Software Eighty-Eights

Sampled-piano virtual instruments and the computers that host them have come a long way. The world's best pianos have been recorded by outstanding engineers,
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Sampled-piano virtual instruments and the computers that host them have come a long way. The world's best pianos have been recorded by outstanding engineers, and even laptops can handle direct-from-disk streaming of multigigabyte libraries. Most libraries now sample every note at several Velocity levels and offer separate release-resonance and sustain-pedal-down samples. We put six highly acclaimed packages through their paces and got some surprising and not-so-surprising results.

Our primary emphasis in evaluating these instruments was playability. In particular, we wanted to find out whether state-of-the-art samples and software, a high-quality MIDI keyboard, and a good studio sound system can reproduce the experience of playing a real piano, or at least come close. Technical specifications don't answer that question, and sampled pianos, even with limited specs, have already proven their worth in the studio and onstage, whether or not they're fun to play. We'll cover the features and the sound quality, but our story is in the playing.

Don't Sell Your Piano

Two of us, Charlie and Marshall, have spent years in the studio and onstage playing some of the world's best pianos and, unfortunately, some of the worst. We've also carted digital instruments around as an antidote to out-of-tune and unplayable lounge pianos. Based on our experience, we began this project with the preconception that no virtual instrument could replicate the experience of playing a truly fine piano, and that was born out by our tests. There's a reason a 9-foot Bösendorfer Imperial Grand costs hundreds of times and weighs thousands of times more.

Having said that, we did encounter a number of pleasant surprises. Chief among them was that with some tweaking and a willingness to suspend disbelief, we could have an enjoyable playing experience with any of the pianos we tested. As you'll see, some are clearly superior to the others, but they all have something to offer. And with MSRPs for the packages we tested ranging from $120 for Art Vista Virtual Grand Piano to $362 for Native Instruments Akoustik Piano, acquiring one or more of these pianos is not a major investment.

Capturing a concert grand piano in a sample library is a daunting task. Notes held until they die out may last for a long time, requiring huge amounts of memory. Released notes don't stop immediately; the resonances of all elements of the piano need to be accounted for. Each of a piano's three pedals has its own effect, and the pedals are often used in combination. Mechanical noises generated by the key and pedal actions are part of the overall sound. In short, there's a lot to capture, choices need to be made, and putting all the elements together is as much art as science. For an excellent account of what is involved, see “Ain't It Grand!” in the February 2003 issue of EM (available online at See the sidebar “Tech Talk” for a glossary of technical terms.

If you have a quality piano in your studio or living room, you won't be turning to your computer and MIDI controller for practice or pleasure. As Marshall said at one point, “If I had a piano in the other room, I'd be there.” But we all felt that when the real thing wasn't available, we'd be quite happy playing one of these instruments just for the fun of it. Gone is the fatigue associated with looped samples, synthesizer-style envelopes, and a limited number of key and Velocity zones. Furthermore, virtual pianos are a lot easier to record. Once incorporated in a mix, these pianos would be hard to distinguish from the real thing.

The Playing Field

In order to have a manageable and more or less level playing field, we limited ourselves to sampled pianos that come as self-contained virtual instruments. We excluded sample libraries, although presets from four of the six packages can also be loaded into the Native Instruments Kontakt 2.1 sampler. All of the instruments are provided as VST plug-ins for Mac OS X and Windows XP, with most also supporting AU, RTAS, and DXi plug-in formats. All but one of them — Synthogy Ivory — come as standalone instruments on both platforms, and a standalone version of Ivory should be available by the time you read this. (See the table “Essential Statistics” for a comparison of formats and other features.)

Three of the instruments have a generic user interface. The simplest, Art Vista Virtual Grand Piano, is powered by Native Instruments Kontakt Player. Best Service Galaxy Steinway 5.1 and EastWest Bösendorfer 290 use Native Instruments' more full-featured Kompakt as their playback engine. They range in price from $120 to $200, and each samples a single grand piano.

The remaining three instruments sample multiple pianos and have custom interfaces. Synthogy Ivory features a 9-foot Bösendorfer 290, a 9-foot Steinway Concert D, and a 7-foot Yamaha C7. For its Akoustik Piano, Native Instruments has sampled three 9-foot grands — a Bösendorfer 290, a Steinway Concert D, and a Bechstein D 280 — and for good measure, it has thrown in a Steingraeber und Soehne Vintage Upright 130. Steinberg sampled a Steinway and a Kawai piano for The Grand 2. These three packages range from $299 to $362, and in terms of price per piano, they're all bargains.

