Any midi controllers for classical music?

Posted by: KHen

Any midi controllers for classical music? - 12/31/11 09:41 PM

Are there any controllers that just house hammer action keys with some in/out components for running your favorite VST's? I see a ton of midi controllers with sliders, knobs, buttons and extra features that I wouldn't use, also the action seems pretty suspect on some of these units for a serious pianist.

For example:

CME UF8

SL 990 XP

M Audio

I like the simplicity of the M Audio, but the semi weighted action is a no go for me.

I've seen the Numa line from Studiologic, specifically the Nero and Numa White and they look like they would do the trick.

Was wondering if there are any others out there that have a decent enough action to practice classical music on?
Posted by: Melodialworks Music

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 12/31/11 09:47 PM

Kawai MP10
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 12/31/11 09:52 PM

Originally Posted By: Melodialworks Music
Kawai MP10


Haha, that has lots of unnecessary features: onboard sounds!

MM has a good point, though. There aren't really a lot of good MIDI controllers out there in terms of keyboard quality. Unfortunately you have to pay for the whole digital piano most of the time.

The nero is probably the closest I can think of to a really high quality MIDI controller. Half the world thinks it's amazing and the other half think it's garbage, so on average it's just ok.
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 12/31/11 10:05 PM

Kawai MP10, or... wink
Posted by: KHen

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 12/31/11 10:33 PM

Originally Posted By: Kawai James
Kawai MP10, or... wink


Must be hinting at the new ES perhaps!?

Yeah from the reviews I've read regarding the Nero it's either been a hit or a miss. I did manage to find quite a few vids on youtube of the Nero using the Ivory2 and Garritan VST's. They sound great, but the only thing I've yet to try is the action.
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 12/31/11 10:41 PM

Possibly.
Possibly not.

wink
Posted by: KHen

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 12/31/11 10:58 PM

Haha fair enough, winter NAMM will be upon us soon so time will tell.

Although the Kawai mp10 is a fantastic stage piano with realistic action, I also agree that it is a little much for someone who just wants a midi controller with out any extra features. I'll have to see what NAMM brings or try some of these controllers out for myself.
Posted by: KHen

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/01/12 12:19 PM

I read some interesting things last night regarding the Numa Nero and it's action the TP40Wood. Some users of the Nero have been complaining of velocity issues that apply to the midi data strip when you strike a key. One guy went as far as buying a PNOscan Midi strip and replacing the Studiologics with it. Makes me curious if one can get an old set of there favorite action from an acoustic or digital and put in place the PNO strip and use that as there controller.

Link

I also found a person that did just that and the results sound amazing. http://www.ltecmusic.com/
A couple of videos in the videos section of the website showing the action and the midi strip.
Posted by: rnaple

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/01/12 02:19 PM

Originally Posted By: KHen

I also found a person that did just that and the results sound amazing.


I'm guessing portability isn't an issue?

I know that Freddie Mercury had a Grand piano set up with some kind of pickups on it. Midi strip? There is a youtube video showing him adjusting it at the start of Bohemian Rhapsody. Yes during a concert on stage.

Was told Billy Joel had the same kind of setup at one time.
Posted by: KHen

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/01/12 03:16 PM

Yes the ltec link that I posted shows you videos of the PNOscan midi strip. But he uses an action, either from a grand piano or some other digital piano in conjunction with a VST to make music.

From the looks of the video it looks pretty portable to me you would just need a computer for the software piano.
Posted by: Melodialworks Music

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/01/12 08:14 PM

Originally Posted By: gvfarns
Originally Posted By: Melodialworks Music
Kawai MP10


Haha, that has lots of unnecessary features: onboard sounds!



I was responding to the for the "serious pianist". If you want a good controller, it will need to be a stage piano. You will not find a MIDI controller (without sounds) that will suffice.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/01/12 08:46 PM

That LTEC keyboard looks fascinating - thanks for sharing it! Looks like it might be a full custom design. It's interesting that it appears to be partially spring loaded. It seems that real action is slightly spring loaded too, by virtue of the repetition lever & jack spring. I hope that the LTEC is not too springy, but it would be fantastic to have something that is adjustable and appears to be so easy to pull apart and maintain.

Greg.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/01/12 09:00 PM

Regarding the PNOscan strip, in another thread we were discussing locations for sensors and concluded that the correct place for a sensor is on the hammer, not under the key, because there are lots of ways of striking a piano key such that the hammer will fly up and hit the strings without the actual key going all the way down.

I haven't heard anyone talk about this with respect to PNOscan, but the discussion definitely raised some questions in my mind about whether PNOscan really is better. The avantgrand has sensors under the keys but also on the hammers, and I suspect it is the latter sensors that do the velocity calculation. Similarly, Kawai's silent piano technology (for their acoustics) uses sensing of the hammers, not the keys, despite the fact that under the keys is a much simpler place to put it. Makes me think there might be a reason.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/01/12 09:11 PM

Is it possible that some players who feel that they have to "play deeper" on a DP than on a grand, are really saying "they have to lift their fingers up higher"? We know that a grand allows notes to be repeated for relatively shallow key returns (under 50%), and I'm just wondering whether it could be this aspect that is bothering some players, more than the ability to accelerate the hammers without having to depress the keys all the way. It's just a thought.

