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Randall Petty

Best starting point to learn midi instrument replacement

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I'm creating backing tracks for my band, starting with downloaded midi files.   The first one I've loaded into Cakewalk came from the link below.   Where in the forums or documentation should I start on how to replace things like the guitar tracks with more realistic sounds?    I have very little DAW experience.

Def Leopard: Photograph Midi

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That's always a fun way to practice with your DAW! I do it myself from time to time.

The first two most important points are (1) to always "open" the MIDI file with Cakewalk (to preserve tempo info), never import it, and then (2) save the song as a Cakewalk .cwp project file, otherwise saving it as a .mid file again will cause you to lose a lot of your Cakewalk changes related to the project. You can always export a .mid of the song later, but as long as you intend to work on the song in Cakewalk, keep it in Cakewalk file format.

I took a look at that file you linked, and it should be a good example for a first attempt. It opens up in Cakewalk with 10 MIDI tracks, and one instrument track with the GM synth Cakewalk TTS-1 as the sound module.

There are no rules, so here is how I usually go about it:

Part A: Initial setup

I opened the .mid file in Cakewalk, and since it was GM it opened up the default TTS-1 GM synth and loaded the sounds specified in the file. There are instrument sounds in TTS-1 assigned to the first 6 tracks. It uses track 10 for the drum kit. Tracks 7-9 are unassigned and can be ignored.

Those first 6 MIDI  tracks are assigned to the first 6 slots in TTS-1, respectively. and track 10 is assigned to slot 10 in TTS-1 for the drums. This info is visible if you open up the TTS-1 GUI. The next thing to do is rename your MIDI tracks in the track pane so you know what you are working with. You will be keeping these MIDI tracks around even after you start replacing MIDI instrument sounds, so get comfy with them.

1. Distortion Gt

2. Distortion Gt

3. Picked Bass

4. Distortion Gt

5. Brass 1

6. Fretless Bs

10. Drums

11. Cakewalk TTS-1: This is the instrument track that generates the sounds based on the data in the MIDI tracks above. The output is a stereo audio output with all the sounds mixed down  in the synth. By default this is routing directly to your DAW audio hardware outputs 1 & 2. Optionally you can create a master bus, and other busses later later, if you wish to have more control over output.

Tracks 1-6 are using MIDI channels 1-6 that correspond with slots 1-6 in the synth. Track 10 is using the default MIDI channel 10 for drum sounds.

You will probably want to open up the Console View so you can adjust levels, especially after you start adding new instruments. They will each be sending their own audio output back to the main mixer, and they will probably not be balanced like the audio mix from TTS-1 was.

Part B: Replacing instrument sounds

It will be up to you to obtain suitable replacement instrument plugins for the guitars, basses, and brass synth. The drums aren't terrible, so I would leave them for last.

But to begin let's first create an example with an instrument you already have on hand. So lets start with the Picked Bass on track 3, and replace it with the Cakewalk Studio Instruments Bass. Then you can just repeat this example with appropriate substitutions for the other instruments as needed.

You can use the menu command "Insert > Soft Synth" or the add track (+) button in the track view, and browse to the Cakewalk "SI-Bass Guitar". You want to basically create a new simple instrument track containing the SI-Bass Guitar plugin.

Now look at the top of the track header area and set the track control layout to I/O so that you can see the inputs and outputs available in the track headers.

Go up to track 3 (Picked Bass) and examine the output for that track. You may need to expand the height of the track to see all the settings in the track header. Click on the arrow by the output dropdown box and you will see TTS-1 is checked. You will also see a second choice in the dropdown menu,  SI-Bass guitar. Choose that instead of TTS-1.  That's it! The TTS-1 has been replaced by the SI-Bass Guitar.

You can replace the rest of the instruments in the same way. If you don't have them on hand yet, you may need to do some hunting.  Good luck!

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1 hour ago, msmcleod said:

If you use SI-Bass, remember to transpose +12.

While that is often the case, I did not encounter it with track 3 in this song. I tested it. The picked bass part is written from B-3 and up so it clears the cutoff. Just trying to keep it simple!

And since there is a good chance that the OP reading this might get to track 6,  I just checked on track 6, and the fretless bass part is written from E-2 and up. The E-2 thru B-2 notes are silent in SI-Bass without transposing the part. So +12 transpose in the track inspector fixed that!

Good looking out! Thanks!

