Using The Cantabile VST-Host

VST (Virtual Studio Technology) hosts, allow you to use VST instrument plug-ins. Together (on Windows), VST hosts, with VST instruments, can be used to eliminate the latency which makes the Java Sound Synthesizer hard to use. It is also designed for live performance, which is what you do when you use the KeyMusician Keyboard.

Of the free (or low-cost) VST hosts, I recommend Cantabile Lite, which should be fine for most people. It's easy to learn, easy to use, and has the functionality needed for the KeyMusician Keyboard. It is also free for personal use.

For a modest cost, you can purchase Cantabile Solo, which you can use professionally, and includes the capability of recording. Cantabile Performer has even more features, but you may not need them because of what is configurable in the KMK performance panes.

A lot of the features having to do with quick changes of instrument racks are actually done for you by way of the performance-panes of the KeyMusician Keyboard, and those panes are available via a single key-stroke.

To use it, you'lll first need to install and set up (as described in the member pages), the ASIO4ALL Device Driver, and the LoopBE1 MIDI interface.

Cantabile depends on Adobe Reader for displaying its help information. If you don't already have Adobe Reader, you will need to obtain it (for free) by clicking on the link below. Here is the link to obtain it:

To obtain Cantabile (whichever version you choose), click on the link to the Cantabile web-site (below the box), after reading the instructions in the box.

When the web-site appears, you look for a comparison of the features of the different versions (Lite, Solo, and Performer). In my experience so far, I think Lite will be adequate for most people. Being able to record, however, is a big incentive to upgrade to Cantabile Solo.

All three versions are included in the download, and you can upgrade to more capabilities later, as you see the need.

After comparing the features of the various versions, click on the “DOWNLOAD” link at the top of the web-page, as shown in the screenshot below:

Cantabile Website, showing the DOWNLOAD link near the middle of the top line

After clicking on the “DOWNLOAD” link, in the web-page that appears, you will see links for downloading either the stable version (recommended), or the experimental version of Cantabile 3 (the latest version). The download includes both the 32-bit architecture (I-386) version, and the 64-bit architecture (AMD-64) version.

Click on the Download button for the version (Stable, or Latest) you need. You can run the installation program directly, rather than first downloading it to a file, if you wish. You will have to approve the running of that program in the security dialog that pops-up, in order to run the installer.

Farther down in the page are links for downloading Cantabile 2 (the older level), which is simpler, but you can't do as much with it.

Here is the link to the Cantabile website (click on it):

Cantabile Web-Site

For instructions on setting up Cantabile 2 (if you chose the older version), click the following link: Cantabile 2 Instructions, otherwise, continue reading below for instructions on setting up Cantabile 3.

When Cantabile runs for the first time, a window will appear, asking you to configure your audio engine, as in the following screen-shot:

Since I have already installed ASIO4ALL, it finds it, and suggests its use. It also suggests reasonable settings, given the hardware available.

The “Buffer Duration” number (11.61) indicates how much latency there will be (delay between pressing a note-key, and hearing its sound). Since 50 milliseconds (ms) is the limit of human perceptibility, no latency will be perceived.

Later, it will ask you to configure your audio channels, like the following screen-shot:

On the system this screen-shot was taken on, there is an M-Audio M-Track USB Sound Module, which also has a MIDI interface. The internal sound card is disabled in the BIOS, so it doesn't appear. I have selected the M-Audio M-Track as my audio device, using the “Main Speakers” name. If you don't configure the “Main Speakers” default device, Cantabile will not connect your VST Instrument plug-ins to anything, so they will make no sound.

If this happens to you, simply specify an output route for your plug-ins, specifying the audio output device you want.

During setup, Cantabile will also ask you about your Plug-in Options, as shown in the screen-shot below:

Near the top right of the window, it lists the folders (separated by semicolons) where it looks for VST plug-ins. The first one (at the left of the text box), is where Sonar X2 expects its plug-ins, and also where I installed the Bismark bs-16 Sound-Font Player VST instrument plug-in (which unfortunately, seems to no longer be available).

You can add your own folders where Cantabile will look for plug-ins. Just click the “Add...” button to specify such a folder. If you are used to looking for things in your “Documents” library folder, you could create the folder there. Name it something like “VST-Plugins”, which is descriptive of how it is used, so when you see the folder-name, you will know what it is used for.

