Q1: What is a
A. A virtual instrument is a
digitally-recreated version of an actual musical instrument that can
be played with any MIDI controller, such as a piano keyboard, when
connected to a computer. For sample-based virtual instruments like
these, individual notes from the actual instrument are recorded and
then compiled into a software-based instrument. The MIDI controller
"plays" the virtual
instrument by triggering the real instrument's recorded samples.
Q2: How is a real instrument
A: Every note/sound the
instrument can produce is individually sampled in my recording studio
recording gear. Let's look at the Karpek accordion, for example. It has
41 keys on the right hand,
producing different 41 notes. I sampled all 41 notes in two reed
combinations: master and clarinets. On the left side of the
accordion, I sampled the basses and chords in just one reed
combination. There are twelve bass notes, and each note has four
corresponding chords: major, minor,
dominant 7th, and diminished. I also sampled a couple of reed switch
Right Side: 41 keys x 2 reed combinations = 82 samples
+ Left Side: 12 bass notes + 48 chords = 60 samples
+ Reed select sound effects = 2
Karpek Polka King total = 144 samples
Q3: How are virtual instruments
created from the samples?
A: When all of the instrument's
notes have been sampled, I painstakingly edit their start times,
lengths, and relative volumes for
consistency. Then I import the samples into a software program
where I assign each sample to its respective note on a MIDI
keyboard. Then I will script code (similar to C++ computer programming)
and create graphics to give
the instrument a visual interface with some user-adjustable controls.
Q4: How are your polka
instruments different from the same instruments offered in other
A: The main difference is that
the brand, model, and tuning of these
synonymous with polka music. These are not instruments made for French
cafes, Cajun jitterbugs, or Brazillian tangos. The second
difference is that the recorded samples were performed in a way that is
suitable for the polka sound. For example, the concertinas and
accordions have a harder attack than the "mushy" sound you may be used
to getting from sound modules. The tuba samples were recorded
with a hard attack plus a
taperered sustain, allowing the musician to play staccato or add
legato-sounding ties between notes.
Q5: Do your instruments have
A: No, because none of my
instruments' samples loop. A "loop"
is when a section of a sample is repeated over and over so that holding
down a key will produce an indefinite tone. The problem with looping
samples is that you can almost always hear the beginning and end of a
cycle, making a sustained note sound unnatural. I've experimented with
looping samples, and found that it's much more practical and pleasing
to the ear not to loop them.
All of my instruments' samples are
typically six to ten seconds in length (up to 15 seconds for the piano)
which is more than enough.
Q6: What makes a virtual
much like the real thing?
A: When you play a virtual
instrument, you are hearing the sound of
the real instrument. Every
note you play on your MIDI
keyboard will trigger the recorded sample of the real instrument's
respective note. For
example, if you press the C4
key on your keyboard, it will play the recorded
sample of the real instrument's C4. Play Db4, and you'll hear
the real instrument's recorded sample of Db4, and so forth. A
instrument's notes can also be multi-sampled, meaning that multiple
samples of the same note are recorded at various volumes and
timbres. The virtual instrument can be scripted to trigger these sample
variations, which adds significantly to its
realism. In my opinion, however, the technique by which a virtual
instrument is played is what really makes the biggest difference. You
still need to play a virtual instrument as closely as possible to
the way the real instrument is played.
Q7: Why doesn't a virtual
EXACTLY like the real thing?
A: What makes a real instrument
sound the way it does goes far beyond
the notes the instrument produces. A performance on a real
comprised of an infinite number of subtle nuances that our ears take
for granted. Things such as the movement of the performer, the
velocity of air, the position of the performer's hands, and the
acoustics of the room create subtle variances in sound that we don't
think about, yet, those variances are what our brain subconciously uses
to distinguish that a real instrument is being played. Some
virtual instrument manufacturers spend a lot of time developing ways
of recreating many of those subtle nuances, but for the most part, a
quality performance on a well-sampled virtual instrument is good enough
to gratify most listeners.
Q8: Are your virtual
concertinas and button
boxes restricted to their native keys?
A: No. Every note available on
the actual instrument
was sampled, and where a note didn't exist on the instrument, one was
digitally created. So all of the button boxes and concertinas are
chromatically playable in any key. In
addition, just for fun, some of the virtual instruments I offer have
extended high and low ranges that go several notes beyond the physical
limits of the actual instruments.
