Are solo piano tracks acceptable? How about this one?

I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but when I search for ‘piano’ there isn’t any piano showing up on the list that doesn’t have strings or something else behind it. Are solo piano tracks allowed? Here’s what I gots:

Thanks for the time. Stay safe and be well!

  • Nathan

Usually piano solo tracks are not accepted, thats why a lot of people put some strings behind.

About your track;

  • Sounds robotic for me.
  • Something wrong in 0:39, like if you pasted another version.
  • There are some high notes that doesnt fit for me.
  • You need to work more in the mix and the master.

Hope this can help.

1 Like

Thanks for the response.

Well here’s a question, how do you guys add the watermark without changing the master, because I had to pull back the track to put it on without clipping. If I set it to -14 then it’s too soft apparently, so this one was -1 before adding the watermark.

  • Nathan

Solo piano tracks are accepted, I have some in my portfolio.

1 Like

You’re right, it is sounding pretty thin and weak the morning after.

I was using the Spitfire Soft Piano before, but there was one note that had tons of mechanical noise in the sample. Maybe I’ll transpose it and put that instrument back.

To work!


  • Nathan

Here is the first part back to the original instrument. I’m still fighting the amount of noise this plugin generates. Grrrr.

  • Nathan

Wow. So I just bought my first pair of studio monitors (I’ve been working from headphones for years), and I’m thinking that has a lot to do with the mix problems, everything sounds completely different on them. Completely. There is stuff going on that you just can’t hear with 1 1/2" speakers glued to your ears. Looking forward to remixing and submitting!


Getting studio monitors (or even just any speakers bigger than laptop speakers) is a step in the right direction. The sound needs to travel through some air! It’s definitely possible to mix using nothing but headphones, but it can make your life a bit difficult.

Anyway, I think the biggest problem with this particular track (regarding the sound) is that you’re trying to use the Spitfire Soft Piano as a regular/loud piano.

As one might guess from the name, this library is meant to be used as a - you guessed it - SOFT PIANO. Actually, very soft. That means that playing with high velocities and slapping a limiter on there to bring up the level will absolutely ruin the sound, which is what happened here unfortunately.

With ANY piano library, you would very rarely go above 80 in velocity, especially when making emotional solo piano pieces. 80 would be the LOUD notes, with most of the track around 50 down to 1 in velocity. Of course, this will vary a bit with each library, but in general, I find this to be the case.

Pianos tend to sound very bad if you hit as hard as you can (110-127) and that is generally just used for dramatic effect, or maybe when writing more lively music like ragtime.

The composition is not the most exciting, but I think you should start with learning how to get a nice sound from the piano. In this case, the solution is probably to first switch to another library if you’re going for a more clear, upfront sound. And make sure you’re keeping the velocities at low levels, and absolutely not 100% quantized note placement. If you compose using the pen tool, you need to tweak every single note (velocity and placement). Even two bars (that sound good on their own) with identical velocities and time tells us this was not played by a human. It takes quite some time to go through an entire piano piece. A “humanize” function can help you, but it won’t change the velocities in the right places, which is why only subtle use is recommended.

Soft beats can have velocities of 5! Barely audible, but still adding to the sound (kind of like ghost notes on a snare drum).

You also need to pay attention to the time if you want a human, live feel. No piano player would play an emotional solo piano piece at a constant tempo. It could vary a lot! But at least subtle variations are necessary for a nice sound. 116-124 if your original goal tempo was 120 for example. Like an arc.

Soft and loud notes can also give the illusion of slowing down or speeding up, which is why both of these techniques in combination will give a human sound.

If you find the need to tweak the samples A LOT (like heavy EQ, bringing up the level a lot or being forced to play at 110 velocity), it might be time to switch to another library better suited for the job.

Best of luck!

Oh, and to answer your question - yes, solo piano tracks are accepted, but they have to be really good and sound like a real person played them! :slight_smile:


Wow, thank you! That was very generous of you to provide such an extensive reply, I will definitely keep what you have written in mind.

I had to smile when reading it though, because I had basically done exactly what you said not to do thinking it would make the track more suitable for AJ lol.

I played it in by hand at about 40 velocity, with crescendo/decrescendo. Then I quantized it. It seems like Soft Piano gives you about 7-10 velocity values per sample, and at a certain point the piano starts to twang so I was trying to avoid that and so compressed the velocities. First example was the Yamaha piano in Logic 9, second example the spitfire done in Bitwig. I’m thinking about recording my Casio Privia in direct, as it has a great mellow piano, or maybe springing for one of the NI libraries.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to come up with some rules of thumb as a kind of sandbox for making AJ tracks based on impressions of contemporary music, which are pretty much these:

  1. Avoid syncopation for the most part unless its folk or funk.
  2. No more than 8 chords per section.
  3. Avoid traditional melodic and chordal progressions
  4. Repetitiveness is ok

So I cut everything out of that piece except the voice leading, lol. The reason was that I have listened to say, corporate tracks where the lead is a palm muted guitar with a delay literally jumping between c and e for 30 seconds and I’m like “ok, I guess they want it simple!”,so that’s kind of where I’m coming from. Otherwise I write music like this:

So fixing the composition is no biggie. To me, 90 percent of what I need to do is to get the mixes to translate, hence the new monitors. I was aghast at how previous headphone projects sounded through the monitors!

