Bach's two sets (each of 15) "inventions" for the keyboard are among his more famous works; they have popularity because they're introduced in piano study, but also, because they're short and rich in thematic ideas. The first 15 are "2 part," like fugues a 2. The second set are more complex, introducing a third part, like mini fugues a 3. With my renewed interest in playing the keyboard, I've taken to opening my book of Bach inventions to try my hand. I've never played one of them, save for #9 in F minor that I recorded several years ago as part of my album, Sonance Remarquer. This post is about two things: electronic pianos and Bach's inventions. First, the pianos. I recently read in a magazine about the PianoTeq system. It gave it "5 stars." It's a software piano instrument that works with a lot of computerized sequencing and arranging software, like Logic and Garageband on the Mac. You can also play it alone, both on Mac and PC. When translated into US dollars (as the company is French), it is almost $400. So, this is a significant software purchase. I downloaded their trial, which lasts for 45 days. I ran into a few problems. First, I enjoyed playing this "instrument." But they cut out some notes, so you can't get full enjoyment out of it. That's reasonable, it's a trial. The second was, the sounds were so realistic that I missed only having a 76-key keyboard. So, before I went out and bought something new (and the realization too that I really need this?), I bought PianoTeq. They currently have even more piano sounds available for download, once you buy the product. I should mention that this is one one of the huge sample libraries, such as Ivory. I didn't try Ivory, as it has gigabytes and gigabytes of samples. This in theory is good, but my hard drives are only so big. PianoTeq by comparison is small, and this is because of its technology. Instead of playing back samples, the software re-creates the acoustic properties of the instrument. Yamaha debuted this type of technology some years ago with their V-series synthesizers and several tone modules. This PianoTeq, however, is specialized just for pianos. It sounds delicious, mostly. You can tweak the sounds based on a number of parameters, but more exciting for me are the acoustic models of other instruments, such as historic pianos and harpsichords. And while I've forced myself to play some now, I'm still a long way off from my capabilities in, say, 1994. I'm considering buying a new electronic piano or a keyboard controller. The Yamaha SY99 I currently own dates from 1992--a fantastic gift I got at my high school graduation. But I haven't played its own voices for years--with the advent of better synthesis on the computer, I basically use it as a MIDI controller. It has a great keyboard, but it's made up of plastic synthesizer keys: great touch sensitivity and aftertouch, not bad for harpsichord, but not great for a real piano feel. As good as PianoTeq sounds, it's not the real thing without the key feel. Yamaha and Kurzweil both have instruments that I considered. The Kurzweil is a stage piano with MID control, but its keyboard was far too mushy and "synthesizer" like compared to the graded hammer system in several of the Yamaha keyboards. Yamaha currently sells two stage pianos, one full piano keyboard in synthesizer, and an upcoming piano hammer touch keyboard controller. * Yamaha CP33 (**), fair * Yamaha CP300 (*) good * Yamaha S90 ES (*) good * Yamaha KX8 (*) butt-ugly My little stars represent cost. There's no perfect solution for me, so I'm stuck... and also considering my current piano skills and desire for other costly items, I may just wait. But here's a run-down: The CP33 makes its own piano sounds. If I ever wanted to take it someplace, the PianoTeq on my Mac doesn't have to travel, too. The CP300 has even more features than the 33, but the big deal is built-in speakers. It's heavier and larger, for sure, but the flexibility of putting it on your living room, etc., has merit. The S90ES (where they come up with these names is beyond me) feels, to me, just like the two CP pianos. By their marketing, they should; they all have the so-called "graded hammer touch." The difference with the S series is that it's a synthesizer. When I sit down, all the controls are very similar to what I already have on the SY99. But its got the full piano keyobard. Now, the new-comer, which is not yet for sale, is the KX8. You will also note my descriptions above: this is my assessment of the keyboard looks. I'm an Apple guy, the looks do matter. The KX8 is boxy and kind of tubby looking. But it's the cheapest. It doesn't make sound: it's a pure keyboard controller, it only sends MIDI signals to my computer. This would be perfect. But $400-500 separates the two: CP33 vs. KX8. And that money buys you something that makes sound. Tough decisions. Oh well. Let me also make some brief comments on Bach's inventions. I have three complete sets on record: Kenneth Gilbert, Masaaki Suzuki, and Janine Jansen on strings. I like all three recordings, but today listening with the music in front of me, I have some observations: * Jansen and Co. make some detours from the text to accommodate the range of violin, viola, and cello * Having individual lines (Jansen again) perform is kind of nice; this was a good CD. * Gilbert has a wonderful sounding instrument, but the reverb in the recording is too much; it's also a very loud CD * Gilbert is most faithful to the text * Suzuki has a crunchier-sounding harpsichord, but injects some of his own ornamentation into the reading. I like this. His readings also tend to be a little more lively than Gilbert Whenever I try to explain to someone why I have 3, or 4 or 5 recordings of one work, this is why! All may be good, but each lends the personality of the artist to the work. And these subtle differences can equate to profound emotional responses from the listener. Finding the differences, for one, can be a lot of fun!