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Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

VST, AU, etc. plug-in Virtual Instruments discussion

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NWS
KVRer
 
5 posts since 21 Jun, 2014, from US

Postby NWS; Sat Jun 21, 2014 8:59 pm Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

I am a classical pianist and composer and have been trying to break into the world of synth. I have read fairly extensively, so I have a decent basic understanding of software synths/samplers. However I get the feeling a lot of these programs were not designed specifically for what I am trying to do. If someone could perhaps point me in the right direction I would be very grateful.

Let me first say what I'm not looking for. I'm not at all interested in sound design, arpeggiators or sequencers. I'm also not at all interested in trying to replicate real instruments. I love many of the classic synth sounds, but I am not interested in programs that reproduce their interfaces- original knobs, patching, etc. I also don't want to limit myself to one category of sound, like classic synths.

What I am interested in is creating new instruments playable on a full size midi keyboard. There's obviously a plethora of sounds out there made to be mapped to a keyboard. However from what I've found most of them are not completely satisfying to play as instruments. For example- when you press a key gently, then forcefully, many sounds simply play back louder, perhaps with a few other simple modifications. What would be much more satisfying would be for the harmonics to become thicker/louder, for the attack to become faster/harsher, etc, etc, like how real instruments don't just get louder but also become more intense in a variety of ways. I know some sounds have these capabilities built in to an extent, but I'm very interested in software that can easily and intuitively add/adjust these qualities for any sounds. I've noticed that if I layer a high quality piano sound in with a typical synth sound it immediately begins to add that satisfying intensity of a dynamic instrument. However it sounds like two instruments layered, not like one cohesive instrument.

What might be ideal would be the ability to "merge" sounds together so that they sound less layered and more like one unified sound. In other words say you take a nice synth sound based on a sine wave with a slow attack, and you layer it with a sampled harpsichord, which naturally has a sharp attack. When you play them together the sound is not at all unified, instead it sounds like two distinct, separate sounds played at once. The sharp attack of the harpsichord and its metallic sustain do not blend with the mellow, slow attack of the synth sound. But if there were some software that could "merge" these sounds, so that the harpsichord tone would be altered to take on some of the more pure/mellow characteristics of the synth, and the synth sound took on some of the metallic characteristics of the harpsichord, all while retaining more of the original sharp attack of the harpsichord (by adjusting ADSR?), that is the sort of thing I would be very interested in.

If such a thing exists, it might get me pretty close to what I'm imagining.

Being a pianist I am also looking to build instruments that cover the full 88 key range. Many sounds become completely ridiculous when you go extremely high or low. So a program that lets you layer sounds and cross fade them over various pitch ranges would be crucial. If such a program could also allow you to gradually change the characteristics of a specific sound over a wide pitch range, then better still.

So I'm not looking for a certain type of synthesizer or sound- FM, wavetable, etc. Instead I'm looking for an interface to let me build and/or manipulate sounds to be mapped to a midi keyboard in order to create a diverse range of instruments for the intent of live performance. Reaktor sounds like it could do just about anything, but it's also intimidating and may or may not be the best program for my needs.

Sculpture sounds very interesting- physical modeling with the intent of creating new sounds, not simply trying to replicate existing instruments. But I have no idea if a program like that is really what would get me closest to an intuitive instrument building machine. Pianoteq seems interesting too, but the extent that you can manipulate instruments is limited and you obviously can't bring in your own sounds. Omnisphere has been recommended to me, but after watching many demos and reading quite a bit, I have no idea if this program would fill my needs well as they don't seem to address the specifics I'm interested in.

I would be using Kawai's MP11 or similar as my keyboard (currently have the MP8 but want to find the right software before upgrading). Any advice that might point me in the right direction would be greatly appreciated. Perhaps there are already lots of fantastic collections of highly diverse/dynamic "virtual instruments" out there that I've just completely overlooked, and making my own would simply be reinventing the wheel??

Thanks in advance,

Nathan Shirley
yessongs
KVRian
 
826 posts since 9 Feb, 2013, from dallas tx

Postby yessongs; Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:55 pm Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

arturias new 88 key controller is what I would want if I were you.

