Kore, Komplete, Reaktor @ cdm

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Playing – using your musical tools and toys as an instrument – is what it’s all about for a lot of us. And for many computer musicians, making the computer more playable live, whether onstage or improvising in the “studio,” is a reason to choose Ableton Live as a host.

From the day I first saw Kore at a pre-launch press conference, the pitch was that Kore was portable: you can move it from host to host as a plug-in or use it as a host itself. Lately, I’ve been putting that to use myself, playing some sets in Kore 2 alone, and moving into hosts, particularly Ableton Live. Before talking about the how, it’s worth covering some of the why.

Naturally, if you’re not into the full version of Kore 2, you can easily inject some extra sounds into Live with the soundpacks. But here, I’ll cover the all-stops-pulled complete version of Kore.

Live + Kore: How They Can Work Together

The reasons to use Ableton Live are probably most evident, since it does many of the things that Kore itself does not. I’ll go through what I think is important – if you’re a beginning user, don’t worry about this too much as it’ll make sense when you see it.

Clip triggering: Live’s claim to fame is its bank of MIDI and audio clips (or, if you’d like, “loops”). Now, I’ve been experimenting with using NI’s drum sampler Battery in place of Live just to break myself of some bad Live habits; fundamentally, Live’s Session View is a big, specialized sampler. But naturally, having all those Live clips and scenes at your disposal to drive Kore instruments or run through Kore effects or use alongside Kore is hugely helpful. It’s very practical to have a set with a few channels of Kore instruments and a set of audio clips. It also makes it easier to segue between DJ-style improvisation and straight-out instrumental playing.

Easy arrangement: Kore can manage multiple channels, but when it’s time to track into a song, you’ll want some kind of host. Live makes a good choice because of that clip metaphor; it’s easy to sketch out ideas in Kore, then assemble them into a more polished arrangement. Other DAWs will work, too, but Live lets you transition more fluidly from improvised chunks to an arranged song.

Possibly less obvious is why you’d use Kore in Live. Recent versions of Live do include Device Racks, which have some features in common with Kore. There’s the ability to combine multiple effects and instruments into single presets, and even to map easily to eight macro parameter controls. But Kore brings some advantages of its own:

Metadata, preset browsing: As we’ve covered before, Kore has extensive features for organizing both the many presets in Native’s Kore-ready instruments and effects, and third-party plug-ins and presets of your own creation.

Hardware control: For me, a big appeal of Kore in the first place is the ability to browse through sounds and adjust timbres on the (now optional) Kore controller hardware. This isn’t a zero-sum-game, either – you can do both. You could, for instance, lock a Novation SL keyboard to a Live Device Rack and use the Kore controller to navigate three or four different Kore performances, all without hunching over your laptop. It takes some work (heck, I’m still practicing), but it’s really satisfying.

Smart parameter management: Unfold a Live device using the disclosure triangle, and you’re met with tons and tons of parameters. These are exposed by plug-ins’ automation features, which happens to be how Kore works a lot of its magic. The problem is, there are an insane number of parameters for each instrument and effect, particularly more-complex ones. Picking out the ones you need can be time-consuming, particularly when you get into Reaktor. Kore’s ability to learn parameters just by dragging them with your mouse is a huge, huge time-saver. I’ll often use Kore just to make my Reaktor creations more mangeable in Live.

Above, you can see what happens when you try to look at raw presets, even for a relatively simple ensemble like our Grain Delay.

Assigned to Kore parameters, though – which is easy enough to do by dragging the knobs in the ensemble itself – this is much more manageable. Here’s a User Control Page I created for a similar Reaktor ensemble:

Portable presets: Unlike a Device Rack, you can create a setup in Kore inside Live, then use it in standalone mode, or move it to another tool (like SONAR, Reaper, Logic, or whatever you happen to prefer).

Internal modules: Okay, let me be upfront. I’m addicted to tools, so to me avoiding some sameness of sound by mixing in some Kore grain effects is very appealing.

Let’s take a closer look at how all of this fits together.

Setting up Kore in Live: Tips to Get Started


Adding Kore to your Live set: There are a number of ways to approach this. First, you have a choice of Kore2 2×16, Kore2, and Kore2FX. For driving instruments, you’ll want to add Kore2 to a MIDI Track. For effects on an audio track, use Kore2FX. If you want to route individual channels out of Kore to Live, you’ll choose the 2×16 option.

From there, it’s up to you to decide how much you want to consolidate. When I first started using Kore with Live, I tried to build a massive performance with everything in it and drop that on one track. I found quickly that was unwieldy; CPU and memory utilization aside, it just wound up being tough to navigate. Now I use sounds and performances on individual channels, which seems a lot easier to integrate with my Live workflow.