Choices, Choices, Choices

Sampled-virtual-instrument presets incorporate both sampler and synthesizer settings. Sampler settings include the number and spacing of Velocity layers, the relative level of pedal-up and pedal-down samples, and the amount of release resonance. Synthesizer settings cover filter, EQ, and effects parameters. Because we were assessing playability and looking for the most natural sound, we went for the driest, least synthesized settings in each case. We always started with a factory preset, disabled any effects, and made as few parameter adjustments as possible.

Our playing and listening environment was also kept simple. Our MIDI keyboard controller was a weighted-action 88-key Studio Logic SL-880 Pro. Our monitoring system consisted of JBL 4311 monitors powered by Parasound HCA-1201 mono amps. The sound system was fed directly from the audio interface — an RME Hammerfall Multiface with an HDSP PCI card. We ran all the software on a dual-processor 2 GHz Power Mac G5 with Mac OS X 10.4.4. For plug-in hosts, we used Ableton Live 5.0.3 and Apple Logic 7.2. We also used the standalone versions of the instruments.

The technical performance of all of the instruments exceeded our greatest expectations. On a few occasions, The Grand 2 and Galaxy Steinway failed to recognize their authorization, which required a reboot of the software. In many hours of intensive testing, we had a few crashes of Ableton Live, we rebooted OS X once, and we had to reinstall The Grand 2.

We started with extended sessions for each of the packages, devoting more time to the virtual instruments that sampled several pianos. We followed the individual sessions with sessions comparing like pianos: the three Bösendorfers and the three Steinway Concert Ds. Finally, we recorded some MIDI files in different styles and listened to them on each of the pianos. See the table “Style Guide” for our views on which pianos suit particular playing styles.


Ivory was produced at Synthogy by Joe Ierardi, a pioneer of both piano sampling and sound design, and is marketed by Ilio. Its 40 GB sample library fills ten DVDs, and its custom graphical user interface puts performance settings at your fingertips (see Fig. 1). Its preset structure, with separate screens and files for Velocity, effects, and sampler settings, is a bit awkward, but on the upside, you can tweak every conceivable parameter until the piano plays exactly right for you. For example, you can adjust the level of the sustain resonance, release samples, and key noise, you can change the stereo width and orientation (performer or audience), and you can switch between stretch or equal-tempered tuning. Stretch tuning is an especially nice option for solo performance.

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FIG. 1: Synthogy Ivory''s control panel has separate pages for Velocity, effects, and piano settings (shown here).

Each of Ivory's three pianos was sampled at semitone intervals with several Velocity-layer setups. The Bösendorfer and Steinway come in 4-, 6-, 8-, and 10-layer versions, whereas the Yamaha comes in 4-, 5-, 6-, and 8-layer versions. Each version comes in two Velocity-switch-points configurations, the second of which favors softer playing. We preferred the second configuration.

Ivory's sampling strategy holds two surprises: it is the only library offering separately recorded samples with the soft (una corda) pedal down, and it uses DSP rather than separate samples for sustain (damper) pedal-down resonance. Using separate soft-pedal samples produces a considerably more realistic effect than filtering. We found it surprising that the soft pedal did not lower the level as well as affect the timbre of the note, but according to Synthogy, that is indeed the case with these perfectly maintained concert grand pianos. The six DSP algorithms for sustain resonance seemed every bit as realistic as using separate samples.

Ierardi also went to great lengths in recording Ivory's release samples. He not only recorded release samples for different Velocity strikes, but he also recorded separate samples for different note durations. Ivory's playback engine tracks both Velocity and duration in order to trigger the correct release sample.

We started with the Yamaha C7, which was, as expected, the brightest of Ivory's three pianos (see Web Clip 1). Both Charlie and Marshall felt that there was something “not quite real” about the middle range, but that the high end was very nice for a bright, hard-hammered piano. There was a slight but disconcerting buzz or artifact in the A0 to D1 range, with C1 being the worst offender. (We refer to middle C as C3 throughout.)

We switched several times between the 6- and 8-Velocity-layer versions as well as between the Level I and Level II configurations. There was a slight preference for the 8-layer versions and a strong preference for the Level II configuration. Both Charlie and Marshall found the Level II dynamics easier to control. Charlie could sense the Velocity switching with Level I, and Marshall found it harder to play overall. Those impressions carried over to the other pianos, and we spent most of our time with the highest number of Velocity layers in the Level II configuration.

