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live PA: Getting started

Discussion in 'Electronic Music Producers Forum' started by Mrs. Pink, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    So, i've been messing around with a live PA in ableton. Just wondering if there are any blogs, websites...etc...dedicated to live performance so i could see how others put together their performances etc.....
  2. DoubleDown

    DoubleDown TRIBE Member

    djtechtools.com have a lot of great articles on live set ups.

    The Ableton forums are swimming in this kind of stuff as well.

    This last one is pretty gold... look up "Tom Cosm" and read anything he writes/blogs/hosts.. watch his "Mega-Set" video as well for a look at his live set up. He has some really cool ideas and live work flow methods.. He's a little strange at times.. bit of a new age hippie from Australia who's in to electro and breaks and such.. but his methods are quite solid! There is a few great videos on vimeo and other places (probably linked from his website) that go through what he calls his live "Mega Set" which is more or less a template project that hosts all of his stems and loops cut from his own work and shows how he puts them back together live.

    Any questions you have at the moment man? something eluding you or anything like that? I'll help too if I can.. I've come up with a few different methods for live play via ableton as well..via the UC33, padKontrol and Nocturn... more so for fun than to put in to practice but I'm sure I can help if needed!

    Good luck and happy reading! :)
  3. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    well, ok, to start.....i'll start with listing my gear....and then maybe we can turn this thread into a bit of a live PA tips and tricks thread....

    so i'm using ableton 7
    trigger finger
    yamaha m08

    now, i'm looking to add an apc40, or a launchpad....so any suggestions on which would be better would be a great start.....

    i have some tunes finished....i guess i started doing things backwards and used arrangement view and constructed full tracks before bouncing any clips into session.....but i've started doing things a bit different and just jamming parts in session view and realize it's much easier to work ideas and parts out....

    i guess my only real question right now....so, let's say i have four different projects in live that i would like to play in the live pa......this is probably a simple answer...lol...so how do i change between these projects seamlessly?
  4. cosmosuave

    cosmosuave TRIBE Member

    livepa.org - a resource for live electronic performing musicians

    Been on this board for years great bunch of guys and knowledge no fuckwits like the Abelton forum... If you join give an intro don't just jump in and start asking questions...

    This may be of help...

    The Art of Performing Live Electronic Music by Sneakthief


    Please remember, the art of playing live is about being cool-headed when things don't go the way you expect it. Try to take everything in stride, and for god's sake, never panic.

    The most hard-won piece of advice that I have right after you perform DO NOT CRITICIZE YOUR SET IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE. If you must, save the self-deprecation for another day and only for your closest friends.


    First of all, most of the "mistakes" made while performing will only be noticed by you. If someone thinks that you played fine, and then you start telling them about all of the fuckups, it can change their perception of your performance in a negative way. Your confidence and self-assurance plays an important role in how your music will be received.

    The truth is, there will always be things going wrong - e.g. gear fuckups, bad cables, bad sound, audio glitches, police, people trying to talk you or hit on you, etc... live performance is about Having the confidence to overcome such difficulties and play your music as best as you can.

    Although it may look impressive to haul a lot of gear, what really matters is what you do with it. Having more gear means having more things to go wrong. So think twice about bringing your whole studio for your next life gig.

    Studios are like laboratories - they're usually safe and controlled environment that you're familiar with. The minute you drag your equipment somewhere else, you introduce all sorts of weird variables including

    -power fluctuations
    -low lighting
    -strange sound system setups with weird cabling
    -spilled liquids
    -intoxicated/obnoxious/distracting party goers
    -lots of bass to rattle wires, connections and hard drives

    As such, I prefer taking less gear rather than more. It also helps to really know your equipment inside and out.

    Live PA Checklist - (this list has been compiled thanks to helpful suggestions from those on the livepa.org, EM411.com, and the now-defunct Moving-Parts & Topica livePA mailing lists)

    Ask beforehand about the setup if possible and don't forget to make your needs very clear. I highly recommend printing out a simple rider that spells out exactly what you require - some promoters might forget that you need power connectors, table space, an audio input into the sound system, etc. (Note: to prevent power issues and line noise, avoid going on the same electrical circuit as the discolights/fogmachine/etc.)

    Make an equipment checklist and use it before every show. It's so easy to forget one little thing that will prevent you from playing. Having your own power bar is essential if you need more than one outlet and always bring duct tape).

