Piano in Blue

Piano in Blue

—   Columbia Records' historic Steinway D Concert Grand piano

We were provided a unique opportunity to preserve an important piece of musical history in its final days. Word had come to us that the historic Clinton Recording Studios in midtown Manhattan was forever closing its doors, destined to be transformed into a modern condominium complex.

One of the many treasures contained therein was this particular Steinway Model D Concert Grand which used to live in the Columbia Records 30th Street Studios. The CBS 30th Street Studio, “The Church” was perhaps the most influential recording studio of the 50’s and 60’s producing dozens of legendary albums in various genres.

Of those recordings this piano played a critical role in two albums which are still considered among the finest recordings of all time. First being the original Glenn Gould “Goldberg Variations,” the most critically received classical album of all time. Four years later came Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” which forever altered music.

v2.3 requires Kontakt FULL 5.3.1 or higher
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About the Product

  • Fixes for distorted tape samples
  • Fixes for image shift issues

To download the v2.3 update:

Navigate to your User Area, scroll down to Piano in Blue and click "Manually Download".  Download PianoInBlue_Instruments_v2.3b.  Move the new .nki into your Piano in Blue library folder where the old one lives.

A friend of ours, John Davis, did a scoring session at Clinton and let us know about the closing as this day was to be the final date. As the conversation drifted from the saddening state of affairs for large stages we came to talk about why this particular stage was a special place.  Although I had previously worked at the this studio I was never aware that the grand in the corner was the “one piano” used in so many of my favorite recordings.

At the time we were in  Seattle conducting some non-cinesamples recordings. Mike and I walked over to secure a copy of Ashley Kahn’s paperback Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece.  This book pushed us across the threshold and the vision for this session started to become a reality.

As Patti headed back home to put the finishing touches on the Seattle project Barry caught a red-eye that night for Manhattan.  We had arranged to extend the closing date of Clinton by one day, just ensuring us enough time to sample this extraordinary instrument.   Much of the gear being used was already up on Ebay.  It was the last session ever recorded at Clinton.

With a mind to the handful of historic pictures from  the recording Kind of Blue  our engineer Tim Starnes (Drums of War, HollywoodWinds, Cinesnares, Cinetoms 2, CineCrash) set up three sets of microphones.  The first pair – the M49’s from the old Columbia set up in historical position (note that the original was in mono), the two other pairs each set back a touch, each further from the previous.

We recorded two signal chains for each mic, a clean signal going through the Neve console and one going through a historic tape machine and finally into Pro Tools.  We highly suggest exploring the charming colorization of the tape signal but both are provided for your convenience.   For some of the youngsters out there - note that tape will alter the sound of medium to high gain velocity layers and that often engineers go through great lengths to achieve this distortion.

The piano was sampled chromatically exposing delightful variances in timbre with each key. This was the only way to get a true representation of the instrument. Barry was the pianist for the sampling and he employed a unique strategy.

“Perhaps this library benefits from having someone so intimate with sampling striking the keys. The way this particular piano was voiced was very unusual and charming. Certain notes when struck with matching velocities would sound rather different in tone from one another. One would scarcely notice this in a session but it would be greatly amplified via sampling. We decided the most faithful way to capture the samples was to do it by ear, rather then by touch. Instead of concentrating on a perfect velocity match across the keyboard we listened for sweet-spots/landmarks, identifiable, pleasing string to hammer ratios. This is a method employed by pianists to layer notes upon one another with clarity. I think the end result is better for recording in this manner rather then a straight key-weight dependent system.”

We sincerely hope you enjoy this piano as much as we do.


  • 1949 Steinway D via Neve 8078 Console
  • 8 Velocity Layers Sampled Chromatically
  • 9300 Samples
  • 3 Microphone Positions
  • Close/Vintage – 2x Neumann M49 near the lid
  • Mid – 2x B&K 4007 at the tail of the piano
  • Far – 2x Sennheiser MKH20′s in the hall
  • 2 Processing Paths (Tape; Direct in)
  • Studer A800MKIII  24 Track Analog Tape Machine
  • Programmed by Sam Estes; scripted by Greg Schlaepfer; recorded by Tim Starnes
    As always we share our revenue with our brilliant team of programmers, engineers, editors and musicians. 

We added a “Sample Start” knob, located next to the Direct/Tape switch, which will cut into the samples of the sustains by 20ms — this adjustment will remove all of the hammer/finger noise from the instrument. While we do not recommend using this feature, for those with lag issues, this addition can be useful to make the piano more “pop-like” — however, it will remove the “weighted” feel of the piano.

Tape Sample Replace
We have re-recorded all the sample sets back through a physical (not a plugin) Studer tape machine with better leveling to remove the “crunch” on the top velocities. ALL samples have been replaced for the tape setting. We also painstakingly re-denoised all of the samples, so there is very little tape noise buildup in the background. We highly recommend adding a bit of tape noise back in to blend the samples together. You will notice some tape artifacts in some of the samples, but this is part of the natural sound of using tape.

Individual De-noising of V1 Direct Samples
There were a few samples in the Direct patch that were too noisy or had lowfrequency bumps — these samples have been addressed and fixed.

Sample Fix — F4, Velocity 101-110, Direct-Room
There was a modulated distortion noise on this note — this noise has been removed.

91-110 quick release velocities
There were issues with the shorter release samples being too quiet in this region — this issue has been fixed.

Various minor adjustments to ADSR curves and some minor volume tweaks on individual samples.

Added CC11 (Expression) control

  • Kontakt FULL 5.3.1 or higher required
  • ~300mb of RAM per microphone loaded (~900mb for all 3)
  • ~11gb of Hard Drive Space Required
  • Windows 7/8, OS 10.7.8+
  • PC: Intel i5 2ghz+ (or equivalent) is recommended
  • MAC: 2008, Quad-Core 2ghz+ is recommended
  • 7200rpm drive is required