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The challenges of using a modular live.....
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Play Out! Performance Modulars Goto page 1, 2, 3  Next [all]
Author The challenges of using a modular live.....
mousegarden
I'm sure we've all thought about these things, and have had similar problems when thinking about taking a modular on stage, and playing live. It's very frustrating, and there is no cure I think. The main problem is lack of memories, and trying to make a varied set. With traditional instruments, and non modular synthesizer's, it's possible to either write down stuff, or simply call up the sounds you need for the next song. Not so with modular, I spend ages, sometimes days coming up with a patch, and that's that ! I'm stuck with it, so I'm forced to structure my show around what is normally an improvised, quite long piece, sure I can tweak knobs to vary things over time, but I can't change the patch, well, not in any sort of radical way during a show.
I don't like working like this, I want to do lots of short pieces that are different from each other in style and mood, little sketches rather than long epic pieces. The only thing I can think of is to have a lot of small systems, one for each piece, but that's impractical, or, to supplement the modular with traditional keyboards and other instruments, to ad variation, but that ruins my idea of just doing a show with the modular, I like the challenge, but I can't see a way around this restriction of only being able to do one piece basically. Be interesting to hear how others approach playing live, and how you've managed to keep things varied and interesting.
Stollmeister
Buchla 200e?
mousegarden
Stollmeister wrote:
Buchla 200e?


Ha ha ! Yes, £20,000 later......
Can't justify that I'm afraid.
But even then, it would only go some way to solving the problem, it remembers knob settings, but you,still have to re-patch.
I was getting "the hint" from looking at Allesandro Coritni's live rig, he simply has lots of little stations dotted around the stage, all probably dedicated to one number in the band's set, and just left set-up that way, night after night.
That way of working would cost more than a Buchla, he has major systems from all the leading lights, Make Noise, Harvestman, Verbos, Buchla, etc etc, but then again, he probably has some sponsorship deals, quite possibly.
But I don't think there is any other way around this problem unles you start to throw big buck's at it.
leeski
lots of musicians work and expand with the means they have.
Perhaps you need to think outside the box seriously, i just don't get it
Or know more of the box to expand and evolve ones self maybe nanners
mousegarden
leeski wrote:
lots of musicians work and expand with the means they have.
Perhaps you need to think outside the box seriously, i just don't get it
Or know more of the box to expand and evolve ones self maybe nanners


I'm up against purely practical problems, I know what I want to do, and it will probably be a compromise, incorporating the modular with other things, as much I don't want do that.
My I pad seems to be a good candidate, and a good contrast to the modular, and what it can do, I have lots of different templates in Caustic, and that also has a built in modular, limited, but you can store sounds ! Also folks, I don't have a car right now, so small is beautiful....

Dead Banana
leeski
but if your improvising how will anyone but you know yr not doing something.

Also maybe using the traditional patch chart from paper hyper

Isn't the Ipad cheating hihi
Navs
Possibly a thread for the 'Play out/ Performance' subforum, but anyway ...

For me, this question is at the heart of what Richard + I have been doing with Basic Electricity for the past three years. Its been interesting to see the different approaches people take to playing live with a modular: from patch-from-scratch to improvise over stems from Ableton.

My approach is to tell one story, maybe with three sections. I can do this with a 6U case and a delay. I just have to be clear about what I want to do and build the instrument accordingly for the night. I suggested this in the subforum and was admonished by Anthony Bisset for good reason: it works if you have a good idea of the venue and audience. I suppose it's like to a DJ turning up with a crateful of Gabba only to discover he's been booked for a wedding.

But, like you, I wanted more flexibility and without using a computer. I found a compromise in the Clavia Nord Modular: total patch recall. I played the Noodlebar with just a Micromodular + Faderfox and found it to be liberating and fun.

Anyway thinking about it will only get you so far. Set up a mock gig in your studio, start a clock and play for 20 minutes. Record the result and learn from it. Then, when you have a venue you feel comfortable with, give it a bash.

