Plug-in Review—3 Pianos

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Guitars at Musician's Friend

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   Dynamics 101




     The mechanism for producing notes on a piano is when a key is depressed, the action is transferred through linkages to a felt covered hammer which strikes a steel string tuned to the pitch appropriate to the key depressed. Keeping the key depressed allows the string to ring out as the hammer immediately returns to its pre-strike position.. It is a poly-phonic instrument, which means that all the keys can be played at one. Several pedals allow the pianist to either let all the strings ring in resonance with the ones struck or to be muted. This is usually done in a rhythmic manner in order to accent the rhythm and feel of the composition.


     The piano plug-in I’ve chosen to review is 4Front Piano by The interface is simply a splash screen that says—”this plug-in has no settings” as you can see above. Since it is a hybrid of sample playback and synthesis, the CPU usage footprint is very small. The sound , however, is not. My wife is a pianist and I asked her to listen to it compared to the piano we own and another digital emulation from Roland and she was blown away. It really sounds like a piano being played in the room you’re listening in. Click here to listen


     The next plug-in is a fun one. Toy pianos have such a cool, detuned sound that can cut through just about any mix. They are necessarily useful in every application but they’re something to have handy when nothing else will fit the bill. The method in which a toy piano produces sound is very similar to the way electric pianos produce sound—click here to read my previous article regarding this. Because the construction of the instrument is more suited to durability rather than musical quality, the sound can be sort of wonky, but maybe that’s what you want. Here’s some links where you can download the VSTi and see a video that includes the plug-in


     A prepared piano is a very special animal, indeed. One prepares a piano by placing objects on and between the strings. There is no right or wrong way to do it and there is no limit to what items can be used. Nuts, bolts, pieces of rubber, paper, etc have all been used. In addition, the strings may be played by strumming them manually or by some other mechanical means.  Depending on the objects used and the method of playing them, the sound produced can range from percussive to sonorous to downright atonal.


     The only VSTi prepared piano plug-in I could find was Preparation P by Tom Gersic. It is 61 samples of prepared piano that can be tuned to what ever notes you need. It definitely has a DYI aspect about it but if you want a unique sound to throw a wrench in the works, I think this would do it for you. Here’s the link to download it. He also has 130MB of prepared piano samples you can purchase for $10. Not a bad deal.


Next Month— Brass

     The plug-in review for this month is a 3-fer. I originally wanted to just do an acoustic piano plug-in but since there’s not much to the interface, I thought I’d include a toy piano and prepared piano plug-ins.


     As always, I’m including some history and info about the instruments the plug-in models and some useful information on how to get the most out of the digital recreation.


     Acoustic pianos, as we’ve come to know them, have progressed from hammered dulcimers to hurdy gurdy to  clavicord to harpsichord and finally to the piano forte (the actual name for an acoustic piano.