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the perfect ambient live rig: all you need is...

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  • the perfect ambient live rig: all you need is...

    hi...i searched and i didn't find a thread dedicated to the setups we use if we want to play our music live (I thought there was one...). this is apparently a new trend (see other thread) and I have a gig lined up later this year, but not the rig to go with it :listening:. i'm currently working on new material & will certainly preproduce things, there will be musicians with 'real' instruments, well a guitar, on stage & i'll take care of i'm thinking laptop with ableton ((why) does it have to be an apple?), midi keyboard and a bunch of controllers. i'd be specifically interested in controllers. what are your experiences? I am considering the Quneo, the launchpads, maybe the akai apc line. I'm thinking a Behringer BCR2000. Is anybody familiar with ableton push? - somehow i don't like the idea of a software company pushing their own controllers...i have an emotional aversion to the it any good?

    For example I'm thinking about using plugins like Turnado for live sound manipulation...what are your thoughts on that?
    You see, I'm in the early stages of planning, but perhaps you could share what works for you & why you decided on that setup. Unfortunately I couldn't go to Helsinki, what did you use, S1gns?

    thanks for your help!

  • #2
    Push is made by Akai for Ableton, maybe that'll make you feel better about it? ;) It's a well-made controller (aside from the shitty/cheap RGB LEDs they used for the buttons... expect to contact Ableton for their program to adjust them so they look more uniform of color...) and you can get quite fast at Live with it. if you have Suite then it's even better, not so nice with plugins, but it's pretty awesome working with Live's devices. You can get preset packs for a lot of the major synth plugins, though, that make working with them and Push a lot easier.

    Your laptop does not have to be Apple, just make sure it's a good one and that you can get your audio interface and software working with it. In my experience, though, a MacBook Pro is a wonderful machine unlike any other PC laptop I have ever used. Battery life, performance, build, etc. But it's not absolutely needed these days, there are many good PC laptops out there if you do your due diligence.
    Last edited by KrisM; 08-05-2014, 05:44 PM.


    • #3
      Well let me first say this, I was once where you are right now. It's an interesting spot to be in because all possibilities are open to you...yet difficult because you have to eventually choose something and make it work for you.

      Start with your centerpiece, the laptop. It doesn't HAVE to be Apple, but I'd certainly recommend it. Why? A million reasons...but Kris laid it out above. They are reliable, excellent battery, powerful (they just released a spec bumped Macbook Pro last week...good time to buy one!) and depending how you use it, Ableton is pretty solid on it.

      Speaking of Ableton, how good are you with it? I had to "learn" what Ableton could do before I could do anything...that's the important thing. Figure out a workflow for both composition and transitioning to a live performance. I've also learned that when performing live, it's better to use the session view. I have a launchpad, launch control, which are nice. They're fun to "perform" with on stage. What I'm really waiting for is the APC40 mkII to come out. (I've had it on pre-order for 3 and a half months! It's due out "soon.") This will make my life sooooo much easier. And yours if you decide to go this route. As you can see it's got 9 faders, a cross fader, device's pretty much all you need. If you can figure out your live performance workflow, and then incorporate that, you'll be in business.

      Really, you could get as crazy as you want to with all kinds of hardware and software. Your setup is pretty much only limited by your imagination. So the important part is to figure out what you want to do on stage with your music, and then acquire a few tools to help you get there. The rest will be learned from experience, which is of course the best teacher.

      Hope that helps my friend! Let us know if you have any further Q's. By the way, the live performance thread can be found HERE. It was in the Hardware forum. Feel free to keep this one going though. ;)

      S1gns Of L1fe
      Patreon | Synphaera | exosphere | YouTube


      • #4
        you're going to be spending a ton of money on this setup, especially as I assume by your current time that you are in Europe (VAT... ouch). MacBook Pro, Ableton Live, a pile of controllers, plugins...

        I may be biased, but have you considered hardware? There's really no right or wrong answer for the setup you're building, though, in the end it's only about what works for you. It's no problem at all if you want to be ITB (inside the box), OTB (outside the box) or hybrid. I just tend to trust hardware more, though to be honest have never had a good computer crash on me. A good computer lol.

