How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyboard

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How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyboard

Postby Hugh-AR » 14 Aug 2019 21:19

When we choose a 'voice' on our keyboards, it's not just the sound of that voice that is all important, but the way it is played too. A Piano is a percussive instrument, so you would play it that way on your keyboard, with deliberate 'presses' on the keys. With a Trombone you may add a bit of 'glide'. After all, that is what a Trombone does. And if you have ever played in a band you will know how a Saxophonist would play his instrument.

Saxophone

Here is one example of how to play Saxophone on a keyboard and get it to sound really 'authentic'. This is by Derek Miles playing on a Genos keyboard. It's the way he 'ad-libs' on the instrument that gives it this 'authentic' sound. And the 'intonation' of the notes played too.

"When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls"

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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 14 Aug 2019 21:35

Here's another great example of how a Saxophone should be played. By Hans (Papa Joe) this time, who has played this "ad-lib" .. just "following the flow".

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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby mikeg » 15 Aug 2019 11:55

Hi Hugh the two players playing Sax on Keyboard sounded great Best Regards mikeG.
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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 17 Oct 2019 14:55

Bagpipes

Real bagpipes can't 'trigger' the same note twice. So one has to jump to another note and back again. These are called Grace Notes. In notation, a grace note is distinguished from a standard note by print size. A grace note is indicated by printing a note much smaller than an ordinary note, sometimes with a slash through the note stem .. as below.

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These 'grace' notes can be 'simple' in their construction (as in the above) , or have a more complicated structure. This video below shows that it is better to have the grace notes as simple as possible.



So when playing your keyboard you need to put these notes in, and not just play two notes the same on the trot. We have covered how to play the bagpipes on a keyboard in depth, with some examples of how bagpipes should sound on a keyboard, here:

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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 17 Oct 2019 15:49

Piano

At the beginning of this Topic I said:
A Piano is a percussive instrument, so you would play it that way on your keyboard, with deliberate 'presses' on the keys.

But remember, a real piano has 'moving parts' and one has to get them moving sufficiently to 'hit' the strings. On a keyboard, there are no 'hammers' to get moving to hit any strings. On a keyboard this action is mimicked by the keyboard picking up the speed at which you are pressing the key. The faster you play the note, the louder it sounds initially. Our organ engineer in Weston tells me he can always tell when an organist or keyboard player 'used to play the piano' as they 'hammer' the keys .. and as a result make tiny holes in the 'membrane' between the keys and the contacts. These make erratic 'jumping' sounds when playing notes, and the membrane then has to be replaced.

So you can play a piano 'smoothly' on a keyboard .. but play the notes fast. Don't play the notes 'slowly' or they won't sound properly. And certainly don't 'hammer' them.

Max (Greenwilby) has kindly given me permission to post his YouTube video of Sometimes When We Touch (that's a very appropriate title!) played with a piano voice .. and playing the notes 'slowly' and 'smoothly'.



When Max posted it, this is what I had said:

Some iInstruments, like trumpets, horns and trombones are played 'smoothly', and once they 'sound', if you continue 'blowing' they will continue 'sounding' until you stop blowing or run out of breath. Which is an important point to consider when you are playing one of these instruments on your keyboard. If you have a long series of notes for the instrument to play, then a real eg. trumpet player would stop momentarily in order to take a breath .. and then continue with the melody. So to replicate this, one ought to take one's finger off the keyboard momentarily from time to time. It is so easy to just continue with the instrument playing the melody non stop from beginning to end.

With a stringed instrument, like a violin or a cello, the sound is created by running the 'bow' over the strings. And the bow has a 'finite' length. So the 'string' player has to momentarily stop and move the bow in the opposite direction.

This all comes down to whether you want your piece to sound as if the 'real' instruments are playing it, or if you are playing your keyboard as a keyboard with an overall 'voice' that sounds like a trumpet/trombone/stringed instrument.

Here is what PeterA had to say about this in one of his posts elsewhere in this Forum:
Mentioning Breath, don’t forget a Clarinetist has to breathe regularly. So when you use that voice on your Keyboard you should also ‘take breaths’. One way of perfecting this is to take a breath as you begin to play a phrase, and as you let it out see how long you can maintain it before you have to take another. This should help you to lift your fingers from the keys at appropriate points, especially at the end of phrases in order to allow the Clarinetist to 'take a breath’.