We moved from the Yamaha C7 to the Steinway D and spent the major part of the session comparing that to the Bösendorfer 290 (see Web Clips 2 and 3). Marshall clearly preferred the Steinway, saying, “I bet I'd wind up playing the Steinway a lot.” Charlie said he thought he'd be playing the Bösendorfer. The Steinway stood out for Latin and gospel and handled classical well. The Bösendorfer was nice for gospel and great for classical. Marshall thought the Steinway was more like a real piano, whereas the Bösendorfer was like “a piano on steroids.” And that's not a bad description of the difference between the real pianos. The Bösendorfer is provided in 88- and 97-key versions, the latter including the 9 extra notes at the bottom of the Bösendorfer 290 keyboard.

One thing we realized during this session, which applied to all the pianos we tested, was that you could and would spend a lot of time tweaking the settings once you settled on a basic instrument and preset. With a little time invested, you could make any of the pianos fit your playing style, and that would greatly enhance the playing experience.

Virtual Grand Piano

We moved from Ivory to Art Vista Virtual Grand Piano (VGP), the least expensive and least ambitious of the models we covered. We did that out of curiosity about the contrast between the high and low end of the price range. The comparison provided a pleasant surprise.

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FIG. 2: Art Vista Virtual Grand Piano uses Native Instruments Kontakt Player for its control panel.

VGP samples a 1960 Hamburg Steinway B in semitone intervals with eight Velocity layers and separate sustain-pedal-down samples. VGP has the most basic interface, Native Instruments Kontakt Player (see Fig. 2), but like all models except the Galaxy Steinway, it does support repedaling (bringing in the sustain samples when the sustain pedal is pressed after key-down). As with the Kompakt-powered models, the soft pedal has no effect, and the middle (sostenuto) pedal sustains the currently pressed notes, but the sustain samples are not retriggered, as they should be, when those notes are replayed.

Compared with the other models, VGP sounded a bit muffled regardless of the chosen Velocity layering, of which there are four. We found the Medium layering with a midlevel compression setting to be the most playable (see Web Clip 4). VGP comes with the largest collection of presets of the pianos we covered, including customized settings for a variety of playing styles, genres, and acoustic environments.

Marshall found VGP “nice to listen to,” with a little more body than Ivory “but not the bark.” Charlie thought the high and low ends were quite nice, but that it sounded “a bit compressed and canned” in the middle. We all thought it would be good for lounge, gospel, funk, soft jazz, new age, jazz duo, or accompanying a jazz singer — pretty and sweet but not very complex. It wouldn't be suitable for classical or any particularly loud style, especially rock. As Charlie noted, “It's a hell of a piano for $120, but the hard-hammer guys aren't going to like it.”

Bösendorfer 290

Next up was EastWest Bösendorfer 290, which is a repackaging of Michiel Post's acclaimed Grandioso Bösendorfer 290 sample library (see Fig. 3). The piano was sampled in semitone intervals with as many as 16 Velocity layers. There are separate sustain-pedal-down and reverberant-release-resonance samples, and all samples were recorded with two microphone setups: close and distant. That allows you to construct dry as well as naturally ambient presets. A large number of presets of both varieties are provided, and you can use presets individually or in Multis to mix and match features.

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FIG. 3: EastWest Bösendorfer 290 is hosted by Native Instruments Kompakt.

The close-miked samples for this instrument gave it more of what we came to call the head-inside-the-piano sound than any of the other pianos (see Web Clip 5). Imagine yourself trapped inside the piano with the lid down, and you'll quickly get the picture. The effect was more obvious at the onset of a note, and Marshall described it as “a breathy, ambient noise.” This made the piano somewhat disconcerting to play, but it was less of a problem when the piano was playing the MIDI clips we recorded.

In the end, we all thought the piano might work well with some forms of orchestration and might be quite playable in a mix. But as a solo instrument, which is what we were after, it was the least playable of the bunch.

The Grand 2

In version 2 of The Grand, Steinberg has added a set of Kawai piano samples (dubbed Model 2) as well as made some improvements to the Steinway samples from the original version (Model 1). The Grand 2 uses a Syncrosoft hardware key (dongle), which may require a separate purchase.

