About ten years ago, Clavia, a small Swedish company best known for electronic drums and analogue synths introduced a new type of instrument; a “virtual electromechanical” keyboard.
Despite these apparent limitations, the Nord Electro (soon upgraded to the Electro 2, with a software update available for the earlier model) became the industry standard as a stand-in for vintage keyboards, and the little red instrument rapidly became a common sight on stages world-wide.
But Clavia continued to develop other products, and when they launched the top-of-the-range Nord Stage in 2005, including the ability to download new piano sounds plus an organ section which had Vox and Farfisa models as well as Hammond, it was clear that the Electro was due for a revamp. The Nord Electro 3 has inherited both the spirit of the earlier models and some of the improvements of its big sibling. There is a plethora of LEDs, mostly red, set into the instrument’s control panel and fitted flush with the surface. The keybed is a slightly unusual one, unless you are familiar with Hammond organs or their imitators.
The mains connector is, surprisingly, not the usual 3-pin IEC but a 2-pin “figure-8” usually associated with electric shavers or portable stereos.
Most functions are controlled by a single button, often in conjunction with a “Shift” button.
By contrast, there is only one “Wurl”, but it’s a very realistic one, and you can EQ it, use amp modelling and add effects to get anything from Richard Carpenter to Ray Charles.
The Clavinet offers pickup selection and tone filters just like a real D6, although purists might miss the damper slider – there just isn’t one.
Switch to “Samp Lib” (Sample Library) and you get the good, the bad and the plain unnecessary. There is an optional three-band equaliser with fixed bass and treble bands, plus controls for mid-range frequency and gain. Below the EQ are four sets of digital effects that can be used simultaneously in combination with any sound. The user interface is initially quirky (this is from the country that gave us Saab cars, Gravadlax and IKEA, don’t forget), but pretty intuitive once you get used to it. The Shift button cuts down on the number of buttons required – it either activates alternative functions, accesses “hidden” features (permanently listed on the front panel) or reverses the order of buttons that select sequentially. The virtual drawbars have been often singled out for criticism since they first appeared on the original Nord Electro, but they have stood the test of time and, let’s face it, they work fine for building organ sounds.
There is a 61-key version of the Nord Electro 3 available for a bit less money, and since it has octave-shift (plus or minus one or two octaves) available, it may not be as much of a limitation as you might imagine. Far more expensive are the Nord Stage 2 models, with 88- or 76-note hammer-action keyboards and the Stage 2 Compact, with the same keyboard as the 73-key Electro 3. The other current contenders are Hammond-Suzuki’s 61-key SK-1, with Hammond, Vox and Farfisa models controlled by real drawbars, plus a wide range of other sounds including vintage electric pianos, and Korg’s SV-1, available with 88 or 73 keys and featuring a wide range of electric pianos, but only preset, non-editable organ sounds.
Hook Module up to a decent MIDI keyboard and you have a genuine performance instrument that any skilled player would have a ball with. Korg's latest iPad app is a virtual sound module aimed first and foremost at keyboard players.
MusicRadar is part of Future plc, an international media group and leading digital publisher.
The Nord Electro featured a modelled Hammond organ, using a novel system of pushbuttons and LED ladders to simulate drawbars, plus high-quality samples of Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer and Yamaha CP-80 electric pianos, and a Clavinet emulation which allowed all the tone settings of the original. Like the Electro 2, the emphasis is still on vintage keyboard sounds, and it still only allows one sound to be used at a time. The first thing you notice (apart from its distinctive red finish) is the sheer build quality. These include a 3- and a 2-digit readout for identifying presets and sound variants, tiny round and triangular LEDs used as status indicators, a single green one to denote slow rotary speed and 9 “ladders” of 8 rectangular LEDs which show drawbar and tab settings for the various organ models. The white keys have a “waterfall” profile, with a small radius between the playing surface and the vertical key front, and no protruding lip as found on most pianos. The simple fact is that the majority of the instruments which the Electro emulates don’t feature pitch-bend or modulation as part of their playing technique, although I would argue that Mellotrons have a limited but often used pitch-bend facility and that tremolo or panning intensity could have been implemented as a modulation wheel, but Clavia have evidently decided that these features are not required. These are fairly easy to find, but don’t rely on being able to borrow one from a fellow band member. In the case of the Hammond emulation, these include the three standard variations of Chorus and Vibrato, and percussion.


