Thanks for your post Steven Brown, I enjoyed reading it.
Major misunderstandings possible: "Ideal", or even just "better" clearly only boils down to the manufacturers' specifications, and then the opinion. More sales don't necessarily mean better, but maybe just cheaper. Some think, "Wow, the sell a half million of these, must be good." where others might think "Smart strategy, they have cornered the school market for entry level models." In either case, their top tier instrument might have some kinds of theories applied.
You like the K2 - so that's your ideal to work from I can confirm that an upgrade will allow you to alter that sound in vastly different ways.
There is never anything objectively perfect or ideal in instrument manufacture. One man's trash is another man's treasure etc. Flavor is king.
Your idea of a better sound will kill it for someone else I love this kind of discussion and glad to read others posting about it.
You can however extremely effectively alter the sound in Pianoteq from heavenly on to creative synthetic sounds when adjusting things in non-piano minded ways.
Steven Brown wrote:
Is it possible, using Pianoteq, to design a piano that sounds better in some ways than a real piano? Could Pianoteq be improved by introducing a new model that improves the sound in ways not possible with a real piano? Such a piano could be regarded as a digital musical instrument without a physical counterpart.
I think most of us reading that would have to guess what you're saying and it poses a fun dilemma. What is "better"? Who decides?
This is not to be disrespectful of your question, and I don't think anyone else is either. It is fascinating once you begin to consider it more. I nearly posted yesterday with the below except that I thought Gaston gave a perfect answer, so you could explore yourself the possibilities. Since others have decided to also post, I hope some of this is enjoyable to consider.
How long is that string? Maybe string theorists can argue that out
Seriously 'though, when it comes to the available models I'm certain that some consider the default settings Pianoteq already too perfect by comparison to a real piano and thus proceed to add variations to stretch and unison width and way more. Users upload their take on their favorites, trying to replicate what they like most and so it goes.
Can there be one perfect model from which other models spring? Maybe Pianoteq wouldn't be able to release new models in that case.
After years of tweaking, I still return to the defaults for sanity checking because much tweaking in any direction over any time can amount to something similar to snow-blindness for the ears.
Think of this 'though:
Is one piano already considered perfect enough to base further perfection enhancements?
That's the essence of the problem. Maybe a glass piano can kill off a lot of woody variables and still maintain a variant of a piano sound. But, it would be a glass piano. Not "a" piano, or less a perfect piano.
The famous painting "Ceci n'est pas une pipe." or "This is not a pipe." aprox. 1928 by René Magritte for example is a painting of a pipe, so it's therefore not a real pipe. Seems simple statement but has deep roots in confronting what he named La trahison des images or the treachery of images.
Maybe you're posing a kind of La trahison des pianos or treachery of pianos!
No matter how perfect to you,
Consider that there have been universally accepted standards for Martinis for many decades. It's was a perfect thing in the Mad Man jet age, to land at any airport in the world and order one drink you can rely upon. (Don't mention burger chains) In the right joint at least, they care about the standards, whichever of those you choose when you order one. People consider the original, or the variants to be better (Gin or Vodka, amount of Vermouth, shaken, stirred, olives or not etc.). It's human behavior, marketing and convenience and sometimes a disregard for history.
Even amongst the most popular and singular items, there are infinite variants and tastes and human variation as to how it's meant to be, or not, or then again, and so on, and so forth
Sticking with that metaphor, imagine a more perfect Whiskey (or Whisky? Scottish? Irish? Bourbon? Take your pick.. malt, barley, rhy, corn, sour mash). Could it be possible there is no such thing as a perfect drink beginning with W. The inherent reason being that without all, or a subset of any of that imperfect infused peat and burnt oak character making it all blurry in the mouth, it would just be alcohol. Or exactly how much or a slightly different amount of peat or oak etc. could possibly be argued to be perfect? Esp. if everyone needs to agree, or at least believe it sufficiently that it becomes a societal norm, across the globe for it to become something worthy of the whole human historical record.
Something has to be sufficiently different, not necessarily a variant of perfection for it to gain that kind of traction.
Or what about wine. Imagine a perfect grape variety, and having agreed upon that, do we just throw that away to focus instead on a more pure alcohol flavor which is without that imperfect twang of wood dust and berry cinder hints, wood goat cheese aftertaste. Shudders. Myarrgh. Brrrbrrbr. There are wine companies who for decades try to flood the markets with such stuff of course, thus the importance of mass marketing and position in supermarkets. Still doesn't cut it as a real wine IMHO. There are numerous humerous names for it needless to say. It's popular, sells the most by volume. Cheap, convenient.
