Understanding Kontakt requires an understanding of how instruments are constructed, which includes an understanding of instrument hierarchy, effects routing, and modulation controls.
Kontakt uses the metaphor of hardware samplers in a rack. As part of this rack, Kontakt includes a multi-purpose browser (files, modules, zones, etc.), an output mixer, and an onscreen keyboard that can be used to trigger notes without an attached MIDI keyboard.
Program menus are sparse. You are limited to program preferences (which can also be accessed from the rack), and “environment” settings (midi and audio interface issues).
It’s easiest to explain this moving from the lowest level of an instrument upward.
- Samples: individual audio files, stored either as aiff or wav files on your computer.
- Zone: a sample mapped to the keyboard, with key range, volume, pan, and tuning settings. Within a zone, you can also edit files to set sample start and end points, and multiple loops.
- Group: multiple zones combined. Most instrument programs will only have one group. Most audio processing and control takes place at the group level through group insert effects, MIDI CC, LFO, and envelope control. Groups are divided into the source module (how the sample is played – DFD, Sampler, Tone Machine, Time Machine, etc.), the pre-amp group insert effect chain, the amplifier, the post-amp group insert effect chain.
- Instrument: one or more groups with combined instrument insert effects and send effects. The instrument signal path includes the instrument insert effect chain, the instrument send effects (in parallel), and the instrument output. Each instrument can respond to its own MIDI channel, and also has its own volume, pan, and polyphony settings.
- Multi-Instrument: a combination of instruments in a single rack. Multi-instruments also include the aux sends, and the multi-output mixer, which includes effect plugin slots like DP.
I’m leaving a copy of the signal routing page from the manual in the lab. This is helpful to refer to, especially when it comes to effects.
Effects include filters, EQ, and signal processing units such as chorus, reverb, distortion, etc. Some effects are only available at certain points in the hierarchy (group, instrument, send). Each point in the hierarchy also offers different controls and methods of computing.
- Group insert effects: compute polyphonically for each note. Most parameters are controllable via a modulation matrix. For example, you can have the note number modulate the center frequency of a filter. Each note that gets played will have its own filter with individual filter modulation.
- Instrument insert effects: compute on the summed output of all groups (with their individual effects). Usually the the instrument insert effects are used for compressors, limiters, and overall instrument EQ settings.
- Instrument send effects: operate in parallel to the instrument signal, usually to be mixed back in to the output instrument signal.
- Output channel inserts: these are mixer-level effects, that operate on multiple instruments in a rack.
Modulation routers appear directly under the module of a modulated parameter. You can modulate a parameter with MIDI remote (1:1 mapping of external control to value), MIDI CC (scalable mapping of external control), MIDI Note #, an envelope, or LFO. The router shows the parameter being modulated, by what, and by how much.
Modulation sources (LFOs and Envelopes) appear at the bottom of the instrument in the Modulation section of the instrument. Here you control the modulators’ parameters.