Jump to content

humanizing a piano


Recommended Posts

Since when was performing the only way to write music?

That's not what he's saying.

Playing keyboard doesn't mean you have a better shot at making human performances

There is no keyboadist on the face of the earth that will agree with that. Of course you have a better shot at making a human performance when an actual human is playing. In fact, you'll probably get a "human sounding" performance every time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 55
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

There is no keyboadist on the face of the earth that will agree with that. Of course you have a better shot at making a human performance when an actual human is playing. In fact, you'll probably get a "human sounding" performance every time.

My point is that investing time in learning keyboard isn't always worth it if you just want to write something like a djembe solo.

Of course, though, it'll sound human right from the start. Sucking at keyboard DOES INDEED SOUND HUMAN.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My point is that investing time in learning keyboard isn't always worth it if you just want to write something like a djembe solo.

Now i'm really lost...

What was this thread about again? Piano. Humanizing. something about midi controllers....

Dear OP, the midi keyboard is a central part of many small home studio setups. Given it's versatility, there is plenty to learn and many ways to communicate an idea with it. Put the time in to develop your finger skills, and you can play any instrument you want. Not in a strictly professional setting of course, but for the home it's ideal.

The biggest plus for a keyboard is that it gives you access to Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm so you can internalize everything you need to communicate music. A musician is only limited by what he/she/it refuses to learn, or gives up learning.

I wouldn't want to sequence a djembe solo. My God that would take forever once the finger rolls came along. And sequencing the Tabla? Forget it. It would be faster to have a seizure over your keyboard then make some corrections by hand. Faster, and more human(e).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Calm down everybody. Can't we all get along? :grin:

There have been some great points made here, and I totally respect every one of you who can play an instrument. I haven't played an instrument since I played the flute at age 10 and that was *mumble mumble* years ago.

I have heard wonderful things about midi keyboards, and I absolutely plan on looking into getting one. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the promised tutorial on piano humanization, as this is the last "icing on the cake" finishing touch on my collab remix that is just about ready to submit!

Thanks to everyone who commented here!

*gets garbage bag to collect remnants from huge water balloon fight*

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Calm down everybody. Can't we all get along? :grin:

There have been some great points made here, and I totally respect every one of you who can play an instrument. I haven't played an instrument since I played the flute at age 10 and that was *mumble mumble* years ago.

I have heard wonderful things about midi keyboards, and I absolutely plan on looking into getting one. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the promised tutorial on piano humanization, as this is the last "icing on the cake" finishing touch on my collab remix that is just about ready to submit!

Thanks to everyone who commented here!

This has been one of my favorite threads in awhile. It's good to have differing points of views. Just so long as we don't kill each other, that energy will go back into making our art better. Can you post the link to your mix if you submitted it on the forums? after what, 4 pages here, i'd like to hear it.

Let's keep this thread going until at least until Sonic Generations is released in less than 1.5 weeks. Neb! Get back in here!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The song has been in the remix forum for quite awhile and has been reviewed multiple times by Rozovian. As of this moment, I am waiting for my collab partner to approve some changes I made, when he does I will update the post, bump for mod review and post the link here, tomorrow if all goes well. So please have a little more patience for the best possible version. Thanks for asking about it, I'd love to share it and get further feedback! *yeah!* :mrgreen:

And seriously thanks everyone for your opinions!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey.

I sequence piano (and electric piano) all the time (okay mostly EP and rhodes but w/e).

First, having some minor playing ability does really help a lot. This experience gives you the ability to feel out what you want to sequence. When I am writing piano parts, I imagine what my fingers would be doing (even if I'm not good enough to play the part, I still know what it's like to play enough to help here)

When I write, I separate parts, right hand from left hand.

You USUALLY have the lead played on the right hand. Left can play chords, rhythm, etc.

The most important things about sequencing piano:

1. Note lengths - Imagine your right hand as you play a part you are writing. When would one finger release a key? This actually helps humanize your piano parts quite a bit. Not every note is separate from another, after all you have five fingers. I may hold my thumb down an entire measure until I have to use my thumb again on another note. You release notes when you need to.

2. Velocities - It's not only important to emphasize rhythm with the velocities, but to also apply lower or higher ones to notes in chords. Sometimes, people do miss notes, or barely hit them, it really depends on what you are going for, what is appropriate.

3. Note lengths again - This time I am talking about how you play in relation to how you want the piano to sound. It's not just about finger release anymore, but note emphasis. Shortening certain notes, especially in more rhythmic/faster runs can really give your piano sequencing an edge. You just have to know when to do it. You can also combine a shorter note w/ more velocity to add emphasis.

4. Be fluid and loose when appropriate - Depending on what genre/type of song you're going for, you usually do not have to be afraid to let loose a little bit on the writing. Try triplets instead at the end of a measure, or hit your lead note early or late. Adding style to the writing alone makes things sound more realistic. Using the above techniques, you can really just make your sequencing sound more realistic when you get the feel for an appropriate piano part.

5. Grace notes - Sixteenth (or closer, further, however you want really) here and there, typically half or whole steps from the melody (but not always), also really help a lot. Used appropriately (you can do it on the left hand too, people can kind of glide their left for chords).

