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Virtual Grand Piano.

Virtual Grand Piano, by Art Vista Productions.

Virtual Grand Piano puts the sounds of a Steinway concert grand piano into the hands of someone with a computer and MIDI keyboard.

Typically, playback of MIDI files on most computers results in a flake synthetic sound. However, Virtual Grand Piano takes MIDI data and has it trigger sampled sounds recorded from an actual concert grand piano. If a pianist wants to make a professional-style audio MIDI file recording, Virtual Grand Piano can be used as a plug-in, in conjunction with an audio production program, to burn it to an audio CD without the need for microphones.

One may be skeptical with the notion that a software program can emulate the experience of playing on a concert grand piano, but the makers of Virtual Grand Piano have gone to great lengths to allow this. There are seven basic presets that change subtleties in timbre according to the style of music that you want to play, whether classic piano, jazz piano or rock piano.

Even though the programmers were so meticulous in getting the best possible sound, there were many technical drawbacks. The press release for the program boasts that it can be used on "any computer," but this is hardly the case. The minimum and recommended computer system requirements are set significantly higher than what the average music teacher would have on their current computer.

I tested Virtual Grand Piano on an Apple iMac G5 running at 1.8 GHz with 512 MB of RAM. It consistently took more than one minute to change from one piano sound to the next. I continually received warnings that memory was getting low, which resulted in some dropped notes in both playback and real-time playing. The programmers list 512 MB of RAM as being a minimum requirement, but the load time for settings with this amount of memory will test the user's patience. You can forget about running other applications simultaneously with this much RAM. They recommend 1 GB of RAM or more, so many users would have to upgrade the amount of memory in their current computer to run this software.

I used a Kurzweil Mark 10 digital piano with weighted action as the controller. The Virtual Grand Piano reacted extremely well to my changes in dynamic shading, but you might not get similar results on MIDI keyboards that lack a weighted action.

The bottom line is that Art Vista has created a product that is ahead of its time, but perhaps too much ahead of its time. The amount of attention paid to detail in creating high-quality piano samples comes at a price. At least for the time being, Virtual Grand Piano makes too many demands on what many music teachers' computer hardware can handle. Reviewed by Mario Ajero, Norman, Oklahoma.
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Author:Ajero, Mario
Publication:American Music Teacher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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