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Describe your live setup/performance method


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I'm sure somebody's made this thread at some point over the years, but my brief topic search didn't yield any satisfactory results.

 

I'm playing a show tomorrow night, my third one ever as Zephyr Nova, and I finally have something that actually feels like a performance rather than a DJ set.  It's been challenging since I don't do a lot of looping, and never touch a keyboard when I'm creating.  I'm all mouse when I'm making electronic music.  That's definitely been a contributing factor to keeping this a studio-only project.  Anyway, I'm curious what other people are doing to translate their computer music into a live setting.

 

I've divided each piece I'm performing into 4 tracks (usually 1 drums/percussion, 1 pads, 1 bass, 1 melodies/textures).  I'm using my microkorg XL as a midi controller for pitch and beat fuckery, and an AKAI APC midi for fading tracks and effects in and out.  In addition to that I have a mic drenched out in the appropriate effects for blending my voice/tamborine/recorder/whatever-else-fits into the mix.  On the microkorg I'm using one key to initiate gating, another key to initiate distortion, and another key to mute the beat out.  I've got one knob devoted to pitch fucking, one to fade in the beat glitching vst, and one to adjust said vst.  The microkorg stuff is all devoted to the beats, except for the pitch stuff which can apply to any clip.  The APC assists with adding reverb/delay/volume control for all tracks, and the mic is self-explanatory.  That pretty much covers it.  So now I can look busy AND legitimately be busy doing stuff the whole time. 

 

My last two shows I was left feeling like an asshole because I was just basically fading effects in and out while glued to my lap top.  Now I'm using a more hands on knob twiddly approach to exactly that, plus a few other things that have legitimized it for me as a performance.  What do YOU do?

 

PS I want to potentially do some touring this year.  PM me if you live in Canada/US and want to setup a show at some point.  I'll try to make it happen if it's remotely feasible.

Edited by Zephyr_Nova
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I have played exactly one live electronics show in my life, so take all of the following with a grain of salt.

 

The setup was basically him handling some live sequencing and drums, me triggering/fading background drones/loops and playing the occasional synth solo. I think it went well for a first gig though.

 

What I liked about this was that - because I was manning the faders - I could have more control of the individual elements and therefore make sure that the mix was pleasant to hear. So the mandatory minimum I had to do was pretty easy already - I could then play some solos and noodle around without worrying too much about everything breaking down if I did not push some button at the correct time. I think it could be a good starting point in making a live set that's enjoyable for both you and the audience.

 

Ideally however I would like a live set to be more "live" - i.e. as little pre-recorded loops as possible. This is what I am kind of used to when playing drums in a old school "analog" band - while everyone has their "loops" memorised, you can't just press play and lean back - there's always the requirement to play the damn thing and play it good. I think this is something that I have been working to fix with my own attitude: I need to learn to treat recorded loops and the whole gearpile-plus-live-set as a meta-instrument to be played. After all I have done some DJing and the element of creativity in blending different stuff is still there and it can result in a totally new musical journey even though you are "just pressing play" a bunch of times.

 

I found that this lecture has a lot of good points when thinking about live performance, it seems kind of glitchy though so I only watched the first 15 or so minutes. The key point I took away from that was to figure out first what you want to be doing on the stage and then set up your other stuff based on that. Also she has a really clever fading trick using Live auto filters which I instantly copied.

 

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Thanks!  The nicest of hells I hope. :)

 

I'm also used to playing songs with bands where I'm physically playing bass/guitar/vocals, and everybody's doing all their parts live, no sequencing.  Part of the appeal to making electronic music was that it was a complete 180 from that, where I have to rely entirely on my imagination to make the music happen.  I can't just sit down and play a chord/rhythm and sing over top of it, I have to instead imagine a chord and rhythm and then sequence it into whatever program I'm using.  But turning that into anything worth getting on stage to present to an audience has been challenging.  It's always been a case of "but it's already programmed to be the best version of itself! I have nothing more to offer!"  I do kind of like the live vocal and other bits I'm adding to the tracks now though... tempted to include them on the released versions.

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It's always been a case of "but it's already programmed to be the best version of itself! I have nothing more to offer!"  I do kind of like the live vocal and other bits I'm adding to the tracks now though... tempted to include them on the released versions.

 

I think that is not necessarily true. The best version you mixed up in the studio is probably the best version one could have for listening at home on the sound system, but that does not necessarily mean it is the best for a live performance.

Because in the live performance I think you have to take into account your mood, the mood of the audience, the venue's sound system, whether you feel like changing things up to have a different song order etc. For me, all these little details are pretty important in a live performance, because it kind of makes it a living thing, instead of just the studio reproduction.

 

Now, how to make these little changes and improvisations easy to do in an electronic live context... that's a good question.

