Small Modular System for Live Performance

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

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Small Modular System for Live Performance

Post by 333 » Fri Jul 25, 2014 10:21 pm

I am interested to hear from people who use minimal/small modular system for their live performance. There could be many reason be it using limitation as a creative tool, music is minimalism, practical reason for transportation etc. Hearing about different minimal processes for performance would be insightful for me.

I am especially curious about musicians who only use a minimal 3U rack live but would like to hear from all.

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Post by analogue01 » Fri Jul 25, 2014 11:33 pm

I've performed a few times with a small 3u setup, but ultimately use a 6u now. I also love 90hp cases. They're the perfect carrying size imo.

A couple of the smaller systems I've used:
Image
Image
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Post by 333 » Fri Jul 25, 2014 11:47 pm

analogue01

Thanks! I can imagine the range of possibilities in these petite systems. What kind of music do you perform with these?

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Post by nedavine » Sat Jul 26, 2014 6:32 am

How small is small? I got a little case I use live. Not sure if it fits the mall bil though as its 6U at 84hp a row.

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Post by 333 » Sat Jul 26, 2014 7:07 am

nedavine

Yours is quite small comparatively as most live modular tend to be 9U or more. I have check out your thread and heard your set… very good live set!

If you have any comments on processes for small set up feel free to comment.

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Post by analogue01 » Sat Jul 26, 2014 7:08 am

333 wrote:Thanks! I can imagine the range of possibilities in these petite systems. What kind of music do you perform with these?
I play "experimental" music, for lack of a better word. You can hear that first system in action here:

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/131029068" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Even with small systems, though, there's so much flexibility. Add a drum machine and a looper and you could easily play a techno set with those rigs too.
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Post by 333 » Sat Jul 26, 2014 8:22 am

analogue01

Thanks for sharing your set. Very nice sounds.

Yes, I agree that a lot of flexibility can be achieve with a small set up. Good planning is what it takes.

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Post by Quasi » Sat Aug 02, 2014 1:06 pm

Loving this!

I play "experimental" music, for lack of a better word. You can hear that first system in action here:

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/131029068" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

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Post by DonaldCrunk » Sat Aug 02, 2014 2:30 pm

I've done about six performances with my lunchbox case, i usually use it alongside a delay and looper with ipad for sequencing. Here's a set i recorded -

https://soundcloud.com/donaldcrunk/clim ... ve-modular

Definitely trends more toward the "pastoral" side, but of course it's the Indian not the arrow. Small systems are the way to go live, but soon ill be moving to a 6u :(

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Post by Quasi » Sat Aug 02, 2014 3:05 pm

DonaldCrunk wrote:Small systems are the way to go live, but soon ill be moving to a 6u :(
Why are you moving to a 6u if you love the lunchbox? I've seen and heard your work with the lunchbox and it's super creative.

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Post by analogue01 » Sat Aug 02, 2014 4:33 pm

Quasi wrote:Loving this!

I play "experimental" music, for lack of a better word. You can hear that first system in action here:

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/131029068" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
Hey, thanks!
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Post by DonaldCrunk » Sat Aug 02, 2014 8:08 pm

Quasi wrote:
DonaldCrunk wrote:Small systems are the way to go live, but soon ill be moving to a 6u :(
Why are you moving to a 6u if you love the lunchbox? I've seen and heard your work with the lunchbox and it's super creative.
Thanks - im moving to 6u so i can absorb the functionality that various outboard gear now provides to the Lunchbox into the main modular, as well as add an extra digital voice. Right now i max out at about 30 minutes for a live set before i start losing variety - my goal is to be able to do a 45 minute set out of one box accompanied only by my voice and a looper.

I enjoy showing up to random open mic events in my town and deploying my gear at the same speed that a typical acoustic guitarist deploys theirs, and packing up quickly before a drunk peorian chucks a beer at me for not playing nickel back covers.

The lunchbox will live on in a different guise i think, but no definite plans now.im waiting to see if a 6u case from a particular manufacturer i like manifests itself, only then will i make the transition.

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Post by analogue01 » Sat Aug 02, 2014 8:48 pm

It's hard to resist the allure of 6u. You can pack a lot of flexibility in and still be quite portable.
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Post by 333 » Sun Aug 03, 2014 12:03 pm

DonaldCrunk

Though I am veering towards a more experimental sound closer to what analogue1 shared, I really enjoyed the creativity in your "lunch box" set.