    Don't be afraid of writing down a listing of all the tracks you have - that way, if you're doing any kind of spontaneous transitions, you can quickly choose what you might want to play next. (and NO, I don't necessarily mean a pre-planned set list). Also consider making notes for patch numbers and changes, volume levels, or anything else that’s essential to your live workflow.

    Know ALL your cable connections inside and out. Check your cables beforehand and make sure they're all working... even midi cables go bad, and when they do it can be very frustrating because you might not think to check the cable when midi data isn't being transmitted properly.

    Mark your cables with coloured tape or label-tiewraps (so you know what goes where). Don’t forget the duct tape!

    Bring a flashlight - lighting conditions can vary and chances are you will need one.

    Bring many different types of *extra* connectors because you never know what kind of audio inputs/cables the venue will have. If you’re using a laptop, you might want to also bring a power connector that removes the ground (aka a ground lift) - this can help get rid of grounding problems (50/60Hz hum).

    Consider putting a compressor/limiter on your final mix (see section below on Compression/Limiting for more info)- it comes in handy for sounds that get a little out of control. Remember, records have gone through a whole mastering process and will generally deliver a consistent volume range, whereas live sound can have some pretty crazy dynamics (but try not to squash your mix if you limit/compress it). Some cheap compressor/limiters: DBX 166, Behringer Multicom Pro, SYMETRIX 501, YAMAHA- GC2020B, ASHLY Model CG85E, ASHLY Model CG85E, DBX 266, ALESIS: CLX-440, 3630, ALTO CLE2.0, etc.

    A monitor is necessary, or at least headphones. You will find that listening to both will help give you a better idea of what's being heard on the dancefloor. Nevertheless, what you hear from the monitor speakers is NOT what the people hear on the dancefloor.

    Soundcheck! If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to setup your equipment before the event starts, take some time to LISTEN TO YOUR SET ON THE DANCEFLOOR! This is essential, even if you don't get a soundcheck, run out onto the dancefloor when you first start playing so you can get an idea of how everything sounds. Resources on soundchecking and live sound:
    BBC - Music - Introducing
    Roadie.net 2.0
    Yamaha's Online Services: Play, Learn, Listen to Music!
    Bob Brozman LIVE Sound Hints
    Untitled Document

    If the room sounds bad, a 10, 20 or 30 band eq will allow you to compensate for it. every room has a resonant frequency that may detract from your sound - Not to mention, all sound systems are eq'd differently.

    Be friendly to whoever is doing sound because they can make or break your set through carelessness or malice. A good sound engineer will let you know if you’re running a signal that’s too high or too low, and will also be on duty to make sure that the sound system levels are staying consistent. A lazy or unfriendly sound engineer won’t give a damn if your set sounds like crap because your output is clipping and the limiters are squashing your set. If people are running away from the dancefloor, then you better check and see if you’re killing them with unfriendly mid-high frequencies, clipping or distortion.

    If there isn’t a sound engineer, you can try to find someone who’s sober enough to let you know if any of your levels are going astray or if there are problems with the sound system.

    Consider using at least 2 sequencers/laptops (or at least an extra drum machine). If one of them crashes, you'll at least have a backup. If everything fails or the power goes out, start clapping to the sound comes back on or break out your emergency acoustic instrument. Or try beatboxing. I'm not kidding. (e-trinity once performed this successfully to a screaming crowd when his laptop crashed minutes before the end of his set at a big party in Sweden). Cheap sequencers to use as a second sequencer: Alesis MMT-8, Yamaha QY-70, QY-100, etc. (Plus: see Drum Machine section below for cheap drum machines that can be used as a sequencer.)

    Bring backup disks (or cdr's, flash memory cards, hard drives) for everything... this sounds ridiculous, but redundancy is the key here. Consider what you would do in a situation where your synth loses all it's patches or if your hard drive crashes. If you have a laptop, could you make a bootable cdr? Also, if you have a laptop, you could keep sysex dumps handy for external gear. The same goes for sampler data. External scsi cdrom drives are cheap. For about $50 or less, you can buy a cdrom drive and do a dump of your sampler's hard drive to a cdr. Not to mention, external Firewire/USB2 hard-drive enclosures are ridiculously cheap and don't weight that much.

    Hard drives can be susceptible to low frequency vibrations which can cause misreads, or even head crashes (this is Bad ThingTM). So please be careful when you’re choosing a space to place your laptop. Consider placing it on foam, or even a t-shirt and at all costs avoid putting your computer on a bassbin!