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FIG. 4: Steinberg The Grand 2 has a 3-page control panel, but most of the action is on the Performance page (shown here).

The Grand 2's custom interface has three pages, the first of which is primarily eye candy but does allow you to select between models as well as turn on CPU- and RAM-saving options. The Room page is for setting up the built-in reverb and a 4-speaker surround simulation. The most important player settings are on the Performance page (see Fig. 4).

The Sound settings — Natural, Soft, Bright, and Hard — apparently affect a variety of hidden timbral settings in the playback engine, and they certainly have a marked impact on the sound. Interestingly, their impact on Model 2 is greater than on Model 1, and we felt that difference was a nice feature. The Natural and Soft settings proved to be the most playable, but the Bright setting could be really useful when the piano needs to cut through.

Five settings, collectively called True Features, control sustain-pedal-down and release samples together with mechanical noises. Each True Feature can be toggled off or have its level cut or boosted. The Eco Mode option toggles all True Features off. The only adjustment we found to be essential was cutting the True Sustain Resonance (sustain-pedal-down) level to -30. Lowering the Key Sound a little reduced thumping.

Both Charlie and Marshall found a lot to like in The Grand 2. Marshall preferred the Soft Sound setting of Model 2, but both found Model 2 “a little larger than life” and thought Model 1 was more realistic (see Web Clip 6). There was an abrupt transition in timbre around C1 in both models, and Model 1 had something of a dead spot in the octave above C5. Although the soft pedal affected volume only, Marshall actually preferred that to Ivory's separate soft-pedal samples. For both models, we found the bottom end a little heavy, the top end a little brittle, and the midrange just right.

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FIG. 5: Best Service Galaxy Steinway 5.1 is hosted by Native Instruments Kompakt.

Galaxy Steinway 5.1

Best Service Galaxy Steinway is the least complex of the instruments we tested and proof that simplicity is not a bad thing (see Fig. 5). A 9-foot Steinway Concert D was recorded with close and room mics to produce a full 5.1 surround library. A stereo version is included in the package, and that's what we used.

The piano was sampled in whole-tone intervals with ten Velocity layers. There are no soft-pedal, sustain-pedal-down, or release samples. Still, we found it to be eminently playable, and it sounded especially good on classical, gospel, and Latin (see Web Clip 7). Charlie found the piano a little bright, saying it could “almost be a Yamaha.” But he also thought that could be useful for recording. Marshall said a lot of these pianos left him feeling like “Where's the fundamental?” and that if he had this piano, he'd spend some time EQ'ing it. Charlie said that with some EQ, it might become his everyday virtual piano.

Both Charlie and Marshall found it very clean and playable. It was even across the entire keyboard with no noticeable transitions across Velocity zones. The Galaxy Steinway exhibited little of the head-inside-the-piano sound previously described, which made it the least distracting to play.

Akoustik Piano

The last of the individual-product sessions was devoted to Native Instruments Akoustik Piano, and by that time we were all feeling a bit jaded. Launching Akoustik Piano was like opening all the windows in the studio and letting in a huge blast of fresh air.

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FIG. 6: Native Instruments Akoustik Piano uses a single control panel that keeps everything at your fingertips.

Akoustik Piano's user interface is pure pleasure — everything is controlled from a single panel, all controls are comprehensively labeled, and presets, which are loaded or saved with one click, include all settings (see Fig. 6). The large buttons along the left load individual piano models with their default settings. A hot spot at the top right corner of each button brings up a description of the piano along with three demo songs and a link to the piano manufacturer's Web site. Buttons along the right side call up four ambient environments, all of which can be toggled off for a completely dry sound. The rest of the settings are on the bottom panel, which can be hidden when not in use. Having spent a lot of time before, during, and after the sessions dealing with the software, Len said, “If EM had a GUI of the Year award, I know how I'd vote.”

Our first stop was Native Instruments' version of the Bösendorfer 290 Imperial Grand (see Web Clip 8). Charlie thought it was a lot like the Ivory Bösendorfer but “with more fundamental.” Both he and Marshall found it very playable and smooth, while also having a “Bösendorfery in-your-face sound.” Lowering the lid to the short pin and rolling back the Key Noise knob to 9 o'clock calmed it down a little. Although it doesn't use separate samples, the soft-pedal implementation is fairly convincing. It both lowers the level and introduces a slight timbral change. Marshall noted that the A-1 (the lowest A) was sharp, clearly beating against the octave above it. As with Ivory, the extra nine notes below A-1 have been sampled and mapped to the keyboard.

