VST without a computer? Or, Piano in a box?

I want to play piano without having my Mac near me, and without using stage piano sounds or a real piano until the house extension is complete.

I wonder if you can run a VST on a Pi, or if anyone makes a good Piano voice in a box ready for MIDI in? Google shows old stuff.

I’m happy for it to be sample based, Eurorack, desktop box. Happy for it to be a SuperCollider patch. Guess I could get a Mac Mini and script it to boot Kontakt and my favourite Piano VST on boot. Then hide that behind the rack and remote in if I need to.

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Pianoteq runs on a Raspberry Pi. See this and this thread for reference.

My experiments with this went pretty well. It ran well enough most of the time, but sometimes had some hiccups. Certainly good enough for playing at home, but I’d be a bit worried about using it live. But then I didn’t put much effort into optimization, so maybe one could get it to be really stable as well.


I’ve been meaning to try linuxsampler, which is capable of playing soundfonts and does not require a GUI (though you can use one).

There’s an LV2 plugin format, which should make it work with MODEP or other plug-in hosts. Haven’t tried this yet!


iOS has good options as well if you have that platform.

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I have an iPhone X. I’d be happy to use that, or upgrade. I can’t get a 2014 Mac Mini for £250 which should run Kontakt ok. I can use Applescript to have that boot into the correct sample bank. But an iPad can also be an 8 track…

Wanted no screen but eventually I guess it’ll happen.

Timber Keys:?


If it helps, Pianoteq trial is preinstalled in the blokas patchbox distribution.


This excites me. Raspberry pi is what, £30. Plus a case with baby screen. Of course Pianoteq is another £200 on top. That’s close to Mac Mini money, but that baby screen mounted in the rack does sound fun.

I want to keep the Norns spare for other uses. I’d like the piano to be it’s own thing.

You can run norns on raspberry pi as well. :grin:

You will probably want a DAC (or usb audio interface) for the PI so that’s a few more shillings to consider.


Just out of curiosity, is there any friendly guide to doing this for the Pi, I have several lying around but the last time i checked out the thread it seemed very esoteric to setup or rather follow the discussion as someone not hacking the firmware.

I am working on an installation process for the “norns-ish” DAC board I’ve been developing. Need to get it a little more “ready for prime-time” (i.e. maybe a ready to use kernel, vs. full build of linux)

But… for things like Orac, you can pretty much plug and play using the PatchboxOS installer.

Pianoteq trial version is also pre-installed on Zynthian, which is more expensive than the PiSound, but the screen is probably useful.

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There’s a lot of piano samples out there. I’ve been porting some of those at Pianobook to the SFZ format. I did the introduction and went from files in a folder to playable instrument in ~ 3 hours (including noodling around after it was playable). Seems like a good idea for a Norns instrument.


Ok, I’m interested! So are you using SuperCollider to play the SFZ file? Or… yeah, tell me more :slight_smile:

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This free software came onto my radar today. I haven’t tried it and it definitely requires a computer. I have been looking for something that will run VST without a full-fledged DAW. I’m going to try to run it on an old Netbook under WINE.


There’s a Kurzweil MicroPiano on Reverb for $130. To my ears, the Kurzweil piano samples have been great since the 250 in the mid 80’s. I’ve been using them on my recordings since 1989… even the latest one… I still keep a PC2R for the piano and string patches. Great electric piano patches, too.

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That’s probably too much work up front. If the Timber library supports velocity zones it’s probably a quick project to make one from some sets on pianobook. I’ll give it a shot!

update: it appears the Timber library does not support velocity zones. I also can’t figure out how to give each sample a pitch range (only a root pitch), which makes it difficult to map many samples to one keyboard. I’m moving to the thread for that library

Ooh, that looks very useful, especially if it works via WINE too.

If you’re strictly looking for a hardware VST host there have been (and still are it seems) a couple of real hardware VST hosts like

I have no clue how well these work though and I’m not sure it would make sense to even go in that direction, but still some interesting hardware oddities to browse through :wink:

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So to revive this I found a 2012 Mac Mini server to use. Tempted to install more ram and stick Linux in it. Can anyone recommend some good Piano VSTs that run on Linux?