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How did you get started performing live?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Play Out! Performance Modulars Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author How did you get started performing live?
Hi everyone,

I know there are a lot of discussions about playing live with the modular already, but I could not really find one summing up how people got started.

> So, what made you take the modular out the first time?
> What did your setup look like?
> What was the context?

I'm super interested in this because I'm thinking of doing that myself at some point. I've been making music for about 15 years, mostly computer-based and/or in a band. I have played a lot of shows, but never with the modular yet.

I have a "sound design" oriented rack, and am now thinking of ways how I could use that for live performances without it being flat or boring (mostly because of lack of noticeable change/patches).

Thanks a lot for your input!
I'd been playing live for probably 5 years before taking the modular out. Mostly improvised laptop "avantronica" (somewhere between Fenn O'Berg and dubby techno)

I think the first time playing the modular live *might* be this trio in 2008 with Sean_Process (playing a 6u ASys rig) and Dave Meckin (playing an Arp Solus (yum))

I was playing a 3u ASys rig (2 vco, ringmod, s&h/noise, filter, vca, env), and I had a Frostwave Resonator MS20 filter clone too.

The context was a regular improvised music night that we used to put on, called GrindSightOpenEye, at a friendly 'hipster' cafe.

I don't think the way I play has really changed much in nearly 10 years... but I use gestural controllers more, and I normally have 3 'voices' active.

Playing is a good start - I mean having fun, not thinking of having to deliver a performance.

My first public music making with a modular was in an allotment garden as part of 48 Stunden Neukölln, a local arts festival. No pressure, just patching in the sun for about 6 hours, drinking beer and eating grilled sausages lol

That said, I think expectations might have changed a little. Modulars were more of a curiosity than they maybe are now.

Funny reading Pixelmechanic's comment above - I just found the picture of my set-up for the opening of Schneidersbüro at Rough Trade, London: I played Powwow with an almost identical collection of modules last month, seven years later! opening.html

Good on you for wanting to play live. Just have fun and you'll be fine. Listen to the instrument and let it make its music, rather than trying to get it to make music it's not best suited to.
Cool to hear! Thanks for the feedback.

This is also not about me, I'm just genuinely curious about all the different approaches, and how people decide that it's "time" to actually show something to the world.

So keep them coming please smile.

@Navs: I'll try to make it on the 28th, it's right next door wink.
I guess the start was playing harsh noise with a hardcore/grindcore band, collecting pedals and noise machines. Then i got into synthesizers a bit.

I think the two biggest pushes to start with modular was when my friend showed me the Erbeverb(still haven't bought it though) and i thought it sounded amazing. Then i saw this live modular performance by KFW and I decided 'fuck it got nothing to lose' and i bought my first 6U doepfer case, ordered some L-1 Basic VCO kits, made a Yusynth moog vcf clone, yusynth adsr, barton vca/mix, sold my guitar amp and bought myself a René and Clouds.

After accumulating some more modules and putting out an ambient EP I started to get some gigs wich i played with my small 6U setup. The way that i got gigs(mostly at dingy bars) was through an experimental label in Reykjavík, called FALK Records. They aided me and my best friend in getting our foots in the door. Then the more i played the more gigs i got.

First rack

Now i've got a 12U travel case, an Octatrack and a mixer.

The thing is, just start playing concerts fearlessly. My earlier concerts where mostly improvs because it was really hard to recreate all the ambient stuff on my then newly released EP. Your first concert might not be the best one but playing (good) live shows takes practice and time.

(can't see your modularsetup btw, the link is broken or something)
@Hallmar Thanks! Fixed that. It's a fairly compact and effective 6U/104 rack, designed as a versatile tool for layering.

Cool stories everyone, glad to see you talking about progression.

In my case, what's keeping me from getting started is not the fear of failure or anything like that because I've played a lot of gigs before. I think it boils down to something that I still can't exactly wrap my head around, which should be a thread on its own:

> How do you go about patching your whole rack in a way that can sustain a whole show? Especially if it's not a massive setup.

