Kontakt's Instrument Banks Feature

Native Instrument's Kontakt is widely regarded as the pro sampler for the digital musician. Jay Asher highlights Kontakt's Instrument Banks feature which can be controlled by Program Change commands.  

Since the demise of the first really widely used software sampler, GigaStudio, Native Instruments Kontakt has emerged as the top choice for library developers and their users. There are a number of good reasons for this, including the fact that since version 3.5, it is 64 bit on both the Mac and the PC; on the Mac it has a memory server that lets 32 bit apps use more RAM by putting some of it outside the application; and it lets you get under the hood for all kinds of editing, customizing, and adding scripting language. 

And yet, it has some very helpful features that many, perhaps most, users either do not know about or have simply not understood the advantages they bring to the table. My personal favorite is Kontakt's Instrument Banks feature.

Those composers who do orchestral and band simulation in their DAWS with software virtual instruments and sample libraries tend to fall into one of two camps: “I want a separate track not only for each instrument but each articulation” or “I want to use patches that change instruments/articulations with keyswitching so that I have fewer tracks.”

But what does the second type of composer do when there simply is no keyswitch patch that accomplishes this with the instruments he is using? An alternative is Kontakt's Instrument banks feature, which allows you to load instruments/articulations into bank slots and navigate between them with Program Change commands.

Step 1 - Creating an empty Instrument Bank

After instantiating a Kontakt instance in your DAW of choice, in my case Kontakt 5 in Logic Pro 9, I create an empty Instrument Bank by going under the Files menu, as you see below :

Files > New Instrument Bank

Instrument Bank

Clicking on the wrench icon reveals the Instrument Bank slots.

Instrument Bank Slots

Although it is not technically necessary unless you will be entering program changes from the buttons on some keyboard controllers, like my Kurzweil PC88, and unless you anticipate loading multiple Instrument Banks in a single Kontakt instance, which I do not recommend, I suggest that you change the MIDI assignment from the default A1 to Omni. 

MIDI assignment is set to Omni

Now it is simply a matter of adding the desired patches to the bank. I am using patches from the Choir 's Soprano library that are included with the Kontakt 5 library. First I add them singing ahs.

Adding the Soprano's ahs patch to slot 001

I now add the remaining syllables in the same fashion, six in all.

Adding all syllables to six slots

Step 2 - Inserting Program Change Commands

How one enters program change commands is specific to your DAW, but in Logic Pro, I like to use the Event List. Here's a simple part I have created in Logic Pro 9.

Simple part in Logic's Event List

Let's assume that I want to change patches every two measures. Notice that I have selected the Create option in the Event List. 

Create option is selected

Now if I simply click the rectangle for a Program Change cc, Logic will create one with the opportunity to choose the measure I want to enter it in.

Create Program Change Event

I am adding a second program change at measure 3. It defaults to duplicating the first one to 0, so I hold down on the "Val" and change it to 1, and in the Kontakt Instrument Bank, it instantly jumps to the patch loaded in the second slot, so clearly I am on the right track.

Now I simply complete the task of creating the program changes to trigger the patches, ultimately returning to the first one. In the following picture, I have filtered the note display in the Event List so that you can clearly see the program changes. It works like butter. Very cool, Native Instruments!

Filtering the note display in the Event List

Step 3 - Saving the Instrument Bank and Adding It to the Quickload Menu

OK, this has been a fair amount of work, although truthfully you learn to do this very quickly once you understand it. So let's save it. 

Selecting Save As... under the Files menu brings up this dialog window:

Files > Save As...

Save as Dialog Window

You may want to save this in the Kontakt Library folder or create a special folder for it, but for the purpose of this article, I will save it to the desktop. 

There is a row of icons in the top part of the Kontakt menu. One is named Quick and if I select it, the Quickload menu appears, allowing me the ability to add instruments, multis, and banks, which is the tab I check for this.

Quick menu

In the following pics, I am dragging the Kontakt Instrument Bank that I saved named Sopranos.nkb into the Bank area of the Quickload menu. It is then added to the Quickload menu. 

Draggint the Kontakt Instrument Bank in the Bank area of the Quickload menu

It is now added to the Quickload menu

Fine and dandy you say, but does it work? Let's find out :) 

I go under the Files menu and tell Kontakt to reset the multi and it asks me if I am sure I want to do this, which I do. You can see that the multi is indeed empty.

Files > Reset Multi

Multi is empty

Time to put it to the test! In the Quickload menu I double-click on the Sopranos bank and voila! As you can clearly see, the bank is loaded, although it defaults to MIDI assignment A1, which I need to reset to Omni if I want to enter the program changes from my controller. 

Bank is loaded


Jay is a Los Angeles-based composer, songwriter, arranger and orchestrator, conductor, keyboardist, as well as vocalist. As a composer, he is best known for scoring the New World Television series Zorro. Among the films and TV movies he has arranged, orchestrated and/or conducted are Paramount Pictures' Blame It On Rio Read More


Great article. I've found a much easier way to deal with banks is to use a little $25 Kontakt script from Orange Tree Samples called mind control. It allows you to set up the channel switching in banks in seconds and gives you choices of using keyswitches, velocity, timing, and a number of other ways to trigger the articulation switches. I'm able to put five banks on a multi and put an instance of mind control for each bank. And it works within Kontakt and isn't dependent upon the DAW you're using, or your keyboard controller. My controller stays on Ch 1 the entire time.

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