Native Instruments Alicia Keys Keyboard Ithaca NY

The sound of Alicia Keys’ piano, which is by turns lush and assertive , is all over her hit records. Working closely with renowned keyboard soundware developer Thomas Skarbye (better known as Scarbee), not to mention Alicia Keys herself, Native Instruments has captured the magic of that sound in Alicia’s Keys . Being that it’s one piano loved by one artist, this new sampled grand isn’t perfect f...

Mcneil Music Of Ithaca
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Native Instruments Alicia Keys Keyboard

PACKSCREENThe sound of Alicia Keys’ piano, which is by turns lush and assertive, is all over her hit records. Working closely with renowned keyboard soundware developer Thomas Skarbye (better known as Scarbee), not to mention Alicia Keys herself, Native Instruments has captured the magic of that sound in Alicia’s Keys. Being that it’s one piano loved by one artist, this new sampled grand isn’t perfect for every style of music, but it has some strong features and a great tone, not to mention a modest price. It uses NI’s Kontakt Player 4 plug-in software, which is included.

Audio Example: CLICK HERE

(Author's note: the piano is Alicia's Keys, the bass is Spectrasonics Trilian, the drums are a loop from Spectrasonics Stylus RMX, and the pad is U-he Zebra 2.5.)

The piano in Keys’ studio is a Yamaha C3 in the limited edition Neo cabinetry. A C3 is a six-foot grand, so the low register is less full and deep than on a nine-foot concert grand. Also, Yamaha pianos are known for their bright, in-your-face sound, a characteristic that’s preserved here, although the hammers are somewhat subdued compared to those on my own C3 (not a Neo) in my living room. My piano also has slightly stronger bass frequencies, but that may be because it’s sitting on a carpet rather than on a recording studio’s hardwood floor, so more highs are getting absorbed.

The realistic features of the Alicia’s Keys piano are stunning. The velocity response (reported to be 12 layers deep) makes it extremely playable. I never felt that isolated notes were jumping out at me or getting buried. Also, every range of the keyboard responds just as it should. The samples seem to be full-length and streamed from disk—the instrument occupies almost 7GB on my hard drive, though only 365MB of RAM—so there are no looping artifacts in the bass register, and the decay envelopes taper perfectly.

Alicia-Fig-1The pop-up Settings box has five pages of control governing piano details such as pedal behavior and sympathetic resonance.

If you hold a few keys without the sustain pedal down, then strike higher or lower keys staccato, you’ll hear sympathetic resonance. Press the sustain pedal while holding a note or chord, and you’ll hear the dampers open up. (In fact, you’ll hear them open up very quietly if you press the sustain pedal while no notes are being held, just as you would on a real piano.) The duplex strings, which are one of a grand piano’s two systems of acoustic “reverb,” seem to have been sampled separately, and you can control how long they’ll ring before dying away. They’re less prominent than the duplex strings on my C3, however, and their loudness is not controllable.

A convolution reverb is built in, with impulse responses for an auditorium, a concert hall, and a studio. The editable parameters are limited to output level and room size—don’t look for niceties like pre-delay. There’s also a standard DSP reverb, which you may prefer if you’re running a slower computer. Onmy fast n...

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