Madrona Labs had two very interesting and creative virtual synthesizers available for quite a while now, the legendary west-coast style “Aalto” and the physical modelling based “Kaivo“. Now they introduced the all new “Virta“, and while some of the GUI concepts look familiar if you used one of the others before, this one is quite different in it’s core structure: It comes as an audio effect plugin, but it’s also a synth you can play with audio and/or midi…
To achieve this, Virta has both audio and midi inputs. The midi input section works as usual for Madrona Labs plugins and allows for up to four simultaneous voices (if you want to play chords), but the audio input section is special in that it does realtime (mono) pitch analysis and also delivers some unusual results of that analysis, like the noise content of the signal and the peak-ness which relates to for instance consonants in speech or transients in percussion.
With those two main input sources you can now drive two oscillators, a LFO, a VCA and an Envelope on the more standard-synth side of things, but you also have a quite deep vocoder in der Formants section and also a pitched Delay at your command.
All of this can be combined in whatever fashion you see fit with the very flexible central modular patching area:
This makes it possible to for instance “play” the oscillators with your voice in realtime while pitch-shifting the result with a keyboard or add additional layers to your playing the bass or transform a drumloop into completely different timbres…
Now this little tutorial is not meant to show you all the intricacies of Virta itself – it’s manual does a very good job at that already – but I’ll show you how to route your signals inside of Bitwig Stuido to take full advantage of it’s powers.
Patching it up:
Bitwig Studio is one of the most flexible hosts when it comes to signal routing and device order: You can place VST plugins and factory devices in pretty much every order you see fit in a single device chain – nothing hinders you to have an EQ as the first plugin on an audio track, followed by an audio-to-midi plugin, then some midi plugins that work on the generated midi and finally a synth and further fx devices. Or the other way around, just as your track needs it.
In the case of Virta, the special demand in many cases will be, that you want to record both the midi and the audio input you send to it at the same time, especially if you for instance sing into your microphone while playing a keyboard live.
So what we need are basically two tracks:
- One midi track (or “Instrument Track” as it’s called in Bitwig Studio) to receive and record the midi data.
- One audio track to both receive and record the audio data and also host Virta itself:
In my example file that you can download below, I created those two tracks already for you: The “Midi Track” contains no devices and only holds midi data but the “Audio & Virta” track contains both Virta itself and a note receiver that is picking up the midi output of the Midi Track:
And that is basically all there is to it.
If you connect your microphone to the Audio & Virta track, you can sing into it and get your voice transformed. If you also play your keyboard, you can play the secondary harmony voice of the patch I created for this tutorial.
If you want to record both tracks at the same time, make sure you record-enable them both.
My example file uses samples of the voice of a young female mantra singer that come with Bitwig Studio if you install the “Earth Moments Loops” teaser in the Package Manager.
Download the Bitwig Project file here: Virta Routing Tutorial file.
And here you can listen to the result, first the original voice and then the Virta modification:
I hope you will have fun with Virta!!!