Load a sound or performance: Now that you’ve got Kore loaded, you need to load your sound preset to get your instrument, effect, or (in my case) somewhat unpredictable beat maker/mangler.

Presets you’ve stored as Sounds appear in the browser. For convenience, it’ll often be easiest to simply Save Performance As Sound when you’re in Kore so that you can easily call up sounds you’ve created.

Some of our own contributors were puzzled, though, to find they couldn’t load Performances directly in previous versions of Kore 2. Native Instruments has remedied that now with the Menu button on the toolbar, which lets you start a new Performance or open one you’ve created. The Menu also provides options for automatically compacting the window so it doesn’t take up too much space.

I’ll often use Live as a sort of meta-performance tool, creating Sounds and Performances in Kore standalone, then moving to Live and calling them up on different channels. I’ll bounce some channels, while leaving others for real-time control.

Keep the UI handy: Wondering how you’ll deal with multiple Kore instances, multiple UI windows, and the display for Live itself? Fortunately, Live shows plug-in interfaces only on the active channel, and it remembers for each channel whether the plug-in window was open and even where you positioned it on the screen. This is a huge boon to Kore, particularly if you have some sort of groovy animated interface in a Reaktor ensemble. Click the wrench icon on your Kore insert to display its standard plug-in window. Position it where you want it to go on the screen, then leave that window open. Switch to any other instances and repeat. Each time you navigate between channels, the appropriate Kore UI will appear (as well as any other UIs for plug-ins).

Sure, you want to control as much as possible from the hardware controller, but it’s still good to know you can bring up the graphical interface when you need to. And when you’re working on a track, this will mean you can spend less time mucking about with windows to keep everything visible.

Keep the interface out of the way: Once you do have hardware assignments working, either via Kore’s own controller or (as of Kore 2.0.4) your own MIDI controller, hide those knobs away. Click the icon of the knob on the toolbar, and you’ll hide that segment of the interface, which is especially handy when running Kore as a plug-in.

Make use of knobs for live performance: Here’s where I get excited: it’s really easy to create fun, performable setups with Reaktor, Kore modules, and other NI instruments and effects. You can map these to control pages for easy live use. I find this is much quicker than hunting through those parameters pages, and (while this is the subject of a separate tutorial) you can navigate through different Kore instances right from the controller hardware. And if you still want to use that Device Rack drum machine you built or a rack you assembled using Live’s synths, well, why choose? You can control both “virtual” devices as though they were two pieces of hardware, assuming you’ve got a MIDI controller (or Kore controller in the case of Kore) for each virtual device.

Don’t forget to hit play: Okay, maybe I’m alone, but ever had beat-synced devices not work, only to discover you forgot to hit the play button on the transport?

Yeah, I’m absent-minded like that.

Brush Up Your Kore

If you want some help creating different control pages, be sure to read my story on building those pages, which also explains how Kore handles controllers.

Demystifying Kore Control Pages for Automation and Performance: Different Page Types

Note that, now, that is helpful not only for the Kore controller but a MIDI controller of your choice. (It can even be useful when using the mouse.)

And if you’re generally wondering why I’m so excited about combining Kore and Reaktor, read this

How to Control Reaktor Patch Parameters with Kore

How’s it Working for You?

I know from reader feedback that quite a lot of you are using Ableton Live, in conjunction with Kore, Reaktor, and others. So this is an issue we can cover more over time. What’s working for you? What else do you want to know? Any problems? Is this a working method that interests you?

I’ll also revisit how you can work with Kore exclusively, for a change of pace. (And you can always work the opposite direction, prepping clips in Live and then using something like Battery to perform them in Kore standalone.)

15 Responses

  1. endekks

    Excellent excellent write-up. And just what I needed.

  2. [...] # Kore Host How-To: Combine Kore with Ableton Live [...]

  3. Andrew

    Thanks for the article. I have started working towards this as well. Unfortunately, I am finding that my live sets with Kore are unstable and often end up crashing my MPB. I am limiting my performance patches to 8 instruments but am not having a lot of luck with this setup. I have had better luck so far with chains and turning instruments on and off by mapping to the macro knob and having that turn the chain on or off.

    Does anyone have some recommendations on turning device chains into usable Kore performances?

  4. MagnusPierre

    I’ve been using the combination of Live 7 and Kore 2 now for two months or so and it is great. The only caveats that I have found so far is that:
    1) The speed buttons on the controller (when switching between sound variations) doesn’t inform Ableton live about the changed x/y values. Big bummer since this is something that I really would use frequently if it worked.

