I'm glad James that you find something in MS.

All is going thrue JACKS.

But better to understand JACKS Dom explain you all.

Some work was made before for you by LIONSTRACS. That mean that VST are connected.

Now you need first to learn how they are connected.

After that you can learn that you can control each VST with sliders. That is easy work you will see.

Each VST you can control as you learn it in VST HOST.

About external keyboard: yes MIDI USB is great idea. I test it and it is works. You will need less time to connect than you thing.

About DEFAULT EFFECT ON SOUND: I made in this way:

All effects are under PRESET. You copy DEFAULT and than set default effects as you want and save it as default. You will have setup of default effect that need to be done on startup.