The key to using Kontakt is to understand the hierarchy sample to instrument to rack, and how to use effects and modulation sources.
Kontakt uses the metaphor of hardware samplers in a rack. As part of this rack, Kontakt includes a multi-purpose browser (files, libraries, 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, under options). Since Kontakt can also function as a plugin instrument within a DAW, having commands built in to the interface is preferable to menus.
When an instrument is loaded, you click on its wrench to open the editor. For beginning purposes, close the sections that deal with Instrument Buses, Insert Effects, and Send Effects.
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. You can edit zones within the Mapping Editor. Within a zone, you can also edit files to set sample start and end points, and multiple loops within the Waveform Editor. Note that you must have a zone selected in the mapping editor to show its corresponding audio file in the waveform editor.
- 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, and modulation sources. We will focus on the source, group insertFx, amplifier, and modulation sections.
- 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, tuning, 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.
filters and 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.
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 # (key position), an envelope, or LFO. The router shows the parameter being modulated, by what source, 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. There are navigation buttons that allow you to jump from router to source, and vice versa.
Kontakt can save individual instruments in one of three formats. It can also save a multi(instrument) rack (and its collection of instruments) as a whole. While saving a multi is useful for quickly loading an entire multi-instrument setup, unless you have also saved instruments in individual files you will not be able to access them separately from the multi. I recommend saving instruments individually, and then also saving any multi’s that you want to load quickly.
Saving an instrument is always a “save as…” command in Kontakt. File management commands are found in the Disk icon, marked Files. You can edit the names of instruments in the instrument header, or you can rename an instrument while saving it. Although it leads to larger file sizes, and the copying of audio files that you already have, I strongly recommend using the “save as…monolith” option. That will save your patch/program info along with any digital audio used by the patch into one single file. If you save just the patch, or patch + samples, you run the risk of losing the digital audio you are using for the patch.