Live switching between multiple VSTi sets on a single track


A little background: playing live over the last couple of years, I’ve used two keyboards on different midi channels to play two different sound sets off a single hardware synth. I’m now trying to slim the rig down, because keyboards are heavy, and use just one keyboard to play three or four different sound sets off a PC or laptop using Cubase 6.5 - for instance, intro, verse, chorus, and solo all having different sounds, and switching between them with a footswitch using the arranger track to cue up each section, and expression maps that change to a different MIDI channel for each sound set.

This is how far I’ve gone: I can load up an instance of Halion Sonic or Kontakt, each of which can load different sounds on different channels, fed by a single MIDI track, and the expression mapping and switching works brilliantly. However, I don’t want to be limited to using just these instruments - I’d quite like to be able to add in some other synth sounds as well. I can use MIDI sends, but they’ll only work on one channel and I won’t be able to turn them on and off at will with CC or note expression commands - right?

So what I’m looking for is some way to load up a set of sounds on various VSTis on MIDI channel 1, a set of sounds on a different set of VSTis on channel 2, and then play a single keyboard live and be able to switch from set to set with a footswitch. The ideal for me would be a plugin that could replicate the Kontakt or Halion Sonic interface, but be able to load individual VSTis (instead of programs) into each slot with an assignable MIDI channel - or am I going about this entirely the wrong way? I know that other software exists that may be better for my purposes, but I’m most interested in learning how to do this with Cubase, so any creative suggestions are welcome.

Maybe I misunderstand you, but I think a decent, fully configurable midi controller keyboard could handle this by setting up various zones on the keyboard to send data to different midi channels (so each zone can play a different sound.

Then just have a different setup for each soundset.

Most of my current sound sets already have splits - as in, a split on the top keyboard and a split on the bottom keyboard, up to four different sounds/channels per song. What I’d like to be able to do is to cut it down to a single keyboard, with a foot pedal to switch between layouts. My keyboards are 61-key, so I have limited space for additional divisions.