Greg.
Posted by: curt88

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/01/12 10:27 PM

Originally Posted By: Melodialworks Music
I was responding to the for the "serious pianist". If you want a good controller, it will need to be a stage piano. You will not find a MIDI controller (without sounds) that will suffice.


I don't know about that. The Nero NUMA is pretty darn good; action is very piano-like. Problem is getting one. The wait for it keeps getting bumped and bumped again. I got tired of waiting and got the MP10.

I see that there's a NUMA in pretty good condition up on the electric bay right now...

Curt
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/01/12 10:38 PM

Ltec looks like a really interesting controller. Unfortunately it appears to be vaporware. I feel like I saw the web page for the first time some time ago but they are still "in development" with nothing added nor any indication of when you might be able to purchase one. I doubt that it will ever be a reality. If it was they would have done the development first and then started actually marketing it rather than just thinking out loud on a web page.

A while ago I posted a link to a page by petrof indicating that they will build a midi controller made out of a real petrof grand action and some kind of midi strip. They had all sorts of interesting pictures and styles you could get. Also vaporware. I sent an email to several different contacts at petrof indicating my interest. No one ever responded.

Actually, just getting a PNOscan strip can be surprisingly difficult. I was thinking about building my own when Petrof ignored me, so I started looking for a PNOscan on the internet. It can't be bought. So I contacted the company like 5 different ways. Finally they got back to me and told me to go to a local piano retailer. Ok I contacted them. Another long wait. They got back to me finally. I mentioned what I wanted and asked how much it would be. They never returned my email.

There are no well-marketed and distributed midi controllers of decent quality. Studiologic is as close as you can get. But the problems getting a nero indicate that they have distribution problems as well.
Posted by: ZoeCalgary

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 12:11 AM

Originally Posted By: Kawai James
Kawai MP10, or... wink


James! Now I really can't wait until the Jan. NAMM. Sounds like something new coming from Kawai. Unfortunately I still can't seem to get my hands on an MP6. Good action and a software piano may be tempting if all the pieces added up to a decent (low) price!
Posted by: KHen

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 01:09 AM

@gvarns the PNOScan can be bought at http://www.midi9.com/products.htm

Also for those interested the TP40WOOD Nero keys can be bought Here

So essentially you can buy both and put them both together to make a killer midi controller. The only thing you would need is something to house the keys in.

This is very interesting and the pianoteq link above has the guy building this with detailed pics and videos.
Posted by: KHen

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 01:14 AM

Originally Posted By: sullivang
That LTEC keyboard looks fascinating - thanks for sharing it! Looks like it might be a full custom design. It's interesting that it appears to be partially spring loaded.


My pleasure! When I first found that you can make your own controller with just the PNO midi strip and keys I was ecstatic! That Ltec board does look awesome and the sounds from pianoteq sound great to me. I like just how simple the design is also with no levers, knobs or wheels.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 01:18 AM

KHen,

The PNOscan link there that supposedly points to a place you can buy it points to QRS. Same guys that I contacted to begin with that referred me to the local guy. Go to the QRS site and try and find something to put in a cart. You can't.

For that matter, try and find the price...anywhere. Could be $100,000 for all I know.

At least within the US, no one seems to want to sell it. They have it, and are eager to come install it themselves in your piano (probably) but I have yet to see anywhere you can get the part to DIY with.

The QRS guys follow the old-school model, where no one is allowed to show the prices and you can't get the item except from some authorized retailer, who installs it themselves and charges you for the whole job. I think they should sell this thing on amazon.

Additionally I wanted to buy an actual grand action to do what you are basically describing (I'll pass on the fatar) and build a killer midi controller but the guy I contacted said it would cost at least $5,000 for a grand piano action. I have no idea how accurate this is. Grand piano action sales are also very old school in their business model.

So I gave up on the project. For that kind of money and hassle, getting the AvantGrand makes more sense, even if it is just going to be a super-glorified midi controller.

Seems like someone's missing a business opportunity, even if the market isn't huge.

Side note: even if you could build a midi controller in this manner without passing bribes around or whatever you have to do, you would still have the problem that the velocities would come from key, rather than hammer movements. Unless my understanding is incorrect, this is not optimal. You'd do better using an MP10.
Posted by: KHen

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 01:37 AM

I didn't know you couldn't buy it at the midi9 site. The guy on the pianoteq forums says he bought the strip for $1300, but if you have pianoteq you get a 20% discount on the midi strip. He also mentions the diy strip coming with instructions. I'll have to do more research on it.

I had no idea that grand piano action cost that much! I was think of craigslisting a free upright and stealing the keys from it smile. Not sure how that would work out though.
Posted by: ando

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 02:06 AM

Originally Posted By: KHen

I had no idea that grand piano action cost that much! I was think of craigslisting a free upright and stealing the keys from it smile. Not sure how that would work out though.


