Portland, Oregon, USA
Workman of funky electro beats.
I don't have a place to host my tracks, so here is a link to my soundcloud profile:
RME FireFace 400
Axon AX 100
DSI PolyEvolver Rack
Electronic Music other: Performing without a Laptop
Written July 23 2008 , Tags: laptop, sequencer, MPC
I have been thinking about ways to perform live that would minimize the laptop's role, or(ideally) take it out all together. I have been thinking about it and came up with two possible solutions so far.
An option for the former might entail using a program like Numerology to sequence my hardware synths via MIDI and using my Drehbank, etc. to change the patterns (analog style). Another option would be more ideal, but would cost considerably more money: buying a hardware sequencer/workstation or synth with a sequencer (ala the Monomachine).
In short, I have two questions for everyone here. 1) In what ways do you perform with a laptop that minimizes interaction with the laptop itself and 2) for those who use hardware sequencers/workstations what have you found that offers the most flexibility for live performances?
for me the most important piece of gear is my sampler. if you like having routing options, use samples and don't want to carry many fx pedals around, then get a good sampler. also, if you like more complex patterns in your music, you can get a piece of gear that has many modulation sources & destinations. again, samplers are good for modulating parameters, but i believe there are sequencers and synths that are good for that as well.
regarding the sequencer, i hear that those elektron boxes are pretty good sequencers. if you can't afford those maybe check out an e-mu command station or an mpc or an rm1x or maybe a good software sequencer.
You could also consider a laptop connected controller that gives visual feedback of the program state (eg. monome, or build a custom controller link ).
i just bought a tenori-on to control my diy midi gear. it has some severe limitations but it can be very inspiring.
hey dylan. i am a laptop-less performer. my setup wouldn't be everyone's cuppa...kinda depends what you are trying to achieve / do as a performance. i know mine could be better but this is a little bit about how i work:
- mp3 'backing track', pre-composed set...recently shifted this to a 4 track, so can effect four parts of the track independently.
- sampler looper - not sync'd just right tempo and hope for the best / tweak like mad when it goes wrong
- lots of effects - some pretty visual (airFX, kaoss pad etc...)
- different types of mics and lots of whistles, harmonicas etc...
- a radio for some random input
- some bent bits and bobs
- then whatever else is right for a certain gig - guitar / modular synth etc...
basically, i loop and improvise along with the 'backing track'. i find that keeps it interesting / sporadic and yet structured to a reasonable degree too. having added my MD 4-track recorder, i have much more flexibility to tweak the main track...laaaa
hope this helps with some ideas
My live sets are laptop-less. I use two samplers (an MPC500 and a Kaoss Pad), effects and a mixer. The stuff I do doesn't rely on any quantization or complex sequencing, so I'm effectively the sequencer for the set, triggering prepared sounds and mixing volume/effects. It works out pretty well and keeps me on the ball.
I'd probably be better off with a bigger MPC (something with more lines out) and doing away with the second sampler altogether, but the KP3 is handy for doubling as an FX processor and looks good in the dark. I have several effects boxes, but usually try to limit it to one or two per set just to keep things light. My setup fits in to a single kit bag, so it's portable enough to take public transit and setup time is under ten minutes generally. The power supplies are the heaviest thing.
I'm building a set right now without a laptop. It includes 3 synths (moog LP, radias, roland rs-5) and 2 drum machines (smkII and emx1) and kaoss pad and mixer. Soon I'll have a TC Helicon vocal processor to fancy up the vocals. The kaoss pad is what holds everything together since I can sample 2 measures then add the next part. Also, the emx1 basically has a 5 track sequencer, mono, but still, one of those can be playing the bass on the moog if need be. Add the drums in from the radias and that's 3 possible drum tracks for each song so it doesn't get too repetitive. I'm only using pattern mode, not song mode, in the electribes so I'm still free to improvise if a part has to be longer due to sampling mistakes on the kp3. The radias is the master btw, connected to everything else by a 1 in / 8 out thru box.
It's kind of hectic, there's a lot to have to focus on, but I've been going through the songs everyday and muscle memory is starting to take over. Hopefully I'll be ready to play out by Halloween.
The only thing I think I might add in the future is a looper pedal post everything so song transitions will be smoother. Oh, and the moog has the exp pedal and is running through a boss GT-8 fx processor. All the patches are stored in order so the FCB1010 foot pedal can control all the song changes.
It'll take an hour to setup but I think the shear amout of shit on stage will be impressive... as long as I don't get jacked when loading it all back up.
And my name will be . . . . HOOD ORNAMENT OF THE APOCALYPSE. Oh yea, my favorite part, I have lasers attached to each side of my keyboard stand.
I have a set up along the same lines as samski.
I (re)prerecord my entire set onto DAT, leaving out certain bits that I want to play.
So, I bring out two fun synths (ie: ones with lots of knobs), and two delays, and I play along to the DAT.
