Old 09-22-2019, 09:35 PM   #1
insub
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Default Alesis Vortex 2 Keytar

I recently purchased a Vortex 2 Wireless Keytar to play live on stage with my band, but using VSTi is completely new territory for me. I need some advice on how to set up, etc...

But, a little back story:
I currently use a Virus TI1 Keyboard for most sounds and occasionally a Casio Privia PX-350 for piano. I'm really hoping to ditch the Casio & double tier keyboard stand because I've been promoted to front-man/lead singer. I'm going to miss the weighted keys, but I want to make a more entertaining performance for people attending our shows by getting out from behind a wall of keyboards. The Virus stays... for now (probably permanently as a backup for PC failure).

OK, here are the software I have:
Arturia Analog Lab 4
NI: Maschine 2 (all that's bundled with Maschine), Massive, Kontakt Player, Scarbee Mark 1 (70s EP), The Gentleman (piano), Vintage Organs, etc.
AIR AIEP3 Complete: Xpand2, Hybrid3, Loom, Vacuum Pro, DB-33, MiniGrand, Velvet, etc.

I'm not currently planning on using an audio interface. I can get playable low-latency from the laptop with WASAPI + onboard, so far. I might add my MOTU Audio Express if I start using REAPER for vocal FX processing while on stage.

Laptop: HP 8470P, quad i7, 2.7 GHz, 8 GB RAM. 64 bit Windows 10.

My standalone software seems to fall short in one way or another. Analog Lab basically has enough sounds for everything. It even has a "Live" mode for performing, but patch changes cancel all sounds for several seconds or more, and the latency is higher than my other VSTi's. Massive seems to work great as stand-alone. Very low latency, holds previous sounds after patch change, but it has no real instrument sounds like piano. Maschine seems to work pretty well, but Analog Lab crashes inside it.

Ableton Lite was bundled with the Vortex, but I have no experience with it. I'm not really wanting to learn a new DAW right now. I have plenty to do trying to create keyboard parts, sing & write lyrics, handle band recording, etc. Ableton might be the best way to go, but I don't have time to add that into the mix.

Basically, I want to accomplish this:
1. Have patches set up for playing 12-15 songs.
2. Launch a few samples here and there.

The Vortex has 25 presets. They can be tailored quite a lot. I think each preset can be two MIDI channels (upper, lower, or split). They can send program changes.

I was thinking of just setting up a project template with 16 MIDI tracks with different VSTis on each channel with the patches already loaded that I need. But I'm concerned that will crash the system if the tracks aren't muted when not in use. I read the sticky, but I'm still needing some hand holding. I'm hoping for some advice specific to the software I have on hand.

I'm still considering using Maschine Standalone as a host, if it will run stable. It handles WASAPI at really low latency. And, I have the Mikro controller which can load projects and browse patches without looking at the computer screen and without having to map anything.

I'd love to get to the point of outputting a click to the drummer and playing backing tracks, but my drummer and band aren't ready/willing for that yet. If you read all of this, thanks a lot!
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Old 09-22-2019, 10:59 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by insub View Post
I'm not currently planning on using an audio interface...
Very bad idea. This is not going to work for Live playing due to too much latency. Computer-internal audio hardware is not meant for this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by insub View Post
laptop...
Bad idea as well. Laptops are optimized for long Battery live and hence not for ongoing high performance as needed to run VSTs for Live playing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by insub View Post
I can get playable low-latency
Very likely only without crackles and dropouts when using very few of the CPU performance.

Please read the sticky thread her for a general overvoiew on using Reaper in a Live setup.

-Michael (sorry )

Last edited by mschnell; 09-23-2019 at 08:01 AM.
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Old 09-25-2019, 02:41 PM   #3
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Thanks, Michael.

I don't need inputs at this point, but I have a MOTU Audio Express USB, if necessary.
I will deal with the hardware problems as they arise, but if I can't get REAPER set up efficiently then it doesn't matter whether the hardware works or not. I'm looking for a workflow solution, not a hardware solution. I don't plan on packing around a desktop computer, or purchasing a special-built computer. If I wanted to spend several thousand dollars, I would just get a Nord Stage and drop this idea altogether.
I DID read the sticky, and said so in the initial post. I will read it again.


