What you should know about virtual pianos

Posted on 4/7/2021

What is a virtual piano


Have you been hearing the word 'virtual pianos' and wondered what they are? Sure you may know what a Piano is for sure but virtual pianos sound quite alien or hazy to you. You probably thought it’s a new musical instrument. If that’s you, then you are at the right place. This post covers what virtual pianos really are, their basic features, examples and why anybody would even need them.

What are virtual pianos?

Virtual pianos (also referred to by some as online piano or online/virtual keyboard) is one type of several virtual instruments and are basically softwares that are designed to simulate the workings and experience of an actual piano to the highest degree possible. In other words they are pianos you can't touch or feel, but you can play. These softwares mainly work as mobile phone applications, computers native applications and web applications and the sounds are either gotten by synthesis or by playing audio file when keys are pressed. A key difference between the mobile app and computer platforms is the key exposure range. Virtual keyboard apps on mobile phones have smaller range of keys or octaves exposed than those on PCs making it harder to play songs that can span many octaves. Overall, PCs in my opinion, give the closest experience to an actual piano. This is because of the size, that is, the bigger the device, the more comfortable, the closer the experience So for this post, my points are made with more or less, PC virtual keyboards in mind. Based on the functions of a real piano and capabilities of the device virtualizing it, in our case, a PC, there are basic characteristics I would expect of a virtual piano. This would include graphics, good sounds and correct arrangement of keys.

A good graphic would be desirable. At the baremost minimum, a good arrangement of black and white keys is necessary. An assembly of random buttons isn't going to cut it even if they sound. It needs to look like piano.
By which I mean correct musical pitch. If that's gotten right, it does not really matter if it has the piano sound or some other sound. Although if it has different sounds, a piano sound should one of them.

A lot of virtual pianos though, have even more features. However even with all those features, It’s worth noting that they cannot realistically and completely model the experience one would have with a real piano, because the virtual piano works on an entirely different machine that was built with different intentions than a real piano. One cannot have up to the degree of freedom piano can give. That said, virtual pianos remain useful for quite a number of reasons. Examples of virtual pianos online (Web apps) are commpiano, online pianist, recursive arts, musicca etc. Examples of native PCs virtual pianos that work offline are XLN audio's Addictive keys, Pianoteq, Ivory II Grand Pianos, etc.

What is the use for a virtual piano?

Why would anyone even need a virtual piano online? A real piano sound far better, not to mention is the real thing. So why would I need a virtual piano? Well, virtual pianos really are useful even to a piano owner for a number different worthy reasons. Let’s start with the non piano owners or beginners. Beginners can learn with virtual piano. Though I would never recommend learning entirely with virtual pianos and think that you completely understand how to play a piano, it can definitely help you get started and get you to levels where you are ready to play simple songs like birthday songs and Ode to the joy. If you’ve practiced to be very smooth with those and are practicing more complex songs, you might but isn’t yet perfect, you might hit the piano to find out you are better than you were playing the virtual piano. Yes, that’s right. Because the keys on a computer keyboard are constrained and packed together than a piano, it would make it hard to play an otherwise simpler song. So if you were able to adapt to the hardship, you will do better on the piano. (After having to adjust to spreading your hand a bit more on the piano than on a computer keyboard which is relatively easy to adjust to). Also, on some virtual pianos, there are songs one can practice with or let the computer play and then imitate especially when you have a piano or keyboard. For both learners and experienced people, virtual pianos can be really useful for their mobility and accessiblity. Take this scenario for example. You are away from your piano, maybe on a trip, at school, at work and a melody comes to you. When you’re free you can take out you computer to try it out. It would even be better if the virtual piano is one that could record and download recording so you don’t forget the melody. Here is another use case that can only be applied to few virtual pianos around. We have all being or are still at that level where we are lacking in speed. You might be trying say a chord to go with a particular note in a song but don’t know how it going to song and also think you can only know for sure if you can play everything smoothly enough, virtual pianos that record can definitely help you with that pick the notes you want and playback. That method can definitely help you save time especially when you can’t yet play by ear. You can try out our very own commpiano virtual piano. Another reason is that piano is very expensive compared to a virtual piano. There are a lot of people who will not be able to afford a piano but want to learn. All you need to access an online piano is internet connection. Now, I am not pitching this as an alternative to piano for all cases. Having a piano has more benefits than a piano simulation. But for cases where a piano or digital piano can’t be afforded, then a virtual piano is a very good alternative.