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Piano Question

Postby churchgirl » Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:03 pm

Just for background, I pretty much know nothing about sound. I play piano for a small church that rents from a school (so setup and tear down every week), and all the musicians and sound techs are volunteers.

Last service, the sound guy asked if I could turn my weighted keys off or down, because he says when I play quietly, it’s so quiet he has to turn me up, but then when we do a louder song, it blasts them out. I don’t control my sound at all - they ask me to turn the volume on our MOXF8 all the way up and never touch it. I’m very careful to follow those instructions.

I wasn’t sure what the right answer is here. Am I doing something wrong? Because I would love to do everything right. I sure don’t want to turn the weighted keys off. I actually don’t even know how or if it’s possible. This guy is super nice and polite, and I want to do the right thing.

Anybody have any advice?
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Re: Piano Question

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:51 pm

Welcome to the forum :-)

This is down to the dynamic range of the piano sound you are playing and can be mitigated with correct use of a velocity curve, which is a setting that allows you to configure how much (or how little) the volume changes as you strike the keys harder and softer.

"Turning the weighted keys up or down" doesn't really make any sense because they are what they are. The action of the keys is a physical characteristic determined when the instrument was designed and mannufactured and is not changeable in any practical sense.

I don't have a MOXF but I do have a couple of other models from the Motif series and I would be surprised if there isn't a system setting to select a different velocity curve, which will reduce the effect.

Alternatively, according to page 29 of the manual you can edit the piano voice itself to use its own velocity curve which should have the same effect.

This may require some experimentation but the bottom line is that once set up correctly you should find that the piano sound is less 'responsive' to you, but will provide a more constant volume output for the sound guy.

Another approach is simply not to vary the strength with which you strike the keys as much, basically 'playing the soft bits louder' so to speak.
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Re: Piano Question

Postby wireman » Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:54 pm

Some keyboards have a control relating to the velocity you hit the key and how much this varies the sound — sometimes this is called hard or soft. The manual for your instrument makes me think that it can layer different samples together and the tone will change the harder you play so it might not be a good idea for you to do what is being suggested if it has consequences in changing the tone or makes it harder for you to get the sound you want.

It may be better for the sound guy to compress the sound (if possible), others on this forum will be able to advise on that.
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Re: Piano Question

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jun 27, 2020 5:04 pm

wireman wrote:It may be better for the sound guy to compress the sound (if possible), others on this forum will be able to advise on that.

I would advise against that unless it's a last resort. Compressing a piano sound tends to do things to it that are non-desirable, often making it sound 'brighter and harsher', especially during the attack.

Unless it's actually required to cut through a mix, that is. Presets that emulate this are often called "Rock Piano" or something like that, as it works well in the context of a band but I wouldn't think would be quite as applicable to a church setting.
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Re: Piano Question

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jun 27, 2020 5:16 pm

Having done a little more digging and finally found the right manual, there is a system-wide setting on the MOXF that may help with a minimal amount of messing around.

If you check page 141 of the MOXF reference guide you'll see there is a setting called 'VelCurve' in 'Utility' mode, which will globally effect all voices and sounds you play via the keyboard.

MOFX Reference Manual (Page 141) wrote:
VelCurve (Velocity Curve)

These five curves determine how the actual velocity will be generated and transmitted according to the velocity (strength) with which you play notes on the keyboard. The graph shown in the display indicates the velocity response curve. (The horizontal line represents the received velocity values (strength of your playing), while the vertical line represents the actual velocity values transmitted to the internal/external tone generators.)

Settings: norm, soft, hard, wide, fixed
  • norm (normal)... This linear “curve” produces one-to-one correspondence between the strength of your keyboard playing (velocity) and the actual sound change.
  • soft... This curve provides increased response, especially for lower velocities.
  • hard... This curve provides increased response, especially for higher velocities.
  • wide... This curve accentuates your playing strength by producing lower velocities in response to softer playing and louder velocities in response to harder playing. As such, you can use this setting to expand your dynamic range.
  • fixed... This setting produces the same amount of sound change (set in Fixed Velocity below), no matter what your playing strength. The velocity of the notes you play are fixed at the value set here.

FixedVelocity
The Fixed curve can be used to send a fixed velocity to the tone generator regardless of how hard or soft you play the keyboard. This parameter is only available if you select the “fixed” Velocity Curve above

It may be that a combination of a 'soft' setting combined with you playing the quiet parts a little louder than you normally do will be a good solution.
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Re: Piano Question

Postby churchgirl » Sat Jun 27, 2020 5:22 pm

Ahhhhh, thank you! So, now I have another question.

Do I have to change this every time I switch sounds? Right now, sometimes I use layered sounds I created and saved, but I also use preset sounds.

