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Old Jan 27, 2013, 03:22 PM   #1
masterofbuckets
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First foray into making music...question about virtual instruments and keyboards

Hello,

As someone who has always thought of creating music but never actually got around to start doing it, I have reached a point where the urge is a bit too much :P

So, I am not trained in any instruments nor do I have a background in music theory.

But, I have always been interested in synthesizers/workstations where you have an arsenal of sounds to play with and just explore your sonic tendencies. I then discovered Native Instruments Komplete 8 software and from watching YouTube videos of it, I am quite amazed as how much stuff is in there !

Now, my n00b question is: Can I play these virtual instruments using any keyboard MIDI controller ?

e.g if I buy a Novation MiniNova or a Roland Juno Gi then would I able to play the Komplete 8 instruments ( and any other virtual instruments that I get in the future ) via these keyboards ? If so, does it matter whether I have Garageband ? Of course, most of these keyboards come with a lite version of a DAW like Cubase, Ableton etc but is there an absolute need for it for basic music production ?

Apologies if the thread is in the wrong section and would appreciate any feedback.

Thanks
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Old Jan 27, 2013, 08:12 PM   #2
polaris20
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If you're goal is to strictly play the sounds in the box only, you don't need a hardware synth with inboard sounds. Just get a decent MIDI controller with USB (I've got an M-Audio Axiom 49) and it works great.

Komplete is a pretty awesome set, I like NI stuff a lot.

IIRC you can play all the VI's without a DAW host, buying you want to record, you'll need GB or something like Logic, Studio One, etc n
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 12:32 PM   #3
spoonie1972
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>>Now, my n00b question is: Can I play these virtual instruments using any keyboard MIDI controller ?

Yes. I recommend the cheapest thing you can get away with that has touch sensitivity and at the very least, a joystick/modulation wheel setup. don't worry too much about assignable knobs. M-Audio may be a good place to start - look for a used on on craigslist. heck, you might be able to find a radium or oxygen model one (with all the extra knobs) cheap as well. shop around.

>>e.g if I buy a Novation MiniNova or a Roland Juno Gi then would I able to play the Komplete 8 instruments ( and any other virtual instruments that I get in the future ) via these keyboards ? If so, does it matter whether I have Garageband ? Of course, most of these keyboards come with a lite version of a DAW like Cubase, Ableton etc but is there an absolute need for it for basic music production ?

If you're considering the purchase of Komplete 8 (i myself have komplete 8 ultimate) - you won't need a "hardware" synth to make its own noises, let the computer do all that for you. Just get a controller - a used one will work fine.

Fact is, logic9 is available for $200 on the app store. it has an astounding number of great "VSTI's" built in - and they sound great. While i'm not terribly fond of the sample and loop content that it comes with, you can still do A LOT with it if you're creative. I'd start with that before dropping more $ on, what I imagine is now, an aging set of instruments in Komplete8; they have to be considering a new package for 9 or 10 (sometimes they skip generations for this package).

Also, Logic is a terrific (if a bit bloated) full-featured sequencer with nothing to apologize for. It can do it all.
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Old Jan 28, 2013, 09:07 PM   #4
masterofbuckets
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Thanks guys !

I indeed have velocity/aftertouch as a requirement for any keyboard controller I get. I have my doubts about buying a used controller ( even though I am on a tight budget) as this is my first time investing in music hardware/software, I want the proper warranty and all. With time, I may get comfortable grabbing used stuff when I know more about my preferences and have some experience.

Logic Pro should be good as I will be working with a MacBook Pro. Looks feature rich and great value for the money !!

Buying Komplete 8 should allow me to upgrade to future versions when I want to hopefully. As a beginner, I don't think I'll really run out of instruments or feel they are not what I want anytime soon unless I want some very specific sounds.

And thats the fun part, I don't know what I'll make but lets see how it all aligns.
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Old Jan 29, 2013, 09:16 AM   #5
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Best luck!

