As you possibly know, I’ve been considering playing some of my stuff live in order to give me (and hopefully, listeners) a new perspective on my music and to promote my tunes a bit more. I also said that I was going to document the process, as I learn and/or make mistakes….so here it is (be warned: this post contains some really mundane info about my…ahem…’equipment’). I’m not sure I’m any closer to actually taking my stuff out to venues yet, but I have, at least, found a way to play my music as a performance.
I’ve recently spent a few days trying to work out some practicalities: how to recreate sequenced parts (about 80% of the music) for instance; without just sitting there and pressing ‘play’. Ableton Live is now my chosen method of recording and, as its name suggests, it is equally adept at facilitating some forms of live performance. That was its whole selling-point back in the day. Another issue was how to route the computer and the live instrumentation (such as Monotrons, my synth and bass guitar) in order to use the multiple effects my tracks rely on whilst being able to retain ‘hands-on’ control for live tweaking. Then there was the issue of streaming the audio to Mixlr.com.
Well I seem to have worked it out. The more technical adept amongst you would probably have a solution to all of this instantly. It took me a bit longer. Two days of re-arranging, trying-out and occasional frustration. But the set-up is now complete, I think. Well, except for a decent clip controller such as the Launchpad (I bought an app for the iPad which purportedly does the same, but its reliability is really erratic….not exactly what you want for a live situation). Anyway, I can’t afford to spend anything at the moment, so the Launchpad will have to wait.
So, this is the primitive and Heath-Robinson-style set-up:
- iMac running Live (if I ever need to do a gig, I’ll use the MacBook instead, but for streaming from home, I need the laptop to connect to Mixlr at the moment). With clips triggered manually on the fly.
- Keyboard controller connected to iMac.
- Monotrons chained together.
- Alesis Fusion as a stand-alone synth/sampler and for some sequencing duties.
- Bass guitars fed through the mixer.
- Multi-fx connected to the mixer’s sends.
- iPad for Korg MS20 sounds.
All of this is fed through my tiny Behringer mixer and then routed into the Macbook via a Tascam i/o interface. The only issue I’ve encountered is a bit of interference from the Mac (or it could be my wireless router) when using the multi-fx.
So, this gives me the means to use Live and to tweak effects settings/clips and the mix using the mouse (at the moment, though I’ll use the controllers when I get the Launchpad or similar). There’s probably easier, more straight-forward ways of doing this, but it works for me.
This is what it all looks like at present:
The mixer is full to capacity! But this layout does make it easy to twiddle, tweak and play everything from the same spot (while maintaining a degree of tidiness!).
As for Mixlr….I recommend it. At first it seemed a little bit awkward to stream using their dedicated free software (you have to download this if you wish to broadcast. It didn’t display correctly and I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. Then I realised I had some system fonts missing on my computer. Once I’d installed these, the text appeared correctly and it was easy. Not exactly rocket-science….or even GCSE Science…..but it challenged me! The site itself looks very slick and I get the impression there’s quite a bit of beta testing going on, but it works ok. It’d be nice to have more of my networking friends on there, but I hope that’ll come in time.
So, the plan is to present a series of hour-long ‘gigs’ on Mixlr with a different tracklist from my albums for each gig, also some cover versions of my favourite music and anything else I fancy doing…..synthy improv (‘Symprov?’), noise, radiophonic-style stuff, that kind of thing. I am sincerely hoping people tune-in to listen, or I’m gonna feel like a complete dick.
I did a little test (three tracks) which you can listen to HERE. A few mistakes, a bit of sound-balancing needed; but I’m quite happy with the sound quality in general.