Native Instruments and more free stuff

I mentioned free Kore Player by Native Instruments previously in my personal log. The registration process is a bit annoying – but nothing that doesn’t work and it really is worth it. Since then NI came with free Kontakt Player (now upgraded to version 4), Factory Selection for Kontakt – but those instruments work in Kore Player too – and recently they delivered just another free Compilation vol. 2 (or Holiday Selection, whatever you like :-)). This all means that NI offers two lightweighted versions of their products (Kore Player/Kontakt Player) and four sound libraries (counting the one delivered with Kore Player too).

With previous Kontakt Player 3 I had a few issues. There were a few sounds coming with it – but this part of the library worked in demo mode and was disabled after a little while. Not too many sounds, but their “sudden malfunction” rather confused poor nonpaying user. 🙂 Now it seems that Kore Player 4 shows only Factory Selection and I can’t see any additional demo sounds. While Kore Player doesn’t need to be activated, it was displayed in red in NI’s Service Center (don’t forget to install this with either Kore or Kontakt Player!). Version 4 seems to be OK – nice and green. Factory Selection must be activated and the code comes in the mail. Don’t mix both mails with download links as I did – one of them really has activation key. 🙂 I even asked their support about the missing code, only to find out later that they don’t support nonpaying users – but they answered me anyway and the information was helpful. Very nice.

You can find a lot of sounds, effects and (most importantly) instruments there – TONS of various drums, basses, abstract sounds, woods… you just have to go through it by yourself! Check the sounds in Kore Player, try to mess with Sound Variations (those boxes A-H), I’m pretty sure there will be something you’ll like. Of course, the whole SW package eats a lot of megabytes (more than a giga, for sure – maybe two, I don’t care actually), but I recommend you: Give it a shot!

For some strange reason I can’t find Compilation vol. 1 on NI page via search feature – also their page is now often down (probably thanks to users hungry for all of this :-)). But you can always google download of the pack easily. One thing is sure. If I start making some money from music (which I don’t expect though) I’d seriously consider NI software. It is nice and easy to use, there are tons of sounds and VST integration works perfectly – at least in REAPER. Happy holidays!


REAPER Introduction

This time I wanna reference my double-episode about Reaper. It’s really just a quick introduction because it’s not possible to cover any DAW in under 16 minutes, but I wanted to show how to approach some basic tasks in REAPER. Both videos were made with version 2.5x and it was just a few days before Reaper 3 was released. However all covered topics are still valid. In the first video I talk about multi-track recording, how to arm the track, select input… and similar things that are a bit different from Audacity that was covered in first two episodes. I demonstrate how you can record multiple audio tracks and midi tracks at once – something you can’t do with Audacity. Then I quickly go through MIDI editor (which is overhauled in version 3) and I show how to quantize recorded MIDI events:

Episode 3 – REAPER introduction, device setup, recording multiple tracks

Second video (sounds more sleepy as the night was closing in :-)) continues with applying VST effects on a track, than I show how to use VSTi (instrument) to synthesize MIDI tracks and then I move on to envelopes. First I edit volume envelope to achieve fade-out on the track and I explain how to edit envelope with mouse during the process. There are other ways how to edit envelope, you can even record the envelope using MIDI CC (continuous controller). Last example shows how to change a tempo of the song. This is very useful if you want for instance slow song with faster intro or the other way around. When you do things like this, you should plan your song before you record audio tracks, because while MIDI tracks respect the tempo, audio tracks are based on real time. This means that when you change the tempo of the song audio tracks go out of sync.

