My go-to plugin list

My go-to plugin list

As a performing musician touring with several bands including The Security Project and Beyond The Wall, there are certain plugins I can’t do without on tour and I thought I’d mention some of them here in case anyone is interested. Note that I have no relationship with any of these companies and this list is just from my personal collection of plugins. I should add that my main instrument is keyboards so most of the plugins I mention here are geared towards keyboard players. Having said that, if you’re a guitarist using Gig Performer, there’s a whole different set of plugins that will be of interest to you.

For acoustic piano, my favorite plugin is Pianoteq from Modartt. It’s a physical modeling plugin so it doesn’t need gigabytes of samples. I use it mostly for bright rock-style pianos.

For the classic Rhodes electric piano sound, I use Lounge Lizard from AAS. Although there’s a pretty good electric piano for Pianoteq, I’ve had Lounge Lizard for many years and have seen no reason to change. If you need the distinctive Yamaha CP70 sound however, I haven’t found anything better than Hollow Sun’s Definitive CP70. However, you are going to need Native Instrument’s Kontakt sampler for it but since Kontakt is already on my list of must-have plugins, that’s a no brainer.

Speaking of Native Instruments, I use most of their main instruments (Kontakt, Absynth, FM8, REAKTOR and Guitar Rig). I also like many of the instruments in Arturia’s V Collection, all of which are modeled rather than sample-based. In particular I love their ARP 2600, CS-80, Moog Modular, Prophet and Solina. Although Arturia also includes  acoustic piano and Wurlitzer instruments, I haven’t worked with them.

While we’re on the topic of vintage instruments, GFORCE Software’s Oddity2 (an ARP Odyssey emulator) and their MTron Pro (a Mellotron emulator) are to die for.

If you need a Minimoog, the quest never ends to find the best one. My current favorite is The Legend from Synapse. Damn it, it’s just really amazing.

My biggest problem has been finding a decent Hammond Organ. Native Instruments used to sell something called the B-4 which was fabulous but they dropped it years ago, no idea why. Arturia’s V Collection comes with a “B-3”  but I don’t love it. While the Vintage Organ library that comes with Kontakt is adequate, my favorite is still the VB3 from GSi. Unfortunately, VB3 is 32-bit only and I don’t quite understand why they haven’t made a 64-bit version. The good news is that there is a great product called 32 Lives from SoundRadix which can wrap 32-bit plugins (both AU and VSTs, albeit Mac only) and that has allowed me to keep using VB3.

The last amazing plugin that I use all the time is Omnisphere from Spectrasonics. That thing is just phenomenal, specially for pads, choirs and strings. It’s capable of way more of course but that’s how I use it. However, I must admit that I often end up sampling the sounds I need and throwing them into Kontakt, which is just much more lightweight if I don’t need real-time tweaking during performances.

I own numerous other plugins but if I need their sounds on the road, I generally sample them and throw them into Kontakt, it’s just more convenient.

David Jameson

 

Update – 12/9/2016

I’ve just added two new plugins to my “awesome” list.

The first is Repro-1 from U-He. Although it’s monophonic (so just sample it and throw it into Kontakt for polyphony) it just sounds amazingly warm and sweet. I’ll be looking to leverage this one a lot more into my live rig.

The second is VPS Avenger from Vengeance Sound. Damn but it’s complicated but you can play around with it forever and it has already inspired several new song ideas.

Update – 3/14/2017

I’m finding tons of uses for Serum, which is now one of the first plugins I use if I just want to find a “new” sound.



The Global Rackspace can receive audio from whatever rackspace is currently active. Instead of inserting effects in every rackspace, simply insert them once in the Global Rackspace and all your local rackspaces will have access to them. The Global Rackspace can also send audio to the currently active rackspace. So you can insert a looper that receives audio directly from your guitar (say) and then send the looped audio to different effects in different rackspaces. If a particular instrument such as a piano or organ is needed everywhere (or almost everywhere), put it in the Global Rackspace.

