Er, I've never heard Eruption played like that before!
August 26, 2006 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me play the piano like the Edge plays guitar. Or Eddie Van Halen. Or...

I own a Yamaha P-80 electric piano that I play through a keyboard amp, and would like to add some effects. I was inspired when I found out the intro to Keane's song Is It Any Wonder? was piano with effects. I definitely like that feedbacky sound, as well as the echo-y Edge (Where the Streets Have No Names for example)sound, but I'd also love to sound like Van Halen. I'm not asking for too much, am I?

Can anyone suggest some guitar effects pedals which would sound good with electric piano?

Thanks for all of your help!
posted by Bearman to Media & Arts (17 answers total)
 
for the echo-y sound, pick up something from the boss DD-# line.
I think when you say feedbacky, you're thinking about overdrive and distortion. look into those kinds of pedals. you can find what effects famous players use on guitar or band forums.

don't buy multieffects boxes.
posted by tylermoody at 8:33 PM on August 26, 2006


Yeah, The Edge uses delay boxes a LOT with U2. Here's his exact setup, and here's Eddie's rig.

I believe that the Peavey EHF 5150 head pretty much makes Eddie's sound (that "brown sound" as he apparently calls it). Admittedly I've never been a Van Halen kind of guy.

I kinda disagree with tylermoody about not buying multieffects boxes. Some are really good, others are absolute crap. As a guitarist, I use Line 6 modelling pedals a lot, and feel they're pretty much as good as the originals they're modelled after (at least as far as distortion pedals are concerned), 'cos I own a few of the originals. I also own their Delay box, and get a very nice Edge sound (it happens to model the Memory Man he uses).

However I'd stay away from units that try to do everything. They're almost invariably crap sounding, hard to use and prone to failure with heavy use.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 9:22 PM on August 26, 2006


As a guitarist, I tend towards a lot of Ibanez stuff, myself. But, when asking for "feedbacky sound", you have to be aware that this isn't really possible with a piano. Feedback relies on the strings and coils of guitars picking up and resonating frequencies from the amplifier. No such feedback system exists in electric pianos, so you're probably not going to get much better than a straight distortion.
posted by Jimbob at 10:56 PM on August 26, 2006


It's possible to get feedback with an electric piano, as with any electronic system, but it generally won't be musical. As an example, take your bog-standard mixer, and send the FX out to something, say an EQ. Now, bring the FX return back into one of the channels on the mixer and apply *some* of this channel to the FX send bus. You'll get feedback for sure. You can control it a bit with the EQ (I would actually probably use something like a wah-pedal in the fx send) and also with how much of the FX-in bus you put back into the FX-out. Just saying is all.

But yeah, the poster probably wants to know more about distortion which imho does not sound that good on (many) keyboard patches.

Some effects you will want to try: chorus, phasing, flanging, delay (a lot of van halen's tone is attributable to these). There are some great octave pedals. DOD has a pitch-shifting / harmonizing pedal that has a expression control so you can either a) shift the pitch from here to 2 octaves above, or anywhere in between (this will let you get slidy sounds on a keyboard) or b) start with a harmonized note (like, you play a C, it adds an E) and change the harmonization interval in real time. This is a little like pedal-steel effect. It's hard to deal with though.

I think a wah pedal plus an octave pedal, plus MAYBE some kind of distortion, might give you a great analog feeling sound.

Something like Guitar Rig, which is a software product that simulates (VERY well) the sound of dozens of rack-mounted effects, plus speaker and amp simulation (ooh, leslie plus jazz organ patches...) would probably work great. It's something like $400 though, I think, although this is STILL cheaper than the pedals or multi-effects processors you'd need for a wide variety of sounds. It has the advantage of working as plugins to cubase, etc, so all you have to do is get the sound into your computer.

Something to consider is that your piano probably puts out line-level signal, and most (guitar) pedals are intended for high-impedance signals (from a guitar). There are devices that are meant to convert. Some pedals will probably work OK with a low-volume output from the keyboard, but you'll probably have some high-frequency rolloff or something.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:00 AM on August 27, 2006


The Edge's sound is hard to reproduce but the concept is VERY simple. He has echo boxes with VERY long delays, and generally with high feedback rates, which means that he can play, say, a 2 second snippet and it will repeat several times. This allows him to "play along" with himself, but playing a short phrase, then playing another short phrase while the first one is echoing, building several layers of sound.

There are some good sample-and-hold pedals available, which will let you sample from a few seconds to a minute or so of sound and call it back at the touch of a (foot) button. I used to know a guy who'd record like 10 30-second bits of sound before a show and then tap the ones he wanted as he was playing, and sort of make up backing tracks on the spot. Fairly interesting.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:04 AM on August 27, 2006


It's worth noting that "sample-and-hold" is an entirely different thing to that which Rusty descibes - S&H is an analogue synth technique, whereas "looping" is the act of using a digital delay to sample a segment of music and then repeat it to layer further phrases over the top.

It's also worth noting that Keane don't use guitars at all and all the sounds you hear on their albums are either keyboards, drums or the wailing of a fat, unfit English bloke.

It's also also worth noting that Keane made a really big thing about wanting to sound different when they released their first album, and hence chose not to use guitars. So it's a shame that what they're doing on their second album is to make their keyboards sounds like guitars.

It goes without saying, I'm not the biggest Keane fan in the world - Tom is terrible live. Terrible. Really, really fucking terrible.

