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Newbie question: Programs that have sounds for midi keyboard

Discussion in 'Recording' started by conn007, Oct 19, 2007.

  1. conn007

    conn007 Guest

    Not sure what forum this belongs on, but... What programs (XP) offer differant sounds to use with a midi/usb keyboard? And what are some of the better ones? Such as the sounds offered in Apple's Garageband, like Grand Pianos, Synths, strings, SFX, etc. Things that can be played with a midi/usb keyboard.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Pretty much any sequencer program that has MIDI in capabilities. You can play sounds through a soundcard with onboard ROM sounds or replaceable sounds...like the dreaded SoundBlaster series...a MIDI module, a PCI, USB or FireWire audio interface using VSTi or DXi "virtual instruments" (if the product allows), or sequence it to play back through the keyboard's sounds...if it has any.

    Some are more MIDI-friendly than others. Sonar and Cubase are popular MIDI/Digital Audio packages...and for good reason. But you can find less expensive alternatives, though probably not as deep.

    If the keyboard has any knobs, wheels or sliders that can map to MIDI functions, it can even be used to control effects through any of the above playback devices...if the device is designed to respond to a particular MIDI message, and the program allows it.

    What, exactly, are you trying to accomplish?

    You don't say what you are trying to play them through for the sound output. What have you connected to your computer that can play back sounds? Do you want to record vocals and real instruments, also?

    More info...more relevant answers :wink:

    Kapt.Krunch
     
  3. conn007

    conn007 Guest

    I would just be playing the sounds through my computer speakers which are Logitech Z-5500's. I have a soundblaster audigy, but for recording I use the Tascam US-428 interface. Basicly what I am trying to do is simulate a keyboard that you can buy at music stores. but just using my computer and a midi keyboard controller through my Tascam interface. Just like you can do in Garageband (except garageband lets you also use your computer's typing keyboard as a musical keyboard). I hope that makes sense.
     
  4. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    You can do just about anything I mentioned in my earlier post. You can use SoundFonts through your Audigy, (and I think through the Tascam interface if you use SynthFont). You can use virtual instruments through either your Audigy or your Tascam...if the software allows it. You could mix and match sounds, if desired. You'd probably need an external mixer to mix the two outputs (The Tascam and Audigy).

    A lot of people here would say nuke the SoundBlaster and stick with running everything through the Tascam. I have an Audigy in one of my computers. It's not used as an audio recording device...it's basically there to mix in MIDI SoundFonts if I want. There's some relatively decent SFs out there, and there's just some wacky stuff that I can't get any other way. Actually, there are literally thousands of SoundFonts freely available...some of the horrid, and some not bad at all. Plus, they can be tweaked with a SoundFont editor.

    The next big question is "What is your budget?" Do you want to spend $500 on a full-blown sequencing/digital audio program? Or, is it less than $100? There's probably even free stuff out there. Do you want to play it in and record the performance, to play back by itself later, so you can add more? You need a sequencing program.

    if you want to use higher quality sounds, you may need to get something that supports VST. You can play pretty much any sound you want using high-quality VSTi packages, or even shareware and freeware. Some are better than others, and it also depends on the type of music you want to make as to what kind of virtual instruments to buy or download.

    My guess is that you probably want to start off inexpensive, and save money for a decent monitoring system so you can toss those Logitechs in the thrift store bin, where they belong.

    Go here:
    link removed
    to learn about VST.

    Go here:
    http://www.hitsquad.com/smm/
    and look for MIDI and Audio sequencing, plug-ins, etc, to see if you can find something suitable.

    Your budget is going to dictate what you can get, and how ell it will work for you. You may even want to start out with something fairly inexpensive. Power Tracks Pro comes to mind:
    http://www.pgmusic.com/ptnewfeatures.htm

    Well, apparently they raised their price from the $29 when I bought it years ago, to $49. I actually started on an early version of this, and learned enough about MIDI to justify buying Cakewalk back then. Learning the piano rolls and event list edit, etc. made the transition much easier, since Cakewalk...now Sonar...may have overwhelmed me with all the additional features. It appears they do offer VST support. They may include ASIO4ALL, or may suggest downloading it. I believe this will work with your Audigy, and possibly the Tascam. For purely MIDI from the Audigy, I wouldn't worry about that. If you plan to run VST instruments or audio through the Audigy, I would look into it. You may have to research that, or maybe someone here knows? You'd definitely want to use that, if possible. It will help with latency, instead of using those nasty SoundBlaster drivers. You may not need it for the Tascam...I don't know.

    BTW, don't try to run linearally-recorded audio tracks through both at the same time...you will have timing issues. Stick with the Tascam for that.