 

Gig Performer 4 provides a virtual view allowing you to spread out your blocks and connections to make them easier to see and manage, even if you have a very small screen. You can zoom in or out and you can use the Auto-Fit option to position your blocks to fit in the available space.

Scaling curves allow you to control the shape of the output of a widget or convert an incoming note velocity to a new velocity. Various predefined curves are available and they can be tweaked as necessary. You can also just draw your own curve as well to achieve the effect you require.

You can load up to 128 MIDI song files in a single plugin instance. Switch from one song to another, mute tracks and/or change their channel numbers. Tempo can be controlled by individual songs or you can use the global tempo and tap tempo to control the BPM interactively.

Create a sound by placing and interconnecting your desired plugins, such as a synth, some effects and perhaps a mixer. Select them all and then save the selection as a named favorite. The favorite will subsequently show up in all plugin insert menus, making it easy for you to recreate that configuration whenever you need it again. This feature is also very powerful for creating your needed sounds on your studio computer and then transferring them to your touring laptop.

Parameters you select in an open plugin are captured into the Probabilistic Sound Designer dialog window. When you click Randomize, you're only adjusting those selected parameters. Each entry in the PSD dialog has a curve but unlike widgets where the curve controls scaling, in the PSD the curves are used to define the probability of particular values being selected. Make sure the filter cutoff never gets too slow so as to block all sound. Perhaps adjust the max range of the VCA attack parameter so that the sound doesn't have too much delay. Constrain the octave ranges of the oscillators, perhaps ensuring that 1/3rd of the time we select 8' and 2/3rds of the time we select 4'. The possibilities are endless.

Numerous new widgets are included in Gig Performer - a new sustain pedal, plastic knobs, drum pads and more colored sliders. Shapes can be colored with different borders and fill colors and morphed from rectangular to circular. Your creativity is now the limit to creating fabulous front panels in Gig Performer.

Select MIDI devices by name. Choose the MIDI message type and adjust the appropriate parameters for the specific type

 

Gig Performer supports arbitrary resizing. Layout your widgets the way you want - resize the main window and the widgets will grow or shrink as necessary to maintain the same interrelationships. No matter what size screen you have, your front panels will still be neat and usable.

If you move your widgets around and/or resize them, or even delete them by mistake, the Undo facility will correct your mistake. Minor moves to a widget by mistake will no longer spoil your design

Some plugins support a large number of outputs and they depend on the traditional channel strip to control how many ports should be available.   When you only need a stereo pair, it is convenient not to have a large horizontal block. In Gig Performer, the number of available ports  is controlled by the channel count override, which can be applied to individual plugins and will be remembered when the gigfile is reloaded or if the plugin is saved as a favorite.

Rather than a single audio length tail, Gig Performer 4 gives you the ability to control input muting and output fading separately. Input muting controls how much time it takes for audio input to be silenced when you leave the rackspace. Output fading controls how much time will be taken for audio to fade out when you leave the rackspace.

Instead of searching through menus of perhaps hundreds of plugins (you know who you are!), the Quick Plugin Finder makes it easy to find the plugin you need by simply typing partial strings. For example, as shown here, to find the Modartt Pianoteq 7 plugins, it's enough to type pia mod 7 (in any order, by the way)  to restrict the list of available plugins to those matching your query. The Quick Plugin Finder also knows about manufacturers, presets and favorites.

Any entry field can be changed by either dragging your mouse (or finger) up or down, or by using the large popup touchpad where you can just tap on the squares to enter a value. The large popup keypad also does validation so you can't enter an invalid value. You can also just tap the BPM field to pop up a larger view where you can quickly change tempo, tranpose, trigger Tap Tempo and enable Ableton Link, the last allowing you to synchronize Gig Performer with any other application that also supports Ableton Link.

The tuner view makes it easy for guitarists to quickly check and adjust their tuning. You can toggle into the tuner view from any other view and toggle right back as soon as you're done. All output will be silenced automatically while you're in tuning mode. You can adjust the concert reference pitch from its default of 440 Hz to suit your own needs. The tuner view fills the entire screen so you can easily see it from a distance.