Department of Signal Processing and Acoustics

Analysis and Synthesis of the Piano Sound

The piano is one of the most popular instruments in western music. It has a wide dynamic range and playing range more than seven octaves. Its popularity probably arises from its versatility and its relatively simple control mechanism. When the player depresses the key, the damper laying on the string is lifted and the hammer is thrown towards the string. The kinetic energy of the hammer is stored into the normal modes of the string, from which the energy is leaking into the soundboard through the bridge. The soundboard colors and amplifies the audible sound.

In the modeling procedure, some features characteristic to the piano sound must be taken into account. For example, the stiffness of the strings makes the sound inharmonic. In addition, the decay process of the sound is relatively complicated due to different decay rates of the partials and the two-stage decay. Piano synthesis has become commercially very popular due to the success of digital pianos and synthesizers using sampling technique. Some research has been done on physics-based piano modeling, but it is not yet able to challenge sampling technique in commercial use, because the sound quality is not high enough at the moment. However, it seems that this might change in the future.

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