On musical compromise, yes, you might have to. Question is whether the audience will notice. I'm always astounded by how little musical information one actually needs to get a crowd dancing, for example. I try to use broad brush strokes for that reason. A gig I played with a finely-tuned frequency shifter feedback patch was lost on the audience, the star was the rattling spring reverb!
ear ear
Navs wrote:
Possibly a thread for the 'Play out/ Performance' subforum, but anyway ...


+1
donkey for rent
Hiya all.
Let me ask a few questions of the OP:
For your performances, is the focus the modular itself, or is this simply one instrument played by one band member?

And also, are you performing a "typical" pop/rock set or a more free form style of composition? (I know it's hard to put labels on music, but I think you take my meaning)

Thanks!
teezdalien
I'm likely to be outed as a heretic for this opinion here... But despite my love of modulars, I have a real hard time understanding the whole anti-computers sentiment if your requirements are a practical and flexible/diverse system for performance of electronic music. The notions of computers appearing uncool on stage are rather silly imo.

Let's be realistic here, modulars can be diverse and flexible, but not without committing a lot of time to patching, rendering them impractical for fluid performances. Particularly small skiff based systems which seem to be most common for live sets, they're inherently limited which will lead to limited performances, I'm not saying that's a bad thing per se, but it is what it is.

Throwing a computer into the mix with max/ableton or expert sleepers really seems to be the best solution for this dilemma.
mousegarden
teezdalien wrote:
I'm likely to be outed as a heretic for this opinion here... But despite my love of modulars, I have a real hard time understanding the whole anti-computers sentiment if your requirements are a practical and flexible/diverse system for performance of electronic music. The notions of computers appearing uncool on stage are rather silly imo.

Let's be realistic here, modulars can be diverse and flexible, but not without committing a lot of time to patching, rendering them impractical for fluid performances. Particularly small skiff based systems which seem to be most common for live sets, they're inherently limited which will lead to limited performances, I'm not saying that's a bad thing per se, but it is what it is.

Throwing a computer into the mix with max/ableton or expert sleepers really seems to be the best solution for this dilemma.


So much has been said here, thanks', difficult to know what to focus on.
First of all, I'm not against anything, computers or whatever. The music I've been doing are these little sketches with the modular at home, each one being no more than ten minutes long, usually half that length. Of course, I record them, then spend ages creating the patch for the next one, this is what's not possible live. I could use a more convenient instrument to play these things on, but I don't want to, the sounds I'm getting are interesting, and I couldn't get them on anything else, but more importantly I'm exploring new ways of actually playing the thing that I wouldn't have discovered using anything else. These pieces are very much like the music Roedelius used to do but a little bit more abstract, but they still retain a strong sense of melody and structure. I'm trying to play certain things on the modular that are very difficult to do without a keyboard, a few of you came to an event I participated in recently and you will know what I'm going on about, it's challenging, but interesting.
Yesterday I went over to London Modular on the off-chance that it was open, I was standing outside and Simon was coming down the road to open the shop ! We had a chat about this live thing, and he came up with the idea of maybe getting rid of all my small cases to concentrate on my Doepfer LC9. I could screw a handle to the top, wrap some foam around it for traveling, have a synth/sound on each row, and bingo ! more sounds and more flexibility, and still portable. Sounds like a good idea to me.

thumbs up
teezdalien
mousegarden wrote:

So much has been said here, thanks', difficult to know what to focus on.
First of all, I'm not against anything, computers or whatever...


Hey no worries, my response wasn't targeting you specifically, but was more a general reflection of my own observations surrounding modular communities/culture in general.

I definitely find this an interesting topic to ponder. It seems you and I have quite a similar approach in how we employ modular synths in our music. Though I personally couldn't perform a varied song based kind of set with my own music solely on my modular system, at least not the intentions in its recorded form. I could do improvised approximations, but would be limited to only two or three pieces. Most of it is far too densely layered and structured. I think there's always going to be a trade off with live performance of electronic music, the more complex and detailed the music is, the more difficult it then becomes to make a proper live performance of the music, at least as a solo performer.
Yes I know I'm generalising here and am aware that there are probably quite a few exceptions to these statements.
Navs
Yes, I think that's the question/ challenge: the modular as performance instrument.