What I do want to know is, how are most people setting REAPER up to play keyboard live with a band?
Do they use a single VSTi, a couple of them, or a lot of different ones simultaneously?
Do people setup all their VSTi's on separate tracks within one project?
Do they use sub-projects for different songs?
Do they setup separate projects in open tabs and cycle between them?
Which of these methods requires the least amount of computer specs and/or SWS action trickery?

I need to be able to have patches ready, from separate VSTi's, and be able to switch between them using the MIDI controller and without having to touch the computer at all. I typically only play one sound at a time, but quite often more than one during a single song.

I'm having the same problem with finding out this information for my other products as well. It doesn't appear that many people are performing live with any of these products. Most people seem to be bedroom producers with no need or desire to perform live on a stage with other analog musicians. Most people using Ableton LIVE do not even perform, even though that's what it was supposed to be designed for.

I used to work a little as a stagehand, & during that time I NEVER saw a touring keyboardist use a controller/laptop rig. 9/10 used a Nord something or other. Of course, that was some years ago.

Maybe I should stick with my 2-tier setup as it is. It works every time, and I don't have to fiddle with a computer, setup controller mappings, etc. But, I'd then have to use a MIDI cable with my wireless keytar which detracts a little from its appeal for stage use.
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Old 09-25-2019, 11:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by insub View Post
What I do want to know is, how are most people setting REAPER up to play keyboard live with a band?
Describing what I did to turn Reaper in an instrument (but not (yet) for non-instrument-alike stuff like "background-tracks") and daily use:

Do they use a single VSTi, a couple of them, or a lot of different ones simultaneously?
Usually a single (e.g. Kontakt), but in some patches multiple (e.g. 4 times DEXED)

Do people setup all their VSTi's on separate tracks within one project?
Usually a track for each patch, holding one or more VSTis and possibly some VSTs.

Do they use sub-projects for different songs?
At the moment I don't use a song management at all, just a patch management

Do they setup separate projects in open tabs and cycle between them?
I feel that using Tabs for songs contradicts the management of tracks for patches, but I might be wrong.

-Michael

Last edited by mschnell; 09-29-2019 at 11:23 PM.
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Old 09-29-2019, 08:48 PM   #5
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Default First Gig Went Flawlessly

Last night I was able to use my Alesis Vortex 2 Wireless Keytar during a live show with my band. It went exceptionally well!

I decided to use NI Maschine as VSTi host due to their excellent browser capability. The instrument browser searches all NI products at the same time which is a considerable time saver vs browsing each separate plugin individually. On the other hand, it limits you to browsing the NI products. Other VSTi's have to be handled separately, even Arturia Analog Lab 4 which is supposed to be NKS compatible, ASFAIK.

The problem I ran into with Maschine was not being able to figure out a way to MIDI control the Master Volume from the Keytar. There may be a way, but I could not figure out how before the show. My solution was to run Maschine from inside REAPER and MIDI control the REAPER track fader containing Maschine.

The setup:
Laptop using the integrated soundcard and the WASAPI driver, headphones output to keyboard amp.
Keytar connected wirelessly to laptop (it uses its own Bluetooth dongle).
One track in REAPER, with Maschine as VST, set to all MIDI from the keytar, record armed, and track monitoring active.
Individual instrument patches in separate "slots" in Maschine, each set to different MIDI channel.

I only have about 8 patches set up so far. No problems running out of CPU since I'm only actively playing one patch at a time from the keytar. As best I can tell, the VSTi's don't use any CPU until they're being played. Though, they do appear to fill up the RAM. Task Manager showed 40% usage of the 8 GB of RAM on the laptop.

NI and REAPER report drastically different latency from the WASAPI driver. I don't know which is more accurate, but either way it's playable so far. NI reports a round-trip latency of 8.1ms but REAPER reports the latency as 0.4ms. So, maybe it's 8.5ms total since I'm hosting a host? I don't know. I play the keys and there is basically no perceptible latency, and I'm pretty latency sensitive when it comes to instrument playing. That's the main reason I'm so late to the VSTi game in general. I was never able to achieve playable performance before.

The WASAPI driver is set to: 96 kHz, 16 bit, 256 buffer.
The integrated soundcard has a 192 kHz setting available, but using it offered no reduction in latency vs 96 kHz as reported by Maschine (I didn't compare in REAPER). I don't need 24 bit at the moment since I'm not processing any inputs at all yet. I don't know if I'm getting any latency reduction due to lower bit depth since I didn't measure both options.
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Old 10-03-2019, 04:34 PM   #6
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Highly recommend using asio driver if possible .. I’d also recommend using audio card / with balanced out if possible ( with a Di ) or you could get a USB interface Di thing all in one ... radial do a USB pro stereo .. simple and solid and clean.
Other way you could do it
Is have each track as patches and you just track select through each song / part ..(prev and next track actions)
Plus side is your not using 2 hosts for plugins .
Track arranging is easier in reaper . / sizeable
Easier to set up a global fx tracks that all instrument tracks send to .. midi assign sends to them when track is selected .

