 pm 
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That's cute, Riley! Now let's see you say that in Chinese!! :lol: :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:12 pm 
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Haha... it won't get you the Pulitzer prize for poetry, but it is very apt indeed.
I don't believe though that any pianist really LIKES playing a digital. Any pianist worth their salt will want to play a real instrument. The digital is just a compromise for lack of a better option. And last not least it is cheaper in all respects.

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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 4:56 pm 
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@ Monica and Chris

Quote:
That's cute, Riley! Now let's see you say that in Chinese!!


Thanks, glad you like it. Ok, I'll try to translate the title 声与数字


Quote:
Haha... it won't get you the Pulitzer prize for poetry, but it is very apt indeed.
I don't believe though that any pianist really LIKES playing a digital. Any pianist worth their salt will want to play a real instrument. The digital is just a compromise for lack of a better option. And last not least it is cheaper in all respects.


Yes, I think it would need some work before being a prize-winning piece!

I should have included something about how much it costs! Indeed a brand new casio privia might cost as much as a used upright, but the tone just can't fill a room in the same way...

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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:06 pm 
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Location: New Jersey, USA
I'd certainly rather play a real piano.

However, I may need to buy an electronic piano in the near future, and I know nothing about them. Having ignored them for the last 30 years.
Are there any books or web sites that are "Electric pianos for dummies"? Considering how much they probably cost, buying a book about it would not be a waste. I'd especially appreciate one not tied to a particular vendor.
Obviously, the most prominent criteria - in case anyone has a recommendation - are:
-- sounds like a piano
-- feels like a piano
-- 88 keys
-- not unnecessarily heavy (I suppose this might mean "does not have amp and speakers embedded in it").
thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:39 pm 
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You know....I thought for sure we had lots of discussions about purchasing digital pianos, but now I just looked and didn't find much. Here is a site that looks pretty good regarding comparing digitals. (I didn't realize they can cost so much nowadays! :shock: )

http://piano-keyboards.findthebest.com/

(I hope you will still be able to record on your acoustic...)

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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:20 am 
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Location: Himeji, Japan
As long as digitals are made to sound after their acoustic counterparts (as opposed to the other way around), there is no question which one offers the better sound.

Still digitals have their place. Apart from offering the option of playing by headphones, the harpsichord and organ sounds they often have are very useful when practicing.

Especially when playing Bach I use the harpsichord to check on the timing of each tone, and the organ to check whether I keep the keys depressed long enough. The piano voice tends to obscure these elements a bit in my opinion.

And of course, it is just nice to play Bach using these sounds. :D


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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:35 am 
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Hi Stu,

Well, this is an interesting topic. I've asked myself this question "what is a good electric piano?"

Fender Rhodes Mark II is ok, but I'm partial to the Wurlitzer 200a. Got to love the warm, electromagnetic pickup tone, just listen to "The Logical Song" by Supertramp :P

Though, verily, an electric piano is rather different from a electronic piano! :lol: But I assume you are talking about electronic pianos.

I had a casio keyboard WK-1300. It had touch response, but no weighted keys. If you like, have a listen to my Schoenberg 6 Little Pieces No. 2 on the main site, if you like the sound, here is the setup:

I used a VI (virtual instrument) called Acoustica Pianissimo. It is only about 60 dollars but samples a Steinway D Grand Piano. IMO it sounds much better than the built-in piano sounds of most electronic keyboards (but it was made in 2008, so it is actually quite old). It is a standalone playing/recording application. To use your piano as a "mouse" You must purchase a MIDI cable and your digital must have MIDI I/O ports. Recording MIDI files is a whole 'nother topic :)

I've tirelessly looked at different "realistic" piano VIs. So many, but which one is the best? Synthology Ivory II is at the high end, about $400 last time I checked (that was a while ago), then there is the VSL Imperial, which we've infamously heard here playing the Chopin Preludes. I also like Hye-Jin's digital Kawai.

