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Our guide to Nord Sound Manager software
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Our guide to Nord Sound Manager software


Sound Manager is Nord’s free desktop application that allows you to totally customise the contents of your Nord keyboard - and opens it up to the world of free Sample downloads. 

Originally designed as a Librarian to help you organise your Programs, it has developed into handling Piano and Sample transfer too, allowing you to remove Samples you don’t want and to add Samples you do want. This ease and flexibility in being able to customise all of the content of your keyboard is one of the many reasons why musicians are drawn to Nord instruments. 


Simplicity


The great thing about the Sound Manager is its simplicity. There is only one version which is compatible with all the Nord keyboards (see link below for full compatibility list) and it is cross-platform so will work on Mac or PC, even using the same key commands. And, with only one page and a Tool Bar, navigation is easy.  

Here is the link to download the latest version of Nord Sound Manager, together with a compatibility list:

https://www.nordkeyboards.com/software-tools/nord-sound-manager

Layout

  

The single Sound Manager page has a Tool Bar along the top with all the operational functions you need for organising your keyboard. When you connect your keyboard to your computer via USB, Sound Manager will recognise your instrument and show all of its contents in the main area of the screen.  


The memories on Nord keyboards are divided into partitions, and Sound Manager displays these partitions as tabs. Simply select a tab and the main screen will show the contents of just that partition. This may be Piano samples, Sample Instruments or Programs. These tabs will vary, depending on which instrument you have connected.

  

At the bottom left corner of the screen is a pie chart and this shows you how much space you have left in the selected partition. This is really helpful when it comes to loading in new Samples as you can easily see whether they will fit or whether you need to make some space first.


Here's our first Speedy Tutorial which is a quick overview of Sound Manager's layout:

Does size matter ?!

 

Before we go any further, a word about size !

Whilst some suggest Nord instruments might appear limited in memory capacity - especially if comparing numbers with competitors - this misses some really key points.

Firstly – Nord use their own proprietary Lossless Compression Algorithm to make their sample sizes smaller. For example, the biggest Sample currently in the Nord Sound Libraries is the White Grand XL Piano sample which is only 239Mb in size. The majority of the Sample Instrument files are under 10Mb !!! 

Ahh, but the quality of the sounds can’t be that good then, if the file sizes are so small. Well, actually, they can. So many people are initially attracted to Nord because of the way they sound, without even knowing how big their file sizes are. So many session musicians use Nord keyboards because of the piano sounds. So many hit records have got Nord pianos all over them. Check out these Andertons blind keyboard tests that Jack Duxbury did with Daniel Bingham: https://youtu.be/eqd_Dl301Uk @11.40 and 18.50 or this one  

https://youtu.be/SluEfMe-qYs @ 5.00 and 10.24.

Secondly – Efficiency. If you have a massive memory rammed with thousands of samples, then this might often take a loooooong time to load. Some manufacturer’s keyboards take over two minutes to boot up because they are having to load soooo many samples. Imagine being at a gig where you suddenly lose power and the band then have to cover for nearly a whole song before you are ready to join in again.  

And, if you think about it, how many of those thousands of samples are you actually using? Probably less than 60%. So why not have a keyboard with a memory that you can quickly and easily customise so that it is only full of the sounds you need, rather than loads of stuff you will never use.

Thirdly – All Nord Samples are Free. Nord keyboards don’t need to be rammed with every conceivable sound because a Nord user can pick and choose what they want to use at any time and it won’t cost them anything to do so. And, if Nord add any new Samples to their Sound Libraries, you can just download them to your keyboard at no charge. Therefore, your Nord will never go out of date.

 

Which leads us neatly back to Sound Manager…

Downloading new Samples


The Sound Libraries on the Nord website are where you will find all the Piano samples and non-piano Sample instruments. Nord are constantly adding new instruments to their libraries and these are all free. Once you have downloaded your chosen Samples to your computer, you will need Sound Manager to transfer them onto your keyboard.

 

Connect your keyboard up via USB, launch Sound Manager and then select the memory partition where your new Sample will be stored. Then you can either drag and drop your new Sample onto the Sound Manager screen and it will load onto your keyboard. Or, you can press the Sound Down button on the Sound Manager Tool Bar, navigate to where your Sample is on your computer and select it and that will also download it onto your keyboard.

I don’t have enough space to add my new Samples

 

Yes, this can happen - you may find yourself in the situation where the memory pie chart shows you don’t have enough space for your new Sample.  