The next stop was the Steinway Concert D, and we just kept coming back to this piano; it knocked everybody out (see Web Clip 9). Marshall loved it, saying it played the most like the real thing so far and “sounded like an 80-foot piano.” Charlie also thought it was the best he'd played. Both felt the high end might be a little peaky and that it might be a little harder to play than the Bösendorfer. Although there were a lot of overtones, there was enough fundamental to support them. Marshall said, “It's so playable, you can actually balance voices, which is hard to do on a MIDI keyboard.”

We were enjoying the Steinway so much, we decided to try out the four room ambiences: Concert Hall, Cathedral, Jazz Club, and Recording Studio. They were all quite restrained, which we liked. With only three controls (reverb amount, room size, and miking distance), they were easy to season to taste. Under the hood, the ambiences are implemented with the Kontakt engine's first-rate convolution reverb.

We also tried both alternative lid positions. On the low pin, there was still a lot of character. Marshall noted that you could play practically any combination of notes and “actually hear them.” To everyone's surprise, having the lid closed really sounded like having the lid closed; you could even hear more punting of the keys.

The last grand in the package is the Bechstein D 280 (see Web Clip 10). Charlie immediately picked out an unevenness or break moving from C4 to Db4 to D4. Closing the lid masked the problem, but we all felt it was serious enough to need fixing. That aside, it is a nice-sounding piano but not as clean as the Steinway, especially when you play clusters. Putting the lid on the low pin mellowed the instrument out a lot. Version 1.1, which should be available by the time you read this, promises to fix the intonation and regulation problems and will also offer a stretch-tuning option for each of the pianos.

We closed the session with the Steingraeber upright (see Web Clip 11). As Charlie said, “That is an upright, isn't it? Intonation, intonation, intonation.” Marshall pointed out the prominence of the release samples, which is a characteristic of uprights because the dampers aren't aided by gravity. You would spend a long time searching for this piano, and it's a lot of fun to play.

Steinway to Steinway

In order to compare the three Steinway Concert Ds, we inserted them simultaneously as plug-ins in Ableton Live 5 and switched back and forth as needed. Marshall noted that the Akoustik Steinway was in the best tune of all the pianos we tried. The Ivory Steinway seems to have some breaks and is not quite as playable as the Akoustik. Charlie chimed in that the Ivory is not as smooth, calling it “a little too touchy.” Setting the Ivory's Velocity curve to the Hard 1 preset, which is slightly concave, and dialing the Hardness knob to -20 percent made it smoother and easier to play. But in the end, the nod goes to the Akoustik, which was our favorite of all the pianos we tested.

Not surprisingly, the Galaxy Steinway doesn't have the resonance and definition of the other two. But it is playable and even across the note range. It is well sampled and nicely regulated but just not a great sound. It does mellow out nicely for soft playing, and the Velocity zones do capture the timbral changes you want. The absence of sustain-pedal-down samples is noticeable, especially in contrast to the other two Steinways. But this is definitely a playable piano; it's the only 5.1 surround version available; and at about $200, it's not overpriced.

Bösendorfer to Bösendorfer

The Ivory Bösendorfer was our favorite of the three, with the Akoustik Bösendorfer coming in a close second. The Akoustik seemed a little brittle or thin at times, but it was not a glaring problem and might even be preferable for early classical material.

The Ivory, on the other hand, had a huge sound and would certainly be the pick to cut through a heavy orchestration as well as for percussive material and more modern classical. The EastWest also fits well in an orchestral setting, but it might be out of place in a small group or solo context.

The MIDI Session

We finished up with a session listening to short MIDI clips we'd made: a little stride; a little gospel; an excerpt from the Chopin Fantasy in F Minor, op. 49; a Latin montuno; and a series of cluster chords. This gave us an opportunity to sit back and listen to each piano and to more precisely compare them. The Web Clips accompanying this article were made from the same MIDI files.

On the Chopin, the melody came out best with the Akoustik Steinway and Bösendorfer. But we were surprised how nice the Chopin also sounded on the Art Vista VGP. The Galaxy Steinway brought out the melody, but Charlie thought it was a little too brittle. Charlie also liked the Chopin played on the Akoustik upright, partly because he practiced the piece on an upright.

The stride and gospel sounded good on all the pianos but really punched through on the Galaxy Steinway. Charlie thought it sounded nice and funky on the Akoustik Bösendorfer, and Marshall commented that the inner voices really sounded like they should.

