MU4 and external VSTs - Kontakt 7

• Dec 31, 2023 - 17:06

Perhaps most people round here are only interested in the MuseScore world, so this won't affect them.

I have managed to get MU4 working with quite a range of different libraries, though some are trickier to coerce into working than others.

I guess that it's not by any means unexpected that strange things start to happen as more plug-ins are attached, and it becomes harder to point the finger at any additional plug-in. However trying to persuade Native Instruments Kontakt 7 - and some of the instruments it supports, to work with MU4, and also some of the SINE player instruments from Orchestral Tools - does seem fraught with more problems. Today MU4 managed to save one file with a completely spurious [though not unused] file name. It managed to save a file with an old file name, and there are problems when trying to load that one.

Some would argue I shouldn't be trying to do these things, but I'm simply trying to expand the range of sounds and possibilities. Some plug-ins do work better with MU4, and are reasonably stable, while others [which may be very good in a DAW environment] may be more likely to cause MU4 to crash.

I see no reason why MU4 should not be made to work stably with most new plugins - particularly if they are ones which are commonly used in current DAWs. I hope that over time such an expectation of stability with external plug-ins will be realised.


Nothing wrong trying things.
FWIW. I have Spitfire, Sforzando, and Sine working. But the free sounds I get just aren't very good. So I don't use them. I am tempted to test Kontakt just to see if I can get it to work to see if I can help. But, frankly, none of the free sounds they offer are of interest to me. But I'll think about it.
As to what should work in MU4? We all have different expectations. I just want to be able to write my music. Am I limited by MU4? No more than by any notation software, I think. I work with what I have. Or can reasonably acquire.

In reply to by bobjp

I wanted Kontakt because I really wanted to have some decent solo string or string quartet libraries. Oddly - and it's a bit of a nuisance, even the Spitfire string quartet library - the one by the Sacconi Quartet - still relies on the full Kontakt library. I didn't really notice that at first, though I did get the Cremona library from NK.

I'm still trying to get the Sacconi library to work. One problem with NK libraries and Kontakt is that getting libraries to work on external volumes is tricksy, and may also vary according to whatever software the libraries are intended to work with.

I did get one NK library to work - the Igneus Electric Cello - though sadly that doesn't sound as pleasant as I'd hoped. One issue with NK libraries seems to be that they appear to require saving in specific storage locations, and for me that's a nuisance as the only reliable way of getting that done at the present time is to save the files on the computer main drive, thus taking up valuable space. The Spitfire libraries, and most other libraries I have tried, can be loaded up on external SSDs, and indeed with relative ease. I suspect that it's not the case that the NK libraries can't be loaded to external SSDs, but rather that finding out how to do that is going to be tediously time consuming.

For experimenting with these things I find that generally it's best to get them working with one or two DAWs first, and then they usually work OK with MU4. However the NK libraries may present more of a challenge, and I've had several crashes since trying to get those working.

One library I tried recently is the Easy Strings library from Audiolatry. That is neat and simple - and Free! I hightly recommend it. Even if you find you don't like it too much you might find it a useful library to have to put into the mix.

The French Violin from Samplesounds is another good one - almost free - certainly very cheap.

I have found some very nice harpsichord libraries which work with Sforzando, and there are some good libraries which work with SINE - the free organ in particular is good. There is also a free organ library of the Leeds Town Hall organ which is worth having. Organ enthusiasts will probably want to pay for the very much more expensive organ libraries from other supliers.

Re being limited by MU4 ... well yes. I find that sometimes there is a world of difference between the sounds of a piece with one set of instrument libraries "plugged in" and others. I like some of the Muse Hub instruments a lot, but others I really don't get on with - in particular violin 1 - except for weird effects. There are also some problems with the articulations even for some of the better Muse Hub instruments - for example consecutive notes being smeared together.

Sometimes a harmonic effect will pass almost unnoticed with one set of virtual instruments, and will be a strong focal point with a different set.

Good luck with selecting sounds you like.