Thank you! I super appreciate all of you smart people! I’m in awe that there’s even a way to ask smart people a question. This is wonderful!
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Re: Piano Question

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jun 27, 2020 5:37 pm

churchgirl wrote:Do I have to change this every time I switch sounds? Right now, sometimes I use layered sounds I created and saved, but I also use preset sounds.

If you make the change in the 'Utility' section of the synth as per my last recommendation above, then as long as you save the setting afterwards you will not have to change it when you switch sounds. Think of it as it as a global setting that applies to the physical keyboard itself rather than to individual sounds.

I'm not sure if the setting is saved automatically when you power off the synth, but on my Motif ES7 there is a 'Store' button which writes the 'Utility' settings such that I don't have to redo them every time I power it up.

It may be worth doing a quick test to see if that's required on the MOXF or not, but if it doesn't persist over a power-cycle then you can simply do a 'save all' after making the change, and a 'load all' when you power the synth up to restore everything.

When loading stuff from USB (if you do) then if you're loading an 'all' save, the settings in the 'utility' mode are updated back to the state they were when you saved the 'all' file, so if you do save stuff to USB then it's probably worth saving an 'all' file after you've made the change so that you can easily restore everything later should the need arise.

On some models in the Motif family there is a 'with system' checkbox that allows you to include or omit the 'Utility' settings when saving and loading in general but as I said, I don't have access to a MOXF so I'm not sure if that includes it (a cursory search of the manual wasn't clear, but I may have overlooked it).

If you were to edit the piano sound as per my original post, then you would have to make the same change for each individual sound that you use, although the setting is then saved along with the sounds when you save everything.

churchgirl wrote:Thank you! I super appreciate all of you smart people! I’m in awe that there’s even a way to ask smart people a question. This is wonderful!

You're welcome. It's not really about being smart, more about having some experience in how these things work having gone through a similar process you're going through when trying to figure stuff out in the past :D
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Re: Piano Question

Postby James Lawford » Sat Jun 27, 2020 9:40 pm

Hi, 24 years experience playing in church bands and for large events (drums, keys) and 18 years mixing in churches large and small.

Although the answers so far are useful, sadly I see a lot of sound engineers in churches don't move the faders once set.

Set the piano so that you as a player can get the best feel, best sound and are comfortable playing. This includes your monitoring setup.

Then it is simply up to the sound engineer to balance the level of piano as required.

I know this is very challenging. A church has huge volume swings from full band, to ambient sounds with congregation able to pray and sing out, to playing softly behind a pastor or worship leading bringing a prayer or bible verse, right down to the preaching.

Hopefully you are adapting your playing to the particular part of the service instead of turning down. For instance playing quieter, different parts or perhaps blending a pad sound in with the piano and reducing the piano level a little if you're able to balance two sounds on the keyboard.

The sound engineer then needs to balance in the main PA with whatever else is going on using the faders; they mustn't touch the gain else your monitor level will go down! (Believe me I've been on the receiving end of fluctuating monitor levels much to my frustration so I usually bring my own small mixer, earphones and take a split from the keyboard DI box and plug the monitor feed into the mixer so I can make my own monitor mix.)

So in summary:

If you're not comfortable you won't be able to play to the best of your ability. Get the piano how you want it.

Play according to the conditions; loud when needed and naturally reduce volume through your playing style when needed.

Sound guy is responsible for balancing the amplified sound. In smaller environments this might be completely off in the main PA, if you have a stage monitor.
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Re: Piano Question

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Jun 28, 2020 12:23 am

churchgirl wrote:Just for background, I pretty much know nothing about sound. I play piano for a small church that rents from a school (so setup and tear down every week), and all the musicians and sound techs are volunteers.
I was a muso in a church for many years (guitar and bass) and when not doing that was on the PA many times. All musos and PA people were volunteers but the biggest problem as I saw it was the competence of the sound people, even to just finding people to do the PA each week. It was understandable as often few seem to have experience or interest in live sound, let alone do it as paid work during the week. It's hard for you to know what's really going on if you can't hear what the congregation or the sound guy are actually hearing. I can think of a few possible explanations as to what might be the cause but listening to a good recording of the sound as heard from a typical person in the congregation might help. Best wishes with it, Tim.
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Re: Piano Question

Postby churchgirl » Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:45 am

Thank you all again!

Eddy Deegan: I found how to change the velocity curve to soft and did so. I stored that and now the setting remains on “soft” even after turning the power off and back on. Thank you! Woohoo!