The last i've looked I've been most impressed with pianoteq's latest release--Version 4 with the Blüthner remake. Blüthner--the piano that you hear on the intro of The Beatles, "Let it Be." I don't have it but I'm impressed by the samples they have on the pianoteq website. The previous versions I wasn't too happy with. If you recall a man named Jerry Knight posted a Sibelius Impromptu in the Audition room some time ago. It sounded good, but there was something missing, it sounded too much like a digital, the timbre was too sanitary, no imperfections, too... perfect of a tone. And I've read on the forums there have been some people who have tried the Ivory II and they are now believers in Pianoteq's V4. Go figure.

So that's the piano sound discussion if you want my opinion on a keyboard with a good feel, here it is. I went to a music store in Hong Kong last autumn and had the change to try a bunch of different Rolands, Korgs and Yamahas. I don't care about the sound, only the feel. I like the Casio Privias best. The weighted action is good. But if I were you I would go to some store like Sam Ash or Guitar Center and try out the pianos. That way you aren't just paying for something you might return because you find out later it doesn't suit your tastes.

Good luck, hope this helps.

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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:52 pm 
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Sounds like you know what your criteria are, so it's time to go shopping. Better to invest 2-6 hours trying various instruments than in reading a book.

Quote:
-- sounds like a piano

This has to do with the quality of the sampled sounds used. You definitely want one with recorded samples for each note, not a synthesizer. There is an unavoidable loss of timbre/color, as a digital does not have the full range of possibilities for touch and hand weight, it can only tell what velocity the key was traveling when it was pressed down. That said, "touch-sensitive" digital pianos will play louder when the velocity is faster and softer when it is slower.

Quote:
-- feels like a piano

For that you need "weighted keys" (mechanical levers in the action).

Quote:
-- 88 keys
-- not unnecessarily heavy (I suppose this might mean "does not have amp and speakers embedded in it").

More keys means a heavier instrument, but you should still insist on 88 keys. Weighted keys also add weight, as one might expect. However, when you go shopping you should be able to get specifications on each piano, including its weight, and you can compare.

Ultimately, as when shopping for an acoustic piano, it will come down to which piano is most enjoyable to play while still remaining in your price range.

Good luck!


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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 2:09 am 
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Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
hreichgott wrote:
Better to invest 2-6 hours trying various instruments than in reading a book.
Agreed, except perhaps inasmuch as a book might help explain to someone lucky enough to have experience only of real pianos what all the features in the brochures mean.
Quote:
Quote:
-- sounds like a piano
This has to do with the quality of the sampled sounds used. You definitely want one with recorded samples for each note, not a synthesizer.
Are you sure? (I don't know myself, and am just expressing a gut feeling about how technology should have evolved by now). Synthesis has (or jolly well should have) come a long way from the Mickey-Mouse junk of a few decades ago. It seems to me that a system which is only based on recorded samples is doomed never to sound anything like a real piano except when playing just single notes. Part of what makes real pianos sound the way they do, surely, is that there is acoustic interaction between undamped strings. This means that a piano playing (say) a C-E-G triad doesn't really sound much like what you get by mixing the recorded samples of C, E, and G being played on their own. A sufficiently sophisticated synthesis system, on the other hand, ought to be able to simulate the resonances which the strings induce in each other. Am I naive to assume that technology has come far enough to have this level of sophistication? Or is it still prohibitively expensive?
Quote:
... a digital ... can only tell what velocity the key was traveling when it was pressed down.
Well, in some sense that ought to be enough, because the speed at which, on a real piano, the hammer hits the string is going to fully determine the sound you get. But it's not quite as simple as that, because on a real piano the resistance of a key to being pressed is affected by the complicated mechanics of all the levers and linkages involved, and is not just a matter of simple inertia. The response of a real key is non-linear, and the force exerted on the key by the finger even after it has started the key moving is going to have an effect. So simply sticking more lead into a key isn't really enough.
Quote:
Quote:
-- 88 keys
-- not unnecessarily heavy (I suppose this might mean "does not have amp and speakers embedded in it").
More keys means a heavier instrument,
Well, yes, but surely the keys, even if weighted, don't dominate the weight of the instrument.
And, to respond to Stu's point about embedded speakers, isn't this requirement contradictory to "sounds like a piano"? Speakers and amps are central to what the thing is going to sound like, and if you're going to rely on external 3rd party speakers, the sound is going to be essentially unpredictable.
Quote:
Ultimately, as when shopping for an acoustic piano, it will come down to which piano is most enjoyable to play while still remaining in your price range.
Yes. It rather depends on what you want it for. If you are, for whatever reason, such as moving to a smaller house, getting rid of a real piano and replacing it with a digital, you may want to be more careful about what you're letting yourself in for, whereas if you are keeping your "main" piano and are only considering a digital as an additional instrument, for portability such as when visiting a friend who has no piano, or when going camping or sailing, you might be prepared to make some compromises.

