The Big Swing Grand for Kontakt 5 was designed to be the best, warmest, cleanest and most importantly, most playable piano sample available. Created by a pianist, “road tested” on gigs and sessions, much effort and many innovations went into this project.
All 88 notes were sampled using a hand-made calibrated key-playing device lovingly known as “Ted Stryker.” The use of this consistent striking force allows for very accurate dynamics. The velocities were calibrated to be approximately 2db apart in volume, and range from triple-forte (as hard as is possible) to the point of barely triggering at all.
This yields the true dynamic range of 33db, much wider than the typical sample set, and completely faithful to the true touch of the instrument. There are 16 velocities on most notes. These samples were left at their natural volumes, rather than “normalized,” to ensure absolute accuracy. Careful programming allows for smooth transitions between the velocity zones.
Once the samples were recorded, we put the “Stryker” device to work on MIDI keyboards. One feature of the device was the ability to measure touch-weight and key-travel time; on the grand, this was measured for every velocity, and then reproduced on the digital keyboard. For the first time, the touch response of a MIDI controller has been calibrated to match that of a real, highly regulated grand.
This 7-foot piano was tuned repeatedly during the weeks-long sampling process, with the multi-string unisons touched-up for each note prior to sampling. This “tight” tuning is necessary for complex jazz harmony; too much “beating” between strings adds a “blur” to lines and chords.
The goal here: a chime-like focus. All strikes of a single note were recorded in one session to avoid any pitch-drift between velocities. All notes were allowed full decay time, sometimes as long as 40 seconds. EQ is provided in the user interface, carefully tuned to the various “character” frequencies.