I'd recommend holding off on Komplete8 - only because there is *so much stuff to learn* within Logic itself.. that you may be overwhelmed and not even get to it.

But, it's your money. Have fun no matter what you do.

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Old Jan 30, 2013, 12:21 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by masterofbuckets View Post
Thanks guys !

I indeed have velocity/aftertouch as a requirement for any keyboard controller I get. I have my doubts about buying a used controller ( even though I am on a tight budget) as this is my first time investing in music hardware/software, I want the proper warranty and all. With time, I may get comfortable grabbing used stuff when I know more about my preferences and have some experience.

Logic Pro should be good as I will be working with a MacBook Pro. Looks feature rich and great value for the money !!

Buying Komplete 8 should allow me to upgrade to future versions when I want to hopefully. As a beginner, I don't think I'll really run out of instruments or feel they are not what I want anytime soon unless I want some very specific sounds.

And thats the fun part, I don't know what I'll make but lets see how it all aligns.
What's your budget for the controller, and do you want an 88 key one or is a smaller one okay?

If I were you, I'd invest in a high quality controller and save the virtual instruments later. As the above poster said, there is a lot to play with in Logic, and it comes with a decent amount of instruments.
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 12:24 AM   #7
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I have an 88 key Roland that has just about every sound you'd need...But it's a stage size instrument. The smaller KB's are just the thing these day's.
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 12:26 AM   #8
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I have an 88 key Roland that has just about every sound you'd need...But it's a stage size instrument. The smaller KB's are just the thing these day's.
Fantom? I played on one of those a few months ago. Really nice instrument. I currently have a Yamaha Motif XF8 and a CP33. I use the Motif for arranging music, and the CP33 is for practicing and gigs with Mainstage.
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 12:35 AM   #9
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Fantom? I played on one of those a few months ago. Really nice instrument. I currently have a Yamaha Motif XF8 and a CP33. I use the Motif for arranging music, and the CP33 is for practicing and gigs with Mainstage.
Yep, the Roland is one heck of a tool, but I don't work stage any more, and it's just too big for my studio Been trying to sell it, but the smaller stuff rules the roost now..I'd buy one, but then I'd have even less space!!
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 12:36 AM   #10
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Whatever you get make sure you get a sustain pedal. I can't do anything without that.

But then again I've been trained on pianos .
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 12:37 AM   #11
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My keyboards and mixing setup basically takes up all the space in my room! Not much room left for other things, but I love it.
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 08:27 AM   #12
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Whatever you get make sure you get a sustain pedal. I can't do anything without that.

But then again I've been trained on pianos .
..and get one with switchable polarity and you're futureproofed.
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 10:42 PM   #13
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Appreciate the input folks.

I have actually spent quite some time on the amazing site by Tweak ( http://tweakheadz.com/ ) which talks about just about everything related to music production under the sun. It should be mandatory reading for any home studio enthusiast imo.

I am holding off on Komplete atm all things considered. Logic does look like it has tons of stuff.

My budget is ~$1000 which I have broken into:

$600 - MIDI keyboard ( Most likely M-Audio Axio Pro 61 )
$199 - Logic Pro
$150 - M-Audio AV40 Studio Monitors
$60 - Keyboard Stand and gig bag
$20 - Sustain Pedal
$100 - MacBook Pro hard drive upgrade
$50 - MacBook Pro RAM upgrade

Its close but I think this should give me enough to play with for a while and I can hopefully save up enough money to grab Komplete or maybe I'll just get a soft synth like Zebra ( which is stunning btw ! ) to experiment.
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Old Jan 30, 2013, 11:14 PM   #14
bwhli
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Originally Posted by masterofbuckets View Post
Appreciate the input folks.

I have actually spent quite some time on the amazing site by Tweak ( http://tweakheadz.com/ ) which talks about just about everything related to music production under the sun. It should be mandatory reading for any home studio enthusiast imo.