In this case, seven drawbars adjust footages (the model is based on a dual-keyboard Super Continental) while the last two (displaying a single LED rather than a bar) control the amount of the Foundation (near-sine) and Reed (triangle) waveforms at the selected footages. The Farfisa used tab-stops for a variety of voices at selected footages, and on the Electro 3 this has been implemented by using the drawbar buttons as on and off switches for each stop, with a bar of either the top or bottom four LEDs showing its status. I could play it for hours (OK – I have played it for hours), and as a Wurly enthusiast I should point out that once you’ve played a real one, it takes something really special to live up to it.
After cycling through all four pickup settings, you suddenly (incongruously) hit a harpsichord. If you’re expecting hi-res, full-colour touchscreens you’re in for a shock – a 3-digit LED readout is the nearest that the Electro offers. One button which can’t be reversed is the Piano Type selector, but to go from any type to the previous one takes a maximum of five key presses. It may not be quite as easy to tweak them into a “smile”, “frown” or ramp as real drawbars, but they are quick and easy to adjust, and if you overshoot, just press the opposite button to correct it.
As long as you are happy with the concept of having a warehouse full of organs, electric pianos, Clavinets and Mellotrons in perfect playable condition but only being able to plug in and play one at a time, this is the best you can get. Going upscale, Clavia make an Electro HP version with a hammer-action 73-note keyboard (E-E rather than F-F) and four performance presets for instant selection. These not only allow piano and organ sounds to be used simultaneously in splits or layers but have a full-featured polysynth section as well. Let’s face it - this thing sounds so good I would have got one if it had been puce with pink spots! You can unsubscribe at any time and we'll never share your details without your permission. The intention was that the Electro could replace a number of vintage keyboards on stage or in a studio.
The end-blocks and keyboard cheeks are solid hardwood, stained bright red and given a thick, glossy coat of varnish.
You’ve got nine virtual drawbars, each operated by a pair of buttons, one for up, the other for down. Of course there is a rotary speaker simulator, complete with adjustable overdrive, and a button controlling the speed. That’s right – “E Piano” means “Fender Rhodes”, and out of the box there are four very different ones, from a raunchy Mk I Suitcase to a ridiculously glassy and pingy Dyno. A real, acoustic one, and so authentic you can practically smell the ancient wood, felt and leather. One of the main criticisms of the earlier Nord Electros was that the acoustic piano was not only an afterthought, but it sounded like one, a bit embarrassing on a keyboard that costs more than many dedicated stage pianos. There is a knob for speed, but tremolo and pan depth are restricted to three preset levels.
For any numbered preset, however, there is the facility to switch instantly between banks A and B, so you could have, say, a Wurlitzer as 1A and a specific Hammond setting as 1B. When you store a preset, it stores everything (apart from “System”, MIDI and “Sound” parameters), including features which are switched off. That kind of thing was last seen back in the 1980s, but it works, it’s easy to understand and, above all it encourages you to save presets in places that make sense to you.
Fortunately the preset selector is allowed the luxury of dedicated buttons for up and down. If you really feel you need drawbars, various third-party add-ons exist, including at least one designed specifically for Nord keyboards. The sounds, if not flawless, are the best currently available in a single keyboard, and they give a strong flavour of playing the real instruments. This might be an option if you don’t feel that the organ-style keyboard suits your style of playing. Couldn’t get a great clav or mellotron sound (I prefer both to be on the gritty side) tho - and for what this beast costs I found that a bit disappointing. To this end, no synthesiser sounds were included and there were no acoustic instrument sounds apart from a grand piano of questionable appeal. The case itself is made from sheet steel, painted black below and red on top, with the control panel printed in black, grey and white.


