Live performance tips for a first-timer?

Live patching, designs, and techniques that push the performance envelope.

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zuliani
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Live performance tips for a first-timer?

Post by zuliani » Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:10 am

One of the things I've told myself I have to start doing is performing. I've spent way too much time fiddling around in my apartment, putting together half hour sets, practicing my moves.

I've played live a lot, but never with modular – it seems fundamentally different from the drumming I've done, or even the DJing, especially in the relative lack of control I'll have over my instrument. My biggest worry is that, for whatever reason, the knobs and patch cables won't align and the good stuff won't happen. Modular synths seem like fickle beasts.

So, for a first timer: do y'all have any tips, any educational horror stories, any failsafes that you've learned to use?

I want to get out there and start performing, but this is new ground for me.

(There's also, I suppose, the whole other issue of how to find venues who are up for this kind of thing, but that is, I think, another post).

Thanks!

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Post by Reese P. Dubin » Fri Apr 20, 2018 7:13 pm

it says you live in brooklyn. go to some shows and talk to the people that set them up. you can get a gig, of some sort.

dont have any expectations. figure out something that would be fun to play in front of people (maybe none!) for NO MORE than 20 minutes. dont worry about being awesome, it will take a good long while probably before anyone even knows you exist. make mistakes and move on, no one cares!

Dont fall into the traps that I have seen so many people wanting to start playing shows snared by. bringing their whole setup out, worrying about many technical details, planning drawn out sets that will give them massive anxiety even if it goes properly. Honestly i would suggest going to TONS of gigs for a few months and seeing whats out there. there are people in brooklyn gigging on modulars every night of the week, from terribly to quite good. at this point for you stakes are so low as to be zero.

and by god dont get hung up on this thing about the audience seeing what you are doing, no one gives a toss what knob you are turning.

I have played several hundred synth gigs from closets to biggish stages thru practice amps and absurd PAs. dont get hung on the specifics is my major advice.

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Cybananna
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Post by Cybananna » Fri Apr 20, 2018 7:54 pm

Bring more patch cables than you need. Also the oh crap stuff such as power strip adapter for 3 prong grounded power cable to two prong, flashlight, screwdriver in case a ribbon cable wiggles loose in transit etc. be prepared for malfunction and power issues. I guess that is similar to what you may need to be prepared for as a DJ though.

Depending on the venue and audience, the ability for them to see you may be nice. Many of the people who attended shows at the spaces here are musicians themselves and have intest in modular synths but have never seen or used them. When I play live I don’t do any pre patching and several people have watched the patching and the interaction with modules like pressure points and Rene. After the set people often have questions about what I was doing at particular parts of the set.

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sfny
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Post by sfny » Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:16 pm

I’m in almost exactly the same position as OP but in California. I ran effects and backing tracks from a laptop while gigging on drums in the past, so I’m planning to use the laptop initially to reduce technical complexity (ie clock, mixing, sequencing). Hope to jettison the computer eventually.

One question I have is how other modular artists cater to the audience. Do you guys build a more ambient set vs a dancy set on the fly? If the crowd is a bunch of bankers do you tone down the weird noise?

As an audience member I have no idea what adjustments an artist makes. My first set will be inflexible, but what type of flexibility do experienced modular performers play with?

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Jasonic
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Post by Jasonic » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:03 am

I like the idea of starting a set with no patch cables in. Patch it all from start to finish as a performance. Prolly start with some simple AM synth noodling. With this type of performance, it would be nice for the audience to see what is going on with the instrument. I think I worry most about drunk people knocking shit over :zombie: , and RAIN (seems to happen to me when I bring gear to outdoor venues).

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zuliani
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Post by zuliani » Tue May 01, 2018 7:39 am

This is all so great – thanks, everyone.

I think the pre-patched thing is a big part of it for me. I like the idea of showing up with nothing set up and then building a patch live, but then the possibility of things not working, for whatever reason.... I think this is a big difference between performing modular and performing with other instruments, the possibility for things to be completely different from expected. Which is the joy of modular, too!

Maybe sfny and I need to just get out there, fail horribly but instructively, and report back...