Your post has me thinking you would want to use aftertouch and that board has aftertouch and it comes with 5000 presets from all their soft synths so that gives you a lot to play with there and I think they do let you mess with the adsr parameters in that software

that covers the one main board but I think in terms of making multiple keys available if I'm thinking live and so I would even add to that with other less expensive controllers. If multiple keyboards are beyond ones budget then go cheap and add one at a time. there are so many controllers out there that you just have to play them at a store to see what is what. I have one that is down broken usb tripped over the cord and so I would need to repair it and my other is just 49 keys. They will all develop problems with the USB plug if they have plastic cheap usb ports.

they should just give you the replacement parts and a soldering iron and a manual on how to replace them when they sell you the board.

As far as staying away from sound design and just playing presets I am with you on that. Life is to short not to be playing music instead of designing sounds but hey all you sound design guys are needed as well or we would never get the sound we wanted.

IF your going to want to play presets then your going to have to get vsti which have lots of presets.
Gforce minimonsta, synthmaster, korg legacy collection, Z3ta and rapture from cakewalk and included with sonar as are many others. samples I'd recommend sampletank if you can wait for a sale they will drop their prices usually around Christmas. I got all of their synths in a bundle for under $100 and the new sampletank upgrade is $99 right now. Native instruments Komplete is on sale now with the crossgrade deals they offer. Look for the thread here and you'll see people discussing it. That is what I would work on getting now if I where you because it is on sale.

OPX pro player, Xils lab Poly KB II player over at JRR sound shop use group as the discount code those will get you a ton of presets for really cheap as they are not the full synth just a player version that offers a limited number of parameters but all of the presets in the factory and they both will accept presets designed by others so you are not limited to just the factory sounds by any means and that is perfect for someone not wanting to design sounds. VB3 is the B3 organ you will want to snag. Uhe is another that gets a lot of love on this forum and if you snag all of these you would have so many presets that designing sounds would not be necessary all you would have to do is surf presets and create favorites and save them in your daw.

AS far as playing live goes that is another topic completely and worthy of its own thread.
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bmrzycki
KVRAF
 
3194 posts since 11 Aug, 2006, from Austin, TX

Postby bmrzycki; Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:40 am Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

Hi Nathan. :)
NWS wrote:What I am interested in is creating new instruments playable on a full size midi keyboard. There's obviously a plethora of sounds out there made to be mapped to a keyboard. However from what I've found most of them are not completely satisfying to play as instruments.
It sounds to me like you want a package (or packages) that you install, connect your keyboard, and more or less start playing.

NWS wrote:For example- when you press a key gently, then forcefully, many sounds simply play back louder, perhaps with a few other simple modifications. What would be much more satisfying would be for the harmonics to become thicker/louder, for the attack to become faster/harsher, etc, etc, like how real instruments don't just get louder but also become more intense in a variety of ways. I know some sounds have these capabilities built in to an extent, but I'm very interested in software that can easily and intuitively add/adjust these qualities for any sounds. I've noticed that if I layer a high quality piano sound in with a typical synth sound it immediately begins to add that satisfying intensity of a dynamic instrument. However it sounds like two instruments layered, not like one cohesive instrument.
This sounds like you're dipping your toes into the world of sound design, making that preset "just so" often requires quite a bit of knowledge about the instrument and it's inner-workings.

