Creating A Group Of Instruments

In addition to the Chords and Percussion panes, you have 10 other performance panes, each of which can be accessed by a function-key. The “group of instruments” here, refers to the instrument used by the Chords pane, and the instrument in each other performance pane that can be accessed by a function-key.

You would think this is easy – just choose your favorite instruments, but there is a lot more involved in it than that.

You might think if you have a favorite set of instruments defined for one General-MIDI (GM) sound-font, it will work equally well for all other General-MIDI sound-fonts. But again, even though the instrument names are the same, the sounds of those instruments vary from sound-font to sound-font. Instruments that are wonderful in one sound-font, may be bad in other sound-fonts.

Also the relative volume-levels of the instruments in one sound-font will be different in other sound-fonts. So you may need to 'tweak' your instrument definitions to fit different sound-fonts you use.

Here is a picture of the Chords pane, for reference in this article:


When you play chords along with the melody, it is important that the chords don't over-power (drown out) the melody. The chords are normally a background sound, supporting the melody.

As a rule-of-thumb, in the Chords pane, set the “Velocity” and “Volume” sliders at about 66% of the maximum loudness.

For example, in the FluidR3_GM.kmk configuration file supplied with the instrument, I set the “Velocity” and “Volume” sliders to a value of 80 (in a range of 0 to 127).

Though the (assignable) “Expression” control also affects volume, leave that control for over-riding the initial settings.

If you set the chords volume too loud, the melody panes will have to be louder, and if it's already fairly loud, you don't have much room to make the melody really loud when the need arises.

Be sure to click the “Save” button so that it saves your settings in-memory. Otherwise, it would forget any adjustments you made to the volume when you switch to another performance pane.

MIDI Channels

To avoid the chord notes interefering with the melody notes, it is important that the Chords pane use a different MIDI channel than any of the melody panes.

With a software synthesizer, such as the Java Sound (Gervill) synthesizer, the BS-16 VST sound-font player, or Qsynth (FluidSynth) on Linux, it is easy to change instruments at any time, so the melody panes can all use the same MIDI channel. This also applies to hardware systhesizers.

But with VST instruments in-general, you cannot change their sound using a MIDI program-change command. So to allow you to change instruments by hitting a function-key, you need to have each performance pane using a VST instrument, use a different MIDI channel.

The Chords Instrument

If you choose a chords instrument that has a sustained sound (such as a String Ensemble), then you can just play the chord and hold it (keeping it playing) for as long as you need it to play.

But if your chosen chords instrument has a sound that fades-away quickly (such a guitar or piano sound), you need to play the chord repeatedly if you want it to keep sounding. Repeated chords may be perceived as a marching-sound, which might not be what you intend.

Another thing you can do if your chords instrument sound fades-away quickly, is to use the “Strummed Chord Note Delay” assignable control, so that the chord-notes are played separately (called an arpeggio, in music terminology). But this feature only works on the Java Sound Gervill Software Synthesizer.

If you have to play chords repeatedly, you have less time to finger the next chord while playing the current chord.

There are some instrument sounds that have a crisp attack-sound, but maintain a sustained sound as well. Such instruments can be good choices for chord instruments.

So think about your choice of a chords instrument. It can have a considerable affect on the music you play.

The Melody Instruments

This is the fun and easy part. Choose your favorite instruments. Remember that with sound-fonts, there are often more banks than bank 0. Check out the instruments in the other banks as well.

With VST instruments, choose the instrument you want for each performance pane, making sure it listens to its own MIDI channel (which you specify in the performance pane). You don't need to do this with the BS-16 VST soundfont player, since a single such VST instrument can respond to any of the 16 MIDI channels.

As you setup each performance pane, improvise a little tune while playing chords, and set its volume (the “Velocity” and “Volume” controls) so that it plays a little louder than the chords. You want your melody to stand out above the chords sounds.

Be sure to click the “Save” button so that it saves your settings in-memory. Otherwise, it would forget any adjustments you made to the volume when you switch to another performance pane.

When you've set them all up, try hitting the function-key for each one, making up a tune while playing chords. The reason for doing this, is to make sure that the melody instruments are all a similar volume level.

Saving Your Settings

Now that you have it set up the way you want it, go to the “F1 (Help/Setup)” pane (by hitting F1), and click the “Save Config” button.

Choose a file name different than any of the others (unless you want to replace one of the existing files).

If you want to use this new configuration file the next time you start the application, when you exit the application (and it asks if you want to save the settings), select the “Yes” button, and save it to the (default) PriorConfig.kmk file, since this is the configuration loaded when the application starts.

Enjoy your new freedom in being able to customize the application!

Index Of All Newsletter Articles