Virtual Instruments:

As mentioned in the Computers and Music section, Virtual Instuments are the fastest growing area of computer based music technology. This allows the computer itself to be used as a sound generating device much like a hardware synthesizer or music sample player.

A Virtual Instument is best thought of as a hybrid: The input and recorded data are in MIDI format, thus they have the editing flexibility of MIDI but the internal output is audio.

There is a growing trend for companies that produce music sequencing software to include a range of Virtual Instruments in the package. There is also a large and growing collection of third party providors that sell Virtual Instruments.

The Virtual Instrument is often installed into the same computer as the music sequencing program and will be accessed from within the same. This allows all instument settings and modifications to be saved with the song or arrangement.

As Virtual Instruments use the computer's CPU, RAM and hard disk space to gererate their sound there is a finite amount of silmultaneous instances that the computer can produce. So it is becoming more common for composers to use more than one computer. One as the music sequencer and others to host the Virtual Instruments.

To reduce the load on the computer it is also common to 'print', 'bounce' or 'freeze' a Virtual Instrument. This process creates an audio file of the performance, then the instrument can de dis-engaged or turned off to free up computer resources. In most cases all the settings are saved allowing the VI to be re-instated so that changes may be made at a later time.

Virtual Instruments come in a variety of modes:

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Toontrack's EZ-Drummer offers drum patterns and authentic sampled drum sounds.

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Garritan Personal Orchestra is on the lower end of the price scale but provides quality instruments.

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The Korg MS-20 is now in the virtual world. The software models the actual electronic components.

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Arturia's Jupiter-8V is a modern virtual version of a classic Roland Jupiter 8 synthesizer.

 

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It is recommended that multiple hard drives be used, especially when large sample libraries are accessed.

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The beginner will not require multiple computers to get started.

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MIDI files store MIDI and MIDI sequenced data in a form that can be read by music sequencers. You can't hear MIDI!

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From an external MIDI device, connected to the computer via a MIDI interface or USB.

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Graphical User Interface: Interactive display of synth parrameters.

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Where the software emulates the sound generation characteristics of electronic circuits.

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The amplifier is controlled by a ADSR or envelope that modifies the level or filer settings over time.

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Filters modify the harmonic content or tone of the sound. Resonance replicates filter characteristics in older analog synthesizers.

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Oscillators produce the sound in its rawest form. In sample players they reproduce the sampled waveform.

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As opposed to generating the audio in real time. Audio file playback is MUCH less CPU intensive than used to produce the VI.

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Shared accross the same or different Virtual Instuments.

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It is very common and recommended that the computer have more than one hard drive.

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Random Access Memory: Where the computer stores data that it is using at the immediate time.

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Central Processing Unit: The chip(s) inside that do all the number crunching.

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Different programs save their 'songs' as different names or file types such as song, arrangement, project etc.

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Such as name, filter, evelope or FX settings.

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A rack mount device (module) or keyboard that has memory on board where sampled sounds can be loaded into.