One thing I'd find worrying is potential lack of longevity. If something breaks in a real piano, you can easily get it fixed, even if the piano is 50 or 100 years old. If something breaks in a digital that is only 5 years old, it may already be obsolete and you may not be able to get parts for it, and have to throw the whole thing away.
On the other hand, you never need to hire a piano tuner, and you may be able to experiment with different temperaments, or press a few buttons to make it sound like a harpsichord or an organ, or even a harp or a carillon.


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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:45 pm 
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Location: Carbondale, IL
I was thinking about digitals today and came up with a question, what is the "top of the line" digital?

Well, using the site Monica supplied, "find the best," I sorted control columns by price and... here it is:

eh em. Ladies and Gentleman, I now present you with...

drumroll...

    The Roland V Grand Piano

Attachment:
top-img.jpg
top-img.jpg [ 92.06 KiB | Viewed 2615 times ]


8) 8) 8)

Note: Concert Hall and Piano Bench not included...

This looks like a fine Piano. The pricetag? 50 bucks shy of $20k. Would like to give this digital a try sometime, though I doubt there are more than 20 stores in the US that carry this piano. At 374 pounds, it's not something I would buy ---segue---

Quote:
if you are keeping your "main" piano and are only considering a digital as an additional instrument, for portability such as when visiting a friend who has no piano, or when going camping or sailing[.]


Thanks, Rainer! You wrote just what I needed--how did you know?! :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:00 pm 
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Wow, that looks very nice! But holy cow - the price!! :shock: :shock: I had no idea digital pianos could be that expensive! Guess it's been awhile since I've paid attention to these things.... And for that price, you'd think the bench would be included!

Still, it would be fun to doodle around on that digital... I don't see any, but there must a bunch a buttons on it somewhere. I wonder how loud it can go?

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"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties." ~ Frederic Chopin

my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
my personal website: http://www.monicaalianello.com


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 Post subject: Re: Acoustic vs. Digital
PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:20 pm 
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Location: New Jersey, USA
Thanks to everyone for the discussion.
Monica - thanks for the site. It will come in handy.
My future recording is still on my baby grand.
Weight means a lot, because the portability is one of the factors driving a purchase.
Actually, I analyzed my needs a little closer and will buy two instruments.
First is a cheap and small and light thing that I can put on my lap for transcription from computer mp3 files (if I played the guitar, this one would not be as important).
After some research, an instrument with 88 keys etc., to use as a portable piano in case I have to turn "pro" again (after 25 years' absence). Software engineering was a good career for 20+ years, but is getting pretty dicey now that I have wrinkles on my face! Fortunately, I know how to do a lot of different things.

And rainer - you're right, the book is because I don't know enough to read brochures yet. I'm doing something similar by reading a couple of books about roofing before going about getting a new roof on my house because I don't want to be bamboozled (sorry for the Americanism) by a contractor.

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