6. Mix your chords and rhythm up - Don't just hit four or five notes at once. And arpeggiating eighth notes up and down a scale can be boring as well after a while. You want to take a look at your left hand and think about which notes can be played together rhythmically. How about notes with just your pinky and thumb, then next keep the pinky note down, and alternate notes that would be played by your index or middle finger. So it'd be 1 + 5, release 5, keep 1 held down, then 3, then release 1 (pinky) and hit 2 + 5 again... Etc. You want different combinations, taking into account when fingers would hold and release notes, velocities etc.

7. If you really want just chords - Don't have keys be hit at the exact same time. Your fingers won't hit all notes at exactly the same moment, so move them around a tiny bit. It goes the same w/ velocity. You can keep the spread more looser for softer notes, but if you are playing the piano hard, for instance, the notes may be more accurately together because there is more stress on the rhythm from the player in these cases (usually).

ALSO DO NOT BE AFRAID TO USE CHORDS W/ YOUR RIGHT HAND - So many people tend to sequence the right hand with only one note while the left plays the rest. Players tend to use chords or emphasis on the melody. You can use more than one note (or 4) at the same time :J

8. Move notes around - Move notes right or left on the piano roll EVERY SO SLIGHTLY, but only on notes that are not as important to the overall rhythm. You will find these do not matter quite as much, and can really help humanize the part. But don't do it too much, it makes the playing sound sloppy. Keep the more accurate notes w/ the rhythm.

9. Your VST/Sample - Unfortunately, a lot of believability comes down to what sample you are actually using, but since this thread has people referencing that it comes down to actual playing, it doesn't have to. It's GOOD to play piano and be good at it, but if you know what you're doing already and don't have the gear/keyboard setup etc., sequencing can work out fine. I don't have enough room for a keyboard setup myself so I just mouse it all in!

10. Panning - You want to concentrate on what kind of recording you are going for before you pan notes. Where would the mic be? This is an iffy thing, depending on the sample quality, or the VST settings, but luckily there are effects you can put on your track that can at least give a decent emulation of an actual recording.

11. Don't forget the pedal - The pedal is often forgotten. Whatever you are using to emulate the effect of the pedal. It's not just about the pedal noise (which is optional and can be distracting depending on what you are going for), but what the pedal does: If you have played piano, you have an instinctive intuition for when you would hold it down or release it. Usually if you are utilizing it, you hold down, release quick (like a breath), then hold down again. You release it at the END of something before you start again, this can even be between measures etc.

10. Automate - Piano's tone, decay, sustain, release, pedal, etc. Use the midi CC channels to automate whatever is available at your disposal w/ whatever sample you are using. This can be very strenuous, but you don't have to go crazy here, you just want EMPHASIS on things going on in your writing, at minimum.

11. Reverb - You want to apply the right amount for whichever kind of setting or style the song is. If the song is full and the piano is trying to go through, you don't want too much decay, or you may want to keep it dry. You might want to make the room a bit smaller. Too much, bad choices, or even too little can really fuck up a piano part. It drinks reverb like water, but you can drown it too.

12. Lastly - Tempo can be very important, especially for solo playing. Decrease the tempo slightly on harder parts, or in between measure or phrases, because people pause, and a good tempo automation can emulate that flow piano players get when playing a song.

And so, that's all I really know... It's not THIS complicated, trust me, all these things are related, intimately, and if you just keep them in mind, things usually can come together while you are writing. I hope this helps, and good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Monobrow, thanks for writing all that out, I'm gonna print it out and read over it a few times. Really appreciate that!

Many of those things I have already been trying: different velocities, panning each note depending on which hand/finger would be playing them, varied velocities within chords, moving notes *slightly* etc. You're right about reverb, easy does it, and a little more decay does push it into the background when needed... so I've done a tiny bit of automation with that... all of this I am learning. I'm going to re-read this and play with it a little more.

Confession - I have two songs going that have piano parts... one nicely polished and almost ready to go (will post link here in a day or so, partner adding more to it), and another wip that's much rougher... focusing mainly on writing/arrangement on that one... if I get brave I'll post that one too and you guys can let me know how bad it sucks, haha! (or better yet, offer arrangement suggestions :smile:)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the promised tutorial on piano humanization, as this is the last "icing on the cake" finishing touch on my collab remix that is just about ready to submit!

I'm making a video tutorial. I've just recorded it and am now editing. Provided that nothing comes up today, it should be done fairly soon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm making a video tutorial. I've just recorded it and am now editing. Provided that nothing comes up today, it should be done fairly soon.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yippee, woohoo, yeah!!!

Between you and Monobrow we should have a fairly comprehensive database to work with!

Finally some REAL help with this!!!

*runs off shrieking with glee*

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just gonna echo the sustain pedal thing. It can do a lot to the sound, especially in otherwise sparse passages.

But the most important thing imo is that all the edits are deliberate and not random. Many sequencers already have a "humanization" feature which is just really a randomizer that screws with timing, velocity and whatever else you let it do. Random imperfections may make something seem less mechanical, but it won't be as emotive as even a basic deliberate humanization. Just adding a bit of quantized swing to a part can give it more life than random imperfections... so don't randomize, be deliberate. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just gonna echo the sustain pedal thing. It can do a lot to the sound, especially in otherwise sparse passages.