Playing The Edge with piano though? Well yes, it's all about delays - and playing inbetween the delayed notes. If you can get hold of a Line 6 Delay Modeler - awesome toy with multiple different delay configurations and a looping memory to play as Rusty describes.

But you know, don't try and make your piano sound like a guitar. Or, if you, get a singer who can actually, you know, sing live...
posted by benzo8 at 3:49 AM on August 27, 2006


jimbob: electric pianos are stringed instruments with pickups under the strings; feedback is certainly possible.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 4:54 AM on August 27, 2006


electric pianos are stringed instruments

Well, there are (according to Wikipedia) some stringed electric pianos, but the vast majority of e-pianos in actual use are stringless types.
posted by kindall at 7:51 AM on August 27, 2006


You're right, what I'm thinking of is something like Boss' Loop Station. Don't know why I got "sample-and-hold" in my head.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:29 AM on August 27, 2006


Well, there are (according to Wikipedia) some stringed electric pianos, but the vast majority of e-pianos in actual use are stringless types.

Indeed. And the Yamaha P-80 is not the stringed variety.
posted by cortex at 9:16 AM on August 27, 2006


Maybe this is obvious, but a crucial part of using delay like the Edge is setting it in time with the song. So the delay should be timed such that it lines up with the eighth note, the sixteenth note, or what have you, and then you can play along with yourself.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:48 PM on August 27, 2006


It's also worth noting that Keane made a really big thing about wanting to sound different when they released their first album, and hence chose not to use guitars. So it's a shame that what they're doing on their second album is to make their keyboards sounds like guitars.

It goes without saying, I'm not the biggest Keane fan in the world - Tom is terrible live. Terrible. Really, really fucking terrible.


Right. I’m not a big Keane fan myself, except I play piano and love the idea of the piano being used as a front instrument in modern-ish rock-ish music. It wasn’t so much the whole song as the intro to 'Is It Any Wonder?' that kinda pointed me in this direction.

But you know, don't try and make your piano sound like a guitar.

Well, I’d love to pick up an electric guitar and spend the time, money and energy to get to the level I’m at with the piano, but it probably won’t happen. For better or worse I’m a keyboard player, I understand it, and my fingers mostly do what I want ‘em to. I don’t want to sound exactly like a guitar player, I just want to play with some fuzzy/echo/screaming sounds that are, mostly, musical. Maybe a cheap synth would be a better idea?

But yeah, the poster probably wants to know more about distortion which imho does not sound that good on (many) keyboard patches.

So my search is doomed?

Something like Guitar Rig, which is a software product that simulates (VERY well) the sound of dozens of rack-mounted effects, plus speaker and amp simulation (ooh, leslie plus jazz organ patches...) would probably work great.

I’ve got cubasis VST 4, and plugins would be much easier – my computer is an AMD 64 2 Ghz with a gig of RAM. Would I be able to play live without too much latency with a system like this and the types of sounds I'm looking for?

Thanks everyone for your answers!
posted by Bearman at 1:32 PM on August 27, 2006


Please don't take my comments on Keane as any sort of indication that I feel experimenting musically is a bad thing. It's only a bad thing if you're Keane.

Otherwise, adding effects to instruments not usually effected, tweaking and changing sounds is what it's all about these days and more power to you for wanting to make different sounds with the tools you currently have.

If you want to use distortion though, you need to be careful of the components of the sound you're applying the effect to - too many harmonics and the ultimate sound will be mushy and unpleasant. Pianos use three strings per note (or have sampled them) and this produces more harmonics than a guitar's one string, so you'll need to reign back on the distortion levels more than you might think. Distortion also nicely picks out sustain - something a piano doesn't tend to have too much of, unless you're playing Con Pedal in which case you need to be careful of the mush.

This isn't to say your search is fruitless - it just means you'll need to put some effort and time into what you're doing to get it to sound cool - but that's music production for you!

The Guitar Rig recommendation is a very good one, but be warned, it's very noise sensitive and distorted/overdriven sounds can be difficult to create with any subtelty. But it's a great place to play.
posted by benzo8 at 2:18 PM on August 27, 2006


Guitar Rig has excellent response time (low latency). I use it in real time with a guitar, without noticable delay. Your computer should be fine, mine is similar and it rarely breaks above 10% cpu utilization.

Native Instruments, who make Guitar Rig, also make a number of excellent soft-synths. Does your e-piano do midi out, or just audio out? I've used Native Instruments Absynth, B4 sim, Pro-53, etc, although I don't own them. Nor do I really play keyboards much, I just fooled around with other people's setups. The Pro-53 simulator might be what you're after. It's very old school so you create sounds by starting with a few waveforms and sort of messing with them. You "construct" sounds. It's pretty neat what you can do with a pretty limited pallete. Absynth and FM-7 have similar capabilities but I have trouble wrapping my head around them.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:23 PM on August 27, 2006


And the Yamaha P-80 is not the stringed variety

aha, my bad. i thought electric piano : piano :: electric guitar : guitar.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 6:21 AM on August 28, 2006


Many folks buy electric pianos not for their electronicness, but for space, noise, and budgetary reasons. A piano is a big, loud, expensive thing to have around.
posted by cortex at 6:33 AM on August 28, 2006


Thanks again for all your answers, folks!

I'm gonna see if can try out a couple pedals from the local music store, but maybe my final answer's gonna be a software or real synth, depending on playability.
posted by Bearman at 9:51 AM on August 28, 2006


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