Looking forward to hear more creativity come out of small set ups! A good balance to the constant nagging gear lust and careless expansions of systems.

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Post by rec.Koner » Sun Aug 03, 2014 12:48 pm

DonaldCrunk

Remember you posted video of your live at some cafe. That was lovely! :sb:

Would you include any sequence-related modules in ur "2nd half" or continue using Little Machine Midi-2-CV?
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Post by DonaldCrunk » Sun Aug 03, 2014 4:50 pm

thanks again, all - i think what 333 says about careless expansion really resonates with me the most in my experiences thus far. I also have a 9u eurorack, and started with that system - having had an earlier poor experience with Frac in '08, my intentions were to "get started" in eurorack and learn how to integrate it into my larger workflow.

i'm going to blabber a bit, so bear with me -

I was careless about the modules i added. Thanks to the generosity of several friends/manufacturers, i ended up with a lot of cool modules in a rather unbalanced configuration. There is nothing wrong with the modules i had (still have), but taken together as a whole the system was unbalanced, had a variety of varying signal levels and required akward gain staging to get all the voices to the output. My case was focused towards studio use as well, and when gigging i was forced to carry it around in a large square cardboard box. Awkward, heavy and not ideal for playing out.

When looking anew at my needs and the products available to fill them, i tried to keep the military adage "the mission drives the gear train" in mind at all times. my immediate "mission" was to have an extremely portable system available for a trip i was taking, as well as have a small footprint system that would be unobtrusive enough to use outside of the studio spaces in my home (about 3 weeks later, i found out i had a child on the way, and the system's small size has proved its worth many times since). When choosing the modules that would fit in the case, you have to be ruthless. Considerations like aesthetics, a manufacturer - friend's gear etc sometimes have to go out the window. Compact size / portability is the most obvious benefit of a small system to us as synthesists.

I quickly found there were several side benefits to a small system. One of the largest was muscle memory / economy of motion. Even with a relatively small amount of time spent with a small system, you learn fast and your hands begin to move to the control they need to affect much more quickly. Basic patches can be set up almost without thought. This can be a real life saver in a live situation. I did a performance at the first knobcon with my 9u, and things didn't go as expected with the complex patch i had running - it was much more stressful to identify and correct the problem. It was a disappointing performance, probably my worst ever. I had previously used a similar patch on a WNUR performance that worked out much better, but human factors intervened - i was tired, had a lot on my plate for the weekend, and had a beer or two.

Pursuant to that was general workflow speed - it's not quite as fast as your typical hardwired mono synth as far as getting tracks laid down in a multi-track project, but it's pretty damn close - and the modular offers a lot more in the way of control. I'm one of those guys that will continue to patch and patch and patch if i have the modules available to do it, and the result becomes sometimes too complex for the need. Not only that, but when it comes time to move on to the next sound, tearing down the patch that i had spent 2 hours working on makes my heart hurt a little bit - something we've all felt at one point or another i'm sure. Small systems don't have this issue.



Obviously, there are some cons. Depending on the modules you have chosen, it is difficult to set up the kind of complex patches that the Eurorack sound is becoming known for. You really must distill the sort of sounds / control schemes you want, and choose modules accordingly. It won't be the centerpiece of a studio in the same way a large system can be. Additionally, you'll eventually milk your system dry if you keep the config the same - this is what i have been running into lately, and it's been a blow to my musical morale. It took two years, but i'm ready to move on to larger possibilities - hence the future 6u. It'll take a little while for that i'm sure.


rec.Koner wrote:DonaldCrunk


Would you include any sequence-related modules in ur "2nd half" or continue using Little Machine Midi-2-CV?
I will include a few - but i think the majority of sequencing will still be done by Little Midi unless a better app comes along. it's hard to beat for power, and IOS apps have proven pretty dependable for me at gigs - a far cry from when i used to use a Powerbook G4 and Numerology. To get the kind of complex sequencing environment that i would be comfortable using would need at least another row of modules.


sorry for the long winded post, i hope maybe that will lead some others to see some benefits in small systems for specific scenarios. I haven't really seen many others rocking a small system live, so this thread is cool to read. There's not much of a safety net, but that's part of the fun!

