GUEST BLOG WRITTEN BY GREG NELSON
Shortly after the turn of the current century, I started to experiment with Virtual Studio Technology, and was very impressed with various software emulations of organs and synthesizers, and sampled pianos. I started to explore the possibility of replacing my hardware keyboard rig, with 2 controllers and a CPU built to run VST instruments. This idea took me on a journey through hardware computer builds, and VST hosts, to being a long time Brainspawn Forte user. I’ve been using Forte as a host application to perform with VSTIs, live on stage since Forte Version 4 was released. Before discovering Forte, I was using Propellerhead Reason with some success.
The creator of Forte has recently announced that he is stopping all development and support of his products. In the wake of this announcement, I decided to explore the newest VST host software applications available and landed on the latest version of Gig Performer. I was instantly impressed and saw many advantages I could gain from transitioning my keyboard rig over to Gig Performer.
FORTE VS GIG PERFORMER OVERVIEW –
When launched, Gig Performer opens up to the Performance View screen of a new, or recalled, Gig (.gig) file. This screen is very similar to Forte’s Scene View screen. A column on the left side of the Performance View screen lists the Rackspaces in the current Gig file. Each Rackspace basically serves the same function as a Scene does in Forte. The main difference in GP’s Rackspaces vs Forte’s Scenes is that each GP Rackspace can have a completely different set of plugins. A GP feature called Predictive Loading can be turned on if necessary to reduce RAM usage. Predictive loading will cause GP to load only the next few Rackspaces, in the background, ahead of the current Rackspace in use. This means that you can use memory intensive plugins, like Kontakt, in many of your Rackspaces, and not worry about using up your system’s memory. Both Forte and GP have very similar Global MIDI controls. Forte’s rack file “adaptation” to different hardware controllers and audio, is done via GP’s Rig Manager.
SOME WORKFLOW DIFFERENCES –
In Forte, as the Rack is developed, and plugins are added, the file can become very large, and have many instrument modules on the Rack View screen, where each plugins’ routing and configuration takes place. Having all the plugins on one screen can get confusing, and cause a lot of paging up and down. Gig Performer’s Connections View screen gives a graphical layout of the plugins, and the signal flow of MIDI and audio, for each Rackspace. This screen is where plugins and MIDI in/out blocks are added, MIDI filtered and routed, and audio outputs routed. Double-clicking a plugin’s icon will open it to the console view.
Forte’s MIDI Controller Mapping functions are achieved in GP via Widgets and MIDI Filters. A layout designer mode is accessed from the Performer View screen. This is where GP Widgets (buttons, sliders, foot pedals etc.) are added and mapped to plugin parameters for performance control. Forte’s multiple key zones for an instrument are achieved in GP by adding multiple MIDI Input blocks for the same MIDI device and configuring each one as desired. Key range and transpose settings are also edited in GP’s MIDI Input blocks.
Forte’s Rack Editor page, where song sets are created using the Scene Pool and Song Pool, doesn’t exist in Gig Performer. Setlists are created in GP by simply reordering the list of Rackspaces shown in the left-hand column, on the Performance View screen of a Gig file. Each Gig file can easily become a set list for a show, by Importing individual Rackspaces from disk. Forte users who use the same scene twice in the same song will want to explore GP’s Rackspace Variations feature.
WORKFLOW COMPARISON IN PICTURES –
SOME INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS –
When setting up folders that will contain your VST (*.dll) files on your computer, you may want to keep the tree structure as simple as possible. GP’s Gig files contain plugin path information, as well as the plugin file names, within the Rackspace code. Therefore, when configuring a “hot backup” computer, in order to transparently share and use Gig files from your main computer, each system’s VST plugin folder names and paths need to be identical.
If you want to still use your favorite 32 bit plugins, it’s still possible with the help of jBridge. While Forte could be set to automatically use jBridge during the plugin scan, GP does not have that option built in. You will have to manually create bridged versions of your plugins with jBridge. It’s very easy, and step by step instructions are available on the jBridge website. Then just add the folder that contains your bridged plugins to the “folders to scan” list in the plugin manager.
SOME ADVANTAGES OF GIG PERFORMER OVER FORTE:
- The MIDI Filter in GP allows NON-CC# events to be filtered, such as Pitch Bend, Aftertouch, and Note On/Off. There is no provision for this in native Forte.
- The ability to add a MIDI monitor at any point in the MIDI signal path.
- The ability to export Rackspace (.rackspace) files, and import them into any Gig file in GP, makes it easy to have different versions of the same song to choose from. It’s great to have the ability to develop new keyboard mapping for a song, or try different sounds and/or instruments, and save my alternate version of the song to its own, self-contained Rackspace file, that can be used later.
- Rackspaces can also be imported on the fly, in case your band decides to play a song that’s not in the currently opened Gig file. Forte does has the ability to insert a Scene into a set on the fly, but the advantage goes to GP because a Rackspace doesn’t have to be part of the currently opened Gig file. Any saved Rackspace can be quickly loaded from disk via GP’s Rackspace Import function. Comparatively, to quickly call up a Scene in Forte, that Scene must already exist in the currently opened Rack file.
- Working with a smaller file on stage makes it quicker to recover from a host application crash. It takes less time to reload a smaller Gig file than it does to load a larger Forte rack file. I can use a smaller Gig file containing 15 to 30 Rackspaces (songs) for each set or show, and still have my repertoire readily available via GP’s import function. To have the bands entire repertoire accessible with Forte, all of the songs must already be configured as Scenes in the opened Rack file. This can be a pretty large file when containing Scenes for over 100 songs. Loading a single Scene from disk, into a Forte Rack file, on stage, is just not possible.
- The Patch Persist feature in GP allows me to advance to the next Rackspace, and launch into the next song, while sustaining the last chord from the previous song. This is only possible in Forte if the next Scene has the same plugin with the same MIDI filtering and transpose setting.
- GP’s widgets can provide a visual indicator to confirm that a foot pedal or other control’s function has been carried out. For example, in the excitement of a performance, I often wonder, “Did I remember to change my SL88 keyboard back to a piano, from an organ?” My only way of confirming that in Forte would be to play a note and listen for my piano sound. In GP, a quick glance at the LED Button Widget, that I mapped to the piano MIDI filter’s NoteOn-Allowed parameter, tells me what I need to know.
- Gig Performer allows you to run multiple Gig files simultaneously. A multi-tier keyboard rig can be configured for each keyboard to change Rackspaces, independently of each other, by using the Multiple Instance feature of Gig Performer. There is no way to do this in Forte.
- Gig Performer comes with a built-in Audio file Player, making it easy to add backing tracks to your Rackspaces.
- Gig Performer ’s Rig Manager allows you to save (Export) multiple rig setups.
- Gig Performer ’s GPScript programming language allows you to inject some logic into your Widgets! The possibilities are endless.
New and exciting features are sure to be developed for future releases of Gig Performer. Forte’s last, and final version was released February 9, 2018.