        This has me thinking about being on a stage with someone, feeding their audio into the Octatrack and going to work. Load in some samples already on the card, twist them up and p-lock (DAW automation in hardware, it's pretty awesome) certain things, give us both a dollop of reverb and delay via track 8 as the Master, which helps gels our parts together...


        ...wait, what? Oh right. Yeah, an Octatrack+Kaoss Pad or some synth for it to sample would be a very compact and powerful setup for something like this. Or an MPC of whatever flavour. A Boss RC-505 (looper meant for the hands) and a synth/kaoss pad would be pretty cool, too. Heck, even a Roland SP and an Electribe, just as examples.

        Whatever setup you choose, abuse the shit out of it in a controlled environment. Ask things of it you wouldn't during your show. Try and make it fail. If it's a computer, load up tons more plugins than you need, double up tracks, triple them, and push the CPU to the breaking point. Find out what causes latency, pops and crackles, and make it work better, or ruthlessly cut it away like the cancer that it is.

        Obviously, practice with your mate(s) a lot, too.
        Last edited by KrisM; 08-07-2014, 04:24 PM.


        • #5
          Hi, thanks so much for your input! Truly helpful. Well, I do all my producing in Ableton, so I have Live8 Suite on hand and while I wouldn't consider myself a wiz of any kind, I know my way around it, sort of.

          As for cost, that would really be just the controller for now...I'll try and get my current laptop to do the work.

          My current plan is, get new APC40 controller, get laptop ready, jam with bandmates, see where that leads, hopefully no embarrasment at potentialhigh-profile first gig, then build from there I need to get a feel how that project will shake out...maybe two controllers one (APC40) to control the musical parts and bits I contribute & another to mangle the sounds that come in from other musicians on stage. will see. another thing is how to mix all this...but that's step no2.

          I would tend to trust hardware more, too. Octatrack & Rytm...that sounds wonderful...unfortunately out of my budget atm...and too much of a 'learn completely new' approach...for the beginning, I'd like to stay with Ableton. But I've been looking at drum machines for a long time...Tanzbär anyone?


          • #6
            Ah okay, I see more of where you're coming from, now. And major derp, I should hae recognized your user name lol, and post counts, I doubt someone with that many posts having joined when you did was starting from nothing o.O


            • #7
              post-count isn't necessarily correlated with experience!...I was very thankful for your clear thoughts on how to start out, very helpful! saw some live-act yesterday, that was a peculiar case, but still, it reinforced the many things that have to be taken into account when playing live. on top of that, the intricacies of working collaboratively...keeps you busy. will be interesting to see how all of this turns out


              • #8
                I'm new at ambient scene but when I'm playing post-rock/experimental with my previous band we hardly used ipad/laptop and RME sound card.

                After releasing my first upcoming album I'm going to play it live on some gigs/shows and think about live setup. I'm hardware and analog synths guy but still need to use laptop with installed Ableton.
                Also maybe good performance controller will be good - like Akai APC or another with faders, maybe pad controller for sample playback.
                If you dislike laptops you can go with Elektron Octatrack (8 tracks powerful for tweaking and time-stretching machine with several analog inputs).

                Also I highly recommend to all uses real instruments - guitars, synths, percussions, wood and/or voices. It's look too much interesting for people than silent dj under the table

                The biggest question for me - how stable will be my old laptop at gig (not mac, i3, 4gb ram, no ssd, no games or other office/non office apps)? During recording/mixing/playback or just listening music several times I've heard digital crackles and seen blue screens which will be very bad during live gig (and especially with background video wall). Maybe MacBook Pro should resolve problem with reliability and performance but it costs like good synth.


                • #9
                  Something to consider if you are planning on being computer based...Have an alternate sound source/instrument and small mixer available just in case the computer crashes hard. It could be an old synth like a K2000 (or whatever you have) that might be able to work as a controller too. Another possibility would be an iPad, which has a lot of controller, synth and effects apps available, iPhone or Android based phone....and don't forget chargers and audio cables. Computers..especially those tuned for music production...are usually pretty resilient but stuff happens. I know a few guys who are only using iPads to play out and seem happy with it. I process my Stick thru my laptop as an iPad just doesn't have the processing power I need. Still, I use my iPad for synth sounds (Virtual ANS is fantastic as are a bunch of others) and as a controller. If the laptop fails, at least I could continue doing something. Also Lemur for iPad/iPhone has some Live controller templates.