But this is where Sound Manager comes into its own, helping you to ‘prune’ the Samples you don’t want so you can add the Samples you do. The Delete button on the Tool Bar is used to do this, but there are some options (see below). It's worth just noting that using Sound Manager software is purposefully the only way Samples can be permanently deleted from a Nord Keyboard. 

Some things to consider if you are deleting samples:

First of all, all the Samples that your keyboard shipped with are always readily and freely available in the Nord Sound Libraries for download so you can treat these as your back up. Therefore, you are never really losing anything if you delete a Nord Sample. But if it's a sample you've created yourself then you need to ensure you have a back up!

You can use the Sound Up button to back up any Samples to your computer before you delete them. Again this is particularly relevant if you are using  custom Samples you have created yourself which wouldn’t be in the Nord libraries.

There are also various ways you can get new Samples onto your instrument without having any impact on existing Programs:

"Unused" - Any Samples not being used in existing Programs on your keyboard will say ‘unused’ next to them. Therefore, you can safely remove any of those unwanted Samples without effecting any of your sounds.

Substitute – this is the tool you really want to be looking at when adding new Samples to directly replace an existing one. Select a Sample you want to remove, press the Substitute button and then navigate to where your new Sample is on your computer and select that. Substitute will now delete the old Sample, replace it with the new one and sync up all the Programs that were using the original Sample to the new one, all in one go. This is especially useful when you are wanting to add new Piano Samples, which always tend to be the larger file sizes.

Or, you could make use of the Info button on the Tool Bar. With this selected, you can see down the right hand side of the screen, how many Programs are using a particular Sample and this will help you make an informed decision on what to delete that would have the least impact on your Programs.

Relink – If you do happen to delete Samples used by Programs or find Programs looking for Samples that don’t exist on the keyboard (highlighted in yellow), then you can use Relink to quickly sync them up with similar Samples in the keyboard’s memory. This is another quick and easy way of ensuring you don’t have any broken programs that won’t make a sound when you try to play them.

And, of course, if you ever want that deleted Sample back, just go to the Nord Sound Libraries and download it again.

Sharing Program Files and Backing Up

 

Backing up is one of the major functions of Sound Manager, giving you the ability to save individual Programs or Samples, groups of Programs or Samples, Programs AND Samples all in one file or the entire keyboard and everything on it.  Sound Up or Bundle Up in Nord terminology refers to uploading from the Nord keyboard to your computer, Sound Down or Bundle Down means transferring from your computer INTO an instrument.

 

The Sound Up function deals with individual Programs or Samples. Just select the file you want to back up and press the Sound Up button and back it up to your computer. Or, back up a group of Programs or Samples - Shift-click will allow you to select several consecutive sounds and Ctrl-click will allow you to select non-consecutive sounds. Then, only those selected files will be backed up when pressing the Sound Up button.

Or you can press the Sound Up button and then choose an entire Bank of Programs to back up or, if you are in the Piano Partition, you could select a whole category of Pianos such as the Uprights to back up.

  

Bundle Up is the session musician’s friend! If you need to share a Program with another Nord user, or transfer selected Programs to a hired keyboard, then Bundle Up lets you back up Programs AND their associated Samples, all in one file.  

It works the same way as Sound Up but it ‘bundles’ the Programs and Samples together so there is no danger of any Samples getting missed in the back up procedure and, equally, no danger of Programs and Samples getting separated at any time.  

When you download a Bundle file it will put all the Programs and Samples into the new keyboard and automatically sync them all together, even if the Samples are no longer in their original locations on the new keyboard. Also, it will not duplicate sample files – if a file already exists on the new keyboard, it will use that one instead of the saved one, so you don’t take up twice as much memory space for the same sound!

Bundle Up/Down is the most efficient way of transferring Programs with their Samples to another Nord keyboard, or to another Nord user for a gig, as you are only ever dealing with the Programs you need. It keeps the file size and transfer time down to a minimum but ensures that the Programs will still work as normal on the new keyboard.

 

Back Up on the other hand will back up the entire keyboard and all its contents in one big file. This will create the largest file out of the three back up methods and so will take the longest time to do. A fully loaded Stage 3 could take up to an hour to do a first time back-up - but this will be quicker on subsequent back-ups as we'll explain in a moment.


