Now that we have ascertained the basics of what we need to get started in the first blog post: “Getting Started: Use Your Computer in Live Performance” let’s tackle the next important thing we need….SOFTWARE! In this post I will list a few free applications that I have became fairly common with.
A VST(virtual studio technology) is a virtual instrument or plugin that integrates into audio softwares and emulates the sound and functionality of physical instruments, synthesizers and other hardware. It normally comes in the form of what we call a “plugin” which needs a “host” software or DAW(Digital Audio Workstation) to plug into in order to function. There are several host applications that run “standalone” and DAW’s on the market that can host your VSTs.
Who doesn’t love free stuff? These are several free applications you can download let’s have a brief look at a few of them, their functionality, and pros and cons.
Native Instruments Kontakt Player -Free
The Kontakt Player is a must have, is free and is cross-platform. It is probably one of the most powerful VST host softwares on the market capable of hosting all of the hundreds of instrument libraries that have been created for it by multiple companies. Native Instruments has thousands of instruments that they’ve created as well as companies like 8Dio, Gospel Musicians, EWQL, Symphobia, Sample Logic and many more. Native Instruments offers a free factory selection that comes with about 50 basic instruments. You can expand your Kontakt library rather inexpensively. Native Instruments has a Komplete Elements library that contains the best of all of the libraries they make for around $50(USD). You can also purchase the Komplete Ultimate library that contains every library they make for about $999.00(USD). There are also tons of companies like the aforementioned that have curated hundreds of libraries with different sounds and different price points. Some libraries can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars! But, a quick google search for “free Kontakt instruments” will provide a list of resources. As you can see, you can purchase a few libraries of sounds and a small controller for less than the price of a high-end keyboard from Yamaha, Korg, or Roland. Kontakt can run in standalone mode(with out any third party software) or as an audio plugin that will work with any of the DAW applications on the market. There are many other advanced features and routing options available with Kontakt but we will not cover them in this post.
-Tons of Free sounds
-Can run independent of any third party software.
-Works with all major DAW Applications
-Library of sounds can be acquired rather inexpensively
-Some Libraries are very expensive
-Some Kontakt instruments have a steep learning curve
IK Multimedia Sampletank -FREE
Sampletank by Ik Multimedia is another powerful (and free) VST host application capable of playing sound libraries. It too like Kontakt has a richly developed library of soundpacks of strings, pianos, synths, etc. that is easily and inexpensively expandable. The free version comes with a starter library of about 205 sounds from just about every instrument class. The interface, while not as intuitive or as graphical as Kontakt is user friendly. This application is cross-platform, runs as a standalone program and is available as a VST plugin for use in most DAW applications. One downfall is that it is 32-bit application so it is currently not compatible for use with applications such as ProTools 11, Logic Pro X or any other application that requires 64-bit plugins. Otherwise, this is another solid, Free, expandable application that can be used in live performance.
-Comes with a couple hundred free sounds to get started
-Can run Standalone or as an audio plugin in DAW applications
-Easliy and inexpensively expandable
-Extensive libraries of expandable sounds.
-Stock sounds are a bit “dated”
-No 64-bit application support
-Interface is not as intuitive
Apple GarageBand X -Free
Apple’s GarageBand has been on the scene for quite a few years and is a solid DAW application. The reason I’m listing this application is because it comes with a great library of hundreds stock sounds that can sound great in a live performance. The Kontakt player can be opened inside of this software as a plugin and you can have access to all of your Kontakt libraries from within GarageBand. It comes with tons of effects like reverbs, delays, guitar effects, etc. But one feature that makes GarageBand shine is called Drummer. Drummer is a virtual drummer on your computer capable of playing some complex and realistic articulations from many different styles and genres. If you tend to play by yourself a lot or have a drummer that’s finicky or tends not to show, then drummer is perfectly capable of being a replacement drummer for your performance, service, or set. Without getting too deep into the complexities of how to use this part of the software, using drummer is fairly easy. You set your tempo, pick your style of music(rock, alternative, R&B) pick your Drummer, pick a preset and then start tweaking/ playing with it. Because this application is a multitrack DAW, it gives you the ability to create your own backing tracks for usage in your own live shows. Sadly, this is a Macintosh only application, meaning that it will not run on a windows based machine. But if you are a musician and own a Mac this is a wonderful choice for use in live performance.
-Comes with hundreds of stock sounds
-Kontakt player will run as plugin inside the application as well as any other VST Audio Unit plugins you have.
-Virtual Drummer software
-Comes with an entire Effects Suite
-Not Cross platform.
-Will not run 32-bit plugins
I will be doing another blog post in a few days to talk about a few of the paid programs that can be used in live performance as well.