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Post by thereisnochaos » Tue May 01, 2018 1:10 pm

One thing that I like to try to accomplish in all of my live sets is to provide a sense of narrative, or story, or a journey. I do this by using conflict, resolution, tension, and release. Use the peak of your tension and then release as a moment to introduce new elements, build tension again, wash, rinse, repeat. The way this takes shape in a performance could be something like what follows:

Start out with some calming drone texture reverb type thing (status quo / resolution) >
Beat comes in (tension) >
lead sounds come in (conflict)
lead sounds and percussion get more complex (tension)
reverb / delay and drone are added (tension. climax)
** cue up new lead sound and/or percussion**
cut delay and reverb, transition to new lead sound and/or percussion (release)
New lead sound and percussion becomes the new normal (resolution)
lead sounds and percussion get more complex (tension)
reverb / delay and drone are added (tension. climax)
cut delay / reverb, only drone / textures remain (resolution)

(Repeat as necessary)

How you accomplish this with your modules is up to you, but as long as you are building tension and conflict, and releasing that tension to introduce new elements, your set will have a progressive story to tell.
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Post by Flamil » Fri May 11, 2018 2:31 pm

Jasonic wrote:I like the idea of starting a set with no patch cables in. Patch it all from start to finish as a performance. Prolly start with some simple AM synth noodling. With this type of performance, it would be nice for the audience to see what is going on with the instrument.
Great tip it is always cool to watch the person interact with their instrument. Especially if you are running modular.

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Post by nathanbits » Sat May 19, 2018 10:57 pm

thereisnochaos wrote: Start out with some calming drone texture reverb type thing (status quo / resolution) >
Beat comes in (tension) >
lead sounds come in (conflict)
lead sounds and percussion get more complex (tension)
reverb / delay and drone are added (tension. climax)
** cue up new lead sound and/or percussion**
cut delay and reverb, transition to new lead sound and/or percussion (release)
New lead sound and percussion becomes the new normal (resolution)
lead sounds and percussion get more complex (tension)
reverb / delay and drone are added (tension. climax)
cut delay / reverb, only drone / textures remain (resolution)
This is so devastatingly accurate lol. Musicians/composers/whatever have been doing it since the early days.

I guess for me the modular's aforementioned unpredictability can sometimes make this more difficult than it needs to be. There's just so much to think about! No time to think about plot/direction.

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Navs
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Post by Navs » Sun May 20, 2018 3:06 am

nathanbits wrote:... I guess for me the modular's aforementioned unpredictability can sometimes make this more difficult than it needs to be. There's just so much to think about! No time to think about plot/direction.
My suggestion is to keep it simple and go with the flow.

In practical terms, that means I like modules that I can get results from with a few knob turns. I have even managed to mis-patch a panner live, so 'simple' is important to me :hihi:

That said, when things don't go according to plan, let them - that has helped me. So to answer the point about having too much to think about, just use your ears. If you feel like it's time for a change of direction, change things. If it sounds nice, step back from the modular and don't touch a thing!

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Post by MvK » Mon May 21, 2018 8:22 pm

never stop listening to what comes out. Insist on good monitor sound. It will still sound different than at home. Extensive preperation and planning can disturb the listening process while playing because you more react on whats not happening rather than to whats happening.

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Post by Joe. » Mon May 21, 2018 8:45 pm

If you place a fan at foot height, angled up towards your face, you can let out your ponytail and dramatically improve stage presence. Also works well with capes, although you want two fans on either side of you for that, angled inwards and up.

Dont forget to have fun! A crowd does not want to watch a stern sourpuss, occasional eye contact and smiles will help them remember the performance was enjoyable.




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Post by mckenic » Mon May 21, 2018 9:02 pm

Played my 1st solo modular show in a gallery two weeks ago.
Things that worked for ME on that occasion -

I had 5 sessions at home where I practiced the whole 20min set all the way through.

I went to the show patched.

I had two different stereo patches going in to my MST Stereo Output Mixer so I could fade from one patch to another.

I also had an Audio Damage Odio that I initially patched in one of the Stereo outs - the Odio had iPad intro/backing track from an iPad with Turnado fx and TC-11 synth pad.

That started the show (Afterwards people were interested in what was going on with the iPad). Then faded into the 1st patch. While the patch was building I unpatched the iPad and set-up the 2nd patch - then faded into that.

Then repatched the Odio and iPad this time for fx stuff from Phonogene and RadioMusic - then faded into that.