Restore will download a Back Up file to your keyboard. Or, if you want to ‘reset’ your keyboard to its original state at any time, then you can download the Factory Restore File for your keyboard from the Nord website and use Restore to load it into your instrument. Again, depending on the differences between the current state of the Instrument and the file being Restored this could take some time.


Back-Ups become quicker after you've done the first one since Sound Manager allows you to do an incremental back-up by selecting an existing back-up file in the back-up file dialogue. In this case that same file is simply updated to reflect the current state of the instrument, obviously making the process quicker.

Nord Sound Manager also uses a cache system to speed things up. Files that have already been “seen” by Nord Sound Manager, i.e. downloaded or uploaded once, are placed in the cache folder. This means that when creating a backup next time, those do not need to be uploaded from the instrument, but can be copied from the cache instead saving a lot of time.


In choosing the most suitable method it's best to think of use case.:

Use Back-Up to create a safety back-up of your own keyboard in case it is lost or damaged, or if you'd like a complete identical copy of your Nord on a hired tour keyboard.

For transferring only certain Programs and Samples to another keyboard, or say to another Nord user for a gig, then the Bundle feature is best.



 


Back Up File compatibility  

 

As we have been talking about file transfer, now would be a good time to clarify file compatibility between the Nord instruments.

 

As a golden rule – any back up files (Program, Bundle, Song or Back Up) will ONLY be compatible with another Nord keyboard of the SAME model and number.  

 

Ie. a file created on an Electro 6 will only load into another Electro 6. A Stage 3 file will not load into any other Stage unless it is a Stage 3 etc. Equally you cannot ‘cross-pollinate’ between models ie a Wave 2 file into a Piano 4 or a Lead A1 file into a C2D.  

 

This is because the different models all have different functionalities and memory sizes. Even if they are both Stages or Electros etc, if they are different numbers, then their files will not be compatible.  

 

However, Keybed size is not a factor so, for example, an Electro 6D73 file will load into an Electro 6D61 or an Electro 6HP76. Or a Stage 3HA88 file will work with a Stage 3HP76 or a Stage 3 Compact.

And Piano Samples and Sample Instruments files are already compatible with all the Nord sample based instruments so you would not have any problems transferring individual Samples between keyboards either.  

 

Obviously, none of this is an issue if you are just backing up and downloading to your own keyboard. But, if you are looking at transferring Programs to another Nord keyboard, maybe a hired unit for a tour, then you need to ensure it is the same keyboard model and number to avoid running into any problems.

Organising Programs

 

We’ll finish this Blog off with the easiest and simplest function of Sound Manager and the feature it was initially designed to do – organising your Programs. This is especially useful if you own older Electros or the Nord synths which only have the small LED screen because, now, you can see that all the Programs have names and categories too.  

 

Select the Programs tab and press the Organise button on the Tool Bar and now you can grab Programs and move them anywhere you want on the keyboard. When you move a Program to a new location, it swaps it with the Program currently in that location, so this is a non-destructive process – you do not overwrite/lose any Programs by doing this.  

 

If you want to move Programs between Banks, then press the Dual View button on the Tool Bar and you will be presented with a second Programs column which you can change to any Bank you wish. Now you can view any two Banks simultaneously and drag and drop Programs between them, making it super quick and easy to rearrange Banks or comp a Bank of favourites together or create a set list.  

 

If you wish to make a duplicate of a Program, then simply hold the Ctrl key down whilst dragging a Program and this will put a copy in the new location and leave the original where it is.

 

Searching for particular Programs is easy too. Click on the Category column header and, instantly, all your Programs can be viewed in Category order so you can quickly find the type of sound you are after. Or click on the Name column header and, now, all the Programs are in alphabetical order. Or, if you know the name of the Program you are after, then type its name in the Search box and it will find it for you.

 

If you press the Auto Select button on the Tool Bar, then you can audition sounds as you select them. You need to use the Up and Down arrow buttons on your computer’s QWERTY keyboard to do this but it means you can jump through Programs whilst playing the keyboard to hear what they sound like. Again, this whole process is really useful in the studio when looking for sounds on the synths like the Lead A1 or Lead 4 which don’t normally provide this sort of visual information on their screens.

 

Lastly, the Rename button does just what it says on the tin – allows you to rename Programs and assign them to a category so that you can find them again quickly, whenever you need them.

All of Sound Manager’s Organisation and Search actions all happen in real-time on the connected instrument, with no need to press any Store buttons. So, as soon as you make a change in Sound Manger, it is also done in the keyboard for you. Simplez !

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