Q: What is a Virtual Instrument?
A: Virtual Instruments are software synthesizers that can be integrated into your computer music system. Many of these come with huge dedicated sample libraries that are actually built-in to the instrument. Most are plug-ins that can be loaded directly into sequencing programs like Logic, Cubase, Pro Tools and Digital Performer.
Q: Can I load a Virtual Instrument into my keyboard?
A: No, you need a computer to run a Virtual Instrument.
Q: Will a Virtual Instrument make music automatically?
A: Not exactly. To use a Virtual Instrument, you need to understand the basics of making music with an instrument, such as a keyboard, or drum pads, and know how to work with a sequencer or digital audio workstation (DAW). Having said that, many Virtual Instruments come with loops, or short musical phrases or beats that can be used as building blocks to make new music.
Q: Do all Virtual Instruments come with sample libraries?
A: No. Some of them create their sounds by “modeling” instruments using sound generating mechanisms entirely in software. However, a great number of Virtual Instruments do come with massive libraries of samples.
Q: Then what’s the difference between a sample-based Virtual Instrument and a Software Sampler?
A: A Sampler’s main purpose is to load and play samples from a variety of third-party sources, or sounds you have created yourself. A Virtual Instrument is designed to load samples from its own internal bank of sounds, to serve a particular need. For example, Trilian by Spectrasonics is a Virtual Instrument designed solely for playing Acoustic, Electric, or Synth Basses. If you need the ultimate virtual bass sounds, you’ll want to get Trilian. If you need outstanding pianos, you would get one of Synthogy’s Ivory II piano virtual instruments, as another example. Both of these products come with very large sample libraries of a specific category of sounds. For more information about sampling, click here.
Q: Can I edit sounds in a Virtual Instrument?
A: Absolutely. All Virtual Instruments, to one degree or another, allow you to edit or “tweak” a sound to your liking using controls on a graphical user interface. Of course, you may also save your edits for future recall.
Q: Are sample-based Virtual Instruments better than modeling-based Virtual Instruments?
A: Not necessarily. It depends on the application. For example, many Virtual Instruments are meant to recreate specific hardware analog synthesizers, such as a Minimoog®. As it happens, the circuitry of an analog synthesizer can be very successfully modeled in software without the need for samples. Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere “Power Synth” is a unique sort of Virtual Instrument in that it effectively combines elements of synth modeling with a huge library of samples. This powerful combination gives Omnisphere the benefits of versatile synthesis along with a vast sound palette.
Q: How do I know a Virtual Instrument will work with my system?
A: Chances are any Virtual Instrument you purchase from ILIO will work in your system. To be sure, you simply have to know what plug-in format your sequencer or DAW supports. For example, Logic is a Macintosh program that supports Audio Units (AU) plug-ins. Cubase supports VST plug-ins and Pro Tools supports RTAS plug-ins. Then look at the specifications for each instrument to determine if it works in your plug-in format.
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