    Have some kind of backup plan in case your gear crashes, even if it’s something cheap and simple like a minidisk. This will give you some breathing time if you have to suddenly reload anything. If you're using a laptop, consider having it automatically boot into your music software and automatically play a track (in case of a reboot) - remember to scandisk and defrag your machine regularly.

    During your set, take a moment to occasionally look at the audience and see how they're reacting to what you're doing. If people start to leave the dancefloor, then perhaps you should try something different ;)

    Practice! I know it's obvious, but it will help you overcome unpleasant situations where things fuck up. If you think you know your gear well, you may find out differently when it's dark and in a completely different environment. doh!

    Be prepared to politely shoe people away if they ask you to play their favorite song, or "what all those buttons do", or make out with you during your set (heheh). And for God’s sake, don’t let anyone put their drinks next to your gear, and be extra vigilant when drink-wielding patrons are hovering around you.

    I strongly recommend to not get fucked up on whatever substance. It's rude and disrespectful to not perform your best - you will not play any better if you're seriously intoxicated. Save the "partying" for after you've finished your set and packed up your equipment and it's in a safe place.

    Don't be afraid to take chances and improvise whenever you feel comfortable in doing so - a perfectly pre-rehearsed gig can end up being too rigid. You have to be able to create some kind of repor or feedback with your audience, n'est-ce-pas?

    Record your set and listen to it. You may end up getting some great material, or at the very least be able to figure out where you need improvement.

    Try to have someone trustworthy watching your gear when you're not around and pack up your gear as soon as possible!!!!! This will significantly reduce your chances of anything bad happening including theft and accidents.

    “never never never never never never never never never act bashful during your set. It's not cute and it's embarrassing for everyone.” (credit djugel at EM411.com)

    If you make a mistake, don’t make a big deal out of it. Just keep on playing. Most of the time it will only be you who notices or remembers it.

    If you're not afraid to crack open your equipment, don't forget to bring a screwdriver in case you need to open up your gear right before or during your set in order to carry out some crazy emergency repairs.

    If you're traveling with your gear, make sure to pack it very well. A lot of smaller equipment fits nicely in those cheap hardware-store metal toolkit cases. Nice pieces of thick foam don't cost too much and just a few minutes with a knife and scissors will allow you to customize the shape to fit your equipment nicely. Please remember that baggage handlers and roadies can be cruel bastards *lol*

    Believe it or not, you *can* make a living doing live performance. It certainly takes determination, experience, perseverance and a little obsession. Many musicians from all walks of life have come to realize that there is typically more money to be made from performing as opposed to releasing recordings. As such, don't underestimate your value as an entertainer - there should come a time when you will want to charge for your efforts. Although the amount of time and effort put into a live set is usually never offset by the income from performing, don't doubt for a second that what you're doing is worth being paid for.

    Oh yeah, the most important thing is to have fun!

    NB: as you get more experience, you eventually get less and less nervous before performing - but there should always be some excitement and sense of anticipation. Otherwise why bother?

    Label EVERYTHING. Most wall-warts power supplies are black - get a white marker and write your name and email address on the back, and write what device it is for (SH-101, FX pedals, etc) on all five visible sides in big letters - that way you can find them in the dark. Label every single cable - a really good way to do this is to buy 1/2" heatshrink tubing from an electronics supply shop, then print off bits of paper with your name and email address on them and use the shrink-wrap tubing to hold them on securely. If you don't have your name on everything, you *will* lose cables!

    Some additions from the rest of LivePA.org:
    When travelling internationally, expect that customs will open and search your equipment, and will not likely take the same amount of care to repack it afterwards - you are not allowed to be present at these searches. If your equipment is in locked cases, they *will* break the locks. Make sure your equipment is packed in a way that is obvious for repackers, and possibly even include a note or diagram explaining that the equipment is very delicate and must be repacked properly.

    Assume that the house mixer will require you to plug in using 1/4", XLR, or RCA - and make sure you've got the appropriate adapters to plug into any of those connections! A good rule of thumb: for anything that you will need to connect your rig to the soundsystem, do not trust anyone but yourself to provide the appropriate connectors.

    If you've got gear that uses wall-wart type adapters, buy and bring a decent-quality multiadapter with reversible polarity and many different types of tips - label it "Spare" and don't depend on it. Sooner or later, all wallwarts will go flaky, and having a spare might just save your show.

    If you've got a bunch of wall-warts and don't want to carry around 10 power bars to plug them all into, consider buying three or four cheap 6-foot extension cords, chopping the ends off with three inches of cable each, and splicing the ends together to make a single six-inch extension cord. You can usually plug two wallwarts into a single plug on a powerbar this way. Hint: if you get 25' extension cords instead of 6', that leaves you with 24' of nice thick cable that makes for *excellent* home stereo speaker wire!