If you are using Cantabile (an easy-to-use VST Host) to play the instruments provided by SONAR X2 (which is difficult to use), you need to browse to where SONAR X2 expects its VST plugins, which is the:

C:\Program Files\Cakewalk\Vstpluginsfolder.

Remember what folder you use for your VST plug-ins. You'll need to know where it is when you install your VST instruments and effects plug-ins. You might want to write it down.

During setup of Cantabile (when you run it the first time), it will display a window asking you to specify your MIDI ports, as in the following screen-shot:

MIDI devices with their check-box selected will be used by Cantabile. If you need them for other use (such as a MIDI Input device in the KMK Help/Setup pane), leave them un-checked (not selected by Cantabile).

It should show all the MIDI devices connected to your system.

In my case, I'm using the LoopBe1 internal MIDI interface for the KeyMusician Keyboard output, and its 2nd interface (“2- LoopBe Internal MIDI”) for use by the MIDI Player/Recorder.

Make sure to configure a device for the “Main Keyboard (Default)” entry. In my case, it's the KMK MIDI Output device (“LoopBe Internal MIDI”).

If you configure this default device, it will automatically make an input route using it, for every VST instrument plug-in you enter in your song configuration.

Once you've completed this initial setup, you can input your Cantabile 2 configuration files (if you have them), and it will convert them. Cantabile 2 looks for its files in the “My Cantabile Files” folder of your “Documents” library. Cantabile 3, on the other hand, uses the “Cantabile” folder of your “Documents” library.

If you want to configure these settings later, select the “Options” entry of the “Tools” menu.

The Main Cantabile 3 Window

Here is the Cantabile 3 Lite main window for a song file I can use for just about everything:

It first shows the input ports you have configured. The note-symbol at the left means “MIDI”, and the check-mark symbol means the port is active.

If you temporarily need the MIDI device for some usage external to Cantabile (such as for a KMK MIDI Input device), click the check-mark symbol to disable the port in Cantabile.

Notice that you can configure it to use all MIDI channels (Omni), or specific MIDI channels. This is very useful for my LPK25 (Mini Keyboard) device, which only sends on channel 1 (unless you use its proprietary editor). Here, I can easily route it from channel 1 to channel 10, so I can use it for velocity-sensitive percussion.

I've set it up to use a single MIDI channel for each performance pane of the KeyMusician Keyboard.

The MIDI Player, on the other hand, uses all MIDI channels (Omni).

The “KMK Internal 2” device (the second Loopbe port) is used for the MIDI Player. So I can now use the KMK MIDI Player while using Cantabile.

Note: The Bismark bs-16 soundfont player VST instrument appears to be no longer available, and soundfont player VST instruments of any kind are now hard to find.

Scrolling down farther, the Output Ports become visible, as in the screen-shot below:

I have manually edited the rack names to remind me which is which.

If you select the rack name (initially Rack 1, for example), so it is highlighted with a blue background, then press F2, it will let you edit the rack name.

You can individually set the volume level for each output port, which is useful because different VST instruments are set to different volume levels by default.

If you click the triangle shape at the left of each output port, it will expand it, letting you see, and specify, more parameters for it. I expanded Rack 9's entry, shown near the bottom of the screen-shot.

The following screen-shot shows you how to enter a VST plug-in's editor:

Here, I expanded the entry for one of the output ports, and scrolled down in the expanded information to where the plug-in's name is shown. I single left-clicked on it, which highlighted it in blue, and a tool-tip window appeared above it, as shown.

Per the tool-tip information, I double-clicked the plug-in name, and it called up the plug-in's VST editor.

When you are satisfied with any changes you have made, remember to save the changes, using the File menu's “Save” or “Save As” entry.

Cantabile's usual use, is to save specific settings for each song in a play-list, and it's easy to switch to the settings for the next song.

With the KeyMusician Keyboard, where much of the information is configured in each performance pane, you may be able to get by with a single song file with things set up for everything you might need to use.

I can see how the song switching in Cantabile 3 Performer would be extremely useful, if all I had was a MIDI keyboard and a laptop to the side running Cantabile.

I know I will at least upgrade from Cantabile 3 Lite to Cantabile 3 Solo (to gain recording capability), and I may even upgrade to Cantabile 3 Performer.

Be sure to watch the walk-through videos on the Cantabile web-site to learn about all it can do for you.

I have found Cantabile to be an excellent tool for performing with the KeyMusician Keyboard, and it's definitely the easiest to use of all of them I have tried.

You can return to the index of newsletter articles by clicking below:

Index Of All Newsletter Articles