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Building the Ultimate One-Man-Band Performance Rig - Framework & Cases


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Hey all,

Hopefully I'm posting in the right place- I'm currently in the process of building my dream live performance / looping rig, which I plan on using to jam and bring along on trips and for performance purposes. The main thing I'm trying to figure out right now is the structural 'framework'.

The concept is simple; an all-in-one mobile live looping rig for an all-in-one kinda guy. I primarily play guitar, and have been looping as well as recording for some time now, with other instruments as well. Recently, I've been using the Akai Force to record guitar loops, adding synth and drum parts, and recording bass as well- but I'm pretty unsatisfied with the sonic and workflow limitations of the device, not to mention Akai's disastrous lack of support for crucial feature updates.

As such, I came up with what my dream rig would look like in order to do multi-instrument jams with full flexibility, as well as transporting the rig easily and using for live performance. Here are the key components:

  • A small computer as the brain of the system (I've just Hackintoshed an Intel NUC8i5BEK, which is smaller, faster, & cheaper than any Mac Mini. Let's call it the Mac Nano)
  • Performance/DAW software of choice (I'm using Logic Pro X with its new live looping features)
  • An audio interface for I/O (Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 3rd Gen.)
  • A MIDI controller with keys, pads, & knobs (M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32)
  • A portable touchscreen monitor for no-mouse control of DAW
  • A MIDI foot controller for switching presets and triggering loops/recording

These are the core pieces of music gear that constitute the rig workflow and functionality. Most of these I've already managed to put together, and feel good about the gear purchase decisions I've made and these should work well together.

However, the big struggle I'm facing now is how I can deal with the physical form factor or 'structure' of this rig, which will hold the gear and allow it to be both transported and used as a workstation. Here are the key components of the structure I'm trying to figure out:

  • A frame, with wheels, that can be collapsed down for transport but also used directly as a live performance station, and
  • Case(s) to house the gear, which can mount to the frame at the correct height for performance:
    • Upper case which can be opened up to work with during performance, but also be transported independently of the frame. Doesn't need a ton of protection- will not be a flight case, just in my car. If possible, I'd like it to have a separate compartment for the power supplies and any miscellaneous cables.
    • Lower case for the foot controller. Again, can mount to the frame or be transported separately.

Here's a CAD drawing that includes the basic components and the frame/case concept I've outlined for visual reference: 

spacer.pngspacer.pngspacer.pngspacer.png

(The items in white are the gear I listed above, to correct scale, but the frame/cases are not necessarily exact in any way- because they don't exist yet! Just a visual aid.)

So, what I'm really looking for help with is if anyone knows how I can actually build or get a frame / cases that can serve as the infrastructure to put together the gear as outlined, and be used for portable and performance purposes? (A lot of p's, that's for sure)

A couple other considerations for this part would be that I'd also like to be able to have the frame extend taller or shorter depending on if I'm sitting or standing when using it, and it can collapse for portability in the trunk of my hatchback. Furthermore, I'd plan on having a 'shelf' (not pictured) just above the foot control section that my Alto Music PA could sit on if the location doesn't have a house PA.

Again, if anyone has any ideas on how to build or piece together 2) a frame that can satisfy these general constraints, as well as how to find or make 2) a working gear case that satisfies for the gear housing purposes outlined above, please drop it down below!

Thank you in advance, and looking forward to this journey with you all!

-Josh

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Before we get too far into this, I would suggest you take this to a qualified roadcase company.

I used to do this, many years ago, but I'm not here to design for free. But I will ask some questions that may help you think this through, if you haven't already.

Do you have access to a machine shop, and a welder?

What is the estimated weight of the upper level with all the equipment?

what height do you want to be able to fix the upper level to? How many, two, plus a fully retracted/collapsed lock point?

This could be done similar to a pull-along suitcase, with a telescoping handle, but depending on the weight of the top unit, you might have to build your own, or have it custom done.  [sorry can't seem to remove the strikethough...wth?]

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2 hours ago, daddymack said:

Before we get too far into this, I would suggest you take this to a qualified roadcase company.

I used to do this, many years ago, but I'm not here to design for free. But I will ask some questions that may help you think this through, if you haven't already.