Whilst still in that pub environment, (hick.. prdn me) what of cigars? Could they be so much more perfect without all that smokey interference (Vaping?).
[Later that evening..] Vodka would be so much better if it had less flav.. << wait a minute.
The way I see it, for each person, that supposed ideal would be quite different by default.
Only given brainwashing levels of exposure to any single type of sound, could we all agree on a particular already given example of perfection which would totally stifle human growth IMHO.
Beethoven wanted a bigger piano. That was the direction for future manufacturing.
In much the same way, in some genres of popular music, when something becomes supposedly the best or near-perfect to an audience, omnipotent like a certain "swell / hit" sound in dance music, everyone jumps on that novelty and all of a sudden, everyone producing club copy/pastes their own whooshing swell/hit moments with a yobbo yelling "Yeah baby" until it finally becomes old-hat some centuries after humans finally grow bored of that kind of thing (likewise for a million production tricks since beginning of human awareness).
So similarly, like Beethoven wanting more keys, suddenly, a dance track producer must have that new swell and a hit and a party atmos. etc. and that famous dance piano sample or everyone thinks it's rubbish.
For centuries a certain level of trill would have been the accepted way and now, just you listen to all these show-offs trilling extra large and long, flourishing where there should be only the sound of God's disapproval.
Think of classic 70's R&B, Soul, Funk sounds - played in real-time by real musicians and recorded by all kinds of analogue recording studios - re-sampled for generations because humans still enjoy it and consider that is sounds all kinds of superior cool. You grow up hearing it, even if you didn't like it. If you're a musical person, chances are that you can at least appreciate its influence as you grow older. Swap out R&B for any given genre or style or era if that's more apropos.
Few of us grew up with an idealised piano model. Most who did would probably realise that it was probably one of the models in Pianoteq
In relation to the Pianoteq model, for many piano lovers, all of the characteristics to tweak, or a mix of such inferred imperfections in a given piano are utterly priceless.
Pianoteq does an amazing job to identify them and to make them customizable. The way a smokey old cabinet sound might blur or ampl. a range, adds character. To others it's not perfect, or "like" current tastes might dictate (as in, what's the most sampled/used dance piano jangle currently).
That's OK - you can tweak a lot of the imperfections out, to leave a more pure sound - but here may be the mythical cuttoff point you might be talking about?
Perhaps, perfect could be just sine waves. Synths from decades ago began down the path of allowing us to hear "perfect" wave forms. What you see on the oscilloscope is what you hear Mr. Moog.
Endlessly changeable, there can only be favourites but I doubt anyone can say even their favorite synth is "the" perfect synth. They all do some things differently - yet, they can probably all play back "perfect" waves, syn/square/traingle and maybe some based on string theory
For anyone thinking about this, creating one's own idealized piano using Pianoteq is as close to possible as with any software out there. Perhaps you may need to upgrade to find some of the settings you want to tweak. The price comes without blinking if such tweaking is your bag.
You can make massive changes just using the main interface with point/click, like:
Lower or remove the hammer sound altogether, also bump up the hammer hardness - so, it sounds more pure.
Drop symapthetic resonance, duplex scale (aliquot strings in Bluethner) - so, it sounds even more pure.
Kill off that imperfect unison width - perfect.
Remove or lower Impedance and Cuttof and bump up the Q factor - you take out all that imperfect piano body distraction.
Flat 440k tuning with no stretching, no problem.
Add the direct sound up to 100 and maybe EQ/compress/reverb it to your liking and choose output (Stereo or Binaural maybe).
Now, you have way more pure tones.
It is no longer a piano though.
It can be maybe over-tweaked down to something like a "pluck" synth sound. It's strings to the ears. Like close mic'd harp, muted.
You can make it sound like bells, small or large. It's a tweaker's time-sink.
What's amazing to me, is that you can take your favorite Pianoteq piano model(s), and tweak cabinet resonance, hammer hardness, tuning etc. for months and years and still feel like you own about 500 amazing "real" instruments.
You can also "abuse" each of the settings alone or in concert and create quite viable and organic sounding impossible instruments.
It's more than just a couple of pianos to me - none of which can ever be perfect because there is no such thing but the ability to alter the sound of any given instrument in Pianoteq is practically limitless and then you can continue from there with all the effects in the DAW of your choice. Sky is truely the limit, as the expression goes.
I am a purist in some senses but also love cross processing everything.
It would be really enlightening to hear what you consider a more perfect sound particularly and maybe someone can help you tweak that out.