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#199587 - 03/29/13 04:56 PM [Off-Topic] How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano?
mkamoski Offline
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Registered: 05/20/12
Posts: 82
Loc: Massachusetts, USA
Dear Keyboard Players (and related experts) --

How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano?

Here are the details...

-- I have a digital piano, the Casio PX-130...

Amazon.com: Casio Privia PX-130 88-Key Digital Stage Piano: Musical Instruments

-- The piano has one MIDI connector and two 1/8" stereo mini output connectors.

-- From my basic research, it appears that I can go more or less one of two ways...

...(a) get a synth sound module and run the stereo-output or MIDI through that and then it will output synth sounds...

...OR...

...(b) run the MIDI output from the piano to a computer and run it through a software-based sound module and then output sounds from there.

My requirements are the I need to get a small but decent range of spacey synth sounds, along the lines of Jordan Rudess and Jan Hammer sounds (though not that many), plus I need a few organ sounds along the lines of the B3, plus I need some nice acoustic Grand Piano sounds.

Budget is a major factor and I need to keep the numbers low on this-- Under200=Good, Under100=Better, Free=Best.

So, my questions are...

I would prefer to use a computer and a software-based sound module so is that advisable?

To use a computer for this, do I just plug in the MIDI to the piano and the USB to the computer and then the output come from my computers headphones jack?

What software do I need?

Since I already have Band In A Box which has tons of sound patches, can I use those?

Is there any freeware available?

Also, if I went the external synth module route, what is a good starting point for an entry level sound module?

What do you recommend in general?

Thanks.

-- Mark Kamoski

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#199588 - 03/29/13 06:26 PM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: mkamoski]
Mac Offline
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Registered: 05/29/00
Posts: 38502
Loc: Chesapeake, Virginia USA
Connecting the MIDI Out of your piano to a MIDI In on your computer with a single MIDI cable will allow you to play any of the DXi or VSTi MIDI synths that Band in a Box, Realband or other DAW programs can use. (you may need to get a USB MIDI connect device if your soundcard does not feature MIDI Inputs and outputs) You also should be using ASIO sound drivers for lowest latency.


--Mac
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#199589 - 03/29/13 08:21 PM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: Mac]
rockstar_not Offline
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Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 7448
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO, USA
There are tons of VSTi for Rudess-ish sounds, Jan Hammer sounds, etc. Best of all - they are FREE!

For Moog lead stuff, Minimogue VA is a great Minimoog emulation. http://home.no/gunnare/downloads.htm

Start there. It's a simple VSTi, but has tons of depth. It is mono.

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#199590 - 03/30/13 05:59 AM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: rockstar_not]
ZeroZero Offline
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Registered: 07/15/07
Posts: 1632
Loc: Bynar
You can buy a MIDI to USB cable at ebay for very cheap - less than £5 UK. They plug in anmd simply work on my system. So one end to the keyboard (turn down Audio) and the other end into your Computer via usb.

There are two kinds of synths avaiable - those that need a Sequencer to handle them these are called VSTs (there are other types too but they are less common). These programs require the sequencer to have the 'dll' extension file in their plugin folders. I beleive this can be done with Real Band but I never use it. Others may advise.

Then there are 'standalone' applications which run without a sequencer. There are less of these so you confine your choice by going this route.

The Good news is that there are thousands of free synths. Lots of them produce these 'spacey' sounds. KVR is a huge source - google.

If your bewildered by choice (and who would not be) 'Crystal' by Eric Persing (who also Designed Omnisphere one of the worlds best synths) is free, its pretty easy to use and sounds great. This is a VST if I recall.

Others are better to advise about how to load into Real Band

If thats too much try googling 'free standalone synth'
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#199591 - 03/30/13 08:53 AM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: ZeroZero]
GDaddy Offline
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Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 897
Loc: Homosassa , Florida
I have a number of midi keyboard workstations/arrangers/modules, and even had a couple of Oasys PCI Card synths that were spectacular...and expensive.

As they've said, lots of ways to comminicate with midi only, equipped digital boards.
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Plus, BIAB 2015 and Sonar Platinum 2015 Upgrade from Cakewalk's Sonar X-3

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#199592 - 03/30/13 03:44 PM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: ZeroZero]
mkamoski Offline
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Registered: 05/20/12
Posts: 82
Loc: Massachusetts, USA
Quote:

...If thats too much try googling 'free standalone synth'




Well, I do have a MIDI to USB connection cable, so that is done.

I am still bewildered about how to load a VST (non-standalone) into a Sequencer (a separate program? RealBand?)

So I followed your excellent advice to look for "free standalone synth software" and I found this one...

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2009/10/05/free-arp-2600-software-synthesizer-for-windows/

...which I installed and am no up-and-running.

So, that is a good starting point for me (unless someone can suggest a link to a better free standalone software synth).

Now, the issue of latency-- it is minor but it is there, I think.

So I guess that I have to make sure (somehow?) that I am using the ASIO drivers, right?