Do you have access to a machine shop, and a welder?

What is the estimated weight of the upper level with all the equipment?

what height do you want to be able to fix the upper level to? How many, two, plus a fully retracted/collapsed lock point?

This could be done similar to a pull-along suitcase, with a telescoping handle, but depending on the weight of the top unit, you might have to build your own, or have it custom done.  [sorry can't seem to remove the strikethough...wth?]

Any examples of what a qualified road case company would be? I'd love to be able to find what some options are.

I do not have access to a machine shop or a welder. Would hope to use a different method to build if possible, as I've seen a few rough guides out there on. Does not need to be the toughest case, won't be using on flights or anything and I won't be performing out traveling very often. Mostly for personal use.

The equipment itself on the upper level at current (what you see) is less than 15 pounds all together, if not 10. A power strip and any other accessories may bump it up to 15.

The telescoping suitcase handle thing is exactly what I'm going for here, albeit sturdy, and able to mount a case on. Any ideas for how the connection between case and handle/frame could work?

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2 hours ago, joshhpmusic said:

Any examples of what a qualified road case company would be? I'd love to be able to find what some options are.

I do not have access to a machine shop or a welder. Would hope to use a different method to build if possible, as I've seen a few rough guides out there on. Does not need to be the toughest case, won't be using on flights or anything and I won't be performing out traveling very often. Mostly for personal use.

The equipment itself on the upper level at current (what you see) is less than 15 pounds all together, if not 10. A power strip and any other accessories may bump it up to 15.

The telescoping suitcase handle thing is exactly what I'm going for here, albeit sturdy, and able to mount a case on. Any ideas for how the connection between case and handle/frame could work?

sure, you bolt it on. Depending on the structure of the upper box, you might be able to rivet it to the frame. all you need for that is a hand drill and a hand riveter.

Pretty much any case company could do this kind of thing for you, but they will charge $$$ for it. You have a stability issue to overcome, so your bottom section must be heavy and large enough to counter the 15# you have above it. I would suggest not rigging this for standing up, because of the stability.

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6 hours ago, daddymack said:

sure, you bolt it on. Depending on the structure of the upper box, you might be able to rivet it to the frame. all you need for that is a hand drill and a hand riveter.

Pretty much any case company could do this kind of thing for you, but they will charge $$$ for it. You have a stability issue to overcome, so your bottom section must be heavy and large enough to counter the 15# you have above it. I would suggest not rigging this for standing up, because of the stability.

I'd actually like to be able to remove the case from the frame for use when traveling, just without foot control, or separately. Do you have any ideas of how I could rig this up so it can be detached?

Also, any case builders you could recommend or think of off the top of your head?

 

And an update on this; I got the touchscreen in the mail today, plugged it in, and it worked! It works with no setup on both my 2016 MacBook Pro and the Intel NUC8 Hackintosh, running macOS Catalina 10.15.5 and 10.15.3, respectively. The brand is "Uperfect" and it can be found on eBay for under $200. It's even got internal speakers and a screen cover. It does work as a mouse, and while it's certainly strange getting used to a touchscreen mouse with macOS at first, it does indeed work and it's actually super smooth. Even does right-click control! No multi-touch gestures though. I'm not sure why there's such consensus on the internet, even the product pages, that macOS does not support touchscreens. They can work quite well, as if you're using your finger directly on the screen as a mouse. Beats a trackpad if you ask me, at least for this purpose!

I also have come to believe that something like a foldable hand truck might be a good way of doing what I'm trying to do pretty sturdily. Here's an example, but there are a ton of these & I would want to shop around more to find the right height and form-factor: https://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/H-2638/Hand-Trucks/Folding-Hand-Truck-275-lb-Load-Capacity  There are also luggage carts that are similar and folding, but would need to find one sturdy enough. Here's an example: https://www.hand-trolleys.com/products/265lb-aluminum-foldable-hand-trolley-dolly-luggage-trolley-cart/

As you can see, I have an idea of what I'm looking for, preferably the design where the bottom support is flat on the ground, for pedal controls, and they fold down to shorter height- they even fold flat! Most of these units stand at around 40" high, which I thought was too short, but after measuring just now to see what a comfortable height would be, if the case can be mounted at 38" or even 36" off the ground, depending on the thickness, it should be comfortable to use standing (I'm 67.5" tall, and if the case with lid open is 14" high, the screen should be just below head level)

With one of these, the real tricky part will be how do I mount a case at the upper level? I'd also like to be able to remove the case when I don't want to take the whole rig assembly with me. Also still need to figure out the best option for a case, or creating a custom case assembly similar to as pictured in the first post. Any ideas?