Thanks again!


Now that is an interesting composition! One that I want to listen to all the way through, cool! It would need work on the sounds (probably other libraries) to really pass as realistic though, and it is probably too specific for AJ, but very nice!

Anyway, when you are making a cinematic solo piano piece, forget you’ve ever even heard the word corporate. You have to know what you’re making.

No buyer with a nice cinematic film project would use a corporate track - they want a real sounding piano track (for example).

I would also be careful with all those rules. When a track is good, a track is good. The real challenge is to make really simple chords sound interesting, or to make really complex chord progressions sound simple and effortless. This is something that can only be achieved with thousands of hours of practice.

Some of my bestsellers ($20,000+) use tempo changes, no repeating sections and diminished chords!

There is no hard fast rule - when you hear an interesting track that works you know it. Something that’s VERY useful is of course to watch a lot of YouTube/Vimeo videos that use music in the style you want to make. It’s hard to explain with words what makes a track work with film, and it’s definitely not as simple as “avoid these chords, repeat so and so, no syncopation etc.”.

In my opinion, that is an approach that will just stifle your creativity. Some people like to blame a key change for a rejection, when it’s really the entire mix, unrealistic instruments or something else.

Composing good music that makes sense to use with film, while at the same time being creative is of course very difficult, which is why there aren’t too many who are really successful at it.

Focusing on corporate (cheesy background/elevator stuff) is very different from making more “real” music that one also might want to listen to just on its own (like a lot of film music).

I have heard some of the very successful corporate producers try to make “regular” listening music, and in many cases, it really doesn’t work, because their style is corporate! That’s why they were so good at writing that style to begin with.

And I believe the opposite is true for many composers who are more interested in cinematic music, or funk, or metal - when they try a corporate track (we all did) - it simply doesn’t really sound that good. I have made those mistakes myself, and the tracks don’t come out well because I don’t like what I’m making.


Wow, thank you so much, and you nailed it with perfect precision: I simply don’t like making corporate tracks!

The reasoning behind the 'rules’was twofold: number one was to avoid ‘paralysis by analysis’. That particular orchestral track was written during what you might call a ‘flow state’ over the course of a few hours, but that is the extreme exception and not the rule. In other aspects of production Ive found that reducing options is a good way to get unstuck.

The other part is that contemporary music seems to have its own unique dialect or vocabulary, so I was also aiming to capture that. When its on the mark it has a mature simplicity that makes it poignant and accessible, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

I am an organist as well, and the bulk of that repertoire is over a hundred years old, so there is also a nagging fear of western tradition bleeding through what I’m writing and making things too “old fashioned” :slight_smile:

Nevertheless, I am going to absorb what you’ve written and stew on it tonight, because you’re absolutely right. Again, very kind of you to take the time. Thank you!



PS pretty soon I will need to make the call as to what libraries to go with, thats probably why I started with a piano piece lol!

Good evening!

Am I getting closer? :grin:

  • Nathan


Wow, what a difference. Now this is a track I would listen to if it came up on Spotify and think “nice track, I’ll keep listening”.

Two small things that I would personally change, however:

0:29 - there is one note that sticks out with a high velocity - I would lower that one just a bit (personal opinion).

0:53 - notes clashing. I would release the pedal between the chords to avoid that dissonance. There might be one or two other spots (0:26 for example) in the track where this happens, but this one was the most apparent, perhaps because the AJ watermark played at the same time.

Other than that, this is a great track in my opinion!

Now, I can’t promise anything regarding AJ accepting the track, but it certainly is a nice composition with a good piano sound. Well done!

1 Like

Good morning,

Thank you so much! Issues fixed and track uploaded! :crossed_fingers:

Moving on to the next track!



Good morning,

On another note, is anyone here using Albion One? The time seems right to snag it if it’s up to snuff!



Thank you for such detailed explanations! If not difficult. Can you give me some advice? What’s wrong? I write - write. There are very few sales.

Good morning!

After picking up the new Tableau Strings by Orchestral Tools (solo violin, viola, cello), I’m eager to try them. I’m going to turn that first track into an accompaniment, play it in more freely and put Viola on top. That should do the trick!


Ha! My piano track got a soft reject because I neglected to strip the silence at the beginning, but I’ll call that a success. Thank you!!!