For those that might be new to the world of creating music all on your computer or new to the world of synthesis and sampling, I thought a brief mention of what I use would be in order. There are many very good comparable products available from many sources, but for the cost, the unified look & feel and overall quality, I really like Native Instruments and their products. If you want everything, then Komplete Ultimate 9 is the one to get. You can spend years playing around and putting this software to use. It is pricey, but consider it a worthwhile investment, especially if you anticipate making money from your music or as an educational investment. But, if you don’t want to spend that much, individual parts are available.
The main components:
Kontakt – Sampler and playback. Includes a lot of ‘default’ sounds in addition to libraries mentioned below
Reaktor – A modular synthesizer with lots of instruments and, best of all, the ability to create your own instruments.
Massive – wavetable synthesizer, great for bass and leads
Absynth – semi-modular, great for pads and abstract sounds
FM8 – FM synthesizer and more
Battery 4 – A drum sampler, player than can be used for more than just drums
Guitar Rig 5 – A creative effects rack with 17 amps & cabinets, 54 effects and lots of capability
With just the above programs and their factory content, you can do more than enough to get really great sounds. Kontakt & Reaktor are the main ‘engines’ on which most of the rest of the content relies.
With Kontakt, there various libraries that come with Ultimate (or are available separately). Those include Strings & Cinematic libraries like Session Strings, Session Horn, Session Strings Pro, Damage, Evolve and Evolve Mutations 1 & 2. If you want to do anything for TV, Film, video games or just generally dramatic music, these are great. For retro sounds there is Retro Machines MK2. There are several drum packages in the Abbey Road series including Vintage, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s & modern drummer. There is also a Studio drummer. These drum packages give you drum kits, thousands of midi grooves and effects appropriate to those eras. To round out the drums, there is a West African drum collection, Balinese gongs and samples from Maschine. If that weren’t enough, there are several electric bass instruments and guitar. Finally, there are keyboard libraries. These include classic rock organ (B3), several grand pianos, upright pianos, including The Giant, electric pianos, retro keyboards, and a soul loop library.
With Reaktor, the instruments included are: Razor, a great additive synth; Reaktor Prism, a modal synth; Reaktor Spark, a dynamic subtractive synth; Skanner XT, part synth, part sampler; Monark, a new analog emulation similar to a mini-moog. Remember, these are just the added libraries that come with Reaktor. Reaktor itself has hundreds of synths, samplers, sequencers & effects including in the base package.
On top of all of that, NI includes numerous effects as plug-ins ready to be inserted into your DAW. (It should be noted that many of the above products include versions of these plug-ins as part of their implementations). These include a variety of solid state and tube emulations of compressor/limiters, EQ, reverb, gates, transient master, driver (distortion & filter effect), The Finger & The Mouth for live performance or studio manipulation of sound; and Reflektor, another reverb.
If you’re just getting started and don’t want to invest in all of these sounds just yet, I would recommend either Kontakt or Reaktor depending on your interest. If you want to design your own synths and get into the world of sound design, then go with Reaktor. If playback and maybe taking sounds you already have and making into an instrument is for you, then Kontakt. Each of these are available in a free versions with limits on what you can do with them. But, they do come with sounds that can be used in a production. Think of them as demos to get your feet wet before deciding what to do.
As to learning about them, the manuals that come with Ultimate are pretty good. There are also videos from various sources. I have some on my YouTube channel (as shown below). I also like Groove3.com for their tutorial series.
In addition to the tips you can find on my YouTube channel, I offer this. To start with, for the synths, take any piece of music you are familiar with, load it into your favorite midi sequencer or midi track of your DAW and start assigning different instruments to it. For effects, use an audio track with GuitarRig or the plugins. Mess around with the various knobs on the software and/or use automation in your DAW in order to vary the sounds. Personally, I use the Reaper DAW. Great for the price and great for what it can do.
