Acoustic piano is one of the most sought-after sounds for samplers, and we’ve all heard countless variations on the theme—from vintage grands to barrelhouse uprights rendered with tacks—so it’s easy to become jaded. But when UVI announced Augmented Piano, I knew it would be worth a listen.
Augmented Piano is a sound library for UVI’s flagship synthesizer/sampler, Falcon, as well as the free UVI Workstation. Both can be used standalone or as plug-ins (AU, VST and AAX), and you’ll need 14 GB of drive space to install the Augmented Piano’s UFS file, which holds the samples and programs.
For the piano, UVI chose a 1909 Pleyel grand piano, an instrument favored by Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Ravel, de Falla, and Stravinsky. In addition to the prepared pianos in the collection, you get a folder of normal and Una Corda sounds, unprocessed as well as played through effects.
The piano benefits from several velocity layers, round-robin sampling, and separate release samples. You can mix and match recordings of the instrument through a Royer SF24 stereo ribbon mic, a pair of Brüel & Kjaer condensers, and a Crown PZM 30D microphone. Because these are sampled recordings of the instrument (as opposed to impulse responses), mic placement is set, but you can balance the amount of each mic type or disable them completely. You can also adjust release volume, sympathetic resonance, and pedal noise. UVI also includes a wonderful convolution effect, and you can choose anything from conventional reverberant spaces to amp models to talking cans.
Twenty-four types of preparations went into Augmented Piano. You’ll find strings played with an Ebow or traditional bow, fingered harmonics plucked with fingers and strings played with a pick. You also get strings prepared with bottle caps, wallets, tin foil and more. Patches are grouped by category such as Tack, Wood Stick, Brushes, Objects, and Mixed.
In addition, Augmented Piano boasts a simple but decent subtractive synthesis engine, including a pair of ADSR envelope generators—one for amplitude and one for a resonant multimode filter. It’s especially cool to be able to route the attack portion of the envelope to velocity, which can give you a slight horn-like effect when you play soft, and a little bite when you dig in.
ALLEGRO CON BRILLO
Augmented Pianos offers a wide palette of interesting sounds, whether you’re looking for something noisy and edgy or ethereal and mellow. Slidominous starts with a beautiful brushed attack transient that is more pronounced at higher velocities, settling into sweet, cymbalum tones. Solo Bow 1 and Solo Bow2 are synth leads with a startling organic grit to them, whereas Strings Chamber 1 resembles a hybrid of a metallic synth pad and a harmonium.
Other standouts include Industrial Piano 1, with its slightly abrasive bouncing-coin attack; Radio Caraibes, a deliciously dissonant steel-drum mock-up; Screws Harmonics + Bow, as ethereal a pad as you’ll find anywhere; and Structural FX, which lays out a key-mapped menu of scrapes, glisses, and brushes.
If you own Falcon, your sound-design options multiply greatly, but there’s still plenty of room to shape your sounds with the UVI Workstation. Either way, UVI Augmented Piano is a steal at $149.
Beautiful, varied, and exotic tones derived from a vintage prepared piano. Simple, useful synth architecture. Excellent effects.
Marty Cutler is the author of the New Electronic Guitarist from Hal Leonard. His most recent project is the new sample library Cinematic Styrofoam.