Piano Colors — a musical paintbox

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Piano Colors is an extraordinary new library of grand piano sounds combined with enhanced modulation and processing capabilities. It delivers sounds, textures, and musical patterns, the like of which you will not have heard before.

Mac computer running Piano Colors with Kontakt controller keyboard

Native Instruments, in collaboration with Galaxy Instruments, have come up with something spectacularly different. It won’t appeal to everyone, but as a source of new sounds, and musical ideas Piano Colors will find many friends.

So what is it all about? At the heart of the software is an extensive collection of piano samples all derived from a grand piano. These aren’t just note-by-note recordings of the instrument. The piano is used as a sound source in every conceivable way.

Firstly there are samples of the strings being “triggered” using different techniques: plucked with fingers, felt pads, or wood picks; beaten with sticks, mallets, or metal rods; bowed with nylon threads or magnetically with e-Bows; strummed or beaten with all kinds of brushes.

Then there are samples of the piano “prepared”. The introduction of a variety of metal and plastic screws, bits of rubber, felt strips, etc., to the strings creates a whole new world of overtones. The strings also provide sympathetic resonance adding yet further to the harmonic spectrum.

But it is the way these samples are modulated/processed that gives Piano Colors its unique character.

The Modules

The main screen of the software shows the six modules that control the overall output. Four of these are sound sources… Noises, Layer I, Layer II, and Particles. Behind the silhouette of the piano are four coloured bars, the width of each bar represents the corresponding volume of each source.

image showing main screen of Piano Colors software
Piano Colors – main screen

Layer I and Layer II modules both offer the full range of source samples, and can be individually modulated/edited as required (see screenshot below).

Noises adds mechanical sounds and surrounding atmospherics to the mix.

The Particles module creates a repeating sequence or “cloud” of notes based on the keys played. A separate page shows a live visual representation of the notes.

The Arpeggiator facilitates complex automated sequences (up to 32 steps), and the Global module adjusts the overall output of the instrument, including eq, tuning, and dynamics.

screenshot of Layer I modulation parameters
Piano Colors – Layer editing screen

In the middle of the screen is a white circle. This is the Expression knob which can be simultaneously assigned to any number of parameters across Piano Colors. By default, it also links to the modulation wheel of a MIDI keyboard (MIDI CC# 1), so the overall sound is modifiable in real-time.

Piano Colors has quick and easy-to-use browser pages to select specific sound sources and presets (Snapshots).

To get a more detailed idea of how Piano Colors works do check out the above video.

Piano Colors with its deep pool of unique sounds is an inspirational piece of software. The developer Uli Baronowsky refers to it as “…a kind of musical paintbox, delivering a world of tonal colours, musical ideas, and visionary sounds”.

Piano Colors can be used with the free Kontakt player software as a standalone virtual instrument, or loaded into a digital audio workstation such as Logic Pro X. Uncompressed it requires 56GB of memory – 28GB when compressed. Price: $199.00 (€199.00, £179.00)

The Native Instruments website has more information on Piano Colors, and do check out Noire, another excellent package from the same company.

In case you are confused… This article was written in UK English which has a “u” in the word colour, however, “Piano Colors” uses the US English spelling.


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