Performing: Which way to face?

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

Moderators: Kent, Joe., luketeaford, lisa

Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 10:23 am
Location: Edinburgh

Performing: Which way to face?

Post by timcross » Wed Apr 03, 2019 3:36 pm

Have performed 4 times now, and have my first proper gig at the end of April and am still unsure about which way to face?

Options are:
- facing the audience so you can see them and vice versa
- back to them, so they can see you interacting with the system
- side on, so they can see you playing, and not as in-personal as back to them

So far have been side on, but just wondering what other people do, and what your thoughts are on this?

User avatar
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 2358
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:41 am
Location: Wilmington, NC

Post by authorless » Wed Apr 03, 2019 4:59 pm

Side. Sitting on the floor or stage.
"Wait a month and buy from a fellow wiggler who's desperate for new modules." - Johnisfaster

"It's oscillators are so precise and lifeless it's actually a digital modelling analog synth." - nadafarms

User avatar
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 10
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:21 am
Location: chicago il then stl

Post by justinwzig » Wed Apr 03, 2019 6:12 pm

I've never performed live, but most of the best performances I've seen have been side-on. My thinking, however, would be to arrange the setup at a slight (acute) angle to the audience, so that (most of) the audience can still see the racks, and it's not quite as far to turn to face BOH. It'd probably also be a good idea to offset this setup so that you stand just slightly right of center so that people standing on the left don't get screwed over.

Also depends a lot on the venue and the vibe of the gig. I think pretty obsessively about the arrangement of stage items, the PA, audience, performers, etc at almost every show I go to and the space can frequently have a larger effect on audience response than the music. Consider if you want people to dance or just chill, whether your performing image is one of empathy and communication (you might want to face forward, working on racks flat on a table), or one of extreme concentration and musical immersion (you might want to face away from the audience). Tons of different options, consider the height of the racks and whether or not (as authorless points out) you want to stand or sit, etc.

Good luck!!
~ Ziggy


User avatar
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 4228
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:49 am
Location: Berlin, Germany

Post by Navs » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:02 am

I like to face the audience but have also played side on and, on one occasion, with the audience milling around me (aka the awful 'boiler room' setup).

Facing seems more natural for communicating with the audience. Plus I like to be between the loudspeakers. But on smaller stages with multiple performers, side on might be the only practical setup.

I can see the idea behind the 'conductor' position but I'd rather see the person than the instrument; patching/turning knobs will never be as visually interesting as windmilling a guitar, right? :hihi: And how big is your synth for me to be able to see it over your back?

If you do want people to see what you're doing - if that's the point of the performance - you could lie your synth flat in front of you or, if the venue has the kit, set up a camera on the synth. For me personally as a member of the audience, tho, I find myself staring at the screen rather than listening.

User avatar
Common Wiggler
Posts: 101
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 12:44 pm
Location: Denver

Post by NastyNachos » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:24 pm

Depending on the size of the stage, facing your back to the crowd is an awful opportunity to show everyone your bum.

I've done lots of shows in many configurations and I am commonly asked that I face the crowd as people like to see your face when you play... like they say with youtube and instagram... stuff does better when a face is shown.

However, I want to figure out a way where people see whats going on without having to see my backside the whole time. The best, most fun I've had is playing on the floor in front of the stage. This way the subs hit me the same way they hit the crowd and we're all in it together.

I once threw an event where there was a giant mirror on the wall of the bar so I put the performers infront of the mirror so all could see the performers face as well as look at the rig... this backfired completely when one of the performers sagged his pants so far down and his boxers went with em so we all just saw his ass for 15 minutes. I eventually had to say something to him. it was awkward... I guess the moral of my story is whatever you do, just wear a belt! haha.

Common Wiggler
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue Aug 22, 2017 1:20 pm
Location: west

Post by nklif » Fri Apr 05, 2019 8:58 pm

No experience performing but as an observer, sideways is good. I agree that back to the audience is likely going to make people feel weird at first. However, I think once they see what you're doing, they will understand why.

User avatar
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 2889
Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2014 11:18 pm
Location: vancity

Post by mt3 » Wed Apr 10, 2019 6:24 am

Always the correct answer to any question:
mirrored ceilings.

