Notes on making our Piano Sample Libraries

The pursuit of making the perfect piano sample library is a multifaceted journey. At Wrongtools.com, our ongoing endeavors in developing various piano libraries have provided us with a little insights into the essence of what could make them stand out. And what we like.

Balancing Characteristics, Realism, Versatility, and Technology

Our little 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. Here are some notes that we made on a morning-meeting : 

Piano keys illustration

 

Realism and Authentic Sound

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.

User Interface and Controls

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.

Versatility or niche?

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

Dynamic Range and Velocity Layers

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.

 

Specific Technical Features

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.

Good Playability

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. 

Sound Quality in Various Contexts

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. 

 

Resource Considerations

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.

Recording and Microphone Techniques

The piano libraries we have recorded at Wrongtools makes use of ribbon and tube microphones, which helps to give character.  Along with the ability to mix mics and recorded effects with MIDI CC faders. This enhance the library’s adaptability to different styles and mixes. 

Personal Preference

What works can vary depending on the user’s specific needs and preferences.  Sometimes a perfect sampled Steinweg is what you need, other times an imperfect slightly out-of tune grandma piano.  Most film composers own a range of piano sample libraries. Wrongtools, as you know, likes to make things that sounds alive and realistic, often with a quirky high-end signature.

Here are the Kontakt Libraries related to "piano" Wrongtools has released to date.

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