After reading your post and thinking about it my recommendation to you would be to evaluate the following:
1. Omnisphere - The sound design that comes with the instrument is vast and often only requires a few minor changes to get the sound you want. It has layers so you can "blend" two parts like you mentioned above. The biggest downside for many is you cannot import your own wave files, but it doesn't sound like you want to do that. It's not cheap so I recommend watching the videos online about it to see if you like the sounds it makes. There are tons on youtube auditioning it.
2. Trilian - I'd recommend this if you like Omnisphere and want more of it. Trilian has a ton of sampled synths, acoustic and electric basses, and other interesting things like the chapman stick. You can hook Trilian into Omnisphere so that they share sounds. Think of it a bit like a fancy add-on pack for Omnisphere.
3. Camel Audio Alchemy - You'll want to examine the soundsets especially because, as you said, you don't really want to do sound design. I think Alchemy is great but I also consider it a bit more "geeky" if you are trying to change how a sound acts. Very powerful but has a bit more of a learning curve than Omni/Tril.
4. Native Instrument's Komplete - This thing is huuuuuge both in the tools and sounds included as well as its potential. The really big drawback in my opinion is the learning curve. Auditioning presets are easy, changing is hard because the sound generator for a preset can be one of many tools NI makes: Absynth, FM8, Massive, Kontakt, etc. You'll have to learn all these interfaces if you want to become really proficient in changing a sound in Komplete. The good news is the package comes with so many sounds you'll likely find what you want without wanting to change much about it. :)

The final piece of advice I'd give is to carefully pick ONE thing and learn it really well This will pay off when you're in a crunch and you have to change a sound quickly. Once you know a tool well you can almost operate on auto-pilot when shaping a sound.

Good luck and I hope this helps.
-Brian

(BTW, I'm seriously considering an MP11 too, that is one sweet keybed)
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V0RT3X
KVRAF
 
4042 posts since 3 Jul, 2012

Postby V0RT3X; Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:46 am Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

Look into Reaktor

Yes it is daunting, but if you buy a used copy of reaktor you should also pick up this $10 tutorial to get you started with it. http://www.platinumears.com/reaktortutorials.html
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V0RT3X
KVRAF
 
4042 posts since 3 Jul, 2012

Postby V0RT3X; Sun Jun 22, 2014 10:14 am Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

Another thing you could look into to pair up with reaktor is to get this for the Ipad if you own one.
https://liine.net/en/products/lemur/
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NWS
KVRer
 
5 posts since 21 Jun, 2014, from US

Postby NWS; Sun Jun 22, 2014 10:18 pm Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

Thanks everyone for the advice, I do appreciate it.

Your post has me thinking you would want to use aftertouch


I like the concept behind aftertouch, but in my case a basic requirement is an instrument with a very satisfying touch. My MP8 is barely adequate. I've tried Yamaha's CP4- didn't like it. Their AvantGrand feels pretty nice, but obviously not portable. I still need to try Kawai's MP11, but I'm hoping it will do the job. Now if only Steinway made a controller...

So instead of aftertouch I'm planning on using an array of pedals. I assume assigning various parameters to several pedals should be a piece of cake for most of these programs?

After reading your post and thinking about it my recommendation to you would be to evaluate the following:
1. Omnisphere


I appreciate the careful thought here. You've certainly renewed my interest in Omnisphere, especially if as you say, it does a lot of what I'm looking for. I've read several times that it is the most intuitive synth software out there... if that is true, then it might be at the top of my list.

Look into Reaktor

Yes it is daunting, but...


I'm certainly very interested in Reaktor because of how powerful it seems to be. But my thinking currently is that I might save it for down the road in case I can't get other, simpler software to do what I need.

I'm still going to look into all of the suggestions you have all given me more carefully.

One thing that I've noticed is how satisfying some of the more extreme modifications are in Pianoteq. Overall the program seems to be far too limited sonically for my purposes, but I do love how intuitive and sonically satisfying the instruments remain even as you push them in unreal directions. I assume this is in large part due to the physical modeling nature of Pianoteq. For example the ability to not only control the harmonics, but also the rate at which the high harmonics decay is very much what I'm interested in. My knowledge of synths and samplers is quite basic, but my knowledge is much better when it comes to the physics of sound, the overtone series and more specifically the physics of real instruments. There seems to be so much potential in designing satisfying/complex but completely unreal instruments using this type of "natural" interface.

I've read about Sculpture and a few other physical modeling programs, but does anyone know of a program that takes this to a higher level? If a program like Omnisphere, which seems to have such a great collection of sounds, also let you manipulate these sounds using intuitive physics based modeling interfaces, it might be something of a Holy Grail for me. Or maybe that is basically what Omnisphere is??