If you can stay in reapers track system rather than working inside of maschine .. as you might as well just use maschine instead ..
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Old 10-03-2019, 08:52 PM   #7
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Thanks for the advice.

At the moment, an audio interface or DI don't provide anything I need. I play small venues where there may or may not be an installed PA system. When there is, it is often unmanned and/or vocals-only. Therefore, I play through a keyboard amp which has an integrated 4-CH mixer that accommodates my hardware synthesizer. It also has direct outs in the rare event I can line out to the PA. I don't need a balanced output from the laptop because the laptop is sitting on the amp. The cable is only 3' long, so there's not much RF noise to worry about.

As far as stability goes, I've only put the WASAPI driver through a few sessions with the keytar. But, I've run many multi-hour Maschine sessions in hotel rooms without an audio interface or ASIO driver. I've never had a problem from it all. Although, that was a different laptop than the one I have now.

I will probably host non-NI VSTi's directly in REAPER. The whole reason for the host-within-a-host is to utilize the patch/sample library browser. Additionally, I can load samples within Maschine a lot easier than setting up RS5K in REAPER. Analog Lab 4 is definitely NOT NKS ready, however I did find someone online who already created an NKS profile for all 7000 presets in Analog Lab to allow them to be browsed via Maschine/Komplete Kontrol. It's very inexpensive, so I'm looking into acquiring the tool soon.

I'm not sure what you mean by "Track arranging is easier in reaper . / sizeable". If you mean any visual aspect, those are not of concern for me since the laptop is closed during the stage performance. I don't look at the screen at all.

I can't stick solely within Maschine due to lack of global volume control via MIDI. Even with my Mikro Mk2, master volume control requires multiple button presses to access via a submenu. There is no dedicated master volume knob on the Mikro. It is useful at home but I don't see needing it on stage with me for this project. I can launch samples from the pads on the Vortex keytar.

I'm trying to keep my equipment to a minimum. I already pack a laptop, MIDI keytar controller, Virus synthesizer, keyboard stand, keyboard amp, electric bass guitar, tube preamp (for bass/acoustic guitars), and associated cables. I also own a PA system that we've used to do shows. So, often I have to bring all of that and be the sound guy for the night.

I'm entertaining the idea of moving 100% to this keytar rig. I'd have to simplify some two-handed parts that can't be played on the 37 keys of the Vortex. Doing so would eliminate the Virus synth and stand. However, that would also eliminate any backup system. Right now, if the laptop fails I can play everything on the Virus.
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Old 10-06-2019, 05:25 AM   #8
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Yes , The track arranging suggestion is visual . But if your not using the screen then that point is irrelevant.

Seems like you've answered alot of your own questions..
REgarding backing tracks though , I'd still reccomend a interface with multiple outs (more than two) and thats where you'll notice the asio difference as usb cards dont really work well unless they use there own asio driver.

It will get to a point where your drummer will probably want his own mix of things compared to what you want.. (ie he will want click backing track and maybe not as much of your sounds )
You can still do this with two channels ,you send a custom click backing track mix from reaper down left channel, and the right channel will only be you(keyboard amp) and split to foh in mono only.
If you want stereo for your synths, you'll have to go another soundcard...
(with backing tracks and click.)

I used region playlist for backing track set list management, but found that there was some issues using midi triggers and missing actions for things like navigating to specific songs when playback was stopped.

What i've found is a better way is to use regions still , with action markers that are at the end of those songs to either flow non stop to next region smooth seeking, or goto the next region and stop. I made blank stop regions that easily drag inbetween song regions if i need it to stop at the edn and goto next song waiting for me to trigger.

Theres a few scripts that are really good to make things nice and clear for displaying region names and what is coming up. Check Hedas note reader. You can use this so you know what song your triggering from the vortex and what is coming up.

It will take a bit of messing around with backing tracks until you get it how you want. Theres not really a right or wrong way to do it, only your way and what works best for your Band.
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