I'm not anti-computer. But I'm interested in hearing the music that is made with the limitations, or possibilities, of the modular. When I use the Nord Modular, I patch it the same way I would the 'real' instrument.

teezdalien, what role does the computer play in your set up?

mousegarden, I think you are already nearing a workable concept: a 9U lets you build several voice/ story clusters which you can transition between. If you think ahead and are economical, you can also re-purpose modules rather than re-patch. Switches or mixers are good for this e.g. I have a white noise source and stream of pulses/ rhythm feeding a resonator/ filter. This gives me two completely different sounding voices.

Also, what's wrong with taking time to patch? It's all about the venue and event. I have set up my modular in a city garden for an arts festival and patched for 8 hours, taking breaks to chat, drink beer etc. The sound of little sine bubbles bouncing between two widely spaced speakers in the open air is glorious.

http://navsmodularlab.blogspot.de/2011/06/navs-live-48-stunden-neukoll n.html
mousegarden
teezdalien wrote:
mousegarden wrote:

So much has been said here, thanks', difficult to know what to focus on.
First of all, I'm not against anything, computers or whatever...


Hey no worries, my response wasn't targeting you specifically, but was more a general reflection of my own observations surrounding modular communities/culture in general.

I definitely find this an interesting topic to ponder. It seems you and I have quite a similar approach in how we employ modular synths in our music. Though I personally couldn't perform a varied song based kind of set with my own music solely on my modular system, at least not the intentions in its recorded form. I could do improvised approximations, but would be limited to only two or three pieces. Most of it is far too densely layered and structured. I think there's always going to be a trade off with live performance of electronic music, the more complex and detailed the music is, the more difficult it then becomes to make a proper live performance of the music, at least as a solo performer.
Yes I know I'm generalising here and am aware that there are probably quite a few exceptions to these statements.


I don't think you are generalising, recreating studio music live has always been a problem since the dawn of the studio, I can remember seeing bands I liked in the 70's and being really disappointed when they didn't have all the nice effects on stage ! This has been solved a lot as time has gone buy, to the point now where more or less anything is possible on stage that you did in the studio, but........and this is where we part with progress, if like us you use old technology ! We are back in the 70's again !
And also, the music I want to make live is going to be a compromise and a cut down version of what I do here, sometimes as many as 70 audio tracks layered together, to produce a piece an hour long. That just isn't going to happen on stage.
I don't think using computers or tablets is "cheating" as someone here suggested, they are just other instruments, no one is saying that it's not "right" to use anything but a modular ! If a got a trombone player on stage to play with me would that be cheating ? No difference. If any piece of technology is capable of contributing to your modular set in ways the modular can't then fine, anything goes. But I suppose youmhave to draw the line, 50 loops of sampled modular on Ableton along with me just playing a melody is a bit questionable !

hihi
teezdalien
Navs wrote:
teezdalien, what role does the computer play in your set up?
l


Well for me it facillitates recording, tracking, mixing and post processing in most scenarios. Sometimes I'll use Kontakt or Alchemy if working with samples. I pretty much cut my teeth on software for making electronic music, but have shifted to hardware synths mostly because they're more inspiring.
To be honest I haven't done a great deal of live performance of my electronic music, but the few times I have, used a pretty simple set-up based around a laptop running ableton, a couple of controllers and a nord modular. The nord modular is also one of my favourite synths too. love
wsy
mousegarden wrote:
leeski wrote:
lots of musicians work and expand with the means they have.
Perhaps you need to think outside the box seriously, i just don't get it
Or know more of the box to expand and evolve ones self maybe nanners


I'm up against purely practical problems, I know what I want to do, and it will probably be a compromise, incorporating the modular with other things, as much I don't want do that.
My I pad seems to be a good candidate, and a good contrast to the modular, and what it can do, I have lots of different templates in Caustic, and that also has a built in modular, limited, but you can store sounds ! Also folks, I don't have a car right now, so small is beautiful....