Thanks again.
asseca
KVRAF
 
2746 posts since 29 Feb, 2004

Postby asseca; Sun Jun 22, 2014 11:02 pm Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

Maybe have a look at Zebra, it's semi-modular and quite versatile
ghettosynth
KVRAF
 
3969 posts since 13 Oct, 2009

Postby ghettosynth; Sun Jun 22, 2014 11:15 pm Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

NWS wrote:I'm certainly very interested in Reaktor because of how powerful it seems to be. But my thinking currently is that I might save it for down the road in case I can't get other, simpler software to do what I need.


Simply, IMNSHO, you will probably spend too much time trying to get what you want in Reaktor. I agree with whoever suggested that you look into Omnisphere. It seems to me that a lot of what you are trying to accomplish can be achieved with existing instruments mapped in thoughtful ways using splits and layers as well as careful mapping of modulation parameters. I suspect that the patches in Omnisphere will get you halfway there because they are thoughtfully programmed by people with backgrounds similar to your own.

Reaktor has the power to do what you want, but, I suspect that given your background you will have to work far too hard to get to where you want to go. In fact, if you want to get into something deeply, I'd probably argue that Kontakt might be a better thing to dive into. There is an awful lot of low level management in Reaktor that you might find just gets in the way of your goals.

Someone else with more experience with them might comment on the alternatives to Kontakt like Mach 5 or Hallion 5.
pdxindy
KVRAF
 
8656 posts since 2 Feb, 2005, from in the wilds

Postby pdxindy; Mon Jun 23, 2014 12:50 am Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

You might also consider a Korg Kronos

A huge range of synthesis potential. Comes with an 88 key version. Overall more flexible than Omnisphere. It is one integrated unit.
Lotuzia
KVRAF
 
7305 posts since 19 Feb, 2004, from Paris

Postby Lotuzia; Mon Jun 23, 2014 1:39 am Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

Instruments that play well over the entire keyboard range are not always necessary, nor desirable actually. If you take as a reference, amongst others, the classic symphonic orchestra, most instruments have a limited range. A bass guitar can be interesting in the hi range, but mostly it will not be used like this, as a celeste will not play well in the lower octaves.

This said, what you're -partially- looking for are instruments that can map KB tracking to synthesis parameters, like ev SEGMENTS ( Like release or Decay ) etc etc. These possibilities are mandatory to adjust the response of the sounds over the KB range and to achieve semireal or pseudoreal instruments. You can find this in some analog emulations, or FM synths, and of course sampers/romplers, that, according to your specs are more typically the instruments you're looking for. Just have a quick look at the specs/manual of any instrument you're interested in and you should have your answer in a couple of minutes.

As for your Harpsichord/Melow synth blend example, there are parameters to tweak to unify them : Filters, and enveloppes comes to mind first, but overall I'd say that wanting to blend 2 very different instruments into one will make you alter in a very strong way, at least one, if not both, of the instruments. sounds obvious but well ...... :shrug:
http://www.lelotusbleu.fr Soundbanks for Vsti

77 Exclusive Soundbanks for 23 synths, 8 Sound Designers, Hours of audio Demos. The Sound you miss might be there [Xils-Lab Team]
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bmrzycki
KVRAF
 
3194 posts since 11 Aug, 2006, from Austin, TX

Postby bmrzycki; Mon Jun 23, 2014 6:49 pm Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

NWS wrote:So instead of aftertouch I'm planning on using an array of pedals. I assume assigning various parameters to several pedals should be a piece of cake for most of these programs?
From your posts I get the feeling you're background is as a pianist. If this is the case you definitely do not want aftertouch -- it's a completely different feel and playing style than you're used to and doesn't come on piano-feel keybeds (that I'm aware of). Aftertouch comes on semi-weighted and synth feel keybeds, neither of which are anything like a Piano. You're likely already very comfortable with pedals, stick with that. You can use Expression pedals to control most aspects of synths once you learn how to map them in software while you keep your hands on the keys.

