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VST plug ins v's BK-9 sounds

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VST plug ins v's BK-9 sounds #5715
Following the advice offered on this chat site (Life after the VA7) I have moved into the world of the DAW to edit my midi files. I am working my way through Cakewalk by BandLab www.bandlab.com/products/cakewalk . The project is to add a solo midi piano track, emailed from another location, to some on my midi backing tracks which I use for ballroom dancing, etc.

The question I have for the forum is: do other members use VST plug ins and produce audio files directly from their DAW. Or, do they play their modified midi files through their Roland keyboards and record audio that way.

I think the Roland BK-9 sounds are brilliant. Could these VST plug ins be better?
2 months 1 week ago

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VST plug ins v's BK-9 sounds #5718
You probably need to visit a few VSTi sites and listen for yourself, but quick answer is yes, VSTi's can be FAR better than built-in Tones. At a price...

TOTL piano libraries can fool the most discerning ears these days, but come at a price in terms of storage (you need hundreds of GB for some of the top ones) and computing power (especially if you enable all the sympathetic resonance options and room mics, etc.), and, to a certain extent, a decent knowledge of computers and DAW's (which you seem to only be getting into).

I would walk before you run, if I were you. First try merging the piano SMF into the MIDI arrangement and exporting as a new SMF, and play the file using the BK-9's sounds. If that is satisfactory, you just saved yourself a boatload of work!

Once you go down the VSTi rabbit hole, you can find yourself spending thousands on drum libraries (BFD, Superior Drums etc.), string libraries, keyboard libraries, bass libraries, synth libraries and on and on, and yes, get amazing, totally professional results indistinguishable from the real thing. But making a quick backing track goes out the window until you have had quite some time to figure out which sounds go together best, how to mix and master it all up etc..

Nowadays, I use a combination of SMF's that use the BK-9's soundset exclusively, or use multitrack karaoke sites for backing which I can customize and edit to my personal needs. But so far, I haven't honestly felt the need to replace BK-9 sounds with VSTi's. Mixed well, they can stand up on their own against the audio backing tracks (with perhaps the exception of the guitar tracks, which obviously sound better if they are a real guitar!) and don't stick out like a sore thumb!
2 months 1 week ago Last edit: 2 months 1 week ago by Diki.
BK-9 BK-7m G70. Kurzweil K2500S, Korg Triton. Samick upright piano. iMac 27", HR824 monitors.

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VST plug ins v's BK-9 sounds #5723
Many thanks, Diki. I appreciate your assistance. I will use the BK-9 instruments by playing the midi files through the keyboard and recording the audio with Cakewalk.

By-the-way is there a preferred point in the process to add effects such as reverb? Eg use the Roland reverb when the audio is created, or add the reverb later using the DAW’s effects.
2 months 6 days ago

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VST plug ins v's BK-9 sounds #5727
I'm not sure why the need to turn the SMF into an audio file in the first place? Why not simply play the SMF file at the job with the BK-9?

Again, relying on external VST effects means a boatload of work, and separating all the BK-9's Parts into separate tracks (to get separate reverb for piano, bass, drums, etc.).

It really sounds like you are creating work for yourself unnecessarily. Not to mention that SMF's in the BK-9 are far more easily changed as to tempo, key, or structure (if you place Markers in the file).
2 months 6 days ago
BK-9 BK-7m G70. Kurzweil K2500S, Korg Triton. Samick upright piano. iMac 27", HR824 monitors.

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VST plug ins v's BK-9 sounds #5729
Sorry, I should have mentioned that at some locations and occasions I play live and at others I'm on the dance floor running the dance. I don't use any midi or audio files when using the keyboard, it's all live from the music score using the keyboards Performance Lists. But, when I'm organizing the dance and dancing myself I use a playlist of audio files on my computer (Microsoft Surface Pro).
2 months 6 days ago

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VST plug ins v's BK-9 sounds #5737
Then the easiest solution is to record the BK-9's main audio outs...

