Monday, April 04, 2005

My personal "Getting Started" for LivePA

Change Your Mindset.
First, one of the first things that you must understand when developing a livePA set is that livePA is not about polished music, and it is not about you the performer. It is about the audience and the performance as a whole. You must first change the mind set of being a producer to one of being a performer. 50% of live music is about the music, the other 50% is about how you interact with the crowd.

Music for Live PA does not need to be lush complex and polished like a studio work. This doesn't mean however that it should not be quality. This means that the focus of your performance should not be how cool your song sounds or how many hours you spent mastering it. In the heat of a 2 A.M. party the crowd is not going to care that you spent 12 hours perfecting your mix and that you have a multi-compressor. Chances are the venue is going to be in Mono or the PA system will be shitty.

The fact of the matter is you want to create an experience for the audience. If you have a fantastic song, but hide yourself behind your laptop or gear your no better then a DJ and hence you lose the Live element of your act. I cannot stress this enough. Interact with your audience. Go on the dance floor with them, let them see your gear and how you work it, let them see you!!!!!!!!

THINGS TO THINK BEFORE YOU START.

1. What type of music do you want to make?
2. What sorts of Venues will you be performing in (Clubs, Venues, Cafes, House Parties?)
3. How do you like to produce? (Are you hands on, or are you a visual person?)
4. How much do you plan on interacting with the Audience?
5. Do you like to sample or use synths?
6. How live do you want to get? Do you just want to trigger lines, or do you plan on just triggering percussion and playing all melodies live?

There are 3 basic approaches for gear setups. Laptop, All Hardware, and a Mixed setup.

Laptop
Pros:
Everything is in one box
Very visual way to create music on
Very portable
Very flexible in terms of styles of music you can make

Cons:
Latency issues (even asio only gets down to 5ms at best)
CPU: more power costs a lot more money
OS stability is always a problem
Not interesting for the Audience
Very little hands on/real time control without hardware.
Not many "pro" software options for live performance

Hardware
Pros:
Near zero latency
very hands on tactile control
has an "AWWW" factor for the crowd.
Gear is often times specialized

Cons:
Gear is often times specialized
Can become very large and Cumbersome
Midi Routing can become confusing
Most gear doesn't have good on-board effects

Mixed:
Pros:
Software interface with mixed gear
Very flexible for music styles
OS crash, can still run show on hardware

Cons:
Run into Driver/OS problems
costs of midi/audio ins/outs can run high.

Recommended Gear
Sequencer(one of the most important pieces!!!!)
Alesis mmt-8(only get used, pure midi sequencer no sounds)($100)
Yamaha qy-10(only used pure midi sequencer, about the size of a vhs tape)($100)
Yamaha qy-100(same as qy-10 but more features and new)($500)
EMU command stations (recently discontinued sequencer and expandable rompler)
Yamaha rm1x (sequencer and 5 part synth)($600)
Roland MC909 & MC808(sequencer/synth/sampler good hands on control)($1400)
Yamaha rs7000 (sequencer/synth/sampler good hands on control)($1000)

Samplers
Emu Racks/ E series samplers($500+)
Akai Racks($400+)
Akai MPC(good only for percussion/loops, Ill explain more below)($800+)
Korg Electribes($300)
Yamaha SU series ( $150-$450 loop sampler only)
Roland SP series ($250-$600 loop sampler only)

Software
Ableton live for complete setup.($350)
Devine Machine ($300)
Max/MSP
Reaktor

There's various midi only software sequencer out there that are free. Personal taste is best.

Groove boxes (if you don't want a dedicated sequencer)
korg Electribes
Yamaha loopfactory series
Roland MC series

Laptop
Apple
Toshiba
Sony

These are the only companies that manufacture high quality computers that will make it through the night. Never buy Dell or any budget brand. Stability of the OS is the most important thing. The worst scenario you could have is your Laptop crashing in the middle of your set. Do no put anything on the laptop except your music software. It must be a dedicated machine for live performance. Do not use it for work, play games on it, go online, or write papers on it.

You will need to buy an external hard drive of at least 7200 RPM. Laptop HDD's are not fast enough. You will need to buy an external soundcard.