Q9: What computer software and
do I need to play your virtual
A: You will need a software
program called Kontakt.
It is a
worldwide industry standard program available on the Native
Instruments website. There are two versions of Kontakt
available: the full version ($299) and the free player edition. The
full version is required. These instruments will not work in
the free player edition for more than fifteen minutes, because the
player edition is designed to be
only with specially licensed virtual instruments. You will
also need a MIDI controller, such as
a digital piano. My
instruments are designed to be performed most easily on an 88-key
Q10: Do I need special
licensing to make a CD using your virtual instruments?
A: No. The instruments you
purchase are yours to perform and record
please. You can play them live on stage and on any recordings you
produce. If you are a commercial studio, you are welcome to use the
instruments on any of your clients' recording projects without needing
to pay for additional licenses.
Q11: Are there any restrictions
owning your virtual instruments?
1.) You cannot copy/distribute
the instruments. 2.) You cannot use the instruments'
recorded samples to create new instruments for sale or distribution.
3.) You cannot make the instruments available for synthestration via
any automated, web-based services. (Such a service does not yet exist,
but it may someday.)
Q12: Do you offer these
A: No, just Kontakt. I understand
Kontakt is expensive, but it is a
world standard. Many developers use Kontakt because it provides the
greatest programming capability. Check the Native
Instruments website often for sales, especialy holiday sales. Once a
year, they usually offer Kontakt for half price ($199.)
Q13: Why are you creating
A: Most developers who create
virtual concertinas and accordions develop them with
more "universal" types of world music in mind. This leaves
a distinct gap in the virtual instruments
market. I discovered that gap one day while searching for a virtual
polka concertina for one of my studio's productions. I couldn't find
such a concertina, so I made my own by sampling a friend's concertina.
From that point on, I decided
to boldly go where no virtual instrument developer dares to go — into
world of American polka music.)
Q14: When will new instruments
A: I don't work on a timetable of
any kind, so the best answer I can give is I don't know. I'm just
a one-man operation, and creating virtual instruments is one of many
interests that vies for my spare time when I'm not playing tennis or
Q15: Why do you give your
instruments seemingly-related but odd names?
A: Names and logos of businesses
and their products are often registered trademarks protected by
copyright. While it is legal to
mention the brand names of instruments and manufacturers, it may not be
legal to use them for their virtual counterparts. To respect and avoid
infringing upon any copyrights, I mask or blur all company logos/brands
my instruments unique names.
Q16: I want to buy one
accordion. Which one do you consider the best all-rounder to buy?
A: I am asked this question a
lot. The simple answer is that NONE of these accordions are
all-rounders. That's the whole point. These accordions are specific to
polka music, so please base your purchase on the type of polka music
you're creating. Let the demo songs be your guide.
Q17: Do you offer free,
promotional copies of your instruments?
A: No, not unless I specifically
ask for demos of one of my instruments.
Q18: Do your instruments ever
go on sale?
A: I price my instruments at only
$14 each so that you can afford to buy the ones you need when you need
them. For those of you don't really need
any of these instruments but suffer from G.A.S.,
I run a Black Friday sale every year during Thanksgiving weekend where
you can pick up individual instruments for less (usually 50% off.) I
also run a second sale through the Christmas season. In addition to
these sales, my mail list subscribers may receive special promotional
prices on new instruments.
Q19: Do you offer refunds?
A: No, not unless I specifically
allow them for a special sale. As is
standard practice in ecommerce, downloaded software cannot
be returned. All sales are final. It is your responsibility to make
sure the software you have will support these instruments. Do not
purchase anything on this page unless you are using a legal, full
Q20: Why can't I find you on
I used to be
involved with social media years ago, but now it's turned into a giant
data mining industry whose primary purpose is to harvest, assimilate,
and archive everything you say, tweet, pin, post, share, and like. I prefer my privacy. Social
media is good for business, but I value principles over profits.
Q21: What happened to
Polkasound Productions Recording Studio?
A: After serving musicians for 30
years (1990-2020) the studio has closed. As of April 1, 2020,
Polkasound no longer offers
recording services to the public. Notice of the studio's closure was
posted on September 1, 2019.