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  • Hardware Sequencer or Workstation for gigging?

    A few months ago, Craig wrote a column in EM or Keyboard, talking about embellishing (a little or a lot) live performances in a few different ways, ranging from mp3's to laptops running DAW's to keyboard workstations.

    I'm looking to add a virutual keyboard player to our band - not to be the integral source of music, but rather for the occasional organ, piano, strings, brass, and occasional fairy dust. The kind of thing where if it went belly up, you could still perform the tune.

    I've got a couple of MIDI keyboards w/o sequencers which I like - so I've got a few choices:

    - Find a hardware MIDI sequencer - any recommendations? Tap Tempo would be really nice, as well as some control over extending sections of the sequence or advancing to the next.

    - Use a Laptop for playing back MIDI sequences - not thrilled with this choice as we know that computers have a way of locking up at the worst time.

    - Get a keyboard workstation (but dump my existing keyboards to be able to fund it...) And recommendations? Once again, tap temp and section or phrase flexibility would be good. Also at least 4 outputs - and USB thumbdrive storage of sequences - don't want to deal with hard drives...

    Audio wouldn't be a deal breaker, but imagine being able to insert audio into the monitors saying things like "ok, here comes the chorus" or "guitar solo ends now"...

  • #2
    Audio wouldn't be a deal breaker, but imagine being able to insert audio into the monitors saying things like "ok, here comes the chorus" or "guitar solo ends now"...


    Cool idea. But I would worry that some of that would bleed into FOH and the audience would hear it. Could I get a gadget to give the bass player an electric shock when he misses a change instead?

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    • #3
      ...
      Audio wouldn't be a deal breaker, but imagine being able to insert audio into the monitors saying things like "ok, here comes the chorus" or "guitar solo ends now"...


      You are better off doing that with programmed music queues such as a drum break. Severial beatbox units can do this and allow you to extend passages if you have someone controlling the changes. Emu Command Station is the easiest one I can think of but it does not use a memory card and that would really be handy. Check out a Roland MC-808 which does have a memory card. What you do is program patterns in incremental memory locations and then step through them manually to perform the song. That lets you vary the length of each section live.

      If you use a computer then Ableton Live would be the ticket. It is made for this sort of thing, but you need someone at the computer to step through the song and stop at the end. A good MIDI controller will help.

      Robert
      My friends have big houses and new cars. I own music equipment.

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      • #4
        EMU Command Stations, Yamaha RM1X and Akai MPC's all offer this.

        Both the EMU and Yamaha's are used market items. The EMU has the better soundset (since you can pick and choose ROM chips). I've heard (but don't know firsthand) that the Yamaha has a slightly more capable sequencer as far as recording and editing open ended, non-looped performances go.

        Of the Akai's, the MPC1000 is probably the best compromise of portable vs feature set. You get a great sequencer that also allows you to sample and play back some "fairy dust" internally. And with the JJ OS allowing you to use it as a limited recorder, you can add those vocal cues and have them routed to a monitor feed.

        The MPC500 gets slagged alot but if you are only using it to sequence one or two other sound sources and not for heavy lifting on the sampling side it may be worth a look. I've seen a couple of desparate local sellers try to unload these for under $400.
        What I lack in quality I make up for in volume...

        ...When I became bankrupt, a guitar was something that you patched into an Evolver so it would go mmmrrreeeeeeploploplop....

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        • #5
          You are better off doing that with programmed music queues such as a drum break. Severial beatbox units can do this and allow you to extend passages if you have someone controlling the changes. Emu Command Station is the easiest one I can think of but it does not use a memory card and that would really be handy. Check out a Roland MC-808 which does have a memory card. What you do is program patterns in incremental memory locations and then step through them manually to perform the song. That lets you vary the length of each section live.

          If you use a computer then Ableton Live would be the ticket. It is made for this sort of thing, but you need someone at the computer to step through the song and stop at the end. A good MIDI controller will help.

          Robert


          Of course I questioned the elite crowd on this forum first, but check this out in the keyboard forum - some interesting stuff the Fantom X is apparently capable of:

          http://acapella.harmony-central.com/showthread.php?t=1498704&highlight=sequencer

          Pete

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          • #6
            Of course I questioned the elite crowd on this forum first, but check this out in the keyboard forum - some interesting stuff the Fantom X is apparently capable of:

            http://acapella.harmony-central.com/showthread.php?t=1498704&highlight=sequencer

            Pete


            Yep. I traded my Fantom76 for a Fantom X7 a few months ago. It is my all time favorite "main axe". But, before I would do all that I would use Ableton Live. But, I was using computers on stage for MIDI 20 years ago so I don't worry about the stigma.

            Robert
            My friends have big houses and new cars. I own music equipment.

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            • #7
              macbook and Ableton LIVE is what you need. I'm going to a one man band thing which i'm starting to work on over the Winter with this set up for more flexibility.

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              • #8
                Why do you need the flexibility of a sequencer or workstation for what's essentially playback of a backing track? How about an MP3 player? Pick a song from the playlist, push the button, and play along.

                Sure, it looks more impressive to the audience if you're surrounded by computer gear and have to mouse around a bit between songs, but in the end, it's still a pre-recorded backing track.

                People who dream of being able to tweak the mix to suit the venue, or adjust the tempo, or repeat a chorus usually never actually do that. There is a performing style where you "play" the computer as an instrument (check out some of Craig's videos with his guitar and a copy of Live or something) but that's a different thing than what I think you're describing.
                --
                "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
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                • #9
                  Why do you need the flexibility of a sequencer or workstation for what's essentially playback of a backing track? How about an MP3 player? Pick a song from the playlist, push the button, and play along.

                  Sure, it looks more impressive to the audience if you're surrounded by computer gear and have to mouse around a bit between songs, but in the end, it's still a pre-recorded backing track.

                  People who dream of being able to tweak the mix to suit the venue, or adjust the tempo, or repeat a chorus usually never actually do that. There is a performing style where you "play" the computer as an instrument (check out some of Craig's videos with his guitar and a copy of Live or something) but that's a different thing than what I think you're describing.


                  Well...... that's essentially Karaoke.

                  I know of local bands which augment their performance with mp3 files - on side of the stereo mix is content, the other is a click or a mix of click and content. This solution is highly reliable and the least flexible at the same time. With more that one performer, it sounds like a performance car crash just waiting to happen.

                  If it were a solo act, then being chained to an mp3 backing track would work, but probably in a small pub situation, or any place else where Karaoke is being done.

                  I get nervous with computers onstage. The only way I would consider it is with redundancy.

                  But, the gist of Craig's article was, if you have a keyboard workstation, you have flexibility as well as something which isn't going to crash on you.

                  To what extent you use the workstation could vary from playing back sequences, straight through, all the way to the example with the Fantom X which I referred to in the link I posted, where there is a huge amount of interaction going on.

                  IMHO, if you are interacting with or influencing your backing track, either via something like Live or a workstation, it still has some performance value. Things can be different from night to night.

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                  • #10
                    Yep. I traded my Fantom76 for a Fantom X7 a few months ago. It is my all time favorite "main axe". But, before I would do all that I would use Ableton Live. But, I was using computers on stage for MIDI 20 years ago so I don't worry about the stigma.

                    Robert


                    I have no problem with the stigma of computers - it's just that they crash, require audio/MIDI interfaces, etc. Also, maybe I don't know enough about Live, but can you control tempo and sections to be played via an external MIDI device? I don't want to be mousing over to a screen... (I suspect there is a way, but I haven' investigated)

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