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Post by analogue01 » Sun Aug 03, 2014 7:29 pm

I think of having a small system like having a discreet instrument like a violin. Something that offers a range of sounds that, with practice, I can control with some precision. Whereas having a "sprawling" system is like having an orchestra.
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Post by Sinamsis » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:08 am

DonaldCrunk wrote:The lunchbox will live on in a different guise i think, but no definite plans now.im waiting to see if a 6u case from a particular manufacturer i like manifests itself, only then will i make the transition.
Have you seen the new Pittsburgh Modular Move 208 that's coming out? Seems ideal for playing out.

http://pittsburghmodular.com/move-208-mobile-case/

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Post by DonaldCrunk » Thu Aug 07, 2014 12:13 pm

Sinamsis wrote: Have you seen the new Pittsburgh Modular Move 208 that's coming out? Seems ideal for playing out.

http://pittsburghmodular.com/move-208-mobile-case/
i had not, looks like fine 6u case. i am fully invested and addicted to the Erthenvar Tile infrastructure now though and will definitely be needing some 1u rows in my 6u ;)

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Post by ym2612 » Thu Aug 07, 2014 12:31 pm

analogue01 wrote:I think of having a small system like having a discreet instrument like a violin. Something that offers a range of sounds that, with practice, I can control with some precision. Whereas having a "sprawling" system is like having an orchestra.
My thoughts exactly. I went down the lunchbox route before I realized that I wasn't much for MIDI-based playing, and since then I've been researching and planning a 6U that's a properly balanced instrument.

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Post by 333 » Sun Aug 10, 2014 6:30 am

analogue01 wrote:I think of having a small system like having a discreet instrument like a violin. Something that offers a range of sounds that, with practice, I can control with some precision. Whereas having a "sprawling" system is like having an orchestra.
Very true.

Thanks also to Donaldcrunk for sharing your experiences and insights.

Hoping that more people using small live set ups will start chiming in.

Also am wondering any one from the community using small modular set ups for electroacoustic improv or live sound art?

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Post by rec.Koner » Sun Aug 10, 2014 7:17 am

Well, but most music that is loved by listeners today is performed by small ensemble like guitar + bass + drums. That's not "one instrument" nor "orchestra".

What music can you do having only small modular? If without drum machine, looper and etc.?
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Post by DonaldCrunk » Sun Aug 10, 2014 7:58 am

rec.Koner wrote: What music can you do having only small modular? If without drum machine, looper and etc.?
that's a valid question, and i think the answer depends on your intentions and expectations. with a couple of the systems posted in this thread i think it would be more than possible to run completely standalone and play 20-30 minutes of interesting music. i don't know what genre it would be, but it seems like it would certainly be possible.

as a reference, i did the "breck" and "enridge" compilation tracks on my sound cloud with only my small system and sometimes my telephone as a midi sequencer. it does violate the 'standalone' concept a little bit, but pulling a device out of my pocket that i have on my person everyday anyway doesn't seem like such a stretch to me. if i didn't have that phone on me, i could do about 10 minutes of interesting bongos and drones and that would probably be it. it is what it is.

but yeah, i guess part of the allure of a smaller system is that you have that little bit of extra room to transport an accessory or two with you to the gig - whether that be a guitar pedal or two, drum machine etc.

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Post by analogue01 » Sun Aug 10, 2014 10:35 am

It's "live electronics", for lack of a better word, and it has a history going back to at least the 60s.

Playing with other people is awesome. Having a small system definitely makes that easier. Loopers are great, too, no one ever said they were forbidden. If you're playing melodic content without a looper you're basically doing a kind of monophonic music and there's a long history of that in the West.

People like Thomas Lehn and Chales Cohen are my heroes with regards to being versatile solo and group performers with small, contained modulars. Both have played the same synth in many contexts for years now. Lehn plays without a looper, Cohen plays with one.
333 wrote:Also am wondering any one from the community using small modular set ups for electroacoustic improv or live sound art?
I'm sure there must be. I'm definitely interested in moving in that direction.
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Post by 333 » Sun Aug 10, 2014 1:24 pm

analogue01

Yes i am sure there are too. Awaiting their input on this thread.

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