While avoiding getting into a discussion on 3rd party instruments earlier, I would highly recommend the free Ample Sound Bass P Lite to anybody needing a decent bass to fill in for TTS-1.  It still needs to be transposed +12 in Cakewalk for some reason, but it sounds so much better! https://www.amplesound.net/en/download.asp

But finding good electric guitars might take  a bit more effort, LOL! :D

Edited by abacab
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7 hours ago, msmcleod said:

Really good free guitar VSTi's:

Acoustic Guitar: https://www.amplesound.net/en/pro-pd.asp?id=7
Electric Guitar: https://impactsoundworks.com/product/shreddage-3-stratus-free/

In both cases, the paid versions offer more articulation options, but the sound quality of both free versions are top notch.

Thanks for that info about the electric.  Looks interesting. But unfortunately that one would cost me $249 to crossgrade to the full Kontakt.

I love that Ample stuff!  I have both the free Martin acoustic and the P-Bass. I liked them so much that I even bought their StingRay 5 with the riffer module. Good sound & big fun!!! The StingRay is picked samples and the P-Bass is fingered, so they complement each other well. Plus you can send MIDI out from the riffer module and play another instrument with it.

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Thanks all.  First  question: would you suggest sticking with the "basic" Lens rather than advanced etc at this point?   

I also looked at a vocal removal filter as a means to get backing tracks for a "jam band" that has trouble getting certain instruments ( drummer ) to show up consistently.    The best I could do with that was reduced vocal ( not eliminated ) without having too much negative effect on the other instruments.  This was working with an mp3, not a midi file, so just one combined track.   For our purposes, reduced vocal might actually be a good idea so the vocal keeps us on track with the song.  Ours is just a jam group with no real plans to play out for an audience ( at this time )

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There's always this:

https://www.dskmusic.com/dsk-electrik-guitarz/

The youtube demo on the page is not very complimentary - you can get much better results.

Alternatively, you could try some of these soundfonts:

https://freepats.zenvoid.org/ElectricGuitar/clean-electric-guitar.html

There's quite a few sf2 players around, e.g.:

https://www.dskmusic.com/dsk-sf2/

 

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3 minutes ago, Randall Petty said:

Thanks all.  First  question: would you suggest sticking with the "basic" Lens rather than advanced etc at this point?  

I would start with the lens drop down set to None

This lets you see the entire UI.

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1 hour ago, msmcleod said:

There's always this:

https://www.dskmusic.com/dsk-electrik-guitarz/

The youtube demo on the page is not very complimentary - you can get much better results.

Alternatively, you could try some of these soundfonts:

https://freepats.zenvoid.org/ElectricGuitar/clean-electric-guitar.html

There's quite a few sf2 players around, e.g.:

https://www.dskmusic.com/dsk-sf2/

 

I  auditioned the electric guitars in AIR Xpand!2, and they work OK in this mix. I ended up using the guitar preset named "Les Paul Lead" for all 3 guitar tracks.

Xpand!2 is a 4 part multi-timbral ROMpler synth with over 2500 presets to choose from. It is a quick way to replace TTS-1 sounds, without spending big bucks. It is on sale right now at JRR Shop for $14.99, or in the cart with discount code "GROUP" for $12.59. https://www.jrrshop.com/air-music-tech-xpand-2

I setup one instance of Xpand!2 using all 4 instrument parts with MIDI channels assigned 1-4. I put parts 1-3 as that guitar preset and assigned the distortion guitar MIDI tracks to them using MIDI channels 1-3. Then I used the 4th part for the synth brass stabs "Bright n Bendy".

I went back and gave both bass parts their own instance of Ample Bass P Lite. Sounds much cleaner and more realistic than TTS-1 bass.

Then I finally added XLN Addictive Drums 2 to replace the TTS-1 drums, using the "United Heavy" ADpack, and set the AD2 drum map to GM mode.

TTS-1 all replaced in the song! Not too bad, but could use some mixing now, LOL!

So if you were just looking for some backing tracks to jam with, you could mute the parts that you had live players for, and run with the rest of the mix for the absent players.  :D

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And just a footnote for anybody attempting to substitute TTS-1 with Xpand!2 (or any other synth that responds to patch change messages).

If you are using  a GM MIDI file, be aware that bank and patch changes in tracks that worked fine in TTS-1 can mess with you elsewhere.

To fix this, set your track header view to "ALL" and clear out the bank and patch changes in any tracks you intend to route to Xpand!2, or any presets that  you have assigned in the synth will change as soon as you hit play on the Cakewalk transport. Don't ask me how I know, ha!

