A while back, I heard this solo piano backing track through a great stereo system at a gig and it caught my attention. When I asked the singer about it he said “you did it”.
That really is embarrassing. I’d never heard the track in a live environment and I thought I was listening to a real piano. It was actually a virtual piano and I’ll let you into a few secrets about why this sounded so authentic.
I’d transcribed the original performance note for note, from the original Frank Sinatra performance:
I also recorded the new piano part in sync with the original so that the singer could phrase very naturally, having rehearsed the original Sinatra version. This is quite a complex thing to do, technically and musically and does require some experience to make it work.
We’ll take it for granted that now we have the notes written down, we can play them properly, sensitively without having to program them in.
When most people use a virtual piano, they tend to just export to audio and maybe use some compression, EQ, and reverb. I like to treat a virtual piano just like real grand piano recorded with several microphone positions. I export several stereo tracks, adding different amounts of reverb and send them all to a group channel. I can then mix this much denser, more complicated sound which gives the piano more of a realistic timbre.
Yes, all this takes far more time than most people like to spend.