Each pair of drawbuttons has a ladder of 8 LEDs which light up to show the drawbar setting.
Although there is only one set of virtual drawbars, they can be used to control either of two settings; either as instantly available presets, as a split keyboard or with the lower sound controlled by a second keyboard via MIDI. Some might like it, but I used the sound management software to delete it and replace it with a nice late-60s Sparkle-top. Well, under “Grand”, we now have two impressive grand pianos, one big and mellow, the other more focussed and lean, plus a Yamaha CP-80 electric grand which, while not really my kind of thing, is very authentic and playable.
And don’t forget that an organ preset actually consists of two separate settings, available as whole-keyboard sounds or as a split. So your Wurly sound can have tremolo switched off as default, and when you switch it on it’ll appear at the correct speed and depth. For the first time I understood why a Vox Continental makes you play in a particular (and very non-Hammond-like) way. On the other hand, you now have three classic (and very different) organ models to choose from, plus access to some of the most authentic electric piano sounds currently available. To the right of the panel is a list of hidden functions including system, MIDI and sound options.
These buttons are variously coloured black or grey, with a single red one dedicated to storing settings. This gives quite a firm but responsive feel to the keys, and I couldn’t work out why it felt familiar until I realised that my Hohner Pianet T, sadly stolen back in 1988, had a very similar key design and feel. Press it and the display shows the OS version for a few seconds, and then you are ready to play. Some have criticised the Electro and its kin for not using real drawbars, but I find the buttons easy to use, and of course they jump to position instantly and are easily visible on a dark stage! Farfisa purists might be disappointed that there is no Tone Booster facility; however it is difficult to see how this could be implemented. But it’s all a matter of taste – some poodle-haired moron will love those sounds, and they can easily be deleted and replaced with more Mellotron.
Next is phasing, flanging or chorus, again with a speed knob, and three preset levels for each effect.
The Wurlitzer sound gives my playing an authority that I experienced when I was using a real 200 and which it lacked while I was using the (surprisingly good) Wurlitzer sound from a Casio WK-3000. The misleadingly named Modulation includes distortions, EQs, filters and compression, as well as phaser, chorus, tremolo, etc, and Ambience takes care of delay and reverb.
Most of the buttons are set horizontally but a few important ones are vertical to make them easy to locate.
Amp simulation is next, offering “small speaker”, “JC” (Japanese solid-state amp popular with Fender Rhodes players), “Twin” (American valve amp popular with Fender Rhodes players), “Rotary” (mostly for use with organ sounds) and a handy compressor.
It’s not just me – after a recent gig using the Nord, the keyboardist from the support band complimented me on my authentic Wurlitzer sound. That’s right – you can now download impressive multi-samples from the Clavia website (including a huge range of Mellotron and Chamberlin sounds) or even create your own sounds on your home computer and put them on the Electro 3. You even have the option of adding velocity sensitivity, slow attack and one of three release times to any sample. I’ve never really got on with Clavinets, but having the wah-pedal facility available made me want to play 70’s funk all day. Two DVD-ROMS of pianos and samples are included along with interface software for Mac or PC and sample-editing software. However, it nails its primary role as a live performance instrument, delivering a wide range of authentic keyboard sounds, playing beautifully, and stumbling only in the surprising omission of MIDI controller support beyond standard keyboard input. This is a completely addictive instrument and I would recommend it to anyone who can afford it.



Keyboarding speed lessons youtube
Learn to play the piano for beginners


Comments to «Best electric piano virtual instrument software»

  1. JXL writes:
    Watch the animated hand and.
  2. 2PaC writes:
    For a yr generally rests on the establishment and their piano.
  3. lakidon writes:
    Music book or from a lot of on-line for practising the minor.
  4. Gokan_ozen writes:
    With tons of of voices and kinds, all totally consumer-editable, full on-board greater.