But the most important thing imo is that all the edits are deliberate and not random. Many sequencers already have a "humanization" feature which is just really a randomizer that screws with timing, velocity and whatever else you let it do. Random imperfections may make something seem less mechanical, but it won't be as emotive as even a basic deliberate humanization. Just adding a bit of quantized swing to a part can give it more life than random imperfections... so don't randomize, be deliberate. :)

Hey there Rozo! :grin:

I haven't done anything with the pedal... not quite sure how yet... was hoping the *almost finished* tutorial would address that... other than that, what I have done is alter the velocities, panning and note lengths... I really took my time and addressed each note the way I assume it would be played in reality. I initially tried some of those randomization settings and quickly abandoned them! I don't like using features where I can't see the logic of how something was done! So each note has been given the royal treatment. I'm sure it still sounds somewhat mechanical at this point... arg it may be as good as it gets... Prophecy is still working on the tutorial, let's see if the magic answer is there!

*damn why don't I play the piano... mom was right... gggrrr!* :grin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The key to a good piano steak is the Chopin'.... cut against the grain so it's tender and let it rest so the juices don't run out....? Cmon!

I wagner what debussy he is even talking about...? Oh, haha I get it!!!

*rolls eyes at corny jokes*

*smiles at snappleman's delightfully piquant sense of humor*

But seriously folks... yes I am planning to look into getting one of those handy-dandy midi controllers! :grin: Do they also grill the piano steaks, or is that an extra attachment sold separately?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Where did everybody go?

"hello?" *hello-hello-hello*

"echo?" *echo-echo-echo*

Well, for anyone still here, I did another piano practice today and I would just adore some feedback! :grin:

http://soundcloud.com/chimpazilla/piano-practice-2-midnas-lament

Sounds forced and blatant. The problem is that the more you try to humanize a piano performance, the worse it gets. Worthwhile pianists are not sloppy, they're articulate. Very subtle and musical changes in velocity and timing is what it takes, not trying to emulate someone being sloppy. Also, solo piano pieces are never strictly stuck to the time grid, there's a tempo but it's not static and it changes based on the feel set by the performer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds forced and blatant. The problem is that the more you try to humanize a piano performance, the worse it gets. Worthwhile pianists are not sloppy, they're articulate. Very subtle and musical changes in velocity and timing is what it takes, not trying to emulate someone being sloppy. Also, solo piano pieces are never strictly stuck to the time grid, there's a tempo but it's not static and it changes based on the feel set by the performer.

Hey SnappleMan, you are totally right, it does sound forced. I did some work with note lengths and even added a tempo automation clip, but I can hear now that it still sounds mechanical. I'm working on another practice piece that is much more detailed, and I'm not sticking to the grid at all, and snap set to "off," just putting the notes where they sound right. It will probably never sound as good as playing the piano for real, but hopefully it will be better. This is a very good learning experience for me.

Thanks for your honest feedback! Did you at least like my jokes? :-D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey SnappleMan, you are totally right, it does sound forced. I did some work with note lengths and even added a tempo automation clip, but I can hear now that it still sounds mechanical. I'm working on another practice piece that is much more detailed, and I'm not sticking to the grid at all, and snap set to "off," just putting the notes where they sound right. It will probably never sound as good as playing the piano for real, but hopefully it will be better. This is a very good learning experience for me.

Thanks for your honest feedback! Did you at least like my jokes? :-D

Chimpazilla, is your only intention to make piano solo tracks? I wonder why because you say you don't play piano. Or perhaps it is just to improve your piano sequencing...

I don't wish to tell you your efforts are futile but you are really going about it the extremely hard way. Being pianistic and realistic is easy when you play piano, pianistic midi-input by hand is not.

Another thing that gets in your way is the piano samples you have - they're a little synthetic and have quite a bit of reverb on them. Admittedly in the originals (space junk and midna's lament - great choice by the way) there's some unnatural reverb/delay on the piano BUT if you want to fool us into thinking this is a "REAL PIANO PERFORMANCE" i'd say find a better sample or take off the excessive delay/reverb.

If you are merely doing this to better your piano writing in the context of larger pieces you want to write or remix then sure you've done well enough to move on and do that. It is possible to make a convincing midi piano track BUT by doing it by hand you're really being a little hard on yourself!

In conclusion, the things you've done to try make the piano realistic comes off worse - like the tempo changes which are likely very linear and robotic - also velocities. HERE ARE YOUR OPTIONS: WORK LIKE A DOG AND BECOME THE MASTER OF PIANISTIC PLAYING WITHOUT A PIANO/KEYBOARD INPUT OR LEARN PIANO AND MAKE THINGS MUCH EASIER FOR YOURSELF OR STOP YOUR PIANISTIC ENDEAVOURS HERE AND START WORKING ON SOME GREAT REMIXES THAT DON'T RELY ON HYPER-REALISTIC PIANO PLAYING.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share


×
×
  • Create New...