I've read about Sculpture and a few other physical modeling programs, but does anyone know of a program that takes this to a higher level? If a program like Omnisphere, which seems to have such a great collection of sounds, also let you manipulate these sounds using intuitive physics based modeling interfaces, it might be something of a Holy Grail for me. Or maybe that is basically what Omnisphere is??
If you're looking for physical modeling then I would have to change my previous recommendation. Omnisphere has a great array of sounds built in but has little to offer in the way of physical modeling. It's got a great DSP engine, but that engine is much more of a traditional synth.

Check out this video for Alchemy's additive editor mode, showing how you can change partials over time:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IDM57W5X7w

It'll take some learning on your part but this may be more what you're interested in, I'm not sure. I don't really know of a tool that you can start with sound X and then decide, "I want to raise the volume of sound's 15-25th partials after 2 seconds".

I have not tried Kaivo by Madrona Labs but it's billed as a tool to make physical modeling accessible, maybe you'll like it:
http://madronalabs.com/products/kaivo

Both those tools have much steeper learning curves than Omnisphere but maybe you'll fall in love with making sounds with them. Try the demos and see if either fits your approach.

Good luck!
-Brian
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NWS
KVRer
 
5 posts since 21 Jun, 2014, from US

Postby NWS; Tue Jun 24, 2014 12:10 am Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

If you take as a reference, amongst others, the classic symphonic orchestra, most instruments have a limited range.


Right, which is why I would want to be able to heavily tweak the sounds at extreme ranges and also layer other, more suitable sounds to crossfade in at various ranges. One way to think about it would be to imagine not just one instrument, but a family of instruments in ensemble- contrabass clarinet, bass clarinet, A clarinet, Eb clarinet...

overall I'd say that wanting to blend 2 very different instruments into one will make you alter in a very strong way, at least one, if not both, of the instruments.


Yes, I'm interested in creating unreal instruments afterall. Thanks for the tips- filters, envelopes, etc.

Check out this video for Alchemy's additive editor mode, showing how you can change partials over time. It'll take some learning on your part but this may be more what you're interested in, I'm not sure.


I'm really not sure precisely what I'm looking for either. I think there are several different routes I could go that would be productive. That is very impressive how Alchemy lets you control harmonics so thoroughly. I do need to investigate it carefully.

Kaivo also looks very interesting- perhaps a lot closer to what I had in mind for physical modeling. I'm certainly going to try these demos. I only wish Omnisphere had a demo as well.

In the end I might start with something like Omnisphere that is more ready to go out of the box, and then explore further with something like Alchemy, Kaivo or perhaps even Kontakt. But in the meantime I'll start testing these things out, and I'll certainly look into the other things mentioned more closely as well (Zebra, Kronos [though I think the action alone would be a deal breaker for me], etc.).

Thanks again Brian and everyone else. I do appreciate it. And if anyone has anymore advice, I'd love to hear it.
pdxindy
KVRAF
 
8656 posts since 2 Feb, 2005, from in the wilds

Postby pdxindy; Tue Jun 24, 2014 1:43 am Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

Ableton Live... The instrument racks are excellent for layering sounds. Fast and efficient and you can use any synths. It is itself a fine performance instrument with individual VST's as building blocks.

Also, no offense, but you are thinking like a piano player. A wind controller does a better job of sounding like a wind instrument than the very best 88 key controller you can buy.

So there are some other controllers to consider.

https://www.roli.com/seaboard/

The Seaboard would allow a level of expressiveness for a variety of instrument types that you could not match with a regular piano controller. Listen to the demo on the home page.

There is also the Haken and the Eigenharp

Cheers
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NWS
KVRer
 
5 posts since 21 Jun, 2014, from US

Postby NWS; Tue Jun 24, 2014 9:28 am Re: Instrument Making Software for Live Performance?

A wind controller does a better job...


Sure, but one thing at a time.

I've looked at the TEControl which I would likely get to experiment with down the road. I'm sure a high end keyboard or two with an array of expression pedals will take me pretty far. I've seen a lot of these alternative midi controllers, some that you've mentioned, the MalletKat, etc. I know the expressive limitations of the piano well, and there is definitely a lot of potential with these other controller types... but there are also a lot of well intended gimmicks out there.

Thanks for your thoughts on Ableton Live. I'll take a close look at it.
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