Are there tricks I'm not aware of? I sometimes see artists performing with 12U or less that actually create a lot of different tones, beats and textures, with a lot of variation, for quite a while... and with no apparent re- patching smile.

Edit: entirely covered in "The challenges of using a modular live", my bad! Cool thread.
"Play Out" for halloweens and fright nights. That's how I started.

- Bill
I started off playing in punk and hardcore bands back in the 80's.
The kind of scene I was into was a lot more eclectic than what passes for punk rock these days. Saw Scratch Acid on the same bill as local hardcore bands. Lots of basement shows with punk bands, experimental stuff and no wave/new wave.

By the time I got to the early 90's my band was quirky punk with tape loops. Then I got into just doing tape loops and drum machine, with pedals patched in feedback loops. This eventually evolved into modular gear and a few monosynths.

So everything I do with modular is always with an ear towards doing it live. It is just the latest iteration of the last 35 years of noises.
@calaveras Cool! How do you translate this punk energy back into a modular performance? I guess you don't improvise the patches right? Curious to see what your rig could look like.
morgve wrote:
@calaveras Cool! How do you translate this punk energy back into a modular performance? I guess you don't improvise the patches right? Curious to see what your rig could look like.

Well I don't really see any difference between 'punk rock' as a DIY thing and modular synth stuff. Though punk acts tend to be more conservative about instrumentation these days. It wasn't always that way. Lots of late 70's and early 80's bands had synths, noisemakers and things besides guitar, bass and drums going on.
It's also kind of interesting to look at Industrial acts as an extension of the punk thing. Quite a lot of the early British Industrial and post punk acts actually started as a reaction to, or were inspired by the punk subculture. But instead of simply extending rock and roll with a shocking haircut, they went after the music itself.

Currently my modular set up is a drum machine and 9u of eurorack, plus a couple other DIY boxes (Atari Punk Console and Dronelab).
I'm tilting more towards a power electronics, harsh noise kind of vibe lately.
I start with a slow beat, use one or both of my simple sequencers to make a big low end sound thing that repeats. Then make a lot of noises, wiht a Waldorf NW1 spitting out text phrases in lieu of actually doing anything so mundane as singing.
I do try and evoke some political themes in my work, so there is that aspect of punk/hardcore. However most of my stuff is in the 40-60bpm range. Though I have made more synth-punk stuff in the past that was 120-150bpm.
Great, nice story! Thanks for sharing. Very informative smile. And agreed, I think the link between the two is kind of natural.
Exclusively a multi-tracker for over a decade, friends started to inspire me to do more one-take jams in the studio to broaden my musical expressivity.

This took, became fun, and when I got to the 15-minute mark of having material that wasn't horrible to hear, turned into a goal to get to a 20-minute structured jam, as opposed to pure improv for fun. Then 25 minutes. Then 30 minutes. Every take was recorded, listened to, studied, improved. That led to the confidence that a live set was even possible.

First gigs were with 15U of Eurorack, a 4-row suitcase and a controller skiff. Evolved to a more honed setup of 2 rows and a few external FX and a 606. Continues to evolve, and always will.
I misinterpreted this topic question, but I think this is still valid- how did folks here start landing gigs in general?

Were you friends with others who were hosting the night, did you approach the venue/promoter independently? were they already familiar with your type of electronic music or did you have to introduce it to them?
Hey guys. I'm new to the forum. This topic sounds interesting as a point of introduction, but if there's an even better one please point me towards the direction.

I've started playing live with bands in teenage years, then moved towards laptop performances and improve with ppooll, max/msp and now modular. A big part of what I like about playing live is improv and eurorack framework gives this immediacy that only tangible instruments give to me. Laptops are great, but I find constant controller mappings and re-mappings somewhat draining.

With modular I got quite lucky as there was an adventurous music festival this year in the city that I'm from Almaty, Kazakhstan (quite a rare event there), my friend just got a 208 hp rack and gave it to me to prepare a set for the event. I did and I loved the experience a lot. smile I relocated to LA a month ago and last week played MOTS. Was very fun.