    MIDI cables can and do die. When you discover that you have a MIDI cable that is definitely flaky (i.e., it works if you bend it one way, but doesn't work if you bend it the other way), EXECUTE IT IMMEDIATELY WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE!! Thou shalt not suffer a sketchy cable to live! Sketchy cables have a sneaky habit of finding their way back into use later on... immediately destroy the cable by cutting it in half, so that it can never bite you. If the ends are non-molded, you can salvage them for later use - but most MIDI cables these days have molded ends.

    If you're handy with a soldering iron, it is cheaper and better in the long run to build your own high-quality patch cables rather than to buy them. "Molded end" cables (ie. Hosa, etc, where the 1/4" plug is plastic and cannot be taken apart) are fine for short-term use, or use in things like patchbays where they will rarely be moved. For live-pa use where cables will be plugged and unplugged, coiled and uncoiled a lot, it is better to spend the extra dollar or three up-front, so that if/when a cable dies in a couple of years, you can repair it rather than throw it away. You can also tailor your cables to your live rig this way, and if later you change your setup, you can just keep the ends and rebuild new cables. I recommend Neutrik or Switchcraft plug components, and Mogami, Canare, or Sommer cabling. It's not cheap; instead of buying a ready-made 20' 1/4" patchcord for $14 at the music store, you end up paying $18 for parts (Neutrik 1/4" connectors are $4 *each*!) but you end up with a cable worth $50 at the same music store!

    You can greatly improve the lifespan of your cables by never, ever bending or folding them at sharp angles - for 1/4" patch cables, store them in 1' loops. Add extra strain relief anywhere that cables have their weight supported by the jack or cuff of the cable - velcro tie-strap strips work excellently for this, and can be attached to flightcases or mixers without trouble. One good method for packing cables - sew a drawstring into a small pillowcase, and store coiled cables in there. Cables stored in this way are much less likely to become entangled in travel - I use a mesh "stuff sack" that I got for $3 at an army surplus store.

    Always bring either a bunch of demo CDs of your stuff, or at the very least proper business cards with your contact info and website. People have very short attention spans these days, and if you want someone to remember you, you have to give them something physical that they can take home with them! The more professional you come off, the more likely people are to recommend your act for other events.

    Learn how to take a compliment graciously. When someone comes up after your set and starts gushing about how you're their new God, shake their hand, look them in the eye, smile and say something like "Thanks, man, I'm really glad you enjoyed it!", or "Thanks, that means a lot to me!". Be a full-on rockstar on stage, but be a regular, down-to-earth person afterwards - if someone is impressed with your music, they'll be even more impressed to find out that you're a regular, approachable guy. This leads directly to more gigs!

    UPS - Uninterruptible Power Supply: get a small cheap Belkin UPS from Office Depot or Office Max. It has a battery back-up that will save your fanny and gear if the power goes down as you're playing. There's one model that's the same size as a power strip but has the UPS inside, it's $30USD. Also, they just recently came out with sub-$100 UPSs with built-in Voltage Regulation (!) intended for home office use, but they are also compact enough for our purpose of taking them live out on gigs to deal with places with dodgy power situations.

    Instead of just a screwdriver, get a multi-tool, like a Leatherman or a Swiss Army Knife. More useful, and sometimes the problems you may have to fix are not even your own.
  5. cosmosuave

    cosmosuave TRIBE Member

    Combine your 4 projects into one... Keep your track count to no more than 8 anything more makes it more complicated...
  6. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    Mr. Tunes sent me some great links on the some stuff he was working on.....really helpful (and i've yet to thank him for it).

    I'll post the links when i get home.
  7. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    is there a specific way to combine these tracks or do i have to bounce each clip individually?
  8. cosmosuave

    cosmosuave TRIBE Member

    Not sure on how you want to play out but it's best tto use session view over arrangement...

    My setup is something like this...

