4. Hardware Controllers
Using external controllers can really help you to get the best out of your plug-ins. The most common type is the MIDI controller keyboard which is ideal for playing virtual instrument plug-ins (please see our separate Sound Libraries Online Advisor for more information on these). The keyboard triggers sounds on your computer in real-time via MIDI so that your plug-in acts like a hardware sound module, and the performance can be recorded which then allows each note to be edited. MIDI keyboards range from 25 key models all the way up to full-size 88 note weighted keyboards with polyphonic after-touch. When choosing a controller keyboard, check what type of interface it has MIDI, USB, FireWire, or a combination of these if it only has MIDI connections then you will also need a separate MIDI interface, or at least a soundcard with MIDI ports built in. Some controller keyboards feature knobs, faders, buttons and pads to control other parameters of your plug-ins, for example you might use a couple of knobs to control reverb time and room size to give you better control than you might get with a mouse. Other common controls include pitchbend and modulation wheels for greater expression.
Dedicated control surfaces retain the knobs and faders, but do away with the keyboard altogether. Theyre often used to control your music production softwares mixer, and you might also find transport controls, rotary knobs, buttons, strip displays and pads for drum programming.
With the ever-increasing number of parameters found in plug-ins, an external controller can prove to be an invaluable piece of equipment to have to hand, giving instant access to many different parameters simultaneously. Most controller manufacturers now provide templates for their products so that they work with common plug-ins straight out of the box.