I feel that finding gigs in general, like with everything else, is just a matter of knowing the right people or if you don't, then approaching them and asking about the possibility. This method works all the time. One can also initiate your own events, but it takes a lot of time and energy getting the crowd together.
1/2zwo wrote:
I feel that finding gigs in general, like with everything else, is just a matter of knowing the right people or if you don't, then approaching them and asking about the possibility.

Quoted for the whole truth, right there. It's exactly that simple, and exactly that hard.
My first live performance with the modular was almost 2 years ago. Another musician had found my music and asked me to play an experimental music event they were putting on at a record/thrift store.

I actually had no intention of playing any of the modular stuff live. I had played in gigging bands throughout my teens and early-20s, though I had burned out doing that. The synthesizer/modular music I was making was more of a hobby and a creative outlet. I decided to give it a go.

That first show was a definite learning experience. I learned that having a lot of gear means it's a pain in the ass to both set up and to make sure everything is working right when you are playing. I had a 12u suitcase, a Ciat-Lonbarde Sidrax, an Electribe, some guitar pedals and a few other little DIY synths.

Overall, the set went alright. Since then, I've played out about once a month. It probably took 3 or 4 performances before I found a good balance for performing live. Performing live has become one of my favorite things to do.

How the gigs are booked usually depends. Most of the time, I'm just asked. I'm fairly active on social media, so reaching me is extremely easy. It really is a matter of just knowing the right people or just approaching the right people at the right time.
For gigging, first find a bunch of likeminded performers then put together a bill. Ask the booker at your target venue for a Monday or Tuesday night where it’s low risk for them, just a little addition to the usual weeknight with a smattering of your friends. If/when it goes over well keep the momentum going and see if u can do a regular monthly or bi-monthly gig. Bars are kind of chit chatty but can be good. DIY spaces, art shows and houseparty living room gigs are great. People are curious, supportive and looking for interesting things to do.

For the actual performance I start pre patched with 4 or 5 subpatches that can fit together in different combinations, or be further tweezed on their own. As the set goes on, it usually deteriorates into the unknown as the initial patches are slowly canibalized and modules are reappropriated.

In the studio I get kind of lazy and let a patch simmer for hours, but live is a lot more self conscious. You can breeze through all your ideas and still have 20 minutes left to go so u have to have your wits about you. It can get a little precarious at times, but just remember, the audience thinks you know what you’re doing.
What a wonderful opportunity to spam the thread with my childhood pho... oops – meaning, early live vids MY ASS IS BLEEDING applause

For me, (and I'll try to keep it brief) it all started with jamming on electric guitar / casio on top of, mainly, post-rock quartet, for a lack of better words called Holy Fuck, and this unknown new wave pioneer band Devo that – rumours say it, – may even still be active & touring to this day...

It'll be sufficient to say guitars have never really been my thing, even if I enjoyed misusing those for a while (the video with most dislikes on my channel is me playing one ‘as a kick drum’), so out of a six-string, bass, and casio, it was SK-1 for me in the end. I have this electro-rock d&b track called ‘Here We Go Spastic: Grand Booze at the Hennery’ (which might or not be correct non-broken English), – you can find it on my SC, and, featuring me playing bass and keys there (plus some Reaktor), it's one with most guitars in all of my electronic music, at least if we review the period starting on the Earth creation day and till somewhere near present moment ± a few hours.

Here is this damn world exclusive, my very FIRST live public appearance in the history of mankind, playing SK-1 with one hand and Kore/Reaktor patches with another, on a (!) QWERTY keyboard (!) using A73 Piano Station software. (Cool thing about it is it has four rows of keys – organ-style! – and not just a single row of white + black keys like Ableton).

So yea, it's actually a fun observation to make: that I must already have been using some Reaktor back then in 2010-2011 – if I didn't travel so far back in time to make a factually correct autobiography of kind, I would have wrongly assumed my fascination with hanging wires started two years later, in 2012, upon discovering u-he Ace / Aalto... Speaking of which: another clip!