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11 hours ago, joshhpmusic said:

Those 275 lb capacity units could work, the capacity would be 'overkill', but also, my experience that type of 'flip-back' wheels is that they stop working correctly very quickly [the plastic housing for the mechanism is not up to the task, I know because I use these for moving my gear]. As long as you leave the wheels in the 'out' position, they are fine. Depending on the wall thickness of the aluminum tubing, drilling through them may cause an issue as well.

Do a google search for 'custom ATA road case manufacturers', you'll find plenty of them, just try to find one that is local to you to save on the shipping costs.

There are simple ways to make the upper case detachable [like where I said 'bolt it on'], and complicated ways [slip-on studs/keyholes, latches].

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This is the one I'm leaning towards as seems about the right height, width, and sturdiness for the job: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Liberty-250-lbs-Capacity-Folding-Hand-Truck-with-Handles-10002/308865060

Do you have any recommendations for where/what to look into with some sort of user-friendly detachable mechanism I could implement? Just having trouble picturing what would be needed for this exactly, or what the different options might be.

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something similar to this would be neat, and you might get away with only two, depending on weight......https://www.solidsignal.com/pview.asp?p=BCK6-B&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cse&utm_term=bck6-b&gclid=Cj0KCQjwvIT5BRCqARIsAAwwD-S1ky5gLL7JQiBwhk8H05lc4vLu8b1MpwJt_vFzeFsOZvTuaIueOIoaAo-vEALw_wcB

geez, I used to get paid good money for this kind of stuff....:facepalm:

😉

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On 7/29/2020 at 10:26 PM, daddymack said:

something similar to this would be neat, and you might get away with only two, depending on weight......https://www.solidsignal.com/pview.asp?p=BCK6-B&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cse&utm_term=bck6-b&gclid=Cj0KCQjwvIT5BRCqARIsAAwwD-S1ky5gLL7JQiBwhk8H05lc4vLu8b1MpwJt_vFzeFsOZvTuaIueOIoaAo-vEALw_wcB

geez, I used to get paid good money for this kind of stuff....:facepalm:

😉

Nice, that's a really good idea! This seems like it could be a good option, but I'd have to make sure the mount points on the case are strong enough, and would need to make the keyhole cuts. The case will either be 1/4" or 3/8" plywood, so I'd think some reinforcement would be needed since the force will be distributed over a very small area. Not sure how the best way to mount the keyhole screw to the hand truck's frame would be either.

Any other ideas, or places I can look, search terms for mounting options? Also will need to figure out how to mount the items pictured to the inside of the case.

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several colleges and universities offer courses in engineering...  i know this to be factual as ive witnessed such offerings in various institutions of higher learning all over the country...   as a result, there also seems to be an entire industry built around the knowledge and skill set thus developed, or focused by such expensively procured educational ventures, that exists just to assist those afflicted with the inability or unwillingness to try to do something for themselves.   fabricators, inventors, designers, consultants, project managers, architects...  these people put bread on their tables, feed their families, with the things they imagine and build in their minds...  in the world in which i live, there is commonly an exchange for services rendered. a decent sort will usually compensate according to their upbringing in a way valued by both parties involved...   ummmm...

dude, daddymack has been offering his brain work for free and you havent even said “thanks, man”...  

id charge you an hourly rate because you tend to keep adding and changing what you want or i would place a pretty high price on it as a project to compensate the extra work that is inevitable.  send me your plans and i’ll take a look at them for $425.00 us.   we can discuss further compensation should i decide to take the project.

thank you for your consideration and time. 

V. 

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