VI Labs Modern U
Upright Piano Virtual Instrument
A deeply sampled brand new studio upright piano
Modern times call for a modern virtual piano: Highly detailed and intimate, clean and crisp, a new piano sampled with the finest gear in a modern space, able to shine or blend in as desired. A realistic precise response using any controller, plus sophisticated controls and presets with tweakability rarely seen in a virtual piano. High res graphics, deep sampling, and scripting but easy on the system. We're happy to introduce the Modern U, sampled from a brand new popular studio upright piano with a modern approach. It's just an upright you say. Why sample an upright instead of a grand? Prepare to be amazed.
We love uprights too, and the Modern U is sampled and treated with the same level of care and extreme detail as we'd give to the finest concert grand library. Uprights have traditionally been a compromise over the more desirable grands, but for many situations, their unique character just can't be beaten. The large studio uprights, or 'upright grands', are a perfect balance in qualities of both piano types. With the line blurred between upright and grand, it’s easy to ignore the distinction and simply enjoy this great piano. Crystal clear hammer attacks, six microphones, unique Sordino soft pedal, Muted Strikes, staccato Release Trails, real Resonance and many other features all bring this modern upright to life. If the usual piano tones are too usual and it's time for the unique, the Modern U may be the one. This is truly a pianist's virtual piano.
- Six discrete phase-aligned fully mixable microphones with interactive mic display. Modern mics and gear with diverse perspectives cover every way of recording an upright front and back, close and far.
- Deeply sampled resonance for both pedal down and sympathetic resonance types. Powerful scripting recreates real pedal resonance behavior adding complex depth and sustain to the tone, all fully adjustable.
Over 23,000 samples composing 55GB of wave data in a small 6GB file. Huge library, small footprint thanks to lossless compression and complex scripting. This also means fast-loading and efficient CPU usage.
- Complete control of up to 5 pedals including the new Sordino pedal. Re-pedal and adjustable Half pedal features included. Sostenuto, Soft pedal, plus Muted Strikes and Sordino all make for a highly expressive piano.
- New MIDI panel with unique split controls for both timbre and volume. High-resolution discrete tables and controls allow custom curves for any response imaginable. Many presets included, or create your own.
- 1,400 release samples per mic including staccato releases that respond to the quickest playing, no articulations needed. Release samples capture the resonant ring of the upright piano and are crucial for realism.
The Piano: The Session
Modern upright meets modern studio for a perfect match
The Modern U is sampled from a brand new Yamaha© U3 studio upright piano. The newer model should be noted in that this includes the maker’s latest design with a warmer singing tone while still being clear and articulate, plus the hammers are new and everything is to original specification. This piano model could be considered an 'upright grand' with its long bass strings and soundboard area similar to that of a medium-sized grand piano. While it is a large upright, it's still an upright with the characteristic sound but with a larger bass and longer sustain than smaller uprights.
With any acoustic piano sample, the recording space can impact the sound as much as anything else. For a clean modern sound, we needed an intimate detailed studio space just big enough for the piano to fill out and still be focused enough to record a pin drop from every mic. The piano was expertly tuned and maintained by a concert technician throughout the session, and the resulting samples are extraordinarily clean and pure with some sustains lasting well over a minute. Multiple microphone perspectives capture every nuance of this piano in this room.
The model U3 is a very well known studio upright with a recognizable character, and the newer models include many refinements lending to a richer more resonant voice and even response from every note. Technology in its soundboard similar to a grand piano causes the soundboard to vibrate more freely enhancing the bass and tenor registers for richer tone. The height of 52" makes for a large body allowing for long strings and substantial soundboard area. The lowest bass string speaking length is 47.5 inches (121cm) and total soundboard area is 2369 square inches (15,284 sq cm)...as big as some 7 foot grands! Each note was kept in tune during every part of the sampling process which gives a very even overall tuning with no inconsistencies.
Side 3 Studios in Denver offers a superb line-up of modern and vintage gear, plus the live room is extremely detailed with minimal reverberation or coloration to the sound. The room mics could capture just enough sense of space while preserving as much detail as recorded by the closest mics. This was the only type of space that could work for the extreme detailed modern sound needed for this project. All sampling is carefully done by hand to make sure each individual sample is exactly as we want it, and this studio offered exactly the details needed to create a modern sample. Good as it was the original piano in its new condition, we did many tonal fixes along with scripting tweaks to make a good piano all the better. Hundreds of hours were spent cleaning and voicing each of the 23,000+ samples with special care taken to preserve all detail while remaining extremely clean. High levels of gain and EQ can be used with soft sustained playing and noise never becomes an issue.
Complete Virtual Piano Studio
Six phase-aligned mic setups with interactive mic display graphics
When recording piano in the studio, you want options. Different mic setups are needed to work for any playing style or mix, not limited to one basic tone. While studio grands are normally close/mid-miked lid open from the top, studio uprights opened up sound great miked in front or back. There are varying approaches in miking uprights vs. grands since their designs and projection patterns are different. Our goal was to capture this piano with extreme detail in every mic, all with a modern theme, made available through our mic choices and features.
