Forums » GarageBand Tips and Tricks » Optimal EQ For Acoustic Software Piano


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Does anyone have some tips on how to EQ the various piano samples in GB? I prefer a warmer, Steinway type of sound, rather than a brighter or tinny rock type piano. My thing is mainly smooth and traditional jazz. I'm on a budget and can't buy the expensive really fine pianos out there like Ivory, but have found some pretty good sound fonts out there, if tweaked properly, I could get close. I push the sliders around on that 30 band EQ and I feel like I'm flying a kite. I don't know where to go, I need a starting point of how you get a great acoustic piano sound in GB?

Any advice is appreciated

Thanks katt
Artist Page Send Message Jun 05, 2009 | 1:52 am

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Let's back up a bit. It's often tempting to assume that it should be possible to take the wrong sound and beat it with EQ, compression and other plugins until it becomes the right sound. While this can work, it can also take a lot of work, and it can produce weird-sounding results on some playback systems. (Using tons of EQ can introduce subtle phasing problems, for example.)

It's way easier to start with the right sound -- and then just use it. It's more work up front to find the right sound in the first place, but it'll give you better results in the long run, because you won't have to do so much processing, which will make the subsequent mix easier.

(It's especially important to have the right sound before you start recording; your performance will be subtly affected by what you're hearing, so if you're hearing something completely different to the end product you might find yourself doing unexpected things performance-wise that are a pain to fix when you subsequently change the sound.)

So, first up: if you don't like the default sound of the piano samples in GarageBand (and I don't blame you; I think the standard piano is terrible), but you've found a SoundFont that you prefer, use that instead.

(There are lots of free piano SoundFonts linked from this thread on PianoWorld, and another one here.)

You don't mention whether you know this, but you can use SoundFonts in GarageBand. The native support is far from perfect, but it works, just about. (Caveat: I'm talking about GarageBand 3; things might have improved if you have a newer GB.) iComp actually has an article written by our very own robotpantyraid about how you can do this: check it out here.

If you really can't get the SoundFont approach working, you could always try looking for free AudioUnit pianos instead. (AudioUnit is the plugin format used by GarageBand and Logic.) I found one such piano here. I'm not promising that it's remotely what you're after, but it's worth a try.

It might seem like a lot of hassle, but it really is worth spending some time looking for a piano that has a timbre that's as close as possible to what you want. EQ can only take you so far, really; sometimes the sound you want just isn't there to be found, or can only be achieved at the cost of making your instrument sound fake.

Once you're as close as you can get, though, if you still feel that you have further to go, you could check out the interactive frequency chart that irok posted a few days ago. Hover your mouse over the piano keyboard to get some piano-specific advice. You mention warmth; that looks to live around the 180Hz mark.

Final suggestion: ditch that 30-band graphic EQ and use a parametric EQ instead. Parametric EQs generally do the job without introducing so many audio artefacts, and having a simple, small parametric EQ with only a handful of controls will save you from the 'ARGH I HAVE 30 SLIDERS TO MOVE NOW' nightmare.

In GarageBand 3, the built-in 'Equalizer' is a parametric EQ: although the 'bass' and 'treble' frequencies are fixed, the 'mid' frequency can be selected. This doesn't give you numbers, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing -- it just forces you to use your ears to get the right sound, rather than attacking the problem with numbers and hoping for the best. If that doesn't cut it for you, there's also an AUParametricEQ, which is much more flexible; it not only gives you the precise numerical value of the frequency, but you can also adjust the Q (which is the 'width' of the frequency bump the plugin introduces).

Good luck!


[Edit: Ugh, apparently I've forgotten how to write BBCode.]
Artist Page Send Message Jun 05, 2009 | 2:58 am

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Hey thanks for taking the time to respond to my EQ subject, regarding tweaking software pianos. I have downloaded many SoundFonts for GB, however many of them don't seem to work in the app. Could be a programming issue. You really just have to look at it like a crap shoot.

So I will out some of these things and see what comes up.

Artist Page Send Message Jun 05, 2009 | 11:09 am

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If you're having trouble playing SoundFonts using the DLSMusicDevice, as described in robotpantyraid's guide linked above, you could always try another SoundFont host. I used VSamp for a while; it isn't particularly amazing, but it works at least some of the time. Try the free trial first. VSamp lives here.


[Edit: Well, that's three for three. I suck at BBCode.]
Artist Page Send Message Jun 05, 2009 | 12:55 pm

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I would just add.. don't EQ individual tracks until you complete the song.
Find a piano loop that you like and then string it out over at least sixteen measures. Highlight the track but not the loop and make sure the red record bulb is off. Duplicate track.
Now go back and highlight the sixteen measure loop and Copy. Align the timeline marker to start of the loop and highlight newly created track. Make sure record bulb is not red. Paste to new track.
Now solo new track and play around with effects, change instruments, synths, whatever.
Go to loop browser>instruments and find other instruments with same or close bpm. Drop in to the newly created track.
Have fun!
Don't forget to go back try changing the Master Track key till you find something you like.
Good luck! Smile
Latest Song: Can Last
Artist Page Send Message Jun 14, 2009 | 1:52 pm