Dead Banana


One thing to remember: It's poor showmanship to be up on stage 'performing' if that performance is
not visually distinguishable from checking Facebook.

- Bill
mousegarden
Navs wrote:
Yes, I think that's the question/ challenge: the modular as performance instrument.

I'm not anti-computer. But I'm interested in hearing the music that is made with the limitations, or possibilities, of the modular. When I use the Nord Modular, I patch it the same way I would the 'real' instrument.

teezdalien, what role does the computer play in your set up?

mousegarden, I think you are already nearing a workable concept: a 9U lets you build several voice/ story clusters which you can transition between. If you think ahead and are economical, you can also re-purpose modules rather than re-patch. Switches or mixers are good for this e.g. I have a white noise source and stream of pulses/ rhythm feeding a resonator/ filter. This gives me two completely different sounding voices.

Also, what's wrong with taking time to patch? It's all about the venue and event. I have set up my modular in a city garden for an arts festival and patched for 8 hours, taking breaks to chat, drink beer etc. The sound of little sine bubbles bouncing between two widely spaced speakers in the open air is glorious.

http://navsmodularlab.blogspot.de/2011/06/navs-live-48-stunden-neukoll n.html


Whatever suits, but I get really nervous at the thought of patching live, I like the thought of having more or less predictable results live, I'm not open to experiment when doing these types of pieces, they have set melodies, set rhythms, and set backing sounds. I know this is different from what a lot of people do with modular, but I approach playing live like a pop act would, I hate it when things go "wrong" or the fact that I may not be able to come up with a usable patch, I like to present a show, with predictable results on my behalf. That's not say that I don't like doing pure improvisation, and I appreciate unpredictability. But that's a different "act" not like this music. And this way of playing highlights things when they "go wrong" everyone knows.
I'm going to do the 9U thing, and supplement it with my I pad, that should give me enough flexibility hopefully, to perform at least three or four pieces without patching, and I can intersperse that with solo's on the pad...that's the idea anyway ! Dead Banana
mousegarden
wsy wrote:
One thing to remember: It's poor showmanship to be up on stage 'performing' if that performance is
not visually distinguishable from checking Facebook.

- Bill


You don't have to tell me, and don't worry, even if I use my I pad they'll be something else going on, like a nice comtroller or something, also convincing people you mean what you do, looking the part, there is a lot more to performing and playing than just the music, it's all a package, looks attitude, gestures, tons of it. And most of all detail, one thing that distinguishes a great performance from a mediocre one is detail, you might only use something once in a show, for a few seconds, but it can make or break peoples memories and perceptions of you. I can remember seeing Tom Waits and half way through a number he reached into his pocket and grabbed a handful of flour and threw it in the air, he never did it again, which only added to it's importance. I remember the concert exactly for that memory, sure, the music was great, but things like that underline a performance.
Using sounds like that can be just as effective, but it can come down to just taking off your jacket in the right place and wiping the sweat off your face.
And I don't care, no matter what form of live music you are involved in, at the end of the day you are an "entertainer"
mousegarden
[quote="mousegarden"]
wsy wrote:
One thing to remember: It's poor showmanship to be up on stage 'performing' if that performance is
not visually distinguishable from checking Facebook.

