General Sound Setup Instructions for HN2

This article outlines how to set up a DAW or external synth or sampler for use with Harmony Navigator.

In case you have problems with the default built-in GM synthesizer (i.e. you can't hear anything after installing the software), please have a look at this troubleshooting article.

Harmony Navigator focuses on rendering MIDI content and does not yet provide built-in support for hosting VTSi or AU plug-ins directly. In order to use plug-ins, these need to be hosted by a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), sequencer, sound rack, or be run as a standalone program alongside HN2.

1. Setting Up a Loopback Driver

Harmony Navigator sends MIDI data to a Loopback Driver, which in turn sends the MIDI back to the DAW or synth respectively. It acts like a virtual MIDI cable.

Mac Windows

OS X comes with the IAC Driver already built-in. Find the Audio-MIDI-Setup control panel with Spotlight and simply enable the driver. Create 8 MIDI ports, or more as needed.

 Setting Up Loopback Driver (Mac)

HN2 Advanced Edition includes a copy of the LoopBe30 driver. If you didn't install it yet, run the SETUP program again and select the driver as the only option. Create 8 MIDI ports, or more as needed. Enable shortcut detection for best robustness. You might need to reboot your machine for the changes to take effect.

 Setting Up Loopback Driver (Windows)

2. Create a Rack In The DAW

Example hosts that work with HN are Ableton Live, Apple Logic, ProTools, Cubase/Nuendo, Sonar, Plogue Bidule, Reaper, Reason and Rax. This also includes standalone synths and samplers, like Native Instrument's Kontakt.

Create a Global Rack with sounds you preferably use for songwriting and composition: 

  1. Create an empty project in your DAW or Sampler and populate a number of tracks with the desired synthesizer or sampler plug-ins you most likely want to work with.
  2. Configure each track to listen for input on one of the MIDI loopback ports you created (see above).
  3. In your plug-ins, place a different sound behind each MIDI channel. Multi-timbral instruments require an entire loopback port (16 channels) reserved for themselves.
  4. In most DAWs you must activate an "Armed" or "Monitor" switch per track, in order for the audio output to be audible even when the transport is stopped.
  5. If you can, also include a 16-channel GM sound bank that can serve as a fallback for sounds not found in any of your plug-ins. On OS X, this is the DSLMusicDevice AudioUnit.

Depending on musical style, your rack may look like this:

Rack
Loopback Port Channel Sound/Patch
Internal Midi 1 1 Drumkit
2 Percussion
3 Bass
4 Piano
5 Rhythm Guitar
6 Lead Guitar
7 Synth Pad
8 Synth Lead
Internal Midi 2 1 Chamber Strings
2 Trumpet
Internal Midi 3 1-16 General MIDI Sound Bank

Save your rack in the DAW or Sampler when done. Keep it open while you continue with the next step.

3. Create Global Rack in HN2

Open the Audio & MIDI Setup window found under the Playback menu. You will now create device descriptions and a rack, which will list every sound found on your rack in the DAW.

  1. Go to the tab Global Sounds and then to Global Rack.
  2. Remove all rack modules you don't currently need with the small x.
  3. Double-click on the background to create a new rack module.
  4. On that module, select the Loopback MIDI port that goes to your DAW rack, e.g. "Internal Midi 1".
  5. From the menu behind "Unknown Device", select the command "Create New Device Description" and then, depending on the type of instrument on the other end of the loopback connection, select an appropriate device type (in this example we use "Fixed Channels").
  6. Give your device a name, e.g. "My Rack 1", using the inspector to the right.
  7. Now select channel 1 on the rack module and enter the parameters of the sound behind that channel in the inspector to the right. 
  8. Repeat this for all other channels. Using the Probe button, you can test the loopback connection for every sound.
  9. Continue with 3. until all loopback ports of your rack are done.
  10. Visit the tab Global Instruments and assign to eacgh instrument a suitable sound from your new rack.
  11. Save your global rack with File >> Save As... and use the same name and location where your DAW rack is saved (will help to keep them together).

Video covering this topic:
HN2 LE Sound Setup & Playing Ranges

4. Working With Your Rack

Your rack is now ready for use. All its sounds will be listed in the browser, where you can look them up and pick one for a new instrument in your song. Whenever you want to quickly capture a new idea or just play around and experiment, you simply proceed as follows:

  1. Load the rack into your DAW
  2. Start HN2 and open the global rack belonging to that DAW file
  3. Done!

You can also have the rack loaded at startup automatically: Save it under the filename CurrentRack.cogsetup in the configuration folder in the subfolder Racks.

For more information on creating device descriptions and using direct sound addressing as an ad-hoc alternative, please refer to the user manual.

Why You Should Always Keep a GM Device Around

The factory preset sketches and example songs were built for various types of instruments (pianos, basses, pads and guitars). When you use these files, e.g. for palette playing, it is unlikely that HN2 will find a suitable replacement for sounds that it can't find on your rack (even more so, if you didn't carefully categorize them). In the best case, the patterns will not sound as intended. Chances are, however, they will sound awfully off.

IMPORTANT: Always include one General MIDI (GM) capable device in your rack, so HN2 is able to find an appropriate replacement for sounds you do not have in your own custom setup.

Note that having a GM device around does not mean its sounds have to be used. As a default GM device is built-in with both OS X and Windows, you can simply leave that enabled while you add your own sound devices.

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Tutorial updated for version 2.7 of HN2

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