The story

In the process of trying to create a sample instrument built on the Steinway B grand piano that my late mother helped procure for my recording studio, I quickly realized I’d bitten off (way) more than I could chew. Between all the velocity options and round robins and release triggers, my head was spinning. So I pulled back to focus on just completing a simple, focused, single-approach debut piano instrument for the Pianobook community, and that’s this thing here.

My mother was a professional piano teacher for over 40 years. She was loyal to her students and loyal to her support professionals, including Craig, the salesman at the local Steinway dealer to whom she referred hundreds of students when they were in the market for everything from starter digital console pianos to high end grands.

When I got to the point in my production career that a piano was something I wanted to add to the studio’s arsenal, it so happened the dealer’s shop was closing and they were having a blowout sale. Based on personal recording experience and some client research, I knew I wanted a Steinway B, and my mom and Craig coordinated their efforts to put a “SOLD” tag on one of the three Bs they had on the floor. Craig said “all Steinways are lovely instruments, but some are more lovely than others.” My mom and I went to the store to play through some options.

I had told them that I really didn’t care what it looked like, if something less visually attractive saved me some cash then I was all in. I was in luck! The model B that Craig had reserved for us was scratched up and dinged about… they had rented it out for a cabaret show and the woman danced on the lid, we suspect in heels. It definitely showed. No matter, it played beautifully, and I signed the paperwork for financing and delivery on the way out the door.

In the nearly 20 years since, I’ve had so many artists, bandmates, pianists come through the studio and ask to sit and play the piano… and every single one of them has stopped playing after a minute or two to inquire something along the lines of “What’s the deal with this piano? It plays amazing!” Every. Single. One. It is a remarkable piece of hand built engineering to behold, and the craftsmen at Steinway certainly got this one just right. I realize a sample instrument doesn’t offer the physical experience and playability of the actual acoustic piano, but this is such a significant part of the history of this instrument and a big reason why I wanted to capture this particular Steinway B for inclusion in the Pianobook community.

The HOLTERGEIST Studio Grand is a blend of the following signals, from a session on my Steinway B at Wire & Vice studios in Milwaukee, WI, played by Sam Ecoff and recorded/mixed by me:

• a pair of Soyuz 013 condensers (courtesy of assistant engineer Ian Olvera) above the player’s head aimed at the hammers, through Undertone Audio MPEQ1 mic preamps
• a pair of Sony C48 condensers in mid-side configuration in the middle of the 17′ x 24′ live room using the API 2448 console preamps
• a pair of AudioTechnica 4051 small diaphragm condensers space wide at the midpoint in the room aimed at the piano also using the API console
• a mono Cloud 44a ribbon mic just off the edge of the curve in the piano’s body using an API preamp through a DW Fearn VT4 tube equalizer and a Distressor

After some requisite noise reduction, I mixed these signals in ProTools while taking a break from the daunting task of developing the aforementioned full-featured TBD Steinway B grand piano instrument.

The coding for this Kontakt instrument was started by me and then Sam rescued me from the mess of my own making and he made it all work and playable, along with some guidance from Owen Bolig that informed a whole bunch about how we’re creating the next HOLTERGEIST thing.

The GUI is a straight ahead and usable piano instrument with a three band eq and custom reverb controls… I set the equalizer settings to the ones I often reach for when working with acoustic pianos in my own recording projects (approx 160 Hz, 800 Hz, and 8 kHz… all bell shaped), and a tweaked “hall” algorithm for the Reverb. Keeping things less specific for a “use my ears not my eyes” approach and I think I like the results.

Curious to hear what you all think and how this piano might be used in your music in the future, let me know!


Reviews for HOLTERGEIST Studio Grand

  • Sound
  • Character
  • Playability
  • Inspiration
  • GUI

Leave a review to let others know what you thought of the instrument!

  • A very emotional grand!

    This is a very well made, well sampled, and incredibly well sounding grand piano. With deep unique note sampling, round robins and dynamics, this piano is able to captivate the listener instantly. The sound is mellow, near-felt like, and the way the dynamics are set, it favors such a playstyle, though it can get angry if you go hard enough on it.

    Additionally to the great sampling job, you will find a 3-way EQ that will help you fine-tune the sound, along with a Reverb, though I personally prefer the intimate close-up sound of this beauty.

    A fantastic job by Daniel, and a big thanks for this precious gift for the Pianobook community.

    Alex Raptakis30 August 2022
  • Great sound

    Daniel and Sam have done a great job and this is yet again what Pianobook is all about - capturing the essence of things that we can't touch for ourselves and releasing them into the wild.

    This is a fantastic sounding piano and you can hear the life it's lived in the sound it makes. I agree with those who've played it personally - it plays amazing!

    QorbeQSamplist 27 September 2022
  • Great sounding all around and tight

    What a great first attempt at sampling. I love this piano, it has such crunchy kick to the bottom end of the piano and the upper end is so crisp, I just want to just hit all of the notes in all of the ranges. the fact that it's super tight too makes it very easy to play. that said, and this is a kind of a pianabook thing, is maybe the sample starts cut in the note a bit more than other pianos on here, and I think the general production doesn't scream unique characterful piano. It also kind sounds a bit mono which is a bit of a shame cause I think it could fill stereo nicely. It does have a bit of a standard studio sound, but it's so well done nonetheless it really is a gem.

    ryan weeksSamplist 26 August 2022
  • Good, well sampled Piano

    I think this piano sounds really awesome!! Sounds pretty bright, would be great for nice pop songs in my opinion.

    The sampling is really well done, it sounds incredible and has very good playability. I liked how powerful the lows were.

    The piano takes 0,94GB of RAM, which is quite a lot. But it's definitely hearable in the samples, the sound is not plain at all.

    Overall great library, I recommend it!!

    BenBerkenbosch28 September 2022
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