User avatar
Common Wiggler
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2014 5:16 pm
Location: Oslo, Norway

Post by Geir » Fri Apr 12, 2019 1:25 pm

I have played a few times for an audience. I usually have a keyboard with me, allthough I am not much of a keyboardist. For my euro I have a 4 Pressure Point keyboard, and in my last gig I used my Music Easel and my Euro. I allways porition the keyboard so I face the audience when playing that, and the euro case on my left. Like in these to vids. That way I can move a bit more on the stage, something that might not be so natural to do if you, like me, mostly are a tweaker :roll:
I usually stand, since I both like that best, and think its more interresting for the audience. But in the last video I sit because of some reason I am more comfortable sitting with my Buchla. I will try to change that though.

Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1047
Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2008 4:36 am
Location: Edinburgh, UK

Re: Performing: Which way to face?

Post by pixelmechanic » Fri Apr 12, 2019 1:37 pm

timcross wrote:Have performed 4 times now, and have my first proper gig at the end of April and am still unsure about which way to face?

Options are:
- facing the audience so you can see them and vice versa
- back to them, so they can see you interacting with the system
- side on, so they can see you playing, and not as in-personal as back to them

So far have been side on, but just wondering what other people do, and what your thoughts are on this?
Where's yr gig? Is it in Edinburgh? (Edit: after a bit of searching I found out where it is, and when - will try to come along as I enjoyed yr improv on YouTube)

I generally lay my case on it's back/lid and patch/play top down so I'm facing and audience can see...
Last edited by pixelmechanic on Sat Apr 13, 2019 6:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:30 pm
Location: Sheffield

Post by Mattatatat » Sat Apr 13, 2019 6:03 am

The couple of times I have performed I have been facing the audience, standing up with my synth on a podium/box. It made me feel like a newsreader at first.

Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1888
Joined: Fri Apr 19, 2013 5:43 pm

Post by R.U.Nuts » Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:10 am

Do you know the stage you'll be playing on. And do you know wether the other acts playing that night will have set up their stuff on stage, too while you're playing? Do you know how big the setups of the other acts are? Chances are high that on a small stage you won't have a lot of choice how you position yourself anyway...

Common Wiggler
Posts: 132
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:42 pm

Post by Miguel606 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 1:02 am

don't underestimate having some minimal spot lighting on your equipment, venues never have this so bring your own.

Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 10:23 am
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Performing: Which way to face?

Post by timcross » Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:46 am

Thanks everyone for your responses, I guess ultimately I might not get much choice due to size of stage and setup. I guess facing is ideal, as long as the setup allows.
pixelmechanic wrote: Where's yr gig? Is it in Edinburgh? (Edit: after a bit of searching I found out where it is, and when - will try to come along as I enjoyed yr improv on YouTube)
Thanks pixelmechanic! Sorry didn't read this for a while, glad you found it! Hope to see you there :-)

For anyone else in Scotland, it's at 7pm on 25th April in Whitespace, Edinburgh

User avatar
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 457
Joined: Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:46 am
Location: Fort Collins, CO

Post by corpusjonsey » Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:51 am

Personally, I don't think there's much value in seeing what someone is doing with a rack of gear. Play in the dark and project some visuals.

User avatar
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 306
Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:54 pm
Location: Denver, Colorado

Post by c0rpse » Thu Apr 18, 2019 4:10 pm

I use the Elite side by side case so the look of the performance comes across more like a pair of cdj's.

Vertical racks are great for space savings and studio ergonomics, but I'm really not a fan of them for live unless you have so many cases you can surround yourself.
VINO MALO | Designer and Software Developer for WMD

User avatar
Common Wiggler
Posts: 137
Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2018 5:56 pm
Location: Brooklyn

Post by fruitsnake » Tue Apr 23, 2019 7:04 pm

authorless wrote:Side. Sitting on the floor or stage.
+1 exactly

The Grump
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 535
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2016 6:17 pm

Post by The Grump » Fri Jun 07, 2019 2:59 pm

Depends on the gig, and the material. Dancefloor? You face the audience. Period. Ambient? Sky's the limit. anything else... see what feels right, but unless it's a BUNCH of other synth nerds in the audience, do not turn your back to the crowd, most find it rude.