Six discrete phase-aligned mic setups capture the piano from all perspectives front or back, close or far, with a wide or narrow image, all with a clean high end tone. Select mics from the menu, and the interface updates showing those mics as set up on the real piano. Tones from close and intimate, wide and distant, with warmth or brilliance, all can be achieved with these mics. Load and mix the mics you want in any combination. Every mic is time-corrected so even the distant Room mics have no extra delay; all mics respond and mix incredibly well together. This is the Modern U virtual piano studio.
The Main control panel features the Mic selection and mixing section at the center. Select a mic from the menu, the mic is pre-loaded and interactive display updates showing that mic on the real piano. Adjust the mic's volume with the slider and turn the mic on/off with the power button. If a mic is loaded but switched off, no polyphony is used and system resources are conserved. The mics and setups were chosen for their variety of character as well complimenting each other when mixing. The signal chain included top end gear such as preamps by Grace Design and API along with converters and clock by Grace Design and RME.
Real Sympathetic Resonance
Impeccable model of this crucial piano quality, entirely sample-based
Pianists are well accustomed to the sympathetic resonances that develop in acoustic pianos and their importance to the sustain and how chords resolve. This binds the seprate strings together as one instrument. Sympathetic Resonance is heard in harmonically related keys held down while others are played, and Pedal Resonance occurs as all strings vibrate together when the sustain pedal is down. With the large soundboard and long strings, the resonance effect is strong and adds body and length to the sustain.
Both pedal down and harmonic key pedal up resonances are sample-based and not synthesized in any way. We believe this important part of the piano's tone is best emulated only with samples from all mics. The Modern U features multi-layered resonances for a complex evolving sustained tone. Precisely sampled and scripted for both types of advanced resonance simulations, they respond naturally like the real thing. Resonance amount for both types is adjustable, and Sympathetic Resonance has its own polyphony setting.
Our resonance features are heavily multi-sampled and carefully matched to the real piano in their nature. This is done with complex scripting made possible with the UVI engine plus our precise sampling methods. The end result is stunning and recreates closely what happens in the real piano, with full control of the resonance samples.
- Pedal Resonance is the unique sound of all strings vibrating in harmony when the sustain pedal is pressed down and keys are played. The volume of Pedal Resonance samples can be independently controlled for more or less of the effect.
- True Pedal Action ties the Pedal Resonance samples to your sustain pedal motion. A chord played with the pedal down will cause other strings to resonate, but if the sustain pedal comes up and then back down quickly, the strings will resonate again but with lower volume. This enables the sample-based Pedal Resonance to work the same as it would on the acoustic piano and offers realism not possible with traditional pedal resonance methods.
- Repedal allows blending and blurring of the sustained sound when the pedal is lifted and pressed down again quickly. This is a crucial component to the pedal down sustained sound which differs from anything played with the pedal up. You can also 'catch' a note or chord with the pedal if you're quick enough, which is easier in the bass due to the longer large strings.
- Sympathetic Resonance occurs when partials are heard in keys harmonically related to keys that are struck. Not only is this an integral part of the piano's tone and sustain, it's also used musically to great effect such as silently holding a chord and playing harmonically related keys to cause this resonance in the chord that's held.
- Sympathetic Polyphony allows independent control of the number of voices allowed for the Sympathetic effect. If you're using this effect specifically and want more of it, simply increase the polyphony value. Or decrease to conserve system resources.
New Sordino Pedal
A soft pedal like no other, now on a modern upright
One distinct advantage grands have over uprights is their soft, or una corda pedal, which can alter the tone as well as the volume. While the Modern U has a traditional upright-style soft pedal, we've also included our fully sampled Sordino pedal which creates a softer attack and muted tone. This adds another layer of tonal color normally found only on grands. It's really like having two sets of hammers in the same piano you can switch in real time.
Also known as a moderator or celeste, the Sordino pedal places a strip of fabric between the strings and hammers mellowing the tone as if it were a softer hammer. A feature more common in historic pianos, this is not like the heavy felt practice pedal found on many uprights which substantially mutes the tone. The Sordino effect is more similar to the grand's una corda which shifts the action to use a softer part of the hammer with a different voicing. Deeply sampled including its own separate release samples and pedal noises, Sordino can be used in real time in place of the soft pedal or alongside the soft pedal for double expression capability.
Many historic pianos had mechanisms that could alter the tone, usually activated with a pedal or knee lever. One of the most common ways of altering the tone with a simple mechanism is to place something between the hammers and strings. A common use for this was to further soften the tone to give a more distant ethereal sound while taking off the edge of the normally bright hammer. The ability to adjust the tonal color of the piano with something other than your touch opens entire new possibilites for expression.
