The Overwelmingly Exciting World of Midi and Music Production

Now that I have my computer back, I’ve been able to start working on music to full capacity again.  On my Mom’s computer, it would crash as soon as I tried to add reverb, so I just did some basic mixes for the holidays on it.  But now, I can install some virtual instruments I bought on sale during the holidays, which I  was really excited for.  My track record with downloading, and being able to use virtual instruments is very slim:  I always download something as a demo to see if it’s accessible first, but this particular plug in was on sale for 1 dollar so I was like “I don’t care if it’s accessible or not, I’ll make it work!” I got to on a sale like this, so tried them both.  One is called Xpand 2:  An overall virtual instrument, with 2300 instruments and sounds to choose from.  I downloaded it, opened the VST window and…nothing happened dun dun dun! So I got bummed, and went to regroup.


Then a thought struck me.  I went “Wait a minute, I got this to try and use with my keyboard to see if it will work, so let me plug in my keyboard as a midi controller to see if it plays” and low and behold, that worked!  I was, and still am, so stoked!  I can use a virtual instrument now, when I’ve never been able to because the menus were un-navigatable!  I tried this with all of my other virtual instruments, and it works for everything!  Well, everything but a drum one, but I haven’t activated that yet so I’m guessing that’s why it refuses to work, and I haven’t committed time to sorting that out yet.
The other VST I got from that 1 dollar sale was an orchestra strings set, with 7 GB of string samples.  That one, I haven’t been able to try yet, but not because of anything midi related:  It’s because the dang thing doesn’t load, and crashes Reaper whenever I try to load it, and I can’t figure out why!  So I’m trying to sort that out also, but Xpand 2 is more than enough to hold me over until then.


When I was playing my keyboard, and actually recording its internal sound, I realized something:  My keyboard sounds like basic midi garbage when I record it rotfl.  I was like nuuuuu!!!  So, I did some research, and downloaded a VST called Pianissimo, which apparently   is the most well-known, and well used piano virtual instrument out there.  I’m not surprised, because it sounds amazing!  It’s a breeze to mix, and I love going through all of the different piano sounds.  If you need something to record piano with, I’d highly recommend this for your virtual instrument option:  it can also be used super easily with my keyboard as a midi controller, and plays right out the box.  I have it as a 14 day free trial right now, so I’m just playing as many arrangements as I can think of wanting to cover with it, then saving them as .wav before my trial is up haha.  It’s price point is really good for its quality, only 68 USD, so when my trial is up, I’m going to definitely pick up a copy!  I mean, I could probably get it for free through some…wink wink channels, but I really want all of my music production software to be legit, and 68 dollars isn’t a bad price point at all for what you’re getting in that package.


Speaking of price, did I mention the two plug ins I got for 1 dollar have a market price of 100 USD?  I was shocked to find that out too, and when I first saw the sale I was convinced that I somehow would be charged some super high extra fee but nope:  it just was a 1 dollar sale.  I got it from Plugin Boutique, which is a really good site to buy any plug in or VST you could be looking for.  Activating, and downloading the software is really easy, and they have a page of deals they are offering (which are all fantastic if you have the money).  Real talk:  I was told about the 1 dollar sale on the strings VST by a fellow VGM musician on Twitter, and that’s the only reason I gave this site a chance.  So glad I did, because I love the site so much, and definitely will be using it for any VST needs I have in the future!


Back to the midi controller, though.  My only complaint with it is, I don’t have a visual display of what instruments are where.  Xpand 2 has categories, but the manual doesn’t list any categories’, so I’m just stuck arrowing through every instrument one by one on my keyboards keypad until I find something I want to use.  From what I’ve heard from other blind musicians, this is the norm for using a virtual instrument with a midi controller, and I’m blessed that I can use the VST at all with this extra hardware so I just have to get used to the process.  I figured my plan will be to play the section I want, then go through the VST after recording and pick the sound I want to save time and streamline my production process.
I love using my keyboard as a midi controller!  It’s so easy to lay down sections, and I don’t have to worry about lining up instruments:  I just play them in the right tempo, and I’m good to go.  It’s both exciting, and overwhelming:  overwhelming because now I’m afraid once I release something with instruments in it, it won’t be good enough, or sound too scarce or something.  But, pushing those negative thoughts away and just working on things, as is my tendency~


Speaking of working on things, I have my first piece done!  Well, it’s a cover, not an original work.  But either way, it’s going to be a number of firsts for me.  The first time I’m playing my piano in a cover (I’m terrified to post it because of that) and the first time I’m recording video for a cover that will be on my channel (doubly terrified because of that, am so tempted to back out of doing it but no no push through Crystal rawr!).  Like I mentioned above, I’m so scared that this arrangement is too bare bones:  it’s just me playing piano and vocals, and at times I feel like it’s bland but I did my best in the mix to set it up to sound more rounded.  When I listen to it, I like it, but in the back of my mind I’m like “Is this good enough to post?”.  Whether it is or not, I’m going to post it.  After all, can’t improve unless you put yourself out there!


OK, I’m done with this rambly post.  Had a lot of exciting things I wanted to talk about, so that’s why I bounce all over the place in this XD
But what about you guys, have any exciting news lately?


Author: Crystal

A California based musician who is as passionate about music as she is video games,, Crystal (or ValkyrieCeles around the interwebs) loves to gush about her various nerdtastic loves, rant about anything currently catching her fancy, and generally just express herself in any creative outlet she can get her hands on. An avid reader, writer, and dreamer, Crystal has been leaving pieces of herself around the internet since 2006.

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