Edit: A lot of friends in Europe prefer to play on the dancefloor facing the system. This is also my preferred location, when possible. THAT puts you right in the thick of it. Of course, in the State most crowds at dance events are full of straight up fucking idiots who WILL put their drinks on your rig, so make sure that either you have a couple of friends close by preventing folks from doing that, or set up some kind of barrier between your gear and the crowd. However it is also where you will get the best idea of what your stuff really sounds like on the system you are playing through. Food for thought.

Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 3495
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2014 2:02 pm

Post by calaveras » Mon Jun 24, 2019 1:47 pm

I like to mix it up.
On the one hand, it's kind of fun to put my 9u case on end on top of something so it comes up to my shoulders. Then you just see blinken lights reflected off my face.
It also frustrates the modular nerds that want to know what brands of what I have in my case.

I also like to set up sideways. Especially if I am playing with more than just modular. A few years ago I was playing out with my modular, a Taurus 3, a Roland SH9 a guitar and amp and two drum machines.
It was hard to be seen behind all that!

User avatar
Ultra Wiggler
Posts: 978
Joined: Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:46 am
Location: Santa Cruz CA

Post by Pelsea » Mon Jul 08, 2019 12:46 pm

Eye contact is key. Every member of the audience should feel you are performing exclusively for them.

To this end, I set up my rig on two tables in an L shape:
•Synthesizer perpendicular to the audience, on my left or right.
•Performance interfaces in front of me, so I can look over them to the audience. These are skiffs, MIDI instruments, or homemade contraptions.
•Laptop between the two, on whichever table has the room.

Most of the performance actions are focused on what is in front of me (keyboard, wind instruments, nerf ball etc) with the occasional turn to the side to tweak a setting or call up something on the laptop.

If possible, I use interfaces on a long cable or wireless so I can move around the stage a bit.

[Note: the setup in my avatar is for a duet. In that case the L becomes a T, and we face each other over our interfaces.]
Books and tutorials on modular synthesis at
Patch responsibly.

User avatar
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 256
Joined: Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:05 am
Location: Virginia, USA

Post by robkramble » Wed Sep 04, 2019 12:32 pm


User avatar
has no life
Posts: 5798
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:24 am
Location: Providence, RI, USA

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Thu Oct 03, 2019 6:09 pm

Facing the audience with the case tilted away from you. I saw someone do this with a monome and it was great.

Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 2:33 am
Location: Seattle

Post by indigogogo » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:48 am

Facing the audience, modular on the table but tilted toward the audience!

I recently saw a super packed and energetic dance-y modular performance with someone doing this.

User avatar
weekend warrior
Posts: 7085
Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2009 1:45 am
Location: Santa Susana Field Lab

Post by MindMachine » Sat Nov 02, 2019 12:37 am

mt3 wrote:Always the correct answer to any question:
mirrored ceilings.
You may jest, but I think that Klaus Schulze used to do this a bit while he sat crossed legged on the floor with his back to the crowd. He had a huge stack of analog units around him, so it made sense.

If you are a laptop jockey then you can just put your screen on an overhead so everyone thinks they are at work.
FS: Pedals and Euro modules, Delta Labs, dotcom Q128 for 37.00
viewtopic.php?f=74&t=233636&p=3287718&h ... e#p3287718

User avatar
Common Wiggler
Posts: 132
Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:49 pm
Location: seattle WA

Post by AuralAntithesis » Sun Nov 10, 2019 1:30 pm

I really appreciate the guys doing modular concerts in Seattle, they live stream the concerts and have a video screen showing the gear. This way people can face the crowd, and the audience can see what gear is being manipulated.
That's the most diabolical looking piece of equipment I've ever seen.

User avatar
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Oct 08, 2019 6:03 am
Location: NL

Post by Lacer » Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:42 am

I'd always face the audience, see their reactions, more or less people dancing, lots of people leaving, etc.

Post Reply

Return to “Play Out! Performance Modulars”