    Track 1 Drums (drum rack)
    Track 2 Bass
    Track 3 Arps
    Track 4 Perc
    Track 5 leads
    Track 6 pads
    Track 7 strings
    Track 8 vox

    2 FX sends verb and delay

    Just take your sounds from all projects and place accordingly if you used the same template for all projects you can copy and paste... You may want to consider taking Noah Pred's Ableton class or contacting Mike Goodwin (certified Ableton trainer) for some indepth help...
  9. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    i'd love to check out a workshop...but i'm in London. I do have a guy that has taught me some stuff....but that was when i was JUST learning.....

    so i'm using session view for everything now.....i guess my question is, i know i can access my clips from other projects though the file management.....and i can just click and drag those files into the session view for the live performance, but what about the automation and fx? when i dump a clip into session view, isn't it going to have the fx and such from whatever the channel has on it already>?
  10. mrtunes

    mrtunes TRIBE Member

    it's a tricky one, but what i think has to happen is you have to remove the effects before saving them in the browser (or bake them into the sample).

    then in your live set you have effect routings set up which your clips will benefit from.
  11. mrtunes

    mrtunes TRIBE Member

  12. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    ok, but if i bake the automations into the sample, then i lose control of those fx for live performance right?
  13. mrtunes

    mrtunes TRIBE Member

    correct - so i recommend building some racks that have a good mix of effects - delays, distortions, beat repeat, etc.

    later on down the line you can experiment with 'smart knobs' - making the knobs map to multiple parameters so they take up less space. a classic example is having your EQ act like a filter sweep on one knob instead of using three for the EQs.

    if you are using something like absynth as an effects device in the original song, and you do a bit of automation before you bake it in, it's no big deal - the absynth device would cause you more trouble than it's worth down the road.
  14. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    cool, great info.

    next question, what are your thoughts on using sample packs and loops? I'm trying to stay clear of using them.....i just feel that it's a bit cheap using other peoples loops....samples i'm not too concerned with......but i hear mixed things and i'm not sure what the concencus is on that......
  15. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    ugh, ok...so many questions...so when i want to freeze a track....if i'm running a sidechain on it it won't let me?
  16. mrtunes

    mrtunes TRIBE Member

    i think they're ok as long as your whole track or performance isn't built out of them. for example i often need help with drums (especially on a real kit), so i use a few top loops to help spice up my rhythm parts. if someone can't write a bassline i'm sure they will find a creative way of splicing bass loops together for their song.

    also in some synth/sampler plugins that have patches that go on for 10 seconds or more like Atmosphere/Omnisphere - a lot of times they are playing a long sample. that's not much different than grabbing a loop off a sample cd.

    it's kind of funny to me how an amen breakbeat can be used 1000s of times, but a joey youngman drum loop can't be used more than 5. humans are finnicky i guess.

    one way around this: set your sidechain input to 'pre-fader'. on a track that just has a kick drum or whatever is keying your sidechain, you can turn the volume all the way down now (ghost track). now do a bounce record.
  17. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    Had my first real GO at a live show this weekend with Mike D....i was playing live, he was jamming along with decks.......went pretty well. Thanks for all the advice guys.
  18. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    also....*rant*....purchased an APC20 due the 40's being on back order for 8-10 weeks here in London.

    Just to find out i can't use it with my LEGIT, purchased copy of live 7. So i have to cough up $200 bones to update to 8.

  19. DoubleDown

    DoubleDown TRIBE Member

    from the ableton forums - peeps bitching about the APC20 and Live 7 not working.... someone wrote a script and seems to have it working. (his blog link is in his sig at the bottom) good luck!

    Okay, it's done. An APC20 remote script compatible with Live 7.0.18 can be downloaded from my blog, on the Support Files page. I don't have an APC20 to test with, but it seems to work alright with an APC40 (emulating an APC20). No special features, just backwards compatible.



    _Framework - an introduction to the Framework classes
  20. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    ya, i've installed that.....i haven't had a ton of time to check to see if it works.....but at first glance i can map it.....but it's not automapped like it should be, and none of the lights are working.....but i haven't really tried to sort out the details. If it doesn't work properly....then i'll just bite the bullet and upgrade....begrudgingly.
  21. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    k, it works....luckily. Or i would have sent a strongly worded email into the abyss. lol.
  22. Sal De Ban

    Sal De Ban TRIBE Member

    I am staying tuned on this thread. I noticed some familiar names on livepa.org ;)

    a lot of people are using disableton nowadays....
  23. mrtunes

    mrtunes TRIBE Member

    there were quite a lot of great enhancements to live 8 over 7, so if you had to upgrade i wouldn't say you were SOL.

    a groove engine, grouping tracks, special zoom settings are a few that come to mind.

    having no automation modes like latch and hold is still complete poop though (off topic because that's not Live PA!)
  24. Mrs. Pink

    Mrs. Pink TRIBE Member

    I just wasn't prepared to drop another $200 bones. I'm sure i'll upgrade soon enough....

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