Sordino can be activated with any pedal or a MIDI CC such as mod wheel, or directly from the interface with the Solo button. Sordino can be used on MIDI CC 67 in place of the regular soft pedal. If you're using a triple piano pedal and sostenuto is not needed, a common way to use Sordino is in place of the sostenuto pedal on MIDI CC 66. Using both Soft and Sordino pedals together offer even more options to control the tone and volume, all in real-time
Advanced MIDI Response Tools
Innovative split custom controls for velocity and volume response
There are two separate components that affect the MIDI response of a virtual piano: the velocity levels relating to the timbre change from soft to hard, and the gain curve which affects the volume throughout the velocity range. It's how a virtual piano interprets the incoming MIDI data and decides what timbre and volume to output based on the curve settings. Our special MIDI customization panel gives you discrete control for both timbre and volume in a powerful way never implemented in a virtual piano, until now.
A piano's response is just as important as the sound, and getting exactly what you expect is crucial in order to connect to the instrument. Dial in the response for any controller, any playing style, or choose a preset for any effect, so many possibilities. Our advanced scripting and voicing methods deliver a precise and effortless response, and combined with expert sampling, yield a virtual upright with better response that the acoustic piano itself. And you get full control of it all right here. It's how a modern virtual piano should be.
The MIDI panel is based around two separate table graphs, one for velocity response (timbre) and the other for volume response. The graph tables represent MIDI velocity values 1-127 horizontally and outgoing velocity and gain values vertically. The default MIDI response is 1:1 and the Gain is our own custom curve modeled from the real piano's response. Here's a description of every control:
- Presets include several light and heavy touch curves along with others for special effects and some specific controller model presets. You can also save and load your own customized presets here as well.
- Bend adjusts the curve of the response table from the center either higher or lower. This is the most common adjustment to start with as it drastically alters the character or volume response.
- Sync Bend lets both Bend knobs turn as one for a quick general MIDI sensitivity adjustment. Traditional MIDI sensitivity adjustments would have both curves tied together like this.
- Mininum Gain changes the lowest volume. Increase to raise the lowest volume instead of using a compressor, or decrease for silence at lowest velocities. If Minimum Gain is set to max, all velocities will output at max volume.
- Smooth rounds out a rough-drawn curve. Draw a curve with your mouse, then click Smooth as many times as needed to smooth the curve.
- Min/Max In/Out Velocity limits the incoming or outgoing velocity start and end points for the MIDI response table. Click and drag the arrows to change. For example, to remove the highest fff sample layer, simply lower the Max Output Velocity below 127 until the fff layer is no longer triggered. Or if your controller doesn't easily play the softest velocities, set Min Input Velocity to a higher value so the softest samples will be triggered.
- Reset restores each tables and its controls to default settings. If Sync Bend is switched on, Reset will affect both tables.
- MIDI In/Out shows velocity received from your controller and velocity going out to trigger the samples. This is a great indicator to see the velocity response from the controller and then make necessary modifications with our settings. For example, if you see your controller isn't outputting the max velocity of 127 and only reaching 120, you can adjust the Max Input Velocity to 120 so the mapping is scaled and velocity 127 is accessible.
Close PM40: Small specialized pair of omnis made into a system allowing fine placement of each mic over the hammers. While made for grand pianos, we found this mic to be exceptional on our U3 capturing the finest close detail. The tone is natural with a big stereo image, exactly how the piano sounds. They are the default mics, perfect for solo or pop/modern playing holding up well in any mix.
Close KM184: Small diaphragm FET condensers in XY coincident pair centered over the hammers. These give a punchy focused sound centered around the middle of the keyboard, and the stereo image is concise without much panning. The hammer bite is more pronounced and the sound is a bit more colored than the PM40.
Sboard MA200: Large-diaphragm tube condensers in a spaced pair behind the piano 15 inches from the soundboard. A unique perspective away from the hammers capturing only the piano's soundboard up close with a wide image, the tone is warm and immersive, a bit 'woody' with a broader hammer attack.
Mono C800G: The famous large-diaphragm tube condenser makes a superb mono mic for this piano. Positioned just above the action front and center, this mic captures everything, the warmth and detail all with a modern edge. Use by itself or mix with any other mics to fill in the center. There's just no substitute for a dedicated mono mic in a piano sample library.
Player MBHO: High-end German small diaphragm FET mics in an ORTF pair above the player's head. This is the most natural mic setup in the library and really does emulate the experience of sitting at this piano, with just the right balance of direct and room detail along with a natural stereo image. This is the go-to classical mic.
Room C414: The well-known large-diaphragm FETs in OMNI mode spaced about 10 feet apart 10 feet from the back of the piano. Warm tone with a wide image, these mics blend with any others to fill with body and are still detailed enough to use solo. All mics are distance-compensated so the response remains consistent with minimal phase issues when mixing the mics.
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