In reply to by dave2020X

I learned long ago that using an external drive for anything but storing Docs, videos, pics, and the like, and for backup, was a mistake. Things need to be on the main drive because that's where the OS is. That's why space on the main drive is indeed valuable. If you are running out of space on your main drive, then it's time to start saving pennies. A 1T SSD is a minimum.
Indeed, recorded sound does not blend the same as real instruments. I also find that I spend a lot of time setting up something to sound just the way I want in playback on my computer. Then I find that it doesn't sound that way on a different system. I have learned I can only be so picky. Except in the case of the solo1 violin. That's just embarrassing.

In reply to by bobjp

I agree - to a point Lord Copper, but in the case of sound libraries the sample files - in total - can be huge. So it does actually make sense if you can do it to set up the sound libraries on external SSDs, That also has a advantage that you can move the files to other machines easily, if you need to.

I/O speeds with USB 3 or above [and even USB 2 might work] are fast enough that having libraries stored externally on SSDs does work well enough.

Sure - if you have lots of money you can max out the main store and the main drives [SSDs] on a system, and clearly that's what some music producers do. For example, with Apple Kit it would be easy to spend over £10,000 to get an Apple Studio machine which should take just about anything an amateur user could throw at it, though that might still not be fast enough for a serious production company. I suspect that most of us here either do not have that kind of money - or at least not that kind of kit. It might be possible to construct a Windows or Linux machine which would be faster and even more powerful for less cost but few people other than gamers have the expertise and skills to do that.

I probably won't buy another desktop computer for a few years, and then I would seriously consider one with 32 or 64 Gbytes main memory, and perhaps 4 Tbytes of internal storage SSD. I would hope that costs would have dropped by then.

Re the blending of sound with real instruments versus recorded sounds, sure - it'll be different. Different audio kit can also make a difference, so I guess that "playing" a mock up of a piece on identical computers, but with slightly different speaker and amp set ups could very easily give audible differences - even if notionally the speakers and amps are generally considered to be of comparable quality. Even with real instruments different players in a group will blend together differently, so you [or someone does] have to decide what is the best balance and way to play any piece.

In reply to by dave2020X

Sure, even my modest Sibelius sounds are 35 GB. And do not work on an external drive. So I've always put everything on a single drive. Faster and less to go wrong. I have MU4 on four very different computers. The idea of moving an external drive between them does not seem worth the trouble. Yes, I know, just unplug from one and plug into the other. But I don't even have to do that if each computer has their own.

As far as cost goes, I don't recall internal drives costing any more than a comparable external drive. And replacing one is not rocket science. Especially in a desktop. If you can hold a screwdriver and read (and follow) directions, That's most of what you need. In Windows you need an inexpensive cable to connect the new drive via usb to the computer to be upgraded. Then copy the old drive, including the OS, to the new one. Then swap drives. There is no problem logging on afterwards. Believe me, I understand about not having much money. I've often had to scrape together spare parts from nothing to make something work. I'm not interested in pouring large amounts of money into a computer. That's why I upgrade rather than buy new. Up to a point. My ten-year-old laptop that I have upgraded many times, finally had keyboard problems. Parts not available any more. So I sucked it up and was able to buy a nicer laptop that runs MU4 far better than I've been able to run it before. £948

And on the subject of sounds. It doesn't make much difference how good they are if the program running them can't use them properly. MuseScore is getting there. Slowly. I don't ask for much. But it would sure be nice if in Muse sounds:
1. Slurs worked.
2. Velocity worked. But only because there are random notes that are for no good reason way too loud or soft.
3. Strings didn't swell on most every note. All the free fonts I've tried do this for some unmusical reason.
4. Solo 1 "expressive" weren't so sloppy.

I don't care about the save button. Or the camera. Or the multi-tab function. Or the PRE. None of those affect my primary use. Which is composition. For Playback. OK, PRE might. But even though I've had access to it, I've never needed it before.