I am holding off on Komplete atm all things considered. Logic does look like it has tons of stuff.

My budget is ~$1000 which I have broken into:

$600 - MIDI keyboard ( Most likely M-Audio Axio Pro 61 )
$199 - Logic Pro
$150 - M-Audio AV40 Studio Monitors
$60 - Keyboard Stand and gig bag
$20 - Sustain Pedal
$100 - MacBook Pro hard drive upgrade
$50 - MacBook Pro RAM upgrade

Its close but I think this should give me enough to play with for a while and I can hopefully save up enough money to grab Komplete or maybe I'll just get a soft synth like Zebra ( which is stunning btw ! ) to experiment.
You might want to stretch your budget a little more and get a decent pair of monitors. I own the AV40s as well, and I can tell you they are not meant for mixing! I have them hooked up to one of my keyboards, and I just use it for practicing. They're more like...glorified computer speakers. I recommend a pair of Yamaha HS50Ms. It's a 5" monitor meant for mixing. Yamaha makes a bigger version as well, but it's more expensive. Alternatively, you could get a pair of mixing headphones for the time being - it'd be better than the AV40 for mixing.

The signal output straight from the line out/headphone port of your Mac isn't going to be the best for music production either. Invest in an audio interface and a decent set of monitors - two of the most crucial parts of a home studio. If you're not going to be doing a lot of recording. Something like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 would be fine.

What are the specs of your computer currently? In terms of upgrading your hard drive, you'll be better off getting a nice FireWire external for audio stuff. That's how it's usually done. OWC has some nice ones.

As for the MIDI keyboard, consider the AKAI MPK61 too. Cheaper than the Axiom which means you can put some money into monitors and an interface.
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Old Jan 31, 2013, 12:29 AM   #15
masterofbuckets
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You might want to stretch your budget a little more and get a decent pair of monitors. I own the AV40s as well, and I can tell you they are not meant for mixing! I have them hooked up to one of my keyboards, and I just use it for practicing. They're more like...glorified computer speakers. I recommend a pair of Yamaha HS50Ms. It's a 5" monitor meant for mixing. Yamaha makes a bigger version as well, but it's more expensive. Alternatively, you could get a pair of mixing headphones for the time being - it'd be better than the AV40 for mixing.
Hmm, I can get Fostex PMO.4n pair for $199. Are they atleast better than the AV40s ? The Yamaha monitors would each cost me $199 thereby eating into the budget too much.

I have Audio Technica M50 headphones which should provide me sufficient 'backup' in terms of mixing. Love those cans and it is my best audio investment yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bwhli View Post
The signal output straight from the line out/headphone port of your Mac isn't going to be the best for music production either. Invest in an audio interface and a decent set of monitors - two of the most crucial parts of a home studio. If you're not going to be doing a lot of recording. Something like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 would be fine.
Right, didn't think about the audio interface heh. The focusrite one looks promising. I can get that for about $150.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bwhli View Post
What are the specs of your computer currently? In terms of upgrading your hard drive, you'll be better off getting a nice FireWire external for audio stuff. That's how it's usually done. OWC has some nice ones.
Its a 2010 MacBook Pro and it does have FireWire. But, I think I'll stick with upgrading internal drive first and then grab an external firewire one if I feel the need for it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bwhli View Post
As for the MIDI keyboard, consider the AKAI MPK61 too. Cheaper than the Axiom which means you can put some money into monitors and an interface.
Great suggestion !

I am reading/researching more and will hop into a store to try the keyboard out in person. Once I am comfortable with the choices, it will be 'waiting for the paycheck and saving up' time.

Thanks again for the feedback.
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Old Jan 31, 2013, 08:56 AM   #16
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i'd sooner get the Yamaha's then overspending on ANY m-audio product - and i'm including your controller. $600 is crazy!