 

Edit: I think the stuff you say about adding live vocals to the released versions is what some musicians say about "maturing" the songs in a live context before putting them on tape finally.

Edited by thawkins
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I don't play out much anymore but  I usually try to change the setup every time, at least a little.  Last time, a couple months ago, I played the Octatrack with a template I'd set up in advance but no prerecorded or presequenced material, a CZ101 and the Mutable Instruments Anushri, and did a live-improvised score for a Kenneth Anger film with a friend who was playing a small modular skiff. We're playing again in May and I'll be playing minimal electric guitar into a beat up RE-100, and maybe the Jasper synth if I finally get around to building an enclosure for it in time.

 

The show before last I played a Roland RS09 with one output running into one of those cheesy Rcktron powered talkboxes that are underpowered and distort really easily with line level instruments, a Roland EF-303 and a looper. That one had one basic presequenced pattern on the EF303 that I used for one change.

 

The show before that I played a beat up 70 Yamaha 12 string acoustic (acually 8 strings because I had to take off the doubles of the top two and both of the G's to even make it playable) with a Sustaniac Model C attached to it and a wah pedal, Headrush and Farfisa repeat percusson pedal (tremolo but with a reverse sawtooth LFO instead of the sine, triangle or square wave that's much more common) in front of the Sustaniac, but no actual amplification.  So all of the effects were being fed back into the guitar mechanically and then it was miked like I were playing straight acoustic guitar. The guitar was tuned to an open tuning that was all roots and fifths, so I could play on two or three strings and use the electromechanical feedback to make the other six strings ring out like drone strings, but with the wah pedal emphasizing different notes and overtones and the repeat percussion giving it a rhythmic pulse.  That was an outdoor show in the woods with only like 90-100 people, and it worked really well in that setting.

 

Show before that was a late 70s Yamaha parlor organ with auto accompaniment, with one output going straight to a looper and the other going to the trigger input of a Coron Space Drum clone, so that adjusting the sensitivity made different parts of the organ's drum patterns trigger the Space Drum, plus a guitar and I think one other thing but that was a while ago so I forget exactly what I used.

 

Before that I was playing with bands a lot and didn't do any solo shows for a few years.

 

The closest thing to a static live rig I have right now is:

 

-Tanzmaus, Anushri and CZ-101 receiving midi from and sending audio to the Octatrack

 

Or guitar, which is really basic (tuner -> heavily modded Crybaby pedal -> fuzz -> amp, sometimes with one or two other things thrown in for variety but those vary show to show)

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That setup where you had all the effects pedals fed back into the acoustic is intriguing.  I didn't even know that was possible.  Would be curious to see a vid of that if there is one.  How did you get the pedals to still interact with the guitar? 

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Good timing! I just put together a live set recently.

 

This performance uses a xenharmonic tuning system (7-TET) for its tonality. Pitches are derived by using a series of delay units at varying, specific rates. Basically, I have a ton of beats going that are tuned to specific pitches using a series of delay plugins.

 

A friend helped me record a video for my MUTEK SF submission, so you can see it in action here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgzfKYjASt4

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That setup where you had all the effects pedals fed back into the acoustic is intriguing.  I didn't even know that was possible.  Would be curious to see a vid of that if there is one.  How did you get the pedals to still interact with the guitar? 

 

 

I wish, I don't even have an audio recording of that one, and I haven't been able to replicate it since I gave that guitar away, the one I have now has a smaller body and tends to resonate more in the mids and upper mids, which sounds bad - the old Yamaha was a big dreadnought with a long neck and it worked REALLY well for that.

 

Unfortunately, the thing I used to do it has been discontinued (I traded a trashpicked TR505 for mine, and looking at the web site now I'm not sure, they may have brought it back in to production with a new transducer design since I checked last) but I'm sure it would be possible to make something similar - electromechanical sustainers have actually been around longer than electric guitars, at least in theory.  There's a patent document for one that was meant for acoustic lap steel and is from around WWI IIRC, although it could be the 20s. Also, I just noticed they have a new version for sale that's a lot smaller but appears to use more off-the-shelf parts rather than the big, custom-fabricated transformer-and-ceramic-magnet monstrosity mine has, so that could actually be better.

 

I had a soundhole pickup attached to the guitar, that was fed into the pedals, then into the Sustaniac, and its transducer was clipped to the guitar, but its output wasn't connected to an amp, so the only actual sound was the acoustic guitar itself, but the Sustainiac was feeding the electric signal back in to it.

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I still approach composition/production/recording in a very naive way making everything in a fairly basic wave editor. When I was asked to play a set of original material a few years back I had to come with something fast whilst having no tenable knowledge of how to use an actual DAW.