Not recommended gear.
USB gear for a mixed setup. If you plan on using a mixed setup of hardware and audio I recommend using firewire. This will help decrease latency as much has possible between machines and allow for more audio channels to travel down the line if you need them

Music studios:
floops, Cubase, reason, etc etc.
The problem with these programs is that they do not work well with patterns or pattern switching. Most of the songs work in only a linear function which moves from left to right through a song which is restricted by time and patterns. Some don't even allow for you to insert and remove patterns in real time and move playback position without skipping or jumping in the audio.

Misconceptions
Price
The most common misconception is that software is cheaper then hardware. In reality this is not the case. If you are serious about performing live with software you will need to invest in a quality laptop dedicated to performance and music. This at the start puts you in the $2,000-$3,000 range. I highly recommend you purchase your software.

Complexity
Sitting and listening to music is a completely different experience then a live show. What may sound too long or drawn out on a Cd will usually sound perfectly acceptable to loop for a while in a live venue. The audience is experiencing your music, not listening to it. If they are digging a loop, let it play out.

How Live is It?
There is a long debate about hoe live livePA actually is. Despite what anyone tells you there is no right or wrong way to perform live. Some people literally just hit play on the sequencer and then jam out on a guitar through effects. Others make everything up as the go along on the spot. What is considered live is an individual preference and will be different depending on so many factors.

You Will Make Money
Fat Chance. Remember you are a nobody. If you are getting into livePA to make money then stop now. Unless you make a name for yourself 99% of your shows will be free. You are not a superstar.

Getting A Show
There is no sure fire way to make or break a show. Personality has a lot to do with it. Use any communication method possible, but don't solely rely on one method over the other. You will have to approach people face to face and you will have to talk on the phone.

Preparing for a Show
This will be different depending on how you like to perform live, but always make sure you are ready. Have a backup plan!!!!!! You must know what to do if a piece of gear dies on stage.

Bring at least doubles of everything if you can. Bring lots of cables. More then you can possibly need. You never know when another artist you are performing with might need something (relationship building). Always have electrical tape, duct tape, have a good knife and utility tool. Bring a good flashlight. Bring adapters for every type of audio input.

Setup & Performance
Get there Early. Setup Early. Do a sound check if you can.

Learn everything you can about the venue and sound system. Many clubs are poorly wired and can damage your gear. What is good for turntables is not good for gear.
Ask about the power system
Ask about the sound system
Ask about cabling and audio routing
Ask if the PA is in Mono, Stereo or Quad. (Most clubs are Mono)

If there is a sound guy insist on controlling your own mix. Bring your own Mixer!!!! Do not use a fog machine on your gear. It ruins rotors and slides.

Offer to help other people setup, you will learn a lot just talking to people.

If you can try to book yourself to perform early if you are new. The crowd will be smaller and more manageable. You will be less nervous. You you miss a que don't freak. The Audience won't even know. Let music loop around again.

Make sure you enjoy the other performers!!!!!! Have fun and relax!!!!!!!!

Always offer to help cleanup.

Protect your Gear
Protect your gear at all costs. Never let it leave your sight, do not give it to anyone. Setup and tear down as soon as you can.

You do not need hard cases unless you are flying, but padded cases are a must. Simple suitcases with some foam padding are more then adequate.

Last Thoughts
Above all make sure you enjoy yourself. Before and after your set have fun, it is a party, but do not kill yourself with booze and drugs. Remember you are a professional and you should conduct yourself in a professional manner. People may not have only paid for the event, but you are there to make or break their evening. Make sure they remember the night in a positive light. You have something DJ's don't.

Be ready to improvise at any moment. Things will break at every show. Literally every show. Laugh it off and then get to work to fix it.

The true moment when you realize whether it was all worth it or not is when that single person approaches you afterwards and says they liked your set.

9 comments:

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Marzek said...

great guide ... thx for all the info man!! :)

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Rakesh said...

PA systems are often used in small venues such as school auditoriums, churches, and small bars. PA systems with a larger number of speakers are widely used in institutional and commercial buildings, to read announcements or declare states of emergency. The simplest PA systems consist of a microphone, a modestly-powered mixer amplifier and one or more loudspeakers.There are four Types of PA System: Small Systems, Telephone paging system,PA over IP,Long line PA.

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