And, I guess that if I were using an external hardware-based synth module then latency would not be an issue?

Thoughts? Suggestions? Ideas?

Thanks.

-- Mark Kamoski

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#199593 - 03/31/13 12:03 AM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: mkamoski]
mkamoski Offline
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Registered: 05/20/12
Posts: 82
Loc: Massachusetts, USA
Dear All --

FYI, there is another nice, free, stand-alone, software, synthesizer here...

http://www.audio-simulation.com/

...and it is called "DreamStation 1.0" and it is dirt simple to setup and sounds really nice (IMHO).

I just thought to mention it, in case anyone else is wondering.

It seems like this has very little, or no latency, at first check-- which may be due to its design, or the fact that I installed ASIO-4-All or something else, but it performs very nice, whatever the reason.

I may still go the hardware route, with something like the "PianoBox II" or similar.

HTH.

Thanks.

-- Mark Kamoski

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#199594 - 03/31/13 01:11 AM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: mkamoski]
rockstar_not Offline
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Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 7448
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO, USA
What do you want for sound? I have a short list of favorite plugins and each fits a particular sound fancy. The minimogue VA is good for lead synths. For old school electric piano and organ sounds go to Soundfonts.it and pick up the donationware pack.

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#199595 - 03/31/13 05:46 AM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: rockstar_not]
ZeroZero Offline
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Registered: 07/15/07
Posts: 1632
Loc: Bynar
the latency issue is more related to your sound card on your laptop. Try decreasing the buffer size, if you go too far then you may get clicks and stutters. Try 256 - ish.

If the buffer is large then you get more latency.


Edited by ZeroZero (03/31/13 03:14 PM)
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#199596 - 03/31/13 07:14 AM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: ZeroZero]
jford Offline
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Registered: 12/20/00
Posts: 10634
Loc: Pensacola, Florida
Hi, ZeroZero (and all) -

Actually, you can use almost any VSTi as a standalone by loading it with SAVi-Host. It turns host-only-based VSTi's into a standalone VSTi.
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#199597 - 03/31/13 09:34 AM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: jford]
MountainSide Online   content
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: Lake Keowee, South Carolina
Great tip there John, didn't know about that...thanks for posting.

Jeff
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#199598 - 04/01/13 11:25 AM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: mkamoski]
mkamoski Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 05/20/12
Posts: 82
Loc: Massachusetts, USA
All --

FYI, I found 2 more nice, free, easy-to-setup, easy-to-use, standalone software synth apps...

Oxe FM Synth

http://www.OxeSoft.com

ZynAddSubFx

http://zynaddsubfx.sourceforge.net/


Regarding hardware-based synthesizers, my search continues.

My front-runner right now for a hardware-based synthesizers is the "PianoBox II" which can be found here...

http://www.miditech.de/219-produkte-pianobox_II

http://kellysmusicandcomputers.com/ProductInfo.asp?id=1482693219&TB=1#.UVmhApPCaSo

...which seems to be a simple blackbox hardward-based synthesizer for about $120.


So my question is...

What alternatives to the PianoBox II would you recommend, in the same price-range, and in the same functionality-class, for a hardware-based synthesizer?

Please advise.


HTH.

Thanks.

-- Mark Kamoski

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#199599 - 04/01/13 01:11 PM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: mkamoski]
MountainSide Online   content
Expert

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: Lake Keowee, South Carolina
Mark, I'm really not familiar with PianoBox but as its a general midi synth I'm not sure it will meet your original spec of having a "decent range of spacey synth sounds" and "a few organ sounds along the lines of the B3, plus I need some nice acoustic Grand Piano sounds". While it may have some of these, I'm not sure you would find better pianos than what's already on your Casio.

A route that you might want to investigate is SampleTank 2 XL. This is a software based sampler in your price range. Here's a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHIqLVnTHvM
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#199600 - 04/01/13 03:50 PM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: mkamoski]
flatfoot Offline
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Registered: 06/15/00
Posts: 2185
Loc: Sacramento CA
.

>>>...Since I already have Band In A Box which has tons of sound patches, can I use those?...>>>

Actually Band in a Box does not come with any sounds of its own. It has to be provided with a synth to talk to, either hardware or software.

The latest version of Band-in-a-Box comes with a free version of Sampletank ready to be added on. I installed the add-on Sampletank, loaded all free sounds that IK Multimedia makes available for Sampletank, and then upgraded to Sampletank 2.5 XL for under 200US. Now I have more synth sounds than I will ever use. (Perhaps I should add that I use more acoustic-instrument sounds than electronic-instrument sounds).
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#199601 - 04/01/13 07:00 PM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: jford]
rockstar_not Offline
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Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 7448
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO, USA
mkamoski,

You are making some assumptions that could end up costing you alot of money.

1. BIAB does not have sound patches included. See Flatfoot's response above

2. You don't need to limit yourself to standalone soft-synths. BIAB is designed to use soft-synths, you just haven't figured out how to configure it correctly yet.

