I’ve really been enjoying the new piano software! I’ve been tweaking the settings so that I can play live through my laptop without any noticeable lag. Hearing the beautiful piano sound makes me realize the shortcomings of the default sound that comes out of the piano.
My recording process was a bit different for this song. I recorded video and MIDI, processed the MIDI into a WAV file and then combined the video and audio to make the final video. This piece is “The Church’s One Foundation” and it’s arranged by Cindy Berry. (Full lyrics)
My Korg C303 piano has MIDI input/output and I’ve been recording my songs in MIDI for the last couple years with the thought that maybe someday I’d get a nicer piano and then I could hear all these songs again. It’s a bit silly since lots of MIDI recordings of these same songs are available from better performers than me, but hey, it’s a hobby. It doesn’t have to make sense. Well the time has come. I’ve purchased a nicer piano, or at least I’ve purchased the soul of one.
I understood very little about this when I started but here’s what I’ve figured out so far. You can make a digital version of any instrument (or anything that makes sounds) by taking samples of it. Press a key, record the sound, press another key, record it and so on. If you do enough of these and have good software, you can synthesize the sound of the entire instrument. Companies have immensely complex rigs set up to sample instruments and Embertone is one of them. I purchased their “Walker 1955 Concert D” package. They sampled each key of a 9′ Steinway Concert D Grand pressing at 36 different velocities, with every pedal combination in for various durations to create over 10,000 samples and oh yeah, they did the whole process six different times with the microphone in various places. I purchased the “Lite” package which gives me a subset of those samples but it sounds great to me and has been more than enjoyable for me to play around with.
It took a long time to figure out how to actually use the package when I downloaded it. I had to download the virtual instrument, set up Cakewalk (Digital Audio Workstation software), hook them together, plug in a MIDI file and voila, it worked! There are seemingly endless customizations that can be made to the sound in the software but it sounds great even with all the defaults.
But blah blah blah, what does it sound like?! I recorded a quick sample and I edited it to flip back and forth between the default sound out of my piano and the default sound out of the virtual piano.
Most of the organ and piano pieces for our virtual church services (youtube.com/calvarylutheranwa) are recorded by two other members of our church but I fill in every once in a while. It will be fun to use this package for those pieces. I think I’ll be playing the preservice music for this Sunday’s service if you want to check it out in action. Or for much better pianists and much nicer recordings, check out the demos on the product page.
Here’s one I recorded a while back, but in the Lutheran church we generally use this tune in the season of epiphany and call it “As With Gladness Men Of Old”.
In Jon Schmidt’s recording, he has a beautiful cello playing along with it. So in addition to my normal piano-only recording, I also messed around with digital instruments and added in a cello. There’s no video for this but you can hear me playing along with my digital cello attempt. I played that cello line on my piano, recorded the MIDI file for it and then ran it through this program to make it sound like a cello.
I used Bandlab with a free cello VST plugin so it’s all free and doesn’t sound amazing, but it was such an interesting rabbit hole to dive into. For example, check out the Embertone digital instruments and listen to some of those cello samples! Some day I would love to get a really nice piano file and make my piano sound even better.
Hopefully you’re not burnt out on Christmas music yet because this post has a bunch of it! Elijah has been learning Silent Night and I’ve recorded 3 songs as well. Two of these videos will be popping up on our church Facebook page leading up to Christmas as well. I put out a call for people to submit videos of themselves playing Christmas music and we got a good response. There are some amazing musicians in our congregation! The first video will launch today at 4pm and then continue daily up to Christmas.
I finished another song in Jon Schmidt’s “Hymns Without Words” book. This time it was “Onward Christian Soldiers.” The title of the hymn can lead to some misunderstanding. The hymn isn’t promoting a militant church body as the world would see it. It reminds us that the battle against the devil is real and requires daily focus. (See Ephesians 6:10-18 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.) You can view the full hymn text on hymnary.org.
I’m still chugging my way through this piano book by Jon Schmidt. The latest one I learned was Homecoming (Spotify link). I decided to just record this one at home instead of doing it on the nicer piano at church. I plugged an audio recorder into the headphone jack on the piano and that worked well, but I couldn’t get a good camera angle so it’s more obvious when I change splice two clips together to take out my page turn.
I’m plowing my way through the Jon Schmidt piano book and the next one was “Song of the Ocean”. I probably didn’t polish this one as much as I should have, but I never got totally hooked on this one and I’m ready to move on.
Three weeks ago, we decided to try a “socially distant group hymn” with church members. The idea isn’t unique, but it felt like a fun way to join together virtually. It was tough to convince people to send me videos of themselves singing, but eventually we had 28 people who participated. Editing it was more of a challenge than I expected as even my beefy new PC had trouble rendering all of those video streams at the same time. But I was able to render out each row by itself and then combine those rows into the final video. We used it in our online service last Sunday and then posted it by itself as well. Enjoy!
I continue to plow through one of Jon Schmidt’s piano books. After taking a long time to learn Waterfall, I went for an easier one and learned Cherished Moments. It’s much simpler and very relaxing to play!
Last August, Tyla and I saw the Piano Guys playing in Marymoor (so many people in a crowd! That seems unthinkable now!) Jon Schmidt is the amazing piano player half of that duet and for my birthday, I received one of the piano books he has published for his solo work.
The songs are very advanced so when I picked the first one to learn, I started with the one he said was the easiest piece in the book: Tribute. I didn’t post that one before, but I’ll include it below.
When it came time to pick the next song to learn, I opened to the first one in the book and thought, “Hmm, why not this one?” Then I fired up Spotify and listened to him play it. WHOA. So many notes in 3 minutes! It took me a few months but I was finally able to play it to my satisfaction (albeit about 15% slower than he does it and with a few more bad notes along the way.)
I feel a little silly posting these because obviously if you want to see him play the songs, you can just look them up on YouTube, but I do record almost all of my songs when I learn them because it’s fun to look back at them. I like to record them at church because that piano sounds so nice in that huge room.
So at the very least, go watch Jon Schmidt’s original version of Tribute and Waterfall. They’re beautiful pieces. My attempts are embedded below if you want to see those too.