Head out to a music store and check out how keys feel to play. A lot of the m-audio stuff is rank garbage; but honestly, if you buy their "cheaper" stuff, it's totally forgivable. When you start spending more, it may be worth it to look at either used gear on craigslist (after you've tried it in the store, so you know what you should be getting) or finding a store with consignment items.

When it comes to controllers, there is NO reason to overpay or buy new.

Right now I flip between a used triton "classic" - which has exceptional key-feel despite being pretty old, and an 88 key m-audio keystation "pro" - which, all things considered, is a complete piece of crap. I rarely hook it up anymore- the only time I dig it out is when i know i'll be doing a lot of stuff that needs the whole range.

btw- if that $50 of ram is taking you from 4 to 8, skip that, and go directly to 16. no point taking half-measures when the 16 gigs is so cheap (comparatively).

you can get away with the core-audio built into the mac for a fair amount of time until you have $ to get a usb or FW interface. the latency is actually exceptionally low.

YMMV! best luck.
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Old Jan 31, 2013, 11:40 AM   #17
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Hmm, I can get Fostex PMO.4n pair for $199. Are they atleast better than the AV40s ? The Yamaha monitors would each cost me $199 thereby eating into the budget too much.

I have Audio Technica M50 headphones which should provide me sufficient 'backup' in terms of mixing. Love those cans and it is my best audio investment yet.



Right, didn't think about the audio interface heh. The focusrite one looks promising. I can get that for about $150.



Its a 2010 MacBook Pro and it does have FireWire. But, I think I'll stick with upgrading internal drive first and then grab an external firewire one if I feel the need for it.



Great suggestion !

I am reading/researching more and will hop into a store to try the keyboard out in person. Once I am comfortable with the choices, it will be 'waiting for the paycheck and saving up' time.

Thanks again for the feedback.
The Fostex will be indeed much better than the AV40s. Just remember to compensate a little for the bass in your mixes. The PM0.4 is known to be a little bass-light. It's good that you have a nice pair of headphones. Use those to check your mixes as well.

Yes, I wouldn't spend too much on a controller, and I think M-Audio stuff is grossly overpriced. If you find one you like, go on eBay and look for a good deal. People are getting rid of old gear all the time.
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Old Feb 1, 2013, 12:06 AM   #18
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i'd sooner get the Yamaha's then overspending on ANY m-audio product - and i'm including your controller. $600 is crazy!

Head out to a music store and check out how keys feel to play. A lot of the m-audio stuff is rank garbage; but honestly, if you buy their "cheaper" stuff, it's totally forgivable. When you start spending more, it may be worth it to look at either used gear on craigslist (after you've tried it in the store, so you know what you should be getting) or finding a store with consignment items.

When it comes to controllers, there is NO reason to overpay or buy new.
Yeah, I am heading out over the weekend to try some controllers. Lets see which one has the right feel for me.


Quote:
Originally Posted by spoonie1972 View Post
btw- if that $50 of ram is taking you from 4 to 8, skip that, and go directly to 16. no point taking half-measures when the 16 gigs is so cheap (comparatively).
My machine can't officially do more than 8 GB RAM but it is known to accept 16GB. I think I'll be satisfied for the time being with 8 gigs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spoonie1972 View Post
you can get away with the core-audio built into the mac for a fair amount of time until you have $ to get a usb or FW interface. the latency is actually exceptionally low.

YMMV! best luck.
Yep, not too concerned about the interface at the moment. Just keeping it simple.

Thanks !

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by bwhli View Post
The Fostex will be indeed much better than the AV40s. Just remember to compensate a little for the bass in your mixes. The PM0.4 is known to be a little bass-light. It's good that you have a nice pair of headphones. Use those to check your mixes as well.

Yes, I wouldn't spend too much on a controller, and I think M-Audio stuff is grossly overpriced. If you find one you like, go on eBay and look for a good deal. People are getting rid of old gear all the time.
Thanks.

I'll keep ebay in mind when I am looking at deals.
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Old Feb 1, 2013, 12:54 PM   #19
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Let us know what you end up getting!
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