 

So basically I have some loops going in the wave editor on my laptop where I can control a few parameters, fade, pan, volume, EQ, a few basic effects on my mixer. I use an MPC 500 to trigger some sounds and play basslines mostly. On top of that I sing and overdub loops of my vox over everything and mess with that on a line of pedals. It can fall outta sync pretty easily so I need to nail the timing on my loop pedal or continually correct it. It is a far from ideal setup for what I wanna do but it's what I got at the mo. Here's a vid from last year of me using this setup:
 

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Good timing! I just put together a live set recently.

 

This performance uses a xenharmonic tuning system (7-TET) for its tonality. Pitches are derived by using a series of delay units at varying, specific rates. Basically, I have a ton of beats going that are tuned to specific pitches using a series of delay plugins.

 

A friend helped me record a video for my MUTEK SF submission, so you can see it in action here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgzfKYjASt4

Was lucky enough to witness you performing this set and it was a very satisfying, metallic experience!

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im not a musician on stage, i'm more of a conductor/composer and my musicians are locked inside my computer controlled with midi controllers or they're in a form of md+mnm+pedals+mixer. i may order them to do some minor impovs how i tell them but usually they know what and how to play...

 

 

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Edited by xox
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Coming from two angles:

 

When I make a song in Renoise I try out a lot of different rhythms and melodies in the same track but I don't actually delete them. I'll use the label system in Renoise to label which ones are more consonant/dissonant or which ones fit the song the most and seperate the others from the main track... its not uncommon for me end up with anywhere from 75 to 175 tracks in some of my songs. For live sets I'll usually I'll turn the other muted and unused melodies into phrases* so when I'm playing renoise I'll switch the tracks on and off with the midi keyboard so that I can change things around if I feel like its getting too repetitious or the audience is underwhelmed or whatnot. It gives more planning time to decide when to put in knob tweaks and keep focus. I was late in learning how to play the keyboard and I find it impossible to play and do well-timed changes at the same time, so the phrasing system helped a lot..

 

Other way I think a lot of people get around this is to add vocals. Your instrument is basically playing a portable studio so I always feel like there is a distance between what I play on the machines and then the machines playing it back without you doing anything except stand there and listen. Anything else (costumes, lights, etc...) is just showy.

 

And just general advice: I also have no less than 3 backup plans if the main set fails. I bring an older laptop with an extra battery and ardour2 installed if the main system doesn't work or the venue are fucked and don't have proper logistics (went to one venue where they were running power bars off of power bars. Went battery powered for that one!) Secondly a thumb drive with a bunch of pieces of tracks on mp3's and Mixxx (standalone) if that fails so I can do a semi-dj thing if a nice soul lends me a computer to play on. Then finally my phone which has the Kaoss pad and an interal mp3 player as a last ditch.

 

 

*Phrases in Renoise are kind of like custom arpeggiators that you seperately assign a key to in order to trigger it... you can put whole songs into one!

Edited by Entorwellian
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There are some videos out there I think, but probably not on YouTube.

 

Past

I used to use:

  • Ableton
  • APC40
  • Trigger Finger
  • MobilePre interface

Present

Nowadays I use:

  • Traktor
  • X1 Mk II
  • Z1
  • Trigger Finger
  • nanoKontrol 2

I have as many of my tracks as possible mixed down in Stems format. I essentially DJ between my tracks, but I've got my Trigger Finger mapped to mostly rhythmic effects and can switch between momentary and latching at will. I use that to fuck up breaks and make my set a bit more performative and interesting. The nanoKontrol controls the Stems tracks and the NI controllers due what they were designed to do (and pretty darn well I might add). Stems files are pretty legit and I highly recommend designing a performance setup around them. Traktor also supports amazing MIDI mapping depth.

 

Future

I'm waiting for my DigiTone to come in the mail, after which I'm thinking I will order a DigiTakt and design a set using them running into my Octatrack. I'll use the OT to mix, loop, add effects, and play back full tracks when I want DJ-like capabilities. The DigiTakt and DigiTone will give me tools to improvise and have more control over individual instruments when playing tracks.

 

Misc

I fully endorse Entorwellian's recommendation to bring backup setups. I've slacked off on it lately, but I used to have my iPad and iPhone loaded up with Traktor DJ and a general collection of my tracks for situations where things didn't work. I used my iPad to play mini sets here and there on occasion, and I even used my phone to hop into open mic slots at chiptunes shows once or twice.

Edited by wahrk
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Hmmmm yeah good call on the backup set.  

Cool vid  and concept Braintree, sounds wicked.

 

Anyone have recommendations on plug-ins that are good for doing a wide range of glitch edits/beat manipulation on the fly that aren't a total drain on CPU?  Ableton's beat repeat wasn't really cutting it for me, but any other VST I've tried is unusable due to how much memory it takes up.

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I'm using a Macbook Pro Retina... the common consensus seems to be that no, the RAM is soldered onboard and hence unupgradable.  Ffffffffuuuuuuuuu  :wtf:

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