In reply to by bobjp

I don't actually know how MU4 handles plugins. It may be that it is OS specific, or that my policy of trying to get things working in Logic or occasionally Reaper puts files in places that MU4 can pickup. Until recently - and trying to get Kontakt working - I just accepted that mostly anything which worked in Logic would have a better than evens chance of working in MU4.

You have three more computers running MU4 than I have. Also it seems you are running Windows - a system which I have detested for years - for various reasons. That doesn't mean that I always like Apple or Linux, but just that mostly things work more smoothly with Apple than Windows. I have wasted many days trying to get Windows systems to work, and my now only occasional contacts with Windows haven't done much to change my mind.

I notice you quoted a price for a new laptop in pounds - and if it's any good that's not an unreasonable price. Are you based in the UK then? [I guess you don't have to answer that ...]

You do appear to have identified several of the problem areas I have noted with MU4 - your points 1-4. I agree with those.

One significant irritation with Apple these days is that several of the machines in the range have to be pre-configured. Get the configuration "wrong" and there's no sensible easy and affordable upgrade route. For example, if one thinks that a machine with 16 Gbytes will run a particular program, so buy the machine, and then discover that it doesn't, or doesn't work well, then a simple memory upgrade is not possible. As it's hard to figure out what will or won't work, then people are going to be caught between buying an over specced machine, or one which won't actually run the software it is intended to run. OK - most people aren't running software with huge memory requirements, but some of us wanting to run DAWs and software libraries may find that is a consequence. It's not just a matter of having a computer which will do email, simple wordprocessing and spreadsheets. In the UK at least, many people can't really afford to overspend on hardware in order to avoid problems which may, or may not, actually happen.

That's another reason why I try to have instrument libraries on external SSDs.

One other puzzle - what do you mean by PRE?

In reply to by dave2020X

I am in the US. I only put that in pounds for you. And it wasn't easy. It occurs to me that price may not be valid in the UK. Oh well.
iOS doesn't make much sense to me. And I have worked with it. And consider that I have software from 2007 that still works just fine on W11.
I understand that M1 and 2 are not upgradable. But Pro models are. My aging Surface is not upgradeable. Ram isn't upgradable on my new laptop either. Which is why I'm glad it has 16GB. Hopefully it will get me by.

I have learned the hard way that there is no such thing as too much computer power. Pre Windows 93, I looked into a system for music production. The sales person said that I was going to need a minimum 1 gig hard drive. I couldn't imagine that. They were very expensive. He must be crazy. I thought the same thing when I discovered that I needed a minimum 128MB of ram to run XP. Who ever thought I would need that extravagant amount of ram for anything?
Sure, for email, browsing and word processing a very light system will do. But for serious work, I think it's best to stay ahead, if possible.
MuseScore is very clear on what is required to run MU4. I can run it on systems not quite up to it. But there is a performance cost.
But we can only do what we can do.

PRE. Piano Roll Editor.

In reply to by bobjp

PRE - of course!

Prices in dollars often translate directly into pounds - though they shouldn't. Plus unfortunately now some things made for the US don't work in the UK or Europe, or vice versa. Obviously that's true for electrical equipment, with the US on 110 volts 60 Hz, while much of Europe uses 220-240 volts 50Hz, but there was quite a lot of stuff which could be bought in the US and used over here. Some things were definitely cheaper to buy in the US and bring back to Europe, because of exchange rates, and if they could be brought back without having to pay any - or significant import duty, that was good for us. Importers obviously have transport costs, and sometimes import duty to pay, though now with many goods being shipped direct from the countries where the goods are actually made, the situation re pricing is more complex. Many suppliers appear to simply take the dollar price and change the sign to pounds, which today represents about a 25% increase in price, though obviously it varies from day to day.

If you were interested in music production from the era of Windows 93 you must have been doing this kind of stuff for a long while.

I always thought that iOS was a disaster, but then one of my colleagues pointed out that it was what most people used - at the time. Android is even worse.

