We all need pianos, right? Does the pope use soft synth plug-ins in the woods? This semi-rhetorical question is clear cut but any self-respecting producer – the proverbial pope included – requires more than a single piano voice, with modern production projects benefitting from a host of different flavours.
Having production-ready piano samples to hand saves valuable time in the studio. In light of that, Paris-based UVI has taken up its tuning fork and provided a newly packaged bundle of piano colours, covering all the big acoustic and electric models, including a few you may not have heard of.
The big grand
The Key Suite Bundle Edition consists of three existing Key Suite packages, Acoustic, Electric and Digital. The big coup is the Austrian Grand, UVI’s sampled representation of a Bösendorfer grand piano. Sample capture took place at Guillaume Tell studios in Paris, with a full complement of microphones. These are virtually represented in a concise and easy-to-use software instrument format, which invites the player to get on with the playing, while allowing for simplistic but effective tone control through mic levelling.
In tune with all UVI libraries, the Austrian Grand and other such content loads into UVI’s free Workstation player or its flagship Falcon package. While Falcon offers a wide range of programming options, the free Workstation also provides a clear and uncluttered view that’s highly appealing in its own right.
Upon playing the Austrian Grand, we’re immediately struck by the detailed depth of the sampling. With continued repetition of a single note, the velocity layering alone indicates the lengths to which UVI has gone to capture these samples, as the colours flow from each hammer strike. The initial Basic Dry patch sounds up close and personal but the accessible mic control allows you to tweak that, with three mic-level pots for close, cinematic and mono C12 control. While the latter C12 signal is clearly captured via an AKG C12, the other mic-level controls seem to rely on a blend of mics, with the cinematic control adding significant body to the piano’s timbral colour.
All the basics are covered here – and then some. Users can take the drier and closer signals and apply onboard effects as desired. Moving through the patches, there’s clearly an abundance of tonal contrast, and while there’s no felt piano option, the Mellow Dark patch is a close timbral match, and provides the kind of beautiful depth that a grand piano of this ilk simply can’t replicate.
Bösendorfer pianos are renowned for their presence in the lower register, while the mid-register can occasionally seem cloudy. This isn’t the case here, as the mids are crisp in detail. The hammers feel like they’ve been nicely played in, with each note strike demonstrating clear attack and transients, and there’s none of the woolliness often associated with newer instruments.
Grand and upright
UVI is rightly keen to big up the pack’s new Austrian but we must make a brief return trip to the other elements that make up the Key Suite Acoustic pack, which we reviewed back in issue 195 and which forms part of this bundle. Packed with another five grand pianos and six uprights, it boasts a level of diversity that should cater to all occasions.
We loved the stunning colours of the Fazioli Italian grand and the Steinway Grand Model D, while the Yamaha Grand is ideal for any more commercial and jazz-like needs. Meanwhile, in the upright category, the varied sizes and colours are well in tune with the current trend for more intimate and detailed pianos, with less tonal weight and mass in the bottom end. These will work superbly in isolation or as part of a fuller and more processed mix.
Key Suite Acoustic also includes other classical instrumentation, including celesta, harpsichord, clavichord and spinet. Not exactly go-to instruments for contemporary production purposes, sure, but they’re useful nonetheless, particularly when paired with pianos as part of larger sonic constructs.
As if the acoustic elements weren’t enough, UVI has bundled both the Key Suite Electric and Digital editions too, resulting in an impressive and wide-ranging content bank. There are 14 tine and Rhodes-style electric pianos, including Rhodes electro-mechanical models that range from Mk1 to Mk7, plus a rare and exceptionally bright Davoli pianoforti C77, whose sound is akin to the more common Rhodes Dyno-My-Piano. There’s plenty of grit available too, with the 54-note Rhodes Mk2 providing that classic dirty and distorted colour.
There are many lesser-known curios in this collection too. There are analogue-modelled pianos alongside Wurlitzers, Yamaha CPs, clavinets and even a sizeable collection of bass pianos. These unique gems may not seem well suited to contemporary productions but could comfortably be embedded alongside other pianos in a mix to complement them with unusual flavours.
The Key Suite Digital part of the bundle contains many modelled and sampled pianos from the 1980s and 1990s. While these can sound a little dated if solo’d, they certainly have their place and, thanks to the technology of the era, often present colours that lend themselves well to modern production treatments, while simultaneously providing a trip down memory lane. The M1 piano, known as Mini White in this suite, was so ubiquitous that it’s difficult to stop yourself from playing all those classic early 1990s pianos riffs.
Bundles of fun
This enormous bundle boasts some colourful and expressive examples piano samples from all the big players in the acoustic marketplace. The new Austrian Grand is a highlight, as are some of the older sampled examples, but if the grands prove too expansive, you can delve into the acoustic upright archive or even plump for the back-in-fashion Yamaha CP without disappointment.
The fact that there are some real rarities alongside the more common or garden-variety models invites real production exploration too. You’ll undoubtedly emerge with some favourites but you can be assured of the quality throughout, even if some colours don’t quite fit the bill for you. There’s plenty here to keep bedroom producers happy, while the immediacy of the content will be a huge hit with any workflow-conscious professionals, providing production-ready colours and inviting musicality at every turn.
Do I really need this?
Most producers will find themselves looking for perfect piano samples at some point. Nobody needs quite as many as this UVI bundle provides but having so many to hand will certainly smooth out your workflows – once you find your favourites, that is. The attention to detail, in terms of instrument choice and sample capture, should make this collection appealing to anyone who has an ear for pianistic colours.
If you can’t find what you want in this package, it probably doesn’t exist. Highlights include the Austrian and F Grand pianos, and the uprights and electrics have masses of potential too. Naturally though, some of the electric pianos sound a little dated, possible due to our mental connections to their 1980s and 1990s heyday. Given the amount of content here, this feels like a bargain.
- 12 acoustic pianos, from grands to uprights
- 94 sampled keyboard instruments
- Classic electric and electro-mechanical pianos
- Analogue, digital and sampled 1980s and 1990s keyboard classics
- 51GB disk space required
- Requires iLok account for authorisation
- Loads in UVI Workstation v.3.0.11+ (free) or UVI Falcon 2.0.7+ (available separately)
- Available in AU, AAX, VST and stand-alone formats
Another sizeable and classy collection, Keyscape is a brilliantly collated collection of pianos, EPs and hybrids. There’s less choice in terms of instrumental colour but it’s all beautifully presented, with a sharp LA sound that lends itself to contemporary production.
It’s much more than a collection of piano samples but Komplete 12 does feature a few pianistic gems, alongside an array of other useful content, including grand and upright pianos, as well as Rhodes and Wurly instruments.