In fact, with all due respect to zero zero, I would suggest simply laying that suggestion aside for now, since what you really want to do, so it seems, is to use the sounds while using BIAB. Utilizing a standalone synth in that case makes things quite a bit more complicated.

But, perhaps you are looking to simply 'perform' using the digital piano as what would be called a 'controller' and the synth inside the computer responding in-kind. In this case, either looking for standalone versions of synths works, as does jford's suggestion of using SAVIhost from Hermann Seib, which simply 'wraps' the .dll of the VSTi into an executable miniature 'host' program.

There are loads of free VSTi that do what you are looking for. Some are better than others.

In my 'go to' list of soft synth providers are the following developers and downloads:

Minimouge VA - great lead mono synth emulation of a minimoog: http://home.no/gunnare/downloads.htm
Genuine Soundware's Donationware bundle - Organized Trio is a great B3 emulation, the various electric piano emulations are also great: http://www.genuinesoundware.com/?a=showproduct&b=37
Feldspar - great virtual analog synth with tons of modulation capability and FM between oscillators as well as ring modulation: http://www.contralogic.com/vst-plugins/feldspar/
sfz soundfont player - good for general midi and other acoustic sample based sounds: http://www.cakewalk.com/Download/sfz.aspx

With these alone, you can cover most of your needs. Cost: Free (with some mental elbow grease to get them loaded properly into BIAB)

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#199602 - 04/10/13 02:56 PM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: rockstar_not]
mkamoski Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 05/20/12
Posts: 82
Loc: Massachusetts, USA
Dear Folks --

Thank you all so much for the excellent replies.

I should have specified more clearly that the my intended synth use is mainly for a performance setting (practice jam sessions and on-stage and etc).

I am using a few of the soft synths mentioned above and they work great.

So I take output from my keyboard via USB MIDI and connect to the laptop's soft synth, and as for the latency issue, I have eliminated concern by (1) turning off all other USB port activity, (2) and by tweaking the buffers, (3) and by using Asio4All, and so I output the synth sound from the headphone jack on my laptop to the mixer, and that gives me almost zero latency but not quite zero-- SO-- my final step was (4) to simply send the other stereo output from my keyboard to a local mixer which sends the on-board keyboard sounds (not soft synth sounds) to the mix, so I just pick one of the nice built-in tones (Piano or Organ or Strings or E-Piano or any combo of 2 of these) and send that sound to the mix-- which is never a latent sound-- so the initial attack that fills the latency gap is from the keyboard directly and the synth blends in milliseconds later, so this layering makes latency a non-issue for me, which makes playability a joy, and the sound is awesome IMHO.

If I go the hardware-synth route, then I would probably jump up to something full-blown, like the Casio Privia PX-5s or the Yamaha MM8.

Thanks.

-- Mark Kamoski

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#199603 - 04/11/13 09:45 AM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: mkamoski]
John Conley Offline
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Registered: 09/28/03
Posts: 8333
Loc: London, Ontario, Canada
JV 1010. Roland. It has a knob that lets you set the patch. You simply play through the box. Lots of patches there. Check on line for a demo.

I have one but don't really want to part with it. Don't know why, "there's no sun up in the sky, stormy....." (Oh never mind)
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#199604 - 04/12/13 07:22 PM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: John Conley]
rharv Offline
Veteran

Registered: 05/30/00
Posts: 18958
Loc: Marysville, Mi. USA
Being in the same general area I see why that tune comes to mind.
I started watching TV again so I could see what a sunny day looks like.
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#199605 - 04/13/13 09:35 AM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: rharv]
rockstar_not Offline
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Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 7448
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO, USA
To riff on John's recommendation a bit - Roland have a new synth hardware module out that got pretty high marks from Keyboard magazine - basically all of their synth engines in one box - but limited to 128 note polyphony. It's called the Integra 7. http://www.rolandus.com/products/details/1245/462 Price is a steep 2k$ street.

You should be able to get latency down to under 5 or 6 mS, which would be very hard to detect, however perhaps not with the laptop built-in sound card.

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#210773 - 07/29/13 10:46 PM [Off-Topic] Re: How can I play synth sounds with my digital piano? [Re: mkamoski]
mkamoski Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 05/20/12
Posts: 82
Loc: Massachusetts, USA
All --

I ended up trading in my old keyboard for one with more sounds.

I now have a Casio Privia PX 5S, which a ton of control and sound and zero latency, etc.

http://www.amazon.com/Casio-PX5S-Privia-...io+privia+px+5s

Really nice touch, 256-note polyphony, plenty of support for layering, splits, custom patches, etc, etc. It is really fun to play. It is a great board and the price is excellent. IMHO. There are plenty of YouTube and other reviews out there, Keyboard Mag said good things about it, etc.

So, I have set aside soft-synths. Even though my solution noted above in this thread (to use a built-in patch to cover the latency) did work quite well even in live performance, a soft-syth is nothing like having a full-blown synth with weighted keys all in one, etc.

Thanks.

-- Mark Kamoski


Edited by mkamoski (07/29/13 11:18 PM)

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