And this comment from AndyG:
As for breathing, that's something that keyboard players often don't let their wind and brass players do and the results can be artificial - and you have a dead virtual player who hasn't breathed during the whole song! :) So think phrasing here. If you have lyrics in the music, follow them and they'll tell you where the natural breathing points are. If there are phrase marks, these will do the same. One possible exception is when you have a wind player who is adept at circular breathing - think Kenny G on sax, for example. You can then have really long solo sax lines, but don't tire the player out completely!

Then we have instruments that are best described as 'percussive' instruments. You hit the note, and even when you hold it down the sound will 'fade away'. Like the piano or vibes. No breaths needed for these people, so just carry in merrily for the whole piece without even having to think about taking 'pauses'. But, as they are 'percussive' instruments you do have to play them with a certain amount of 'attack' when playing the notes. So you can't play a piano part 'smoothly' as you would a horn.

On my AR, once you have played a piece you can theoretically 'change the instrument' you are playing with after you have recorded it .. and it will play from the floppy disk with the new instrument you have chosen. But because there will be a difference in the way you have played it (ie. smoothly or percussively), changing an instrument sound is often not an acceptable option.

Here's another YouTube video of the piano being played 'smoothly' on a keyboard. This one is by Kevin Adams. If you click on the YouTube LOGO at the bottom you can 'Watch on YouTube' .. where you will be able to read all the Comments; and have the option to Subscribe to his Channel.

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Now here is Jools Holland demonstrating the Yamaha Clavinova CVP-609. As I'm sure you know, Jools Holland is a pianist .. so he plays this as he would a piano.

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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 30 Oct 2019 17:04

Here's a really interesting video I have found showing how various acoustic instruments can be played 'authentically' on a keyboard. Some ideas here too on how to play pieces just for the sound you can get from a keyboard without using a 'style' or 'rhythm'. 'Free Play', as jackoj would call it. The 'time line' below is where the various instruments are featured. I was particularly smitten by how he gets 'strings' to sound; and 'choir' too.

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Keyboard playing techniques to emulate other instruments

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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 31 Oct 2019 22:23

Some interesting thoughts on how to play a guitar 'authentically' on a keyboard. For starters, did you know that a guitar is 'tuned' to the notes EADGBE? Unlike a keyboard, chords on a guitar can only be formed by making those notes 'higher' (by pressing on the frets). So if playing a 'C' chord you can't drop that A down to a G; or that D down to a C. The only way is up! Bear this in mind when playing a guitar piece on a keyboard.

How to Play Guitar Parts on Keyboards with Daniel Fisher

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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 12 Nov 2019 12:48

Of course over the years the keyboard manufacturers have improved their sampling of 'acoustic' instruments so they are getting more and more to sound like the real thing.

I have been looking at the Genos Reference Manual, where they explain how they have used technology for playing acoustic instruments authentically. Here is a few things they have to say about their Voice section:

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AEM Technology
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S.Art (Super Articulation)
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S.Art2 (Super Articulation2)
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Live
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Cool
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Sweet
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So that is half the battle of playing acoustic instruments authentically. To have keyboards that sound like the real thing in the first place. The other half, of course, is the way you play them.
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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 15 Nov 2019 16:38

Strings

First, Bev Harrison (BevH) playing Ladies in Lavender on the Violin. This piece is from an 'older' organ so the violin doesn't have all the 'nuances' that a modern keyboard would give you.

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And this is Charles Hughes (ChuckH) playing The Swan, A Cello this time. Played on his AR80. The AR, although ahead of it's time when it came out in the late 1990s, doesn't have the technology of producing authentic sounds that the modern keyboard has, so don't expect to hear the bow scraping on the strings!

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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 23 Nov 2019 21:56

Trumpet

Ken Shipton (kens) has played a Trumpet in this piece below. Notice how he controls the volumes of the trumpet as he plays; how the trumpet has vibrato when stationary on a note; and how he skips through 'in between' notes on his way through to notes that are spaced far apart.

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He has played this on an 'older' EL700 organ, which doesn't have all the 'nuances' of a modern keyboard. But Ken has carried it off because it's not just the basic sound of the trumpet that is important, but the way it is played too.
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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 23 Nov 2019 21:57

Here is a video of how to create a trumpet sound on a modern keyboard, the Korg microARRANGER. This is not for the faint hearted as there are so many hoops to go through to set up an authentically sounding trumpet.

