My grandparents kept just about everything. They kept pictures. They kept trinkets. They kept coffee cups, little figurines, and toys. They kept important things and seemingly meaningless things… They kept memories.
It’s not something I appreciated anytime I went over there in the past. But, for almost the past month I’ve been driving home on the weekends to help my family go through my grandparents house. My grandfather passed away a few weeks ago, leaving the house unoccupied. It’s strange and difficult every time; walking around their house with both of them gone. I do find comfort, however, in discovering the things they kept.
One of those things was a small toy piano I played with as a toddler. I don’t have any direct memories of this, but I’ve always recalled it from a picture hung on my parents fridge. In more recent times, I’d look at it and wonder if some how that little piano was the seed that subliminally nudged me into a career in sound.
Having only memories of the picture, I was astonished to see this exact piano at my grandparents house, tucked away on a storage room shelf. I pulled it down, set it on the ground and pressed a key. For the first time in ~28 years, I heard and felt what I had as a toddler. I was amazed it still worked. It’s not a fancy instrument; the wood is ply, and the keys and hammers are plastic. Some of the keys were a little sticky with friction, but they all worked!
I took the toy piano back up with me to Chicago with the intent of recording and making a Kontakt library out of it. It sat in the office a while and I kind of got a kick out of everyone feeling compelled to play it. Bosses, employees, interns… everyone couldn’t help but play a ditty when it caught their eye. There’s something irresistible about a tiny piano, I guess 😉
Yesterday, I finally got around to recording it. It was much tougher to do than I expected! I wanted to do a bunch of velocity layers, but quickly found out it was only realistic to do about 3. There’s not much velocity range to the instrument to start, and some of the sticky keys made it difficult to get even that. I also didn’t realize how long it would take to record various takes of these velocities for all 25 keys.
Taking the recordings home, I quickly found out how tedious it is to edit, map, and script a piano. It took me a long time to wrap my head around organizing, naming, and implementing each notes presses and releases into a Kontakt library. I certainly have a new found respect for anyone daring enough to properly sample a full 88 key piano!
After a few hours of relearning Kontakt scripting, I ended up with this simple little library:
Schoenhut Toy Piano – By Stosh Tuszynski
- Recorded XY – Sennheiser MKH 8040 x2
- 600 Samples (300 Presses/300 Releases)
- 4 Variations on 3 Velocity Layers per key press and release
- Full Version of Kontakt 5.5.2+ Required (Not the free Kontakt Player)
Enjoy! I hope you find somewhere fun to use this library in your projects. If you do, I’d love to hear about it. I know my grandparents would have gotten a kick knowing this little toy is out there for the world to enjoy.