The hit for the Latin material was the Ivory Steinway, prompting Charlie to say that it “sounds just like a Poncho Sanchez recording.” The Akoustik Steinway and Bechstein gave it a nice, bright flair, and the slightly out-of-tune character of the Steingraeber upright added its own interest. The Art Vista VGP and the Galaxy Steinway also sounded good, and this was one case in which the Bright Sound setting on Model 2 of The Grand 2 really punched through.

The naked cluster chords were probably the most revealing of the differences between these pianos. They were clear and crisp on all the Steinways and Bösendorfers; however, the close-miking issues with the EastWest Bösendorfer again stood out. On the Steingraeber upright, they really brought out the differences arising from having a vertical soundboard and dampers.


You won't go wrong with any of these pianos. The standouts are clearly Native Instruments Akoustik Piano and Synthogy Ivory. The choice between them is largely a matter of personal taste, although all three of us preferred Akoustik Piano. Both packages are full-featured and offer excellent sound quality. Steinberg The Grand 2, although not as versatile as Akoustik or Ivory, does provide a variety of sounds and an interface customized for piano settings.

Each of the three single-instrument packages has its place in the mix. If you want a budget piano that can do it all, Art Vista Virtual Grand Piano is it. If you want surround, Best Service Galaxy Steinway 5.1 is your only choice among our contenders, and the simplicity of using a single multisample has its upside. EastWest Bösendorfer 290 has the biggest and most ambient sound of these three, and although not part of our testing, the distant-miked samples are a nice inclusion.

Charlie Otwell is a pianist and teacher in Orange County, California. He was pianist and musical director for Poncho Sanchez for many years. Marshall Otwell is a pianist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has toured extensively, most notably as Carmen McRae's pianist and musical director. Len Sasso is an associate editor of EM and a closet pianist.

See next page for Style Guide, Tech Talk Glossary, Essential Statistic, Manufacturer Contact Information


Here is our cumulative opinion on which pianos are particularly well suited for which playing styles. We offer this with the caveat that in the end, it's the player, not the piano.

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Here's a glossary of technical terms relevant to pianos and piano sampling.

bass section: the copper-wound steel strings that are the leftmost and lowest-sounding strings on the piano. There are one or two strings per note in the bass section.

break: the transition between the bass and treble sections of piano strings. Consistency of timbre across the break is often a problem for lower-quality pianos.

damper: a small felt block that, when lowered onto the strings of a note, dampens (cuts off) the strings' vibrations.

damper pedal: the rightmost of the piano's three pedals, also known as the sustain pedal. Pressing the damper pedal raises the dampers of all notes.

hammer: a felt-covered wood block that strikes the strings when a key is pressed, causing the strings to vibrate.

inharmonicity: the discrepancy between the actual overtones produced by a vibrating string and the theoretical overtones, which are whole-number multiples of the fundamental (lowest) frequency of vibration.

release resonance samples: samples recorded after a note has been released and the damper has fallen on the strings. The strings don't stop vibrating instantly, and other parts of the piano, primarily the soundboard, also continue to vibrate.

repedaling: pressing the sustain (damper) pedal after a note has been released and the damper has fallen on the strings. Because the strings' vibration doesn't stop immediately, repedaling produces an audible effect, which can be simulated by fading in the sustain resonance samples.

sostenuto pedal: the center of the piano's three pedals. Pressing the sostenuto pedal suspends the dampers of the notes that are currently held. This pedal is often omitted on uprights and less expensive pianos.

stretch tuning: the tuning technique that makes the octave intervals slightly greater than the theoretical 2-to-1 ratio in order to compensate for the inharmonicity of the strings.

sustain resonance samples: samples recorded for each note with the sustain (damper) pedal held down. Because the other strings are free to vibrate, sustain resonance samples sound different from samples recorded with the damper pedal up.

sympathetic vibration: vibrations induced in a string by sound waves at one or more of the string's harmonics.

treble section: the strings not in the bass section. These are steel strings that are not copper wound, and there are three strings per note.

una corda pedal: the leftmost of the piano's three pedals, also known as the soft pedal. Pressing the una corda pedal shifts the key bed and hammers slightly to the right. For all but the single-string notes in the bass section, that prevents the hammers from striking the leftmost string, changing both the timbre and volume of the note.


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Art Vista