Korg microARRANGER - Tutorial / Review #9- SOUNDS - Brass, trumpet, trombone.

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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 28 Nov 2019 21:25

Violin

Here is a Violin played on a Tyros 4. This has been played by Arthur (abr250), and the piece is called "Nocturne", which was the Winning entry (by Norway) of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995.

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Listening to the above, you can even hear the bow 'scraping on the strings' .. and his whole piece picks up the atmosphere of that 1995 entry.

Arthur says:
I play a Tyros 4 and always have the "Initial Touch" ON. This I think enables the player to play more expressively. I do try to play voices as they should be (perhaps not always as good as they should be, but I try).

Nocturne - Secret Garden - Norway 1995 - Eurovision songs with live orchestra.



The comment underneath the clip says "Let's make Eurovision live again!". I would go along with that.
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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 30 Nov 2019 22:22

Clarinet

Here is a Clarinet sound produced on a Korg keyboard:

Korg Keyboard Improvisation - Clarinet Sound - Makam Hicaz



Arthur (abr250) has played Petite Fleur with a Clarinet, on his Tyros 4. He says:
I play a Tyros 4 and always have the "Initial Touch" ON. This I think enables the player to play more expressively.

I can see where Arthur is coming from with this. When he plays the clarinet note with 'attack' it has a very dynamic sound; but when he plays it 'softly' it is very 'quiet' sounding, which is very evident on certain notes. That change of emphasis sounds really gorgeous in this piece. Also take note of the very fast 'vibrato' he has. He has had the following comment:
The Clarinet is virtually unused on keyboards these days so a refreshing change to hear it in such a nice song. I think people would be hard pressed to know this clarinet was a keyboard, its got just the right bends and reverb etc.

Listen to this and judge for yourself:

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Of course it's not just the sound that the clarinet makes, it's the way it is played.

Here's a clip of Stranger On The Shore, played on a Tyros 4, with Clarinet.



And here is Mr. Acker Bilk himself with that Clarinet sound we are all trying to emulate. How he plays his Clarinet has eluded most other clarinet players .. he has his own way of producing this sound. For starters, listen to the vibrato he puts on it. A very heavy vibrato. And the Strings in the background just make this piece.

Stranger On The Shore - Acker Bilk

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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 09 Dec 2019 22:30

Saxophone

I started off this Topic with Saxophone, and now I have another one, this time played by Arthur (abr250). The tune he has played is Chris de Burgh's Lady In Red, and he has both Sax Soprano and Jazz Sax in his piece. A reminder about how Arthur has his keyboard set up to play instrumental sounds:
I play a Tyros 4 and always have the "Initial Touch" ON. This I think enables the player to play more expressively.

And my comment about this:
I can see where Arthur is coming from with this. When he plays the saxophone note with 'attack' it has a very dynamic sound; but when he plays it 'softly' it is very 'quiet' sounding, which is very evident on certain notes. That change of emphasis gives realism to the saxophone being played.

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Re: How to play acoustic instruments authentically on a keyb

Postby Hugh-AR » 10 Dec 2019 07:54

I have heard more from Arthur as to how he has his keyboard set up, and he says this:
The Touch setting can be changed in the Main Menu. I have mine on Soft 2. On the Tyros we have "voice set". This is where we can change how a voice sounds .. Effects, Reverb. Delay, Release etc. which then can be saved into a user area.

I have changed the E.Q. settings from the default which I think gives an overall improvement in sound quality.

On my AR organ I don't have any E.Q. settings; but I am able to change how a voice sounds. On the AR this is under the heading Voice Edit. But to get a Voice to sound authentic it's not just how the instrument is set up. It is also how the instrument is played.

I have spoken to a few Members who say that they are not sound engineers and don't bother with things like this. But we are all sound engineers to a certain extent, as we would certainly alter the 'balance' between voices and the rhythm if the drums were drowning everything out! And I do turn OFF (or turn down) certain PARTS in a STYLE if they clash with what I am playing. An example of this is when I am playing with a Piano and one of the backing PARTS has a piano in it which interferes with the melody I am playing. With all these things, one has to have an idea in one's head as to what one is aiming to achieve. This is what makes us musicians.
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