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Optimizing Keyscape for Live Performance

March 20, 2017

Learn how to tweak Spectrasonics Keyscape for your live rig.

Keyscape, an extensive collection of expertly sampled keyboard sounds, is Spectrasonic’s latest masterpiece. Keyscape’s sound quality and playability are amazing, but it’s also a very resource intensive virtual instrument. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to optimize Keyscape for your live performace rig.

Streaming Settings

Click on the SYSTEM button to access Keyscape’s system settings page. This is where you can configure Keyscape’s streaming settings.

Samples can be loaded in one of two modes – Streamed and Not Streamed.

When Not Streamed is selected, Keyscape will load all samples into RAM. I don’t recommend this unless you have an obscene amount of RAM – think 64GB or more. While it’s true that RAM offers insanely fast speeds, modern SSDs are more than capable for the task at hand.

When Streamed is selected, Keyscape will load the attack of each sample into RAM, and stream the rest of the sample from your hard drive. Ensure that the Pre-Load Memory Size is around 50,000 and Stream Brake is around 0.1 for optimal streaming performance.

Sample Thinning

Every Keyscape patch features a THINNING function, which reloads the patch with a reduced number of samples. This results in less CPU and RAM usage, as well as less streaming pressure on the hard drive.

Best of all, the sample-thinned patches have been designed with maximum sound quality in mind. It’s very difficult to distinguish them from their non-thinned counterparts – especially in a live performance setting.

The sample thinning function can be locked by clicking on the lock icon. This will ensure that all Keyscape patches are sample-thinned. This function is useful for live situations, where you would never want to load a full patch.

Lastly, switching off Sustain Realism and Pedal Effects in LA Custom C7 patches drastically improves performance.

Reduce Polyphony

Polyphony refers to the maximum number of samples that can be played simultaneously. Keyscape has a maximum polyphony of 64, but I recommend using a value between 16 and 32.

Lowering polyphony reduces CPU usage, but will also prevent you from playing many simultaneous notes. Keyscape has a great “voice stealing” engine, so lower polyphony counts will still sound musical. Experiment with various polyphony settings to see what works with your style of playing.

Use Effects Wisely

If you’re using Keyscape with other sample libraries and plugins in a live setting, there’s no reason to use Keyscape’s built-in reverb. Use a global reverb via aux sends or get an audio interface with DSP reverb instead. Reverb effects are very taxing on the CPU, and disabling them in Keyscape is a great first step to optimizing your live setup.

The location of Keyscape’s reverb settings are patch-dependent. For example, the reverb setting in the LA Custom C7 patch above can be found under the main tab. Reducing the amount to zero does not turn off the reverb. You need to click on the REVERB button to switch it off.

In the LA Custom Rhodes patch below, the reverb setting is under the Effects tab. To turn it off, click on the circle next to Off.

Other effects can be turned off at your discretion. In general, modulation effects probably shouldn’t be turned off. In other words, if you choose the LA Custom Retro Trem, don’t turn off the tremolo effect. The same goes for EQ and compression. If you like how it sounds, just leave it as is.

On a side note, if you’re serious about using high quality effects live, look into Universal Audio Apollo audio interfaces. They have built-in DSP chips that run their extensive collection of world class plugins at near-zero latency without hogging your computer’s CPU.

There’s More to Life Than Keyscape

This is perhaps the most obvious tip. Keyscape sounds amazing, but its level of detail and quality isn’t always necessary. Think about how your keyboard parts will fit into the overall mix. If you’re playing a solo set, go ahead and load up Keyscape. If you’re playing a rhythm part that will be get buried in the overall mix, perhaps Keyscape isn’t necessary. Know your role!

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