I recently acquired an MC909 and I was thinking about creating a live set up using that thing as my sequencer - basically replacing my DAT with the MC909.
It's amazing to me the way people react to someone who is playing instruments at an electronic show. It's like you're a magician or something. I guess people are just so used to seeing someone doing a set with a laptop (who basically looks likes they are checking their email for an hour), that they forget that the sounds (usually) have to come from somewhere - the computer didn't just make this music by itself!
You should give it a go. It's alot more fun.
ATM it's my behringer bcr2000, midicontroller with lots of knobs, some fx pedals and my laptop.. but i set up my midicontroller in a way that i don't need my laptop anymore as an interface, it acts more like a sampler/sequencer. I created several 'scenes', consisting out of loops I made, which I can edit/glitch/filter with the controller, and also buttons that can switch each track to the next scene, so I can mix between scenes. It's not a perfect setup yet, but it takes away a bit of the laptop-idea and I'm planning on creating an external LED-based interface so I can read the names of the scenes and choose without having to use the laptop screen to check. I just don't like the idea of looking at a screen, be it as a performer or someone in the audience seeing me while I look at the screen.
the last set i played (stfu marseille) was alesis mmt8 (old sequencer) + yamaha tx81z (old fm rack synth module) which was a very minimal and limited set up but fun to try to do everything with just 8 mono voices and no effects
ive just started putting together a more complicated set which is made of an alesis hr16 (old drum machine) + mmt8 + tx81z + digitech studio quad (4 channel effects rack module) + 2x alesis 3630 compressors + akai mb76 (mixer/splitter rack module) + fostex mixtab (control box for midi controlled mixer but itll work as a controller for the effects unit)- its a pretty heavy set up for 1 person to carry but not impossible
obviously things would be better with more effects, more compressors, a sampler, another drum machine....etc...but as it is theres still quite a lot that can be done with it - the main limiting factor is the memory capacity of the sequencer and drum machine so i have to plan my set based on number of songs x number of patterns per song x notes per pattern etc- so it takes a bit of working out- i think i can do 1/2 an hour of reasonably complicated music
the mmt8 is good because of the 8 track mute buttons which can be switched on and off to give a lot of variations of 1 pattern and its a good way to add a bit of human interaction
the pads on the hr16 are a bit too old and crap to be able to do live drum beats
the mixtab will let me control 8 parameters on the effects box
the compressors settings can be changed to give different textures and feels to the overall sound
i can do a little bit of mixing with the mb76 but its mainly just to set the routing
i think the main problem will be having only 2 hands, 2 eyes and 1 brain- theres quite a lot to deal with and each thing takes concerntration to make it good
i want to make a wooden cabinet/housing for all this stuff- itd look amazing- tx81z on the bottom, mmt8 + hr16 on top of that and the other 4 rack modules on top (on the flat bit of the mmt8+hr16)
performing without a laptop *can* lead to a complex setup that is more failure-prone, and possibly lacks central control. I love playing with my electribes. it's great fun! however, in the scheme of things, it sounds crappy. My rule of live performance is "what the audience sees, and what comes out of your speakers is what matters at the end of the night."
If you are looking for a way to make a EM performance more exciting for the performer and the audience, try some controllers or maybe a video projector. and dancing. and maybe some costumes.
that works reeeal well for me.
i have to start thinking of a live set. the most appealing combo right now is machinedrum+future retro r2+compu(Live7) with machinedrum and r2 doing most of the damage. the other combo would be machinedrum+monomachine+compu(live7) again with machinedrum/monomachine doing all the damage. ideally it would be md+mm+r2+live7+fx, but i dont want to overwhelm myself, and i dont want to spend too much time setting up and breaking down, :P
definitely bring some effects. too bad i dont have a reverb pedal anymore.
good ideas everyone. i think i need to make more effective use of ableton live 7 and my midi controller. i like fachu's idea of having the scenes information being displayed with LEDs. but i also think a hardware sequencer like an MPC or Monomachine (drool) might be a worthy investment. ah, decisions.
ah, yeah, forgot to mention that my live setup is a fookin beast. i have to drive (my van) to gigs. which is generally ok, but not really ideal. the way i looked at it at first was that if bands can take all that shit everywhere why shouldn't i...but it can be a drag...like a free gig i did a while back, which i played in front of 6 people...or so...having dragged all my shit into town etc...
i use a novation sl controller. i dont actually have to look at my laptop really.
just to make sure its on at the beginning.
i do gigs with hardware but i dont have a car or van so its alot of hassle.
i am doing an ACID themed night soon and will probably just use a nord and the korg to play
the drums and sequence.
i also play guitar with amps, so i dont miss carrying lots of hardware.
with a laptop you can start making tunes on the train, and play that tune
at the gig. its amazing and you cant replicate that apart from maybe the little mpcs
or a monomachine (can a monomachine run on batteries?)
yep, sage words quip. this is an interesting blog.
Signup to comment