Episode 4 – REAPER and VST, VSTi and some playing with envelopes

I mentioned (in the video) that I use free VST(i)s. That’s obviously because I’m tight on budget – I can buy things, but music is only my hobby, results are still not convincing 🙂 and there is no point in spending hundreds of bucks on great VSTs. Would they pay off in my case? Certainly not! I mentioned Kore Player in the previous blog post about this topic. This time I’ll mention few of my other favourite VSTs. If you have a hint, or a link to something better – don’t hesitate and post a comment! Blue Cat’s Freeware plugin pack is a nice pack of effects like chorus, flanger or phaser, but there is also spectrum analyzer added in. Another pack of VST effects is provided by mda here – and mda also offers VST instruments – synths and pianos. Not that bad for no money! Finally there are ndc plugs – site with some interesting multi-purpose VST plugins. From them I want to recommend ndcMIDI that can be used to split midi keyboards for instance. With MIDI filter you can allow only some parts of the keyboard to be passed to VSTi synthesizer and when you do so with multiple MIDI tracks you can split your keyboard between various instruments ad lib!

I’ll talk more about interesting free VST(i) plugins also in the following parts, it’s impossible to cover it all – today I named only a few packs with wide range of usage.

Multi-track home recording for free

I’d like to interconnect my YouTube creations with this blog – so this time we’ll be talking about home recording with Audacity. It’s by no means Audacity tutorial – I just want to introduce Audacity and also demonstrate its limitations when you wanna enter the realm where acronyms like VST, MIDI and ASIO rule it all. I have also found out that it’s easier to talk English above beer than to produce the video in English language (don’t forget – I’m a Slovak :-)). I grew fond of short cuts (or cross-fading cuts of my longer speech that wasn’t that good) and it is generally a lot of trying for me. And I expect the viewer to be a bit tolerant to my faults. I came to the conclusion that I should rather write a script before but I’m just way too lazy to do so. However… back to the Audacity.

WTF is multi-track recording? How to plug the microphone into the computer? Newbie warning! (If you know it all watch it only at your own risk or for fun. :-))

First video is just the introduction to a very, very raw way how to get your sound into the computer via soundcard with 1/8″ jack (I meant 3.5 mm, but you know… imperial units are still often used in this world) – that is via typical microphone input available virtually on every computer. When you have a better microphone with XLR connector, you might end up with XLR on the other side of the cable or with 6.3 mm jack (1/4″). In any case you need a converter, jack-jack (in both size directions) are pretty common, XLR-jack is also possible but it’s another complication. Now imagine we have a (semi) serious microphone plugged into the computer (without preamp! It’s a Sin!) just to use my few bucks “Skype” microphone for the rest of the show and to introduce the Audacity.

With this setup I made my first songs – and of course the quality was poor. I’m still not too close to optimal home recording quality, but Audacity with microphone via soundcard is really rather just an emergency solution. However – it works, you can experiment and it does not cost you anything. Except the microphone and the computer of course. And whatever instrument you want to play. Later you find out that it’s not easy to record multiple tracks in sync (unless you’re really very lucky). That’s caused by so called latency. And latency is the core of the second video with Audacity as our main hero:

Audacity, latencies and ASIO. And when we’re talking about Steinberg also some VST is mentioned. In theory.

This time I added intro – it was made in REAPER. “Lead guitar” is actually played on MIDI keyboard and heavily edited later (read: corrected :-)) and I also played a bit with the pan envelope (don’t worry, we might talk about it next time). The rest is mostly about latencies with some conclusion about Audacity in context of ASIO and VST usage. I don’t like the heavy sound of my computer you can hear all the time in the background, but you have to live with that until I buy some other microphone (probably some Koss headphones with microphone on it). I don’t wanna use dynamic microphone shown in the first episode because it’s not that handy. Maybe next time I’ll come up with better setup. Currently I’m not able to get playback from software into the captured video but maybe I’ll overcome it somehow later.

I have also next two videos uploaded already – they are just a short introduction into REAPER and I’ll cover them in some future post. I don’t want to continue in Reaper tutorial, but I wanted to introduce the DAW before I move on to hardware I use. The goal is to cover home recording on extremely tight budget (understand 500-1500 EUR or USD, choice is yours) so don’t expect miracles. But the time is right and it’s really easy now to have a reasonable home recording solution for the price of your choice. To add one more link, there is really awesome and extensive Guide to the Home and Project Studio by Tweak. Funny that I found it after I knew some of those answers (but far from even half of them). Sometimes it’s hard to find a guide when you actually don’t know what to search for. Isn’t it Ironic?