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Al Robbins

Kontact - do you mix using just MIDI, no audio?

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I have been considering purchasing Kontact. I recently watched a YouTube video of Mike from Creative Sauce explaining multiple methods of how to set up Kontact in Cakewalk - very informative.  I have used Cakewalk strings, Addictive Drums 2, the Cakewalk piano, Dimension, etc., all the virtual instruments that came with Sonar Platinum (cool of bandlab to let them all transfer when they took over). 

Kontact is a sampler - I understand that, different than the virtual instruments I have. I have always created the MIDI for my virtual instruments, tweaked it if needed, and then recorded it to audio, archive the midi track, delete the synth from the synth rack, then begin the mixing process. 

When using Kontact, do you not record to audio? Instead, mix the MIDI? Just curious how other people do the mixing because I have never mixed just with the MIDI. I always mix with the audio. Am I using the wave file on track view as a crutch?  I have about 30 years experience in analog mixing and 3 years of digital mixing experience. 

Shameless plug - link to one of my soundcloud songs I mixed and attempted to master so you can hear my skills or more like lack thereof - I know, the mixing is terrible.  But, wow, do I enjoy it. 

I have written a plethora of scores for orchestra music since I was in high school all the way to present day. It would killer to finally get them all recorded and Kontact seems like the best solution. 

So, I came to the experts - do you just mix using MIDI when using Kontact?

You guys always provide excellent help!

Thanks,

 

Al

 

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This is only my opinion so take it as you would like. I usually leave things in midi formation while I am writing and arranging a song. Then, when I am ready to mix, I bounce to audio and treat everything like I recorded it to audio files. This way I am not tempted to continually tweak things.  There are times I will bound to audio sooner if system resources get low.

I think the best thing is to experiment and then evaluate which methods seem to work for you.

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1 hour ago, reginaldStjohn said:

This is only my opinion so take it as you would like. I usually leave things in midi formation while I am writing and arranging a song. Then, when I am ready to mix, I bounce to audio and treat everything like I recorded it to audio files. This way I am not tempted to continually tweak things.  There are times I will bound to audio sooner if system resources get low.

I think the best thing is to experiment and then evaluate which methods seem to work for you.

That makes sense to me - you could keep tweaking and changing forever! 

Sometimes, it’s fine to commit and move on. 

At first I thought you might not be able to convert (record) MIDI to audio with Kontact. 

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14 hours ago, Al Robbins said:

I have been considering purchasing Kontact.

See if you can wait until the next sale. I got it for $124, as crossgrade from a qualifying purchase (easy/cheap to do), during one of their 50% off sales. If you consider some of the amazing sample libraries it allows you to use, it's quite a bargain. 

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I habitually turn midi to audio, copy and paste the audio to another track, then archive the midi only track.  That works for me.

 

also, NI does sales twice a year.  Wait for the summer sale around the 4th of July.  Worth the savings.  And some of the NI synth packages are well worth the price, esp. if your soft synth collection isn’t great.  You can hear massive x all over movies etc.  if you listen.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Alan Tubbs said:

You can hear massive x all over movies etc.  if you listen.

Not exactly, what you hear in movies as far as synths and hybrid scoring are synths like u-He Diva, Zebra (Regular and Hans Zimmer editions), Omnisphere and Serum. Unfortunately, Massive X had been received not as well as expected, due to it not leapfrogging Serum in terms of features and UX design.

Edited by Freyja Grimaude-Valens

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15 hours ago, Nigel Mackay said:

Kontakt is irrelevant. You bounce MIDI to audio, end of story. 😀

That is my assessment as well! 

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To be honest, I keep things as MIDI as long as I can. I'll only bounce to audio if I'm running low on CPU, or it's time to mix.... and the main reason I bounce at mix time is to stop me making further tweaks!
 

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I also tend to leave MIDI 'live' until mix time at least, and often all the way to final rendering of the Master bus.  This doesn't preclude mixing with audio, which I mostly do. In the case of  a multitimbral synth or sampler like Kontakt, it just means setting up to use multiple audio outputs so you can have control of the individual audio streams. 

I was recently reminded that one reason I like to leave the MIDI live is that I can start playback anywhere, and it picks up cleanly with no sound carrying over from the previous measure/beat. I don't use a lot of continuously droning pads, so this works fine for me most of the time, and just sounds more natural - like asking the band/orchestra to pick it up somewhere in the middle of a piece.

Plus there's just something cool and inspiring about knowing that the audio is being generated in the moment through the 'miracle'  of MIDI.  ;^)

One caveat: It's a good idea to freeze/bounce/record everything at some point in case you eventually lose access to a synth/patch for one reason or another, and can't get 'that sound' back.  Don't ask me how I know this.

 

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As primarily a keyboardist I often have the keyboard set up to track both an audio and  midi track. If the audio coming from the keyboard is something that really fits I'll track both.

I mostly track  guitars as audio but since getting hold of a few decent guitar libraries I've been more prone to just use one of those if it sounds good. As someone else already mentioned, I could potentially drag the audio parts to midi. One DAW I use doesn't let me write volume automation to a midi track so I'll often "freeze" that track.

