Hey guys, Young Coconut here, musician and Fauxtown Records artist. Lately, as I’ve been getting more into making electronic music of my own, I’ve been hearing a lot about this program called Kontakt, and specifically the fifth version Kontakt 5, by Native Instruments.
My buddy Daniel Kern uses it frequently with his own compositions, and so I decided to ask him a few (a lot of) newbie questions about this extensive music software suite, and he basically gave me his review of it plus a whole lot more.
This chat is a companion piece to his actual review of Kontakt by Native Instruments he did recently for this website. Check out our chat and hopefully if you’ve been wondering about it, this should tell you what someone who uses it regularly thinks of it.
YC: Hey Daniel, how are you today?
DK: Hey YC. I’m fine, how are you?
YC: Ah, you know, pretty good. Since you are an audio buff who uses a lot of digital software to create your music, I wanted to ask you a few things about the program called Kontakt. You know, the Native Instruments sample player?
DK: Of course. I hope I’m able to answer your questions adequately. Hit me!
YC: Ok, which version of Kontakt do you have currently running on your computer?
DK: I have Kontakt 5. Here’s what it looks like.
YC: Aha, so for those who don’t know what Kontakt is, can you tell me and the people what it does, and why one might want to use it?
DK: Kontakt does a lot. I guess most people are using it as a VST plugin inside their DAW (Cubase, Nuendo, etc. ) – but it also works as a standalone! I guess not many are using it to develop their own Kontakt-Libraries (“VSTs”). The thing is that Kontakt is working as a “host” for a huge variety of Kontakt Libraries /.nki files. Theres everything from drums and percussion to instruments like pianos and guitars, world instruments, synthesizers, and of course also orchestral sounds. Either from Native Instruments (the makers of Kontakt) themself or from various other creators.
YC: I wasn’t aware that it worked as a standalone DAW.
DK: No, not as a standalone DAW, just as a standalone plugin. I mean you can record stuff with it, but I guess the standalone application is rather for live-purposes.
YC: Right, so how do you tend to use it mostly?
DK: I use it mostly as a “host”-VST in Cubase playing different libraries. I mean mostly I combine them with other VST plugins like VSL. Especially when doing orchestral stuff.
YC: Can you share with us all an example of a composition you’ve made with Kontakt?
DK: Puhh.. I dont know if I have any that are made completely with Kontakt, without using any other plugins.
YC: Well it can just include Kontakt stuff. Not purely Kontakt.
DK: Alright let me search.. 🙂
YC: Ya just to talk about something concrete.
DK: Well, I’m sure I have a lot of sounds in this track from various Kontakt plugins.
DK: But I edited a lot there 🙂 Let me see if I also can find one thats not too electronic..
DK: Let’s try this one.
DK: In my sample-reel are many different musical styles but in the first part (the more “classical” one) a few strings from the background are from Kontakt for example in the electronic part that follows I also used Kontakt for a few things but we could at some point make a “Only Kontakt” Track 😉
YC: Yeah, I see.. so for the second link you shared, “Sample One”, besides Kontakt, what else is in there?
DK: uh .. there are a bunch ^^ For instance, the piano is “The Grand” from Steinberg.
YC: Ok, yeah…
DK: The violin and cello are from VSL. Those are definitely some of the greatest orchestral plugins on the market.
YC: What’s from Kontakt in that track? It’s obviously kinda tough to know what is coming from where.
DK: The background strings are from Kontakt. And, well, most of the things you remember.. ^^
YC: You’d have to be sort of a plugin master to know what sample library provides what sound to a track like this I think…
DK: No I wouldn’t say so.. I think you just need to know your plugins haha.
YC: How many instruments would you say make up this track?
DK: From beginning to finish or just the classical part?
YC: The whole thing.
DK: Puh…that’s a lot haha. Let me give it a listen.. Its been a while since I did that track.
YC: Ok sure.
DK: I’d say between 70-100, maybe more..because I layered a lot of sounds, every part of the drums is another plugin.
YC: Wow, yeah, so like 70 tracks essentially? …or some crazy amount of tracks.
DK: I’d say if 70 instruments, about 90 tracks .. some of them have a few copies, not counting stuff like tempo track, velocity tracks, etc.
YC: aha. yeah.. you must have a decent computer set up to run all that.
DK: Well it could be better. I’m actually looking to build up a new setup.
YC: You’ll get there. How do you think Kontakt has come up with such rich sounds for their sample libraries?
DK: I think that besides the huge sound library that you can get by buying KOMPLETE 11 – made by / or at least in cooperation with Native Instruments (the creators of Kontakt). The crazy thing about Kontakt is that it allows also “outsiders” to create Sound Libraries and in agreeance with NI they are also allowed to sell them. So that changes the game, they dont have to build up their own VST Interface, and programming the sampler from scratch – they can use Kontakt for that. I’m sure this is the biggest reason why they have such a huge variety of sounds.
YC: How do you go about making your own Kontakt sample libraries? Is it easy, or does it take a long time? How do you go about it?
DK: I actually dont have too much experience with creating complex libraries in Kontakt, but most of my own libraries are completely sample-based. I record different sounds first via Cubase (Drums, Percussion, SFX,.. different velocities – different sounds) and then I slice them up and put them on the different keys / velocities. I would say it depends on what you are gping to make if its easy .. if you want to build a complex synthesizer, there will be some programming to do, if you want to record whale-sounds in the antarctica – you will need money and equipment to succeed.
YC: What was your experience with installing Kontakt? I’ve heard it can be tricky.
DK: Installing Kontakt was actually pretty easy as far as I remember.. installing via setup and then put the .dll file into the VST folder you chose for your DAW.
YC: Did you download Kontakt or buy it? You think it’s worth it?
DK: I bought it, and I’d say its definitely worth the money !
YC: Do you usually update Kontakt when you can?
DK: I update it there and then, but not as often as I should maybe 🙂
YC: Any systems it doesn’t run on that you know of? What are you running Kontakt 5 on?
DK: I don’t know if they work well on Apple, but they worked fine for me with Cubase and also for a friend of mine with studio one. I also guess they should work in Ableton.
YC: If you were to tell someone the most basic way to use it, what would that be. For a beginner. I’m not talking about a lesson, but for a new guy, would would you recommend they do once the software is running.
DK: I would recommend people who just bought and successfuly installed Kontakt, that they browse through the plugins as much as they can try to remember what they have, play around with the sounds, familiarize yourself with your libraries so later on when you need a specific instrument in a composition – you know where to find it. And you can get a lot of inspiration out of playing with those sounds 🙂
YC: What’s your favourite instrument to use in Kontakt and why?
DK: My favourite Instrument depends on what I need to do. For Chiptunes I like to use Bitkits, for Background Strings I sometimes use NI Action Strings, I also like some Big Fish Audio Libraries for cinematic stuff, there are a bunch of cool instruments for electronic sounds, some cool things for hiphop stuff .. I cant really say that I have a favourite 🙂
YC: How many instruments are in the library overall? I guess i could just look that one up, but what the hey.
DK: Well the number of instruments depends on if you have the free Kontakt Sample Player, the Kontakt Komplete or the Kontakt Komplete Ultimate Bundle. And also on how many Libraries you buy from other creators! So it depends!
YC: Yeah man, well I may just have to get my hands on Kontakt myself. It sounds pretty great!
DK: Definitely check it out if you can.
YC: I will! Thanks for the chat, dude.
DK: No problem, later!