On the whole, I tend to find that doing this rather than using the built-in audio recorder in the BK-9 puts less strain on the processor and USB stick (on a well used stick, I often get little audio hiccups in the recorded file, whereas a brand new, freshly formatted stick is usually fault-free). If you have an audio recorder or an interface for your computer (few computers' built in audio ins are of good quality) you could try recording all your SMF's straight to high bitrate MP3 (which will save you having to convert the BK-9's WAV files after they are recorded) then send to your Surface.

In fact, as long as you don't run the main outs too high (I tend to try to run at about 75% main volume), you can use the headphone outputs to your audio recorder while you actually do a gig. Quality is fine (I hear little to no added noise from the headphone outs compared to the main outs) and you can chop up the long file later into the individual songs. It's what I do to confidence check my mixes on a gig while I sing and play (things often appear different at the gig than they do in your home studio!) and it works fine. I use a little Zoom pocket recorder (H4n).

But if you want to record into the computer, that works too. You also get the visual check of seeing if some files are a tad louder or quieter than the others (none of us wants to be constantly adjusting the main volume!) and adjust in the DAW. A tad of mastering processor at this point can help add that pro sheen and gentle compression/limiting to match commercial recordings you may be using, but be careful... A keyboard is already limited in dynamic range compared to a real band, so be careful of not over-compressing or limiting an already compressed dynamic!
2 months 5 days ago
BK-9 BK-7m G70. Kurzweil K2500S, Korg Triton. Samick upright piano. iMac 27", HR824 monitors.

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VST plug ins v's BK-9 sounds #5747
As always, many thanks, Diki. Based on your comments I think I’m on the right track. Previously I recorded the VA-7 via audio out using the Roland Tri-Capture USB Audio Interface. It would seem that is still a viable, and probably, preferred option. However, I used Audacity. But now I will use Cakewalk as I endeavour to up-skill on the DAW.

You had me going off to Goggle to find out what a Zoom H4n was. A rather nifty device!

I agree, self appraisal is an important component to any performance. I’ve found audience reaction to a live performance to be quite different to their appreciation of my pre-recorded tracks. When playing live, one’s performance is largely judged on my interaction with the dancers. So, there has to be plenty of eye contact, smiles and nods of approval as they dance past. However, when I pre-record my performance at home and play the audio track for the same group of dances, my track is then judged along side the best of the commercially available dance music. Putting aside the obvious differential in musical skill, by far the largest advantage the commercial artists have is audio engineering.

But, as you suggested, I need to familiarise myself with what the DAW can offer to give that “pro sheen”. So that is where I am concentrating my efforts.
2 months 4 days ago

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VST plug ins v's BK-9 sounds #5750
Probably one of the first things to get is a decent mastering package. I'm a big fan of Ozone, it has all the tools you need, does a pretty transparent job of pulling up the final volume without squeezing too hard, and can give you quite excellent final results after you get used to it. Plus it is loaded with presets for many styles of music, and after a few attempts, you'll have a couple of go-to's that will work on the BK-9's mix and time to finish the track will go down radically.

Don't forget, if you are using iTunes with Soundcheck on, it really doesn't matter too much whether you can match the final volume of modern pro recordings. Soundcheck (and I assume anything similar on Windows music players) basically turns down really loud tracks and boosts quieter ones, so that last few db (which are the db's that can over squash a recording if you aren't really careful) isn't really necessary.

Pro mastering engineers have great ears and experience, and can often get a few more db without the track sounding smashed, but if Soundcheck is pulling them down to match older recordings, what's the point?! Not to mention, iTunes allows you to adjust the final volume of tracks (right click on the track>Song Info>Options) if Sound Check doesn't bring it up quite enough.

A pro mastering package is probably the first investment I'd make when putting a DAW together. All in all you can get the BK-9 sounding pretty good with the Makeup Tools, but that final mastering sheen really helps if you are playing with pro recordings as well as your own.
2 months 3 days ago
BK-9 BK-7m G70. Kurzweil K2500S, Korg Triton. Samick upright piano. iMac 27", HR824 monitors.

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