While that was going on I opened the LPGs and filters I was using - gave the sequence a different flavour and brought things to a climax. While this was happening I loaded the show outtro backing and jammed the last 8-10mins with all the 4 previous elements together, gradually dropping everything out until I was left with a TC-11 patch and Z-DSP fx. I could then decide when to end and it seemed to go down well.

Things that did NOT work for me on that occasion -
Do NOT sit cross-legged on the floor (the show was everyone sitting on the floor as there was a projectionist so we decided to sit too). You forget your legs and after 20mins they refuse to work!

I had forgotten to 'enable' monitoring of fx on the iPad and couldnt figure it out for 20-30 seconds - so couldnt hear the fx & it felt like 2hours! But lucky I was modulating a sequence with the other hand so it was still interesting sonically.

While that was happening I thought my samples were not playing back from RadioMusic so I pulled the SD card and when it came on it was at the worst channel! BreakBeats! Aargh! So I went with it and effected them with Kammral Clouds modulated by Teleplexer - that turned out to be one of the better sections - all from an accident!

TL:DR

Practice! Know what your going to do!

Arrive patched! I wouldn't enjoy a show where someone starts from zero and it takes 15mins to build up something, get going and the show is then over (ok I probably would but regular punters wouldn't)

Have different elements you can go to - go from one patch to another as seamlessly as possible. Go back if something goes wrong!

Dont sit with your legs crossed!

WHEN something goes wrong, go with it and make it work!

Most importantly - Enjoy it!

Chat with folks that dont know the stuff! There is no modular stuff in my city so people were anxious to chat afterwards. That was great fun.

Sorry for the long post but my 1st experience was very recently and it was a million miles away form performing my old way with a guitar. Hope this is some help.

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Post by GoneCaving » Tue May 22, 2018 2:53 am

Practice, practice and practice some more.

If you can arrive pre-patched great, but if not, take extensive notes on the patch, and make sure they work (ie tear it down, and patch from the notes to make sure they're complete). Have a check-list of things to test in a sound check.

Have a fall back/safety net for when things don''t work as expected (see mckenicks example). This happened in my last gig. I'd planned to use Mannequins W/. When I came to fade it in it wasn't playing as I expected, but I knew I had a bunch of sounds on a Radio Music, that I could chop up instead, so went with that. Your audience won't know what's gone wrong so if you can keep the flow going that's a win (see comments on practice, practice practice!).

Record your performance and listen back later. Use this as a feedback loop for your next performance.

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Post by Brendanleespengler » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:18 pm

Joe. wrote:”If you place a fan at foot height, angled up towards your face, you can let out your ponytail and dramatically improve stage presence. Also works well with capes...”




.
Definitely gotta wear a cape. All the rest of the paint by numbers instructions is questionable. The cape is mandatory.
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Post by moremagic » Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:23 am

lol if you own a modular and dont have a cape :hihi:

i dont mind prepatching. i dont rly think folks wanna watch me string my guitar onstage, and patching from scratch is kinda like that some nights -- def practice patching (dont stick it in the wrong hole, honey!) so you can play some sounds soon enough. and practice whatever else, thats the one word i would recommend to take away from this thread :miley:

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Post by captjrab » Fri Jun 22, 2018 11:22 pm

Team up with a vid/film/projectionist. Colaborate. Get some friends in in it and crossfade your set. Its fun bringing in a bunch of artists. Also, more friends of friends for your audience.

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Post by Virusinstaller » Sat Apr 27, 2019 2:35 am

Prepared improvisation.

Set & save all of your sequences.
Write notes about what modules you will use and in what order.
Use mutes to bring parts in and out.
Use interesting textures as transitions between beats
Practice & you have notes with you as back up!

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Post by VM » Sat Apr 27, 2019 7:07 am

Do a thorough soundcheck using your most dynamically complex patch at performance volume. Check your monitors, go to the back of the room, go to the sound desk, go everywhere and make sure its all good.

If you are patching from scratch for artistic reasons as mentioned by others ITT, it can be a good idea to start with a nice lush sample and crossfade that into your first patch, rather than drag the audience through several minutes of potentially very uninteresting oscillators/drums.

Know your audience. If its a small room in a music venue that regularly hosts underground artists, you've got more freedom to push boundaries. Knowing your audience gives you confidence, which is key.

Display your own energy and enthusiasm when you hit a sweet patch, don't be afraid to just step back and nod your head or whatever when something is sounding sweet. Have fun!

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