Keyswitches in a Kontakt 3 Virtual Instrument

If you have a multi-timbre or multi-articulation instrument, but no documentation, how do you figure out how to switch between different sounds?

What is a keyswitch?
One common technique is a “keyswitch”. Playing a MIDI note of a specific pitch turns on a particular timbre. The MIDI note is out of range for that instrument so the MIDI note is silent.

Unfortunately, MIDI keyswitches make it harder to switch between different libraries, because even if a substitute patch also uses keyswitches there is no standard for asociating timbres with MIDI pitches. One library may use C0 for sustain and D0 for staccato, and another might assign tremolo to D0.

To discover what keyswitches are set up in a Kontakt 3 instrument:

  1. Load the instrument.
  2. Switch to Instrument Edit Mode by clicking the wrench button.
  3. In the panel just below the instrument header panel, click the Group Editor button.
The list of groups is displayed with checkboxes.
  4. Open the Group Start Options panel, by clicking the Group Start Options tab.
  5. Click a group to highlight it.
  6. In the Group Start Options panel, you see the the settings for that group.
    If the group is enabled by a keyswitch, you’ll see a line “Group Starts on key”, followed by the MIDI note or note range that you need to use to play the samples in that group.

In your sequence, program that MIDI note just before the notes that you want to use that sound.

Group Start Options
start on key – specify a range of MIDI notes that enable this group. If the instrument receives a trigger assigned to another group, this group is disabled.

start on controller – specify a controller and a range of values from that controller that enable this group. A controller value outside the range disables the group.

cycle round robin – (used in combination with “start on key”) specify an order for this group in a set of groups that are enabled by a specific MIDI note.

cycle random – all groups that are enabled by the same MIDI note(s) for “start on key” and have the “cycle random” start option will be selected at random

slice trigger – for backward compatibility; don’t use

always – The group will always play; or if there are other conditions on the list, it marks the end of the list but has no other effect.

Selecting always from the dropdown deletes any other conditions below it. For the last Group Start option line, selecting anything other than “always” from the dropdown adds a final always line, so there’s always a “blank” line for adding more options.

Use logical operators and, or, and not on the right end of each Group Start line to combine several start conditions. For example, use or to specify two separate ranges of controller values that enable the group.

7 thoughts on “Keyswitches in a Kontakt 3 Virtual Instrument

  1. I love music. This blog is so helpful. Your explanation was very easy to read and understand. This blog is so intrinsic and technically perfect. I think virtual instrument very good instrument. Ok in future i will used Virtual Instrument. thanks for the wonderful entry.

  2. hi, it is very clear but it doesn't work for me 🙁
    I'm working in sibelius, trying to write for string quartet. I loaded three articulations per instrument: staccato, long note (sustain) and pizzicato, so it's 3 x 4 instruments = 12 virtual instruments in kontakt. The three articulations of violin 1 in midi channel 1, 2nd violin 2, viola 3 and cello 4.
    I assigned (just to find an easy way) C0 as the key switch of all staccato's, C#0 all the sustain nothes and D0 for the pizzicato's.
    Just for a test i wrote a single note in the cello with the pizz keyswitch and it triggers the three of them, pizz, stacc and long at the same time(cello).
    I hope you follow and give me a tip, thank a lot!!!

  3. Hi Marcos,
    I'm not sure what's wrong. I did all my tests using Digital Performer. For Sibelius, do you add extra notes in your parts for the keyswitches? There could be a discrepancy in the octave numbering between Kontakt and Sibelius. Try putting the keyswitch notes an octave higher or lower.

    However, because all three sound at once, there may be something missing in the group start settings.

    Sorry for the delay. I've been away, then heads down finishing a choral piece.
    Good luck! I hope this helps.

  4. I've just found your blog and I'm not sure how this works. I'm trying to do vibrato in Kontakt 3. Everywhere I read that I have to go to edit mode by clicking on the wrench icon. I have looked everywhere and I can see no wrench icon. I'm using Garritan Personal Orchestra. I'd be so grateful if you could help me out.

    Paul Shilton

  5. Hi Paul,
    When you load an instrument in Kontakt, it has a horizontal panel in the right half of the window, right? The left side has the folders and files for searching for instruments, which may or may not be visible. So your instruments may be the whole window.

    In the upper left corner of each instrument is an icon of a wrench (if you're in England, I think you call it a spanner). Click on that to open up the editor for that instrument. It will take over the whole panel and you can work on that instrument.

    Hope that helps.

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