The pursuit of crafting the perfect piano sample library is a multifaceted journey. At Wrongtools.com, our ongoing endeavors in developing various piano libraries have provided us with some insights into the essence of what makes a sample library truly stand out. And what kinds of sounds that work in different scenarios.
Our journey in the world of samples has taught us that a good sample library is much more than the numbers of dynamic layers. It’s a blend of uniqueness, realism, versatility, and technological innovation.
At the heart lies its realism. Or vitality. It is not realistic in a traditional sense to place mics two centimeters from the piano hammers. But it doesn’t need to be defended as long as it sounds good. And the patch has a rich, articulate tone, capable of revealing intricate details.
A well-designed user interface, uncluttered and intuitive, enhances the creative process. While advanced controls offer flexibility, they should not overwhelm the user. Simplicity, like reducing the number of microphone perspectives, can often lead to a more focused and enjoyable playing experience.
A versatile piano library is great. It should be well-suited for general use, adaptable across various musical styles and contexts, rather than being confined to a niche ‘character piano’ sound. This adaptability ensures that the library is a reliable tool, regardless of the musical journey. It should come to no surprise that we still choose to make niche piano libraries. Maybe only suitable for a certain musical direction, but that is what makes sample libraries fun to make or have.
Dynamic range is where a piano library shows its true colors. Dynamic layers ads levels of responsiveness, essential for nuanced expression. Maybe from the softest pianissimos to thunderous fortissimos. We’ve found that if the piano itselves doesn’t sound special, then it doesn’t help to have lots of velocity layers. A strange sounding felt piano only performed with pianissimo, can be just as valuable.
Libraries that include authentic soft pedal/una corda samples and sympathetic resonance are often more capable of replicating an acoustic piano’s complex sound landscape.
Piano virtual-instruments should be responsive and behave like an actual instrument. Smooth transitions between velocity layers contribute significantly to a realistic playing experience. But some surprising variations can bring inspiration to skilled musicians.
Traditional grand-piano libraries should excel in solo performances and blend seamlessly in a mix with other instruments. This versatility is crucial for a library to be effective across different musical settings, from a solo recital to a full-band arrangement. Our libraries, are probably not that versatile.
Practical considerations, such as file size and CPU usage, are also important. A balance needs to be struck between quality and efficiency, ensuring that the library is not overly demanding on system resources. On our early experiments, we cluttered the instruments with too many release-samples.
The use of ribbon and tube microphones helps to give character, along with the ability to mix mics through MIDI CC faders. This enhance the library’s adaptability to different styles and mixes
It all boils down to something personal and subjective. What works best can vary greatly depending on the user’s specific needs and preferences. Sometimes a perfect Grand Piano is what you need, and sometimes you need an imperfect sligtly out-of tune garage piano. It is recomended to own a range of piano sample libraries, that has different esthetics and sounds.