Most modern OSs are based on Unix, which was great in its day. It was never really intended to become a large system, and almost ubiquitous for servers etc. The original developers didn't imagine that there would be issues about security etc., as they thought that people in small teams would mostly be known to their colleagues and trustworthy. After a few years they discovered that that assumption was incorrect. However other systems which were designed with security and more complex file systems built in didn't compete, either for cost or performance reasons.

In reply to by dave2020X

I think both systems have strong and weak points. Just depends on what make sense to the individual. From a practical standpoint, I can't afford a Mac. One comparable to the PC I just bought costs 2 or 3 times what I spent. Everyone else in my family has switched to Mac. I keep waiting for someone to give me a good reason to change. Usually the reasons they give are things that make no difference to me. My daughter does some gaming. Even though she is a Mac person, she was delighted when I gave her my old Windows desktop ( which has similar specs to my new laptop). Serious gamers use Windows. That doesn't make Windows better overall.

I compose as a therapeutic hobby. But when I was able to write using notation software, it was like a miracle. Not perfect. But far better than paper and pencil and just imagining what my music sounded like. Muse sounds has limitations, to be sure. Many people complain that the sounds don't do what they want. True enough. But for me, there is a difference between writing what you want and working with what you have. Part of the reward for me is piece that sounds good (to me, at least) in spite of the drawbacks. I think composers have always done this to some extent. If all you have is a small group of court musicians, that is what you write for. Bach worked this way. The scores we have for many Baroque solo compositions from several composers consisted of a melody line with figured bass. Players at that time played this kind of music so much that they didn't need parts written out. A performance of the latest flute concerto might be have been performed by the soloist, harpsicord, cello or bassoon, and may a few string players to fill in.

So, when I'm writing and I come upon some limitation in the sounds, I often just write something different until I come up with something I like.

Of course transcription is more particular. But I don't do transcription. Nor do I put stuff on .com. Actually I have two pieces there. One was in order to join a discussion group. Which has since folded. And the other was a download test. They can be found under my user name.

In reply to by bobjp

If you are good with hardware, which you appear to be, then it is possible to put together a high performance PC - either for less than a Mac, or alternatively for the same kind of price, but with better performance. I think gamers tend to do that as the requirements for games seem to be different from video, image processing and music production.

One comment you made though related to Kontakt. Do you have Kontakt, or are you thinking of doing a trial?
I didn't really want to go the Kontakt route, but as I already mentioned I particularly wanted some strings for quartets. Also I didn't realise that both the packages I wanted would require that - but once I had decided to take the plunge with Kontakt, then things become easier to justify.

That doesn't avoid the installation and other issues, but once the basic commitment has been made, then it's easier to justify new libraries - some of which may then be available at low prices.

You are correct I think that many of the trial, cheap or free libraries for Kontakt aren't good or interesting, but sites such as Loot audio and sometimes VSTBuzz often have libraries at very much reduced prices. With Loot it is possible to search for specific requirements - for example "cello" and many options will appear - some as low as £20 [$20] - while others are of course more expensive. I think it's possible to get several good ones for under £50 [$50]

You also mentioned SINE player earlier, and I will add that I did pay out for the Berlin Brass library, as I felt it was better than the brass in the BBC Discover library - though since then I haven't found so much difference in direct comparisons.

Some libraries have samples which take a long while to load, which probably explains why some producers have templates for music production - presumably which have the samples pre-loaded ready for playback.
It is possible with some to do that on the fly, but some don't work that way. I have over 32Gbytes of memory, so most samples don't hold up playback - but if they have to be uploaded "in real time" then there can be delays, or just the wrong sounds, depending on how the sequencer or other software drives the audio generation.

