The now discontinued Rig Kontrol 3 by Native Instruments was so close to being just what the doctor ordered for my live and studio setup. It has excellent all metal build quality, a nice decisive switch action, a built in expression pedal, and even doubles as an audio interface which is nice if you want to go play out with just your cords, computer, guitar and amp.
However, I do find myself wishing that Native Instruments had thought through a few standing issues when dialing in the hardware/software integration. Of course, it's possible they were going to consider refining old features and adding new ones before it was end of life'd and relegated to eBay sales (where I picked mine up).
One of the sticking points that took me a while to navigate around was the fact that the two rows of stomp switches were laid out for a guitar player who wishes to be able to coast through their presets in a linear, list-based, one-at-a-time method - and of course, once the preset is chosen then you have a few stomp switches dedicated to toggling on and off certain effects that lived within that preset. I suppose this works ok in the studio when you are auditioning huge lists of presets within a category - say, searching for the ideal clean or overdriven tone for a track. But when I play live, I don't want to go through hundreds (or really even 3 or 4) other presets to get to the one I am looking for at that very moment. I want the preset selection I need right under my foot in stomp button #2, another one in #4, and so on. The other benefit of playing by navigating with presets instead of using individual stomp boxes is that you can call up a certain configuration of amp head and cabinet, effects and so forth without doing a two-step shuffle on eight different pedals to get the job done in time for the song's changes to approach.
Now, I definitely already have a way to do this with my Looptimus / midi footswitch workflow instead of relying on a proprietary solution like Rig Kontrol 3, but as I said, Rig Kontrol is nice when playing out since it is also an audio interface and includes an assignable expression pedal, built-in (the Looptimus allows expression pedal usage as well but you have to supply your own third party one, which I have not done at this time).
So back to the lecture at hand... I was a little bummed when I found out about Rig Kontrol 3 using the linear style preset navigation and individual stomp box approach instead of assigning fully built presets to each stomp-switch. I combed the blogs and message boards, and I read the instruction booklet for the device and software up and down looking for other ways to customize the workflow. It's definitely not in the instruction manual, and it's definitely not intuitive, but I finally found a way to get the flow I want from the hardware. Here we go...
1. Place an instance of the Guitar Rig Pro 5 MFX plugin within Ableton on your Guitar Input Audio Track (alternatively, you could also follow along with this tutorial using Guitar Rig Pro 5 in standalone mode by running the app itself outside of Ableton Live).
2. At the top of the plugin window under the Output level meter is a button that looks like a simplified illustration of the Rig Kontrol 3. Click it to show the Rig Kontrol 3 Editor Interface at the bottom of the plugin window. Once it appears, be sure that your Rig Kontrol is plugged into your computer via a USB 2.0 cable (or into a powered USB 2.0 or 3.0 hub) and click the dimmed light next to the word CONNECT to the upper left of the Editor Interface. The light should illuminate red to show that the connection to the hardware is successful. Rock the wah/volume expression pedal back and forth and you should see it move along onscreen with your foot’s motion.
3. At this time, it is wise to also calibrate the expression pedal to ensure that you are using the full range of values for wah, volume and other midi-driven rocker switch effects. In the upper left corner of the Guitar Rig window, click on Options, then Preferences, and then find "Rig Kontrol Pedal Calibration" and click RESET next to it. This will spawn a dialog box asking your to rock the Rig Kontrol Expression Pedal back and forth to define the range of motion relative to the way you play. Once you have done this, click OK.
4. Now for the good stuff. In the Rig Kontrol Editor Interface, you will notice that all the pedals have names and functions on them already, as well as lock symbols per switch indicated that their function cannot be changed - the bottom four are labeled RK Switch 1-4, and the second row above says "Preset Prev," "Preset Next," "Tuner" and "Metronome Tap" (basically a tap tempo switch for time based effects to sync to). For this exercise, you can ignore the "RKKickdown" and "RK Pedal" fields, as those pertain to the expression pedal and the switch on the toe of the expression pedal when it is stepped on hard, fully forward.
We are going to right click on RK Switch 1, RK Switch 2, RK Switch 3, RK Switch 4, Preset Prev, and Preset Next - and in the resulting pop up menu click on Unlock on each one. Here is the tricky part - the pop-up menu is very hard to find sometimes depending on your plugin size relative to your computer’s screen size. It might show up either below the Guitar Rig plugin window or above it, and instead of showing your entire right click menu it might only show you the top item, or worse, half of the top item in the menu. Simply keep right-clicking on the RK Switch 1 over and over, and look for the pop-up menu on your screen somewhere at the top or bottom - it's there, just very hard to find. Once you find it, click Unlock.
5. Now that the switch is Unlocked, we want to change what we have assigned to it and re-Lock it so it stays put. To make this even harder, right clicking on it again sometimes makes the menu show up in a new place entirely from when you Unlocked it, and you may only see a partial top menu item again. Once you find where the menu shows up, hover your mouse pointer over it and move up and down slightly, and the menu will unfurl as if from nowhere, and reveal many custom options. Scroll down to Preset Selection, and then rollover the fly-out menu for Jump to and pick a Preset from your thousands of Presets in your Guitar Rig library (pro-tip here: hitting the first letter of the preset you are seeking while you are hovering over the list with your mouse will jump the cursor to that letter, which will make your search easier, albeit a bit less scroll-tastic). Alternatively, a second method might even be easier: you can right click and instead click on Clear All to empty the switch of all commands, then drag in your favorite preset from the master preset list on the left. In any case, once you have chosen the Preset desired, you will see that it shows up where RK Switch 1 once was. Right click it once more and Lock it.
6) Repeat steps 4-5 for RK Switch 2-4, Preset Prev and Preset Next. This will enable you to recall 6 Guitar Rig Presets at will using the Rig Kontrol, and you can say goodbye to navigating presets one at a time in a linear fashion. If you find that you do not need the Tuner or Tap Tempo, you can also Unlock those pedals, re-assign them in the same manner to a preset, and then Lock them to store them in there.
7) Go to Options, then Preferences and click Save Global Header as Plugin Default.
If you are running Guitar Rig standalone as an App outside of Ableton Live, you should be able to quit the application now and re-open it, and all the custom Preset assignments you setup should all remain as you left them, locked and ready to go!
8) If you are running Guitar Rig Pro MFX plugin inside of Ableton Live, you should close the plugin using the small red circle button at the extreme upper left of the plugin window, then find the Guitar Rig Pro MFX plugin in the Guitar Input Audio Track you created and then click the Save Preset button on the very right of the plug-in's title bar (shaped like a disk icon). This will enable you to create different pedal boards for different guitars, or songs, or albums - whatever you like. Just name them appropriately when saving so you know which you are loading!
I hope this helps you guys start programming in Presets, either the ones that came with the program, you found online, or even ones you create and customize to your own needs!