These patch changes got loaded from the GM file header into the Cakewalk track headers when you opened the MIDI file. But if you stop using a GM synth for the tracks, it can become a pain if you forget about this when using another synth that responds to patch change messages.

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Thanks again.

I also looked at a vocal removal filter as a means to get backing tracks for a "jam band" that has trouble getting certain instruments ( drummer ) to show up consistently.    The best I could do with that was reduced vocal ( not eliminated ) without having too much negative effect on the other instruments.  This was working with an mp3, not a midi file, so just one combined track.   For our purposes, reduced vocal might actually be a good idea so the vocal keeps us on track with the song.  Ours is just a jam group with no real plans to play out for an audience ( at this time )

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Uploaded images get resized making them difficult to see if they contain too much data. Use an image server (ex. imgur.com) and post links to the images bounded by img tags to have images display without resizing.

 

What I can tell from the image is track 11 is an instrument track. An instrument track is a hybrid make up of a MIDI track and audio track where the MIDI input section and audio output sections are displayed as a single track. If you want to use the instrument track as is, select the MIDI clips in track 4 and while holding the SHIFT key drag the clips into the instrument track 11.

Another way to use the existing track is right-click in the track 11 header and choose split instrument track, delete the MIDI track created from track 11, set the track 4 output to the DSK Electrik GuitarZ and set the input on the audio track created from track 11 to DSK Electrik GuitarZ

 

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37 minutes ago, scook said:

Uploaded images get resized making them difficult to see if they contain too much data. Use an image server (ex. imgur.com) and post links to the images bounded by img tags to have images display without resizing.

 

What I can tell from the image is track 11 is an instrument track. An instrument track is a hybrid make up of a MIDI track and audio track where the MIDI input section and audio output sections are displayed as a single track. If you want to use the instrument track as is, select the MIDI clips in track 4 and while holding the SHIFT key drag the clips into the instrument track 11.

Another way to use the existing track is right-click in the track 11 header and choose split instrument track, delete the MIDI track created from track 11, set the track 4 output to the DSK Electrik GuitarZ and set the input on the audio track created from track 11 to DSK Electrik GuitarZ

 

There's no need to move the MIDI clips anywhere, or to fuss with the instrument track.

The easiest answer is to just point the original MIDI track to the  new instrument track.

To do that just look in the MIDI track header at the "output" selector and switch it from the current instrument to the new one.  Note: If the output selection is not showing, you can adjust the track control layout to either "All" or "I/O" to see them, which may require expanding the track view height to see all options.

Done!   :D

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Pointing the MIDI track to the instrument track is expedient and will work but denies the OP a clear understanding of how the DAW is intended to be used.

The reason the OP ended up with an instrument track in the first place is because they selected the wrong options when inserting the synth or used the Add Track menu which does not provide the most flexible track setup when adding a synth to a project. When working with existing MIDI tracks the best way to add a synth is not with the Add Track menu but any of the other methods that use the "Insert Soft Synth Options" dialog. These include Inserting a synth from the main menu, from the track view context menu, the synth rack or dragging the synth from the browser. All of these will display the "Insert Soft Synth Options" dialog allowing the user to select the track(s) they want to add to the project. In this case, it would just be an audio track. Then after adding the synth with audio track and pointing the MIDI output to the synth, the user can convert that to an instrument track by clicking on either the MIDI or audio track selecting make instrument track, if that is how they choose to work.

While I have no problem with down and dirty solutions when one understands what they are doing, shortcuts like this are a disservice to one just starting out and trying to learn how the DAW works.

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The thing with Cakewalk is that there are always like 4 ways to do something, and everyone has their own personal opinion of "best"  or "correct".

I stated that there are no rules, and I'm sticking with that!

Signed,

"Down and dirty"

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It is true, often there are several ways to accomplish the same thing and there may be no best way. That said, I seriously doubt you have ever created an empty instrument track and only used it to play an existing MIDI track.

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25 minutes ago, scook said:

That said, I seriously doubt you have ever created an empty instrument track and only used it to play an existing MIDI track.

That is typically how I roll with VST instrument plugins, especially if they are mono-timbral. I just find it easier to stay organized that way. But hey, maybe it's just me.

And I started over 20 years ago in Cakewalk with external MIDI synth hardware and rack modules, so I know a thing or two about inserting synths.

 

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