How to make almost any digital piano sound like the real thing

Napier Lopez is an American writer. He is interested in tech, science and photography and he likes to yo yo (show all). Napier Lopez is a New York City-based writer. He is interested in all things tech-related, including science and photography, and enjoys yo-yoing in his spare time. Follow him on TwitterDigital pianos are popular because most people can't afford them or can't fit them in their homes. Unfortunately, digital pianos are often inferior to acoustic instruments. They have poor sound quality and poor speakers. This is unfortunate. Even for beginners, a good piano tone can encourage you to practice and improve.What if I said that you can make your fake piano sound almost exactly like a real grand piano or upright piano without spending thousands of dollars?Virtual pianos are also known as piano VSTs (virtual music studio technology) and piano plugins. You don't have to settle for cheap digital pianos with built-in sounds or take on credit card debt to buy a better model. Instead, you can connect your piano to a computer, smartphone, or tablet to get higher quality sounds.You can create the most authentic piano experience without buying an acoustic.What is a virtual piano different?The software used to create the sound of an acoustic keyboard is called Piano VSTs. It can be either one or both of these methods, sometimes using both sampling and modeling. Your digital piano can do the same thing, but your computer is much more powerful.The physical model of a piano is basically a replica of a piano. A computer uses fancy math and physics to create sound waves depending on how you hit each note. Sampled pianos use a more brutal approach to recording every note at different speeds, durations and pedal combinations.Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Modeled pianos are more responsive and customisable, while sampled pianos sound more natural, but require more system resources (multiple gigabytes).I am a beginner. Are there any fancier sounds for the piano?I'm just barely a beginner! However, I do enjoy better sound quality. A good sounding piano will likely motivate you to practice and create music. VSTs were my first motivation for researching them. I wanted to replicate the sound of my teacher's grand piano.A good VST can be used as a piano's sustain pedal. You can hold down just a few notes to hear the resonances. Your playing is more expressive and notes feel more natural. I've been listening to music my whole life, so I know how a real piano should sound. Although I'm not a professional, I love to play with the keys and hear what happens.While digital pianos are getting better and more versatile, the built-in sounds of digital pianos are not always the best.VSTs can also be an investment. VSTs are an investment because they allow you to use the same high-quality sound from almost any digital keyboard that has a midi output.A good digital piano is more than its sound. Serious learners will need something that has a weighted hammer action.This means that if you are primarily interested in piano playing, you can choose keyboards based on the quality of their keybeds rather than their built-in sounds. Digital piano companies often use the same keybed across their entire product line, but they will keep the best sound quality on their most expensive models. The premium that you pay for better sound quality will usually be more than the price of a VST.Which VST should you get and what are their costs?You can choose the one that sounds the best and is within your budget. This is how we aim to inspire you to play more piano. Look for a VST that inspires you to keep playing! There are many demos available on most VSTs' websites.VSTs come in a variety of prices, features, and requirements. I haven't tried all of them, so I will only recommend a few. VSTs can be purchased for free or for a few hundred dollars. However, I don't recommend VSTs that are free as they may not be as good as those you would find on a modern digital.Pianoteq 7 from Modartt (149-$449)Pianoteq is my favourite modeled piano. It is the fastest virtual piano I have ever used. It takes up very little space and loads quickly. Even on older hardware, it runs flawlessly. It is also easy to install, and it is the easiest desktop VST that I have tried. This is a great example of Pianoteq's latest version in action.You can also play over a million different piano sounds. The cheapest version of Pianoteq comes with two models of piano, which should be sufficient for most users. There are currently 10 models of modern pianos (Bluethner, C. Bechstein etc.) and several additional options such as historical instruments.There are many presets available for each piano model. You can buy additional instrument packs later on. The Pianoteq models that are more customizable come with more instruments. One of my favorite features is the ability to calibrate virtual pianos responses to digital keyboards characteristics. Pianoteq is a modeled piano that gets more realistic every update.Pianoteq offers a strong trial mode which disables only a few black keys and temporarily interrupts playback after 20 min. The demo is worth a look, especially for beginners.Ravenscroft 275 by VI Labs ($199 Mac, $36 iPad and iPhone)VI Labs Ravenscroft 275 is my favourite sampled piano. The piano is almost as responsive as Pianoteq, but sounds a lot more natural due to expert sampling from a concert grand (and one of a kind). It has more personality than many of the very clean VSTs.This video will give you an idea how great this VST is. It is being played with the exact same piano that it was recorded from. You can't tell the difference because they are so closely sampled.Ravenscroft is also very easy to install and runs well on less-powerful hardware. It takes about 6GB of space, while some sample VSTs can take up hundreds of gigs. You can also customize the piano to make it your own.Wait! You can also get the VST mobile for iPhone and iPad users at $36 from the App Store.Although it is less customizable than the desktop edition, advanced pianists will find a few more features that are missing from the mobile version. However, the sound quality is almost identical to the desktop one.Embertone Walker 1955 Concert D (39-$149).This is a beautiful, vintage Steinway sound, with lots of character. The $39, 12GB Lite version offers a lot of bang for your bucks. You can get a full set of sounds, which includes different microphone positions, for $149 and around 200GB of storage.It is a bit difficult to install, especially if you are not familiar with music software. It is recommended for those who have a reasonably powerful, modern computer and an SSD.It sounds good, however:The Lite version costs $39. If you own a reasonably powerful computer and are comfortable with some tweaking, it is worth at least trying.Garritan CFX ($80 - 200)This VST is a sampled piano from Yamaha's flagship CFX grand pianist. It sounds great, is very playable, and runs very smoothly. This is a great choice if you are looking for a piano that sounds natural. For the Lite version, you will need 22 GB and for the full version, 122 GB.These are only a few of my favorite options. There are many more. You're sure to find the right thing if you do your research.How do you set it up?This guide is more about explaining VSTs and not how to set them up. There are many options available, each with its own installation process. The basics are as simple as choosing a VST and connecting it to your computer. Finally, set it up with headphones or speakers.Many pianos manufactured in the past few years have some form of USB MIDI output or Bluetooth. You will need a USB cable that can be connected to your computer (or follow Bluetooth pairing procedures) and the instructions for your VST.You might not find an older digital piano with a MIDI output port, which has 5 pins. You will need a MIDI-to-US interface in this instance.Latency is another important consideration. For minimal latency, you will need to adjust the VSTs settings. Low latency should not be an issue on macOS or the latest Windows 10 versions. However, if you have latency issues or are running older Windows 10 builds or older Windows 10 versions, ASIO4ALL may be a solution.Bluetooth headphones with VSTs are not recommended as they can cause significant lag to your music.What other information do I need?Some digital pianos allow you to play your music through the speakers. However, it is worth investing in some good headphones or speakers to complement your new software. Your sound system is just as important as the sound quality.You should start with studio monitors (here's a trio of suggestions), or speakers that have a neutral frequency response. These will give you the best reproduction of the model or sampled piano.There are some caveats to using a VST. VSTs can be somewhat slow and unreliable, particularly if you are using a sampled instrument. Ravenscroft and Pianoteq were recommended for their reliability. It can be annoying to have all your cables connected every time you play your VST.It is easy to become distracted by tweaking sound options and purchasing VSTs, rather than simply sitting down and listening to your music. Avoid falling for this trap. Do it!Regardless of the limitations, a great piano sound can transform your enjoyment of your digital keyboard. These tips should help you continue making beautiful music.Did you know that we have a newsletter dedicated to consumer tech? It's called Plugged In, and you can sign up right here.