    Hitting preview sound button on controller crashes Ableton Live.

    Dragging a clip on a channel mapped to Kore 2 using an external interface device crashes Ableton Live (apparently this is a bug in 7.0.10 and not a bug in Kore 2)

    The infamous limitation of 128 automation slots in Ableton Live makes it hard to put all sounds in one Kore 2 performance.

    It loves CPU but I have a quad core Mac Pro so I’m fine with that.

    But the rest is stellar.


  5. richardl

    Anyone have any experience resolving screen refresh problems between Ableton Live and KORE? I am experiencing this on two completely different systems: one Thinkpad laptop and one Dell desktop. The KORE UI gets overwritten by the Ableton screen. I’m out of ideas. I’m running Ableton Live 6.10, but I tried the demo of Live 7 and get the same results.

  6. sascha/hdrs

    How do you all use Kore inside Live? One 16xOut Instance for all instruments or an instance on any Live track? I find both ways have their pro and awkward sides. IMHO one instance takes less RAM tho.

  7. Michael Coelho

    Regarding CPU usage…I too get stuttering if I use too many Kore instances, or even if Kore has several instruments with my 3Ghz Pentium 4. I have a new core 2 quad processor PC on the way, but I’m wondering if anyone is using the Muse Receptor with Kore + Komplete 5?

  8. umanoid

    I stopped using kore2 with live about 8-10 months ago due to my frustration with not having enough cpu power for it to run efficiently with the way i work. I was running on an older mac dual 2k g5 and i prefer to keep as many of my instances as virtual instruments without recording as possible…I find it more flexible for making quick changes. Since i know how much of a cpu hog kore is i always thought it would work best if it had its own machine (i put it on its own g5) to run only that and control it with live using the apple Ethernet midi controls.Well now I’m finally setting it up and it seems to work amazingly well.
    I have to spend some time with this site and work out some good setups as well as work out a few controller issues. I can now run some of the more cpu intensive massive /kore paches without fear of my whole cpu freaking!

  9. Deus

    I use kore for fx in my live set, has anybody else had to adjust the track delay in the channels in order for everything to sound right? It took me a tremendous amount of time to discover how to make a clip triggered in live sync with sounds and fx coming from the channel where my kore is.

  10. dswtan

    I’m just starting out with Kore 2 (w/Komplete) inside Live 7, and this write up is useful — thanks. However, I have a simple question: is it possible (and how to?) use Kore’s knobs to control the Ableton software instruments inside Live?

    There are suggestions on the Kore forums that this is possible with the Reaktor Toolpack and Kore2Midi, but I can’t figure it out. Anyone know of a step-by-step walkthrough for that please?

  11. [...] Kore Host How-To: Combine Kore with Ableton Live Hand Claps Randomizing Kore Settings, with [...]

  12. Mauslab

    Anybody can help? If I open Kore2 as a plugin in Ableton Live 7 I cant type in quicksearch field in Kore browser, eve tho the computer MIDI keyboard function in Live is switched off. Thats a bit bollocks…

  13. bicho vargas

    youy can load Bidule as a plugin in Live and then Kore inside. quicksearch and backspace work fine that way

  14. Eddie

    Hi everyone. I really liked this article. I have been a Ableton Live user since Live6. I recently bought Kore 2 w/ the Controller and Komplete 6.

    I started to work with Kore and quickly saw how good Kore and Live work together.

    I’m very new in putting Kore 2 into Live.

    So this may sound dumb to a lot of you so please bear with me.

    I have a APC40 (Ableton Controller)
    I put Kore to on a midi track in Ableton, then wrote a midi loop. In Kore 2 I placed a Kore Sound with Arpeggiator in front with the “Run” and “Hold” buttons selected.

    I see that the sound plays even though the live midi clip or scene has not been launched.

    I would like the sound to stop after I launch a new scene.

    The only way I found around this is to assign the midi track to the “A” or “B” mix on Ableton, then mix out as soon as the new scene launches, which makes it cumbersome.

    Is there anyway to stop a sound with Kore with the settings above when starting a new scene thanks.

    I have Kore 2 w/ controller, Live 8, and iMac Snow Leopard

    Feel free to write me at IceDrag0n76@aol.com

  15. SteveBeef

    Hey Eddie… couldn’t figure this out myself for long because I worked with Logic. Now that I switched to live it’s actually easy: just record the midi loop that you write within Kore to a new channel. Then you have two options re-import the midi to play within Kore but what I prefer to do is leave it on the channel track and just feed it into the kore plugin via dedicated midi channel. This way you’ll have the start and stop and are even able to tweak it out from there… hope this helps after such a long time :) S.

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