I’ve been using Ultimate 9 since it came out and am very impressed with it. As an updater from a previous version, I think there are just enough new products included to make the upgrade worthwhile (assuming you didn’t buy any of the libraries when they came out individually over the past year or so). The effects package and Battery 4 definitely deserve a good going through.
I’ve uploaded a new video to YouTube. This is a recording of the piece What Wondrous Love Is This that I arranged for orchestra. The hymn tune is from the early 1800’s in Appalachia and is found in Southern Harmony, 1835. It is still used today in many churches and instrumental versions, like this, are also used in secular schools for its historical aspect.
This recording is done via software instruments (although most of you would have thought they were real if I hadn’t said anything). I used instruments from the Native Instruments Kontakt 5 factory library as well as Session Strings Pro. I layered the string sounds so each instrument in the string section had 3 to 5 different instruments. They were mixed together to get the final sound. For the reverb I used two instances of Guitar Rig 5, one for the strings and their reverb and all other instruments.
The orchestra sheet music is available for purchase at my website. The instrumentation is for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, French Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Triangle, Violins, Violas, Cellos, Double Bass and Guitar (or Harp). See the catalog description for details about substitute instruments and keyboard reductions.
If you have any questions or comments, you can leave them on the YouTube page or here.
This features VST instruments Plex2, FM8 and Massive. The piece is entirely done in MIDI. The video also looks at automation of both the VST parameters via MIDI controllers (CC) as well as Reaper’s built in automation.
A full tutorial on all of this would take several hours, but this is hopefully a good introduction to the subject. If you are interested in seeing more detailed videos on specific topics covered, comment on the video at YouTube or leave a comment here.
Native instruments released a big update, almost like a new version, of their entire Abbey Roads Drums series. The names now add the word Drummer to them. The new versions add the mixer and grove parts of their Studio Drummer product. The entire series update includes the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and Modern drums.
I put together a quick video showcasing some of the features of the 70’s version.
A quick post to let everyone know what’s new. A few new titles on the website, some new mp3 files and sheet music to one of those recordings. See this link for more information. A reminder, if you are a composer/arranger or a recording artist who would like another opportunity to sell your music, we are accepting submissions for publication. See the website for details.
See our other posts for the latest YouTube videos. I am soliciting suggestions for future videos. What would you like to see? Some categories I have in mind are: Music theory; Native Instruments Komplete 8; Reaper DAW; Sibelius 7; Slide shows with my original music as background music; All about scales; piano lesson related. What do you think?
In addition to the recordings and sheet music at the website, I play organ for and direct a choir at a local small church. See the 1611 KJV blog entry for more. That is keeping me busy with our involvement in the christmas music program that a number of churches put on for the community. It is little more than 5 or 6 churches getting together and singing some Christmas music for one another. I’ve heard some people say it is the greatest community music event they’ve heard (they don’t get out much) and even one person, a professional musician from the Netherlands comment that she had never imagined choirs could sound so bad. But, whether it’s the greatest thing since sliced toast or the worse things since ?, it and all the special music that goes into the Advent & Christmas keeps me busy and away from doing YouTube videos or getting new material on the website.
I welcome feedback as to what you’d like to see in the way of new sheet music, new recordings, YouTube videos, piano lessons, etc. Please leave a comment.
The soundtrack is an original piece originally written as a school assignment (years ago) to accompany a section of a cartoon. It has since undergone some revision. The music was written for Flutes (including Alto), Saxophones, French Horn, Trumpets, Guitar, Electric bass, drums and piano. The somewhat odd instrumentation was due to the requirement’s of the school assignment.
The music was originally written using MusicPrinter+ (anyone remember that?), Finale (97?), then converted to Sibelius 6, then Sibelius 7.
The recording of the music used the Reaper DAW for recording & mixing. I used a few Native Instruments products (Kontakt 4, Komplete 7) and built in effects in reaper.
The video part shows some still images put together to make a video of the day in the life of The Cat. The video portion is not as important as the music.
The sheet music and a full mp3 recording can be found at JamesGilbertMusic.com
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