In reply to by dave2020X

No, I don't have Kontakt. I looked into it to see if I could answer any of your questions. And, as I said, none of the fee fonts were of interest to me. It is interesting that that the free fonts from most companies aren't that great. Of course, they aren't going to put their really good stuff up for free. On the other hand, it's hard to attract new customers with less than good sounds. I'm not really that picky. I'm not interested in paying for fonts. Why? I'm basically cheap, I guess. Which is probably why I won't ever have a DAW. Way too expensive. And a high learning curve. So I will continue to fumble along with notation software. And enjoy it.
Indeed, gaming PC's need the best CPU, GPU, fast ram (not just the amount) and lots of fast storage. Sound isn't always quite as important. But never hurts.
MU3 is amazing software. People have found all kinds of uses for it that I would never dream of. There is a church organist that, during a service, has some 150 scores open at once so he can switch to any one of them quickly and make edits to them, if needed. OMG. And countless other things. And then....MU4.
And you would think the world had ended. So many complaints about this or that missing. Usually ending with a statement about staying with MU3. MU4 is a regression, or it was released too soon, and on, and on. There is nothing wrong with finding MU4 not what you want. Nothing wrong with staying with MU3.
Here's the thing: MU4 is not MU3. It can't be. Just because it isn't what some people want, doesn't make it bad or incomplete. It just makes it not what some people want. Seems simple to me.
Years ago Avid bought Sibelius and later changed the UI to something more like Word. The story is that the brothers who had founded and owned Sibelius were forced out. They went to Dorico. These two events caused an explosion. People left Sibelius in droves. There are still bad feeling today.
To me, business is....strange. Companies come and go. They get bought. They go under. I have no control. The new UI in Sibelius that so many left because they hated it, just wasn't a big deal to me. But it was a dealbreaker (sound familiar?) for them. So be it. My version (which came out in 2014) was the last before the company went to subscription versions. I got into MuseScore because I was sure that someday Sibelius would not run on a new version of Windows. And yet, so far, every time I move my copy to an upgraded computer, Avid resets my old license so I can do so. Including the move to W11.
I work more in MU4. I don't even have MU3 on this computer. I don't need it. It has nothing to do with Sibelius. I only open Sibelius now and then. Usually to test something. It also has a fairly good PDF reader.

In reply to by bobjp

Agree about subscription models. I don't like them at all.

Some people have moved to Dorico, and say it's better and better also than MU4. However to get the most useful version one has to pay for the full version, which is pricey. Both MU3 and MU4 [free] can manage large scores, whereas paid for notation software is usually limited either in the number or parts, or the length of the scores, or the instruments supported.

Arguably the best cheap or free option [if cost is an issue] is to couple MU3 or MU4 to a cheap DAW. Then you can get the benefits of a reasonable engraving system with possibly the advantages of better sound, and more flexible expression.

Currently MU4 has better "inbuilt" sounds than MU3 for the "regular" instruments, but the articulation is often sloppy. I really do not like the way the violins sound or move from note to note. I have commented enough about the sound of violin 1.

Unfortunately most external VST plugins for sound use different methods for switching on articulation. These can be matched to MU4 but that currently requires the use of key switches., so hidden staves are needed to switch the articulation on or off. Other systems, such as Dorico, use a different form of interface - I think called Expression Maps - which work quite well I hear with different plugins.

It would be good if MU4 could do something similar.

If you are on Windows, I hear that Cakewalk is a DAW which works quite well with MU3/MU4 and is free. Others have had good results with that. I'm not sure if there are any major disadvantages - there may be - but I don't use it so can't say. Some DAWs are now "online" and I prefer to keep most of my activity away from clouds etc., and host software and data locally. Other people seem less bothered.

In reply to by dave2020X

I don't even use 1 or solo 1 of anything.
My older copy of Sibelius has no limitations on size or length of scores. It has more sounds and variations of those sounds. When I select a violin sound, I have several styles to choose from. Plain, legato, vibrato, vibrato legato, for starters. It has more ways to adjust articulations. As well as many things I know nothing about. But the sounds tend to lack....I don't know...character.
I know there are free DAWs. And I know there are plugins and all manner of hidden tricks that can make playback better. I'd rather spend my time composing. I don't mind adjusting things in the score. For example, putting a staccato over an 1/8 note makes it short. But in some sounds, it also makes it softer. Making the note a 1/16 instead tends to keep the volume up. I wouldn't hand real players parts with a run of notes written that way. But as I write for playback, it doesn't matter.

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