KONTAKT is not only a sample library player but a merge point of sorts and the place where you select whether you want to play a multi or a single instrument. You can play all sounds as one on one channel or you can set each sound up on it's own midi channel. Things can easily "go south" when selecting, labeling and directing audio out of KONTAKT. Don't ask me how I know that. Two things made KONTAKT really frustrating for me in the early days of it. NI still had some streamlining to do on their code for efficiency and computers weren't half what they are today.  Back then there was no way I could load any kind of heavy library ( in terms of disk size) and have it play well. Both KONTAKT and computers have come a long way but NI still does frustrating things such as removing features from older versions that people used and didn't want removed. 

Most people who use KONTAKT professionally are staying in the midi domain until the very end. They can do that sort of thing at high track counts if they have a computer that will handle it. I wish software makers would give a minimum spec that really works with more than a few tracks.  If the intention is to make big productions you will need a well spec'd computer.

All of this works well for one man or woman ITB setups. I still think the best albums were made using real people playing real instruments. A decent musician can visualize how something is "supposed" to sound and make ITB compositions that fool just about everyone. That's at least part of it if you're going for realism in knowing how a real musician playing that particular instrument would play, what keys they might be in etc. 

TBH although the sounds that come with CbB are decent for a beginner I think anyone who is getting serious about making a more realistic presentation ITB should be looking at something like KONTAKT...don't forget though, there are lots of alternatives to KONTAKT as well. There's the older ENGINE player, SampleTank, UVI, Garratain has a built in player. Spitfire moved away from KONTAKT recently by using their own player.Many DAWS have a built in player for basic sounds that sometimes works very well. There are lots of others.

I think the main draw to KONTAKT for those working on a professional level using lots of tracks is it's all in one easy to manage environment and is usually fairly stable. If you integrate the NI controller into that environment you have access to everything fast. Smaller ITB setups can add whatever they want to add randomly and if you only have 10-20 tracks you can make some great work on an average computer. 

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19 hours ago, Freyja Grimaude-Valens said:

Not exactly, what you hear in movies as far as synths and hybrid scoring are synths like u-He Diva, Zebra (Regular and Hans Zimmer editions), Omnisphere and Serum. Unfortunately, Massive X had been received not as well as expected, due to it not leapfrogging Serum in terms of features and UX design.

And you will  hear others not listed .  As well as  hardware synths.  And non virtual instruments, too.

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48 minutes ago, Alan Tubbs said:

And you will  hear others not listed .  As well as  hardware synths.  And non virtual instruments, too.

Oh yes, I heard tales of modular synth racks the size of cathedrals.

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Thanks everyone for all the help and advice.

Got another question - everything I have researched so far indicates to download Kontact 6 to my DAW’s C drive, but to download any sample libraries to a different hard drive since they can be ridiculously large - the reason I found was so it does not slow down your computer’s performance. So, I could use an external SSD for the sample libraries and just plug in that external SSD to a USB port on my computer right? I assume you tell Kontact where to look for the sample libraries - is that correct? 

Also I have an Alesis V49 MIDI controller that I set up in Cakewalk preferences to recognize - works fine with all of my virtual instruments already. Do you have to use a Native Instruments MIDI controller with Kontact 6? Or will the Alesis V49 work fine with Kontact 6?  

I still consider myself a beginner with all the digital audio engineering - just know enough to be dangerous! 

Thanks,

Al

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Posted (edited)

A separate samples drive is useful, but not strictly necessary if you have space available on your main drive. An external SATA SSD will be less beneficial than an internal m.2 NVME type in terms of performance.  If your PC is a desktop, you should look into the capability of your MOBO to support an internal drive, either onboard or via a PCIe adapter.

The Alesis will work fine with KONTAKT.

 

Edited by David Baay
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As regards Kontakt libraries, you can put them anywhere. When you get a new library you tell Kontakt "Add Library" and point to it.

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Much appreciated for the help Nigel and David.  See, I have to look up what a m.2 NVME type is and what MOBO means. But my computer knowledge is not so bad as you have to ask “is your computer turned on?” Ha! Ha! 

I plan to get Kontact this afternoon and then will likely a flood of stupid questions on NI’s forum and here....but I will read the manual too, ha! 

Thanks again for the help.

Al

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I would recommend, for now, that you get the free Kontakt player first, and then purchase any of the Kontakt player instruments that you'd like to use. This does 2 things. First, it will give you time to get a feel for using Kontakt in your workflow, and secondly, purchasing an official Kontakt player library will grant you a $150 discount when upgrading to the full version. This is going to compound when it gets on sale for 50% off during the summer sale, and suddenly you're looking at spending $125 for Kontakt instead of $399. Which, if you were budgeting $400 for the software, will leave you with $275, minus what you already spent for your first Player library, to buy extra instrument libraries.

It gets even better if you're looking for a drum library because these two libraries are free AND grants you the crossgrade pricing.

Edited by Freyja Grimaude-Valens
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