In this one I use self-playing Aalto patches and some misc stuff on backing tracks and play something you might want to call lead on KORG microKEY 37, which actually was quite a nice keyboard and certainly a nice upgrade over QWERTY, for it had velocity and... this stuff dreams are made of: mr. pitch bend!.. (PB is really good on it BTW, quite the Innofader of pitchbends, I'd say: at least compared to my X-Station bend, more suitable for playing 1950’s era computer games. d'oh!)

Up next, I've got one more you – this one doesn't feature anything modular to my memory (but, wait: maybe some zebra!!) – anyway, it's a historical document: where else are you going to see some genuine radiokoala as he’s “petting his laptop while some sleazy new age goo is dripping from the speakers”?! screaming goo yo hyper

So yes, buckle up and let's go for the ride, watching this “best comment” nominee video, possibly only ever surpassed by my industrial 11-minute Tom Waits remix, to which some kind soul had left this QFT reply: “Thanks, but no thanks.” lol MY ASS IS BLEEDING

That's it: here we have “radiokoala. Formation Years. 2010-2012”, scheduled for one of the next evenings “Part II. 2014-2017. Hardware Live Sets. Experimental Footwork Modular Dance Meets Techno Period” – and later, possibly, “2018-2021 Muff’s Fame Into Worldwide Acclaim. Cocaine, Groupies, & Back to Music”.
Thx Guys, whoever read this and watched all, you clearly all are raving mad. nanners love
C H E E R S Dead Banana
First time I played live was at an art show. Some other folks got with me after that and I started playing shows with them. I was always the "you play first because you aren't harsh noise" person playing harsh noise shows.

So, I was playing live before I started my modular, and it was my intention to use my modular live before I started it. I had wanted a modular since seeing Doepfer had started making systems in the '90s. First time playing live with the modular included an Evolver and some pedals and maybe some other stuff. I went from a setup that would fit in a backpack to 12u to 18u (depending on what I bring) of euro, three Eventide pedals, and a laptop/audio interface to use as a mixer.

First show I played with the modular was with noise artists in late-2008. First show that was just modular was a collaboration with Charles Cohen in mid-2009. It has always been patching live from completely unpatched. Drone-y stuff, I guess.
captjrab wrote:

just remember, the audience thinks you know what you’re doing.

LOL! But so true – if you believe it, they believe it.
The patches I do in the studio just I leave running for days if not weeks because I am so happy to have arrived at something I like… I keep changing them until they are turned into a complete unusable mess, at which point I will unplug everything and start a completely new patch. I sometimes wonder if I should instead simply start from scratch every time I am in the studio, and record the "final" state before I shut the system off. It would certainly be a good practise to "patch from scratch" every day! Or how do you improve your ability to perform life?

Do you record everything you do and then use what seems useful later? How do you go about "building" something you can release (and if only on YT); or something that you want to use in a live environment later?

And a technical question: currently I have three mixers in my modular setup, and frankly I have a hard time knowing where I mix which sound. Do you guys use an external mixer? One big mixer module (which)? Less voices? What do you do with stuff like drums – use a submixer? And generally, how do you turn stuff on and off? (just unplug? using various sequencers (if any)?)
I will add a couple more interesting technical questions here as well smile:

- How do you prepare for a live show... Do you patch up everything in several days then leave the modular untouched until the show? Or do you write down every patch and recall them later when you have to perform.

- How do you protect your audience from unexpected errors or feedbacks? A compressor maybe? Is it really necessary?
Figure out the story I want to tell, play around a bit to get some ideas, take some notes if the patch is not obvious, store some ideas in the Micromodular.

The Clavia provides some presets but the analogue modular I patch live - the only cables I have connected are to my mixer.

This isn't due to some purist dogma - I just think it's part of the experience, for me and for the listener. Also, patching live, I make 'mistakes' which take me in other directions. I like to be in the moment, so thinking about exactly where a certain knob is supposed to be is distracting. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, tho hihi
@Navs Nice to hear! I think it takes some courage though (especially if you're not that experienced). Which is a great thing to do, stimulating. Great Pow Wow set btw wink.

And how about those unexpected volume spikes, feedback loops and all kinds of bloops that can happen... do you somehow contain them or is it also part of the thing for you?
Great read
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