    Basically, look for anything like PT Pro, that offers VST support. You should be able to play it straight through, or record the performance as MIDI, and trigger SoundFonts or VST instruments with the sequencer so you can play along/add more. You should be able to route some MIDI tracks to the Audigy, and some to the Tascam. As in, "I want a snappy snare from my Audigy to mix with this more realistic, but slightly dull VST snare to run through the Tascam, and run them both out through the mixer to my monitors. When I get everything set and mixed, I can render the MIDI as audio, or run it out though some compression and EQ, and back in as a recorded audio track. The possibilities are endless.

    DISCLAIMER: Not responsible for inevitable downloading frenzy and resultant confusion/system crashes by suggesting downloading. AND, I am suggesting downloading stuff legally, NOT cracked software packages. Don't do it, and don't ask about it in here. Trust me on that.

    Be careful what "free" stuff you download. Some of this free stuff is buggy, and may crash even the most robust computer. Some of it has malicious code buried in it. If you are considering downloading anything, do a search to see what people have to say about it first. I believe there's a sticky in one or more of these forums that may list free stuff (VST) that people have found useful.

    You probably want a MIDI sequencing program that supports VST, with audio recording capabilities.

    Since you are obviously just starting out, you want to learn the basics before you mortgage your house for better quality. Since your monitoring is...ummm...how do I put this...."less than quality"...there's no need to put $500 in a program to run through a $25 set of Logitechs. You won't notice the difference much, if at all. Save that money for better monitoring, meanwhile learning the basics of MIDI/Digital Audio recording. After you can get around your program(s) easily and quickly, then you will know enough to feel comfortable choosing from a narrower range of higher end software packages that will do more.

    If I were you, I'd buy a small relatively decent mixer to run the outputs of the Tascam and the Audigy into, and then plug the Logitechs into the oputput of the mixer. Then, you can play around with sounds from the Audigy, and run VSTs, your quirky-but-interesting vocals, and your friend's killer recorded-audio guitar tracks through the Tascam.

    Yes, you could nuke the Audigy altogether...but why...for now? This will help to force you to learn assignments and routings and other different aspects that may come in handy in the long run. You got it? Why not use it? You can still make it as simple as possible, which you'd be forced to do with one or the other. But, if you don't have both and use them, you won't know the fun of mixing that cheezy string SoundFont in behind the VST strings....just for that "extra...whatever".

    Anyone agree? Disagree? Is this leading Conn down the right path?

    Fire away :)

    Kapt.Krunch
     
  5. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    Wow, Kapt, that's a lot of info. This is actually my area of expertise so let me add or recap a few things. Firstly, it sounds as if conn isnt as interested in actually recording the sounds as he is in playing the sounds from his keyboard. If that is the case, you really dont need a sequencer at all. You just need a VST host for vst instruments that dont have a stand-alone mode. However, many virtual instruments do have a stand-alone mode these days.

    Now let me mention a problem you are going to have. I also own the Tascam US-428 and while the quality is not bad, you will suffer some nasty latency for playing vsti's from a keyboard. The best I could get with the updated drivers was about 26 millisecends which is quite noticeable when playing piano or percussive types of sounds. I ended up buying an M-audio delta 1010lt for $200 and that got me down to 6 ms which sounds and feels great. I think that there are even cheaper M-audio cards that are PCI based cards (this is what mine is) and probably any of those would work. I have heard constant complaints about USB interfaces and latency.

    As far as virtual instruments goes, Kapt mentioned KVR which is a great place to start. They have probably literally 1000s of vst instruments listed in thier archives, many free to download and many other program demos of the pay type of vsts.

    If you ARE looking to record midi and capture your performances, you will need a mid sequencer. If you have never owned one, Kapt's suggestion of PG Powertracks is not a bad suggestion. I also started with that program years ago and it helped me understand the concepts of sequencing. Now I have Cubase SX3 and it is a monster but a sexy, beautiful monster and I love it. Should you decide to buy a sequencer, many of the upper class sequencers come with a few vsti's.

    As far as really nice vsti's, there's probably hundreds or thousands of them. You should go to http://www.soundsonline.com and see what they have there. Also Ilio.com and Northernsounds.com. Lot's of great high end stuff. Hope this helps. I'll check back later.
     
  6. conn007

    conn007 Guest

    Wow. thanks for the advice guys. Never expected so much help.

    By the way, For the record, my Logitech speakers aren't the little $25 crap computer speakers, but are the now $300 ($400 when i bought them) 500w 5.1 speakers. I will get myself a seperate monitoring system in the future, but these are good enough for now i think.

    Anyway, thanks for all the help, and i may be back with more questions as i work with this some more.
     

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