Not a viable option, I'm afraid. You can't just use the keybed, you have to use the entire action. An upright action is quite large and, of course, very upright. It takes up a lot of space and is certainly not possible to make it portable. I think you'd be better off getting a used grand action if you were going that route. Even so, it's unlikely to scale the heights you expect of it because actions need to be in very good condition and well regulated. It's a significant investment and not something you should expect to do on the cheap.

Next, you have the issue with the PNOscan system. In my opinion, it has a fundamental problem that prevents it from ever being taken seriously as high performance equipment: it scans the keys instead of the hammers. It completely bypasses the critical factors that make a grand action a grand action - the double escapement action. You won't be able to do fast repeats on this system - or even worse, you are doing the fast repeats on the action, but you get no MIDI notes when you do it! It's a very difficult proposition to build your own sensor system for a grand action on the hammers. Not for the feint-hearted. I suspect that anybody who starts off with this idea ends up giving up and getting an AG - even if they don't plan to use the internal sounds. The benefit is that it does have the option of being played without the computer too, plus it's in a nice polished casing. It's the cheaper of two expensive options.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 02:28 AM

Ando,
The double-escapement allows repeats for shallow key returns. The fact that the mechanism in a real piano flicks the hammer back up isn't terribly important - the main thing is to allow the player to repeat notes for shallow returns of the keys, and according to a person over on the Pianoteq forum , the PNOScan DOES allow this.
The only thing it does not do is to send the back to back Note-Ons, which is the hack to allow standard MIDI to communicate damper-less repeats. So, you'll always get the standard Note-On/Note-Off pairs, even for shallow repeats. I don't think this is a show stopper.

Greg.
Posted by: ando

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 02:55 AM

Originally Posted By: sullivang
Ando,
The double-escapement allows repeats for shallow key returns. The fact that the mechanism in a real piano flicks the hammer back up isn't terribly important - the main thing is to allow the player to repeat notes for shallow returns of the keys, and according to a person over on the Pianoteq forum , the PNOScan DOES allow this.
The only thing it does not do is to send the back to back Note-Ons, which is the hack to allow standard MIDI to communicate damper-less repeats. So, you'll always get the standard Note-On/Note-Off pairs, even for shallow repeats. I don't think this is a show stopper.

Greg.


I think it likely still a problem in the sense that the connection to the hammer is quite important. Even if the PNOscan can do shallow repeats, it still isn't coupled to the momentum and weight of the hammer. A lot of playing you do revolves around really feeling where that bobbing weight is. Putting it all on the keys will result in a certain disconnect because it isn't married precisely to the way the hammer behaves. There is a reason why Yamaha and other companies have put some sensors on the hammers. Obviously it's a whole lot cheaper and easier to only use key sensors, but they see the need for hammer sensors. I haven't tried a PNOscan obviously, but I am quite sceptical that it can replace the hammer sensors with that approach. There seems to be a partnership with Pianoteq so I'm also cautious about any claims made on the PT forum. I'll wait until somebody comes along on an impartial forum who actually has this system and swears by it.
Posted by: sullivang

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 05:53 AM

I found a bit of "dirt" on PNOScan:

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...tml#Post1475431

"Add to that the fact that no matter how you tweak PNOScan's velocity curve, it just doesn't give a response as good as a digital piano. That's just my experience. But who knows, you might be lucky."

Hmmmm.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 11:07 AM

Yes, I'm a bit skeptical about PNOscan since the info comes from a PT forum--people are unreasonably optimistic over there for some reason. I see raving about it but I can also see a user who has had a horrible time calibrating it and never seems to get an even calibration...after days of working on it. I also see people painting the bottom of their keys and the like...

As Ando says, it will allow quick repeats, but you would have to calibrate quite carefully to ensure that these are allowed at the same levels at which the double escapement is used and not below, otherwise you could get some confusing behavior.

There is a youtube video of a dude who used an old petrof (I think) action and a PNOscan to make a midi controller but he won't respond to my questions.

By the way I can't vouch for the price of the grand action--just repeating what he said to me. I have half a mind to head over to the technician's forum and ask their opinion on a reasonable price. Though if a PNO scan strip is $1300, it's too expensive by a factor of 2. I would pay $650 for it (probably). At $1,300 it's hard to imagine that, once the cost of the action, keys, and box to put it in are taken into account, it will actually be money saving.

Posted by: JulianMaurits

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 12:57 PM

the rhodes rpc-1 might be interesting too..
Posted by: KHen

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 01:32 PM

True there may be a partnership with pianoteq, but as far as I can tell the software sounds good to me.

Your right though gvfarns if the strip itself costs $1300 and the action costs, say $2500?, then your creeping up into the upper end of digitals in price and you may as well just get an MP10, 700NX, or what have you. But if you've got an old digital lying around or in the case of the PT guy with his Nero giving him problems the midi strip is a good idea. It just sucks that you shell out $1200 for a product and it doesn't perform how you expected and you have to go through other costly ways to make it playable again.
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Any midi controllers for classical music? - 01/02/12 01:40 PM

Yup, that makes sense to me. I wish all DP's used optical sensors of some kind (preferably on the hammers). I have a suspicion that these rubber things are not always perfectly calibrated and reliable, and they do introduce some extra unwanted resistance.

I guess optical sensors cost a pretty penny, though.