I have never used the USB function on this keyboard. I only learned to create sounds a few months ago. I bring this keyboard home with me every week and am usually the only one to play it. When someone else plays it, they don’t seem to know how to change any settings. They use preset sounds. I wondered if the benefits of using a USB is so your own settings are stored in the event multiple users are making changes to the settings? I’m super new to all of this. I’ve been playing in small churches with tiny budgets for the past 13 years and only played for a children’s choir in a larger church before that, so I have very little knowledge of all of this.

James Lawford: What you said is also very helpful. I do adjust my playing as needed in the service, mostly through dynamics (how hard I press the keys) and song choice. I really need to start including changing the sound as well - I have recently learned how to do that, but it never occurred to me to do that in quiet moments. Thank you! Also, I have been on the receiving end of fluctuating monitor levels. It’s extremely frustrating. It’s hard to play when I can’t hear myself! I asked about it, but didn’t get any help on that. So, I’d love to use your solution. Right now, I’m using a Behringer 16 channel personal mixer. I don’t have that splitter cable thingamabob. What does that look like? Where can I buy it?
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Re: Piano Question

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Jun 28, 2020 2:48 am

churchgirl wrote:... I have been on the receiving end of fluctuating monitor levels. It’s extremely frustrating. It’s hard to play when I can’t hear myself! I asked about it, but didn’t get any help on that...

Thanks, that's useful extra information. If the soundman is altering the level of your monitor, that could mean that you are then forced to adjust your playing level to hear yourself at the best level.

In my experience perhaps the most important thing a performing muso needs to know about PA is that while the person operating the PA might have control of the volume of the muso's monitors, he probably has little idea what those volumes are, for he's not sitting where they are sitting, in front of their monitors. If the levels are not right for the musos, the musos need to somehow indicate that to the sound man. And for his part, a good soundman is always keeping a watchout for musicians' signals that monitor levels need to be adjusted. It's not a criticism of either the soundman or the musos. It's just the limitations of the way it's set up.

In an ideal world, each muso has complete control of their own monitor level and tone, and their adjusting that is completely independent of the signal sent to the sound mixing desk.

Unfortunately it can be complicated. Musical rehearsals even with the band before the performance arent always enough, especially when there's no congregation there. There might need to be various adjustments made within the service or concert so that everyone gets to hear what they need to hear.
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Re: Piano Question

Postby ef37a » Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:49 am

Oh! Got totally the wrong end of this stick!

I thought the sound guy wanted the weighted keys 'off' because they could be heard clunking during quiet parts?

Now, my knowledge of keyboards is practically zilch but I would have thought weighting was a fixed, mechanical property?

However, I agree with the idea that the performer should set their levels and sound for THEIR taste and the sound engineer work from that. What for instance would he do if you were playing a Steinway?

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Re: Piano Question

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:02 am

ef37a wrote:Now, my knowledge of keyboards is practically zilch but I would have thought weighting was a fixed, mechanical property?

It is.

It would appear that the real problem here is inexperience on both sides of the desk.

The suggestion is that the keyboard player's dynamics are too great for the FOH balance, but equally the stage monitoring seems unreliable in giving sufficient foldback level that the player can judge their dynamics accurately.

Most modern keyboard instruments -- whether with synth or some form of 'weighted' action -- have the ability to change the velocity sensitivity and response curve to accommodate different playing styles and dynamics, and the OP is now aware of that facility. So that should help with the keyboard dynamics at the FOH console.

With a personal monitoring system available to the performers there really shouldn't be any problems with them hearing themselves, and certainly not with foldback levels varying during the gig... but I suspect that comes down to inexperience of the console operator and possibly tweaking channel input gains rather than faders.... (or foldback sends being post-fade rather than pre-fade).

These kinds of issues are common in church setups, though, as in my (limited) experience most of the operators are volunteers and typically have little or no experience and often limited interest in developing their knowledge and skills either -- all of which is entirely understandable given the situation.
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Re: Piano Question

Postby ef37a » Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:09 am

You have reminded me Hugh of a job I went to at a church many decades ago.

There was a small Philips rack PA mixer/amp with slide gain and master volumes.
These were covered in about 3 kinds of yellowing tape with dire messages almost amounting to threats of eternal damnation if anyone moved those controls!

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Re: Piano Question

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:23 am

:-) I've seen that kind of thing a lot!

Two years ago I helped a friend install a new mixing console in a local church. I set up the mixer's gain structure so that the channel faders could be used as simple soft-switches, moved between fully open or fully closed. The concept of 'balancing' was completely beyond the abilities (or interests) of those volunteers designated to use the desk during services.

And when I returned last year to sort out a problem with their radio mics (cables fractured at the plugs by repeated and over-enthusiastic winding of cables around transmitters) I found the desk has been covered in assorted labels and sticky tape with dire warnings about what could and couldn't be touched!
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