Turn an idea into a song at lightning speed with Toontrack EZ-Keys Grand Piano
Toontrack EZ-Keys Grand Piano promises to take the concept of generated accompaniment onto your computer and into the modern age.
The concept of an auto-accompaniment is nothing new. It has been a feature of home keyboards for decades, and some may remember a piece of software called Band-in-a-box that could generate backing tracks by entering a chord sequence. The functionality of these was limited at best, and generally featured sound quality that was very much ‘home’ rather than ‘pro’.
The concept, however, is a good one. A high quality virtual musician who can turn a rough musical idea into a polished song can provide an easy way to get something that sounds like the ‘song in your head’ quickly, and with little fuss. This is something that Toontrack clearly agrees with, as EZ-Keys Grand Piano attests. Your virtual pianist awaits…
How does it work?
The premise behind Toontrack EZ-Keys Grand Piano is simple. At its heart is a ‘virtual piano’ sound generator. A browser allows access to a large library or MIDI clips it calls ‘song blocks’ in a wide range of musical styles, divided into intros, verses choruses, endings etc. each with variations. At the bottom of the screen is a timeline window. Accompaniments are by created by dragging the MIDI clips you wish to use into here. Hit play, and voila! An instant pianist in the style of your choice.
At the bottom, the overall key and time signature for the piece can be set. Above the MIDI clips are listed the individual chords. Rather than being a reference, clicking these opens up a circle of 5ths style dialogue box, which enables each chord to be selected individually. In addition, chords can be ‘tweaked’ to be suspended, diminished, 7ths, 9ths, or have the additional note of your choice. Despite the relatively ‘heavy’ theory that underpins this, it is all incredibly intuitive.
How does it sound?
Of course, this would all mean nothing if EZ-Keys Grand Piano ‘s sound wasn’t up to scratch. Thankfully, Toontrack produces some of the best sound libraries available, and EZ-Keys doesn’t disappoint. At the top of the Window is a ‘Library’ drop down menu, with a ‘Preset’ menu beside it. A grand piano library is included with this package, with 14 presets included, ranging from a regular grand piano and various differing ‘flavours’ of it, to more leftfield atmospherics and pads.
The sounds are of incredible quality, given the relatively low price of this package. In fact, Toontrack EZ-Keys Grand Piano is a pretty sound investment as a high quality piano plug-in alone. The ‘Lbrary’ tab does suggest that this is the first product in an expanding range.
This Mini review outlines the key features of Toontrack EZ-Keys Grand Piano, but there is much more functionality to be had. For example, finished songs can be exported as MIDI files. This means that they can be re-imported into DAW software and used with other plug-in instruments.
Conversely, MIDI files can be dragged and dropped onto the song time line, meaning you are never limited to the clips included. Using the package within ableton, I achieved some great results by starting within EZ-Keys, exporting to Ableton, changing the sound and tweaking the MIDI clip, then copying it back, etc…
In addition, the sound itself can be tweaked with effects, as can velocity curves and tuning, then presets saved. Individual MIDI song blocks can be transposed separately by semitones or octaves- great for adding some variety or momentum to passages.
And all of this is via an interface that is so easy to use, it’s hard to believe just how much you can do with it. As a starting point for a song, Toontrack EZ-Keys is hard to beat. As a means of fleshing out an existing idea, or creating a demo to play to the band, it has few peers. As a sound source alone, it’s a very high quality piano. The combination of all of these a an RRP of £111 makes it a very tasty proposition indeed…
Toontrack EZ-Keys Grand Piano is available now. Call our stores or customer service team (01925 582420) for availability.
Many thanks to Time and Space UK for supplying a review copy.
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