- Bill


You don't have to tell me, and don't worry, even if I use my I pad they'll be something else going on, like a nice comtroller or something, also convincing people you mean what you do, looking the part, there is a lot more to performing and playing than just the music, it's all a package, looks attitude, gestures, tons of it. And most of all detail, one thing that distinguishes a great performance from a mediocre one is detail, you might only use something once in a show, for a few seconds, but it can make or break peoples memories and perceptions of you. I can remember seeing Tom Waits and half way through a number he reached into his pocket and grabbed a handful of flour and threw it in the air, he never did it again, which only added to it's importance. I remember the concert exactly for that memory, sure, the music was great, but things like that underline a performance. Using sounds like that can be just as effective, but it can come down to just taking off your jacket in the right place and wiping the sweat off your face.
And I don't care, no matter what form of live music you are involved in, at the end of the day you are an "entertainer"
captjrab
It all depends on your mood, the audience and the venue. It doesnt take a complex patch to enjoy yourself and have others enjoy your set. There are basic and interseting patch ideas you can bang out with predictable results like a melodic sequence or a drum like beat. Maybe add a sampler to overlay another texture.
If you have other musicians, it takes a lot of the pressure off and you just find your place in the mix.
Easy.
mousegarden
captjrab wrote:
It all depends on your mood, the audience and the venue. It doesnt take a complex patch to enjoy yourself and have others enjoy your set. There are basic and interseting patch ideas you can bang out with predictable results like a melodic sequence or a drum like beat. Maybe add a sampler to overlay another texture.
If you have other musicians, it takes a lot of the pressure off and you just find your place in the mix.
Easy.


It's not as simple as that, and yes, it's great if you are part of a band, but that's a whole different ball game, to being a solo performer.
ersatzplanet
Foe me it depends on the type of music done with the rig. The more freeform it is the more you can get away with in a live situation. Building the patch is part of building the piece you are playing.

If the music is tonal based, more like "songs" that you want to re-create, you can do it the Kraftwerk way. Program the computer or MIDI sequencer to play MIDI boxes with the most basic of patches aboard them and then process them (using the multiple outs from the rack MIDI voices) through the modular. Then play the modular. If you parallel MIDI>CV converters with the MIDI instruments, you can use the gate outs from them to run modular EG and have a lot of things to play dynamically in a live situation all synch able to each other..

I do a variation of this myself where I use WAV players in my rig. I will use the whole rig to make very complex timbres and tonalities, burn them to media, play them from the WAV players (Nebulae, ADDAC and some custom modules) and modify the hell out of them live. A rig filled with filters, and wave shapers and VCA/ring modulators can really change the dense WAV files a lot. I think of them as custom wavetable VCOs at that point.

I have a couple of stereo WAV players I just made and am experimenting with putting loops on them made from Ableton with the loop panned to one side and a click pattern panned to the other side. Then the click side is ran through a envelope follower with a gate detection circuit which then provides a gate stream that is synced with the loop. No computer involved at all during playing. Envelope followers with gat detection have become a focus for me lately with the increased use of WAV players in my setup. Lots of fun and lots of ways to play with it live.
mousegarden
ersatzplanet wrote:
Foe me it depends on the type of music done with the rig. The more freeform it is the more you can get away with in a live situation. Building the patch is part of building the piece you are playing.

If the music is tonal based, more like "songs" that you want to re-create, you can do it the Kraftwerk way. Program the computer or MIDI sequencer to play MIDI boxes with the most basic of patches aboard them and then process them (using the multiple outs from the rack MIDI voices) through the modular. Then play the modular. If you parallel MIDI>CV converters with the MIDI instruments, you can use the gate outs from them to run modular EG and have a lot of things to play dynamically in a live situation all synch able to each other..

I do a variation of this myself where I use WAV players in my rig. I will use the whole rig to make very complex timbres and tonalities, burn them to media, play them from the WAV players (Nebulae, ADDAC and some custom modules) and modify the hell out of them live. A rig filled with filters, and wave shapers and VCA/ring modulators can really change the dense WAV files a lot. I think of them as custom wavetable VCOs at that point.

I have a couple of stereo WAV players I just made and am experimenting with putting loops on them made from Ableton with the loop panned to one side and a click pattern panned to the other side. Then the click side is ran through a envelope follower with a gate detection circuit which then provides a gate stream that is synced with the loop. No computer involved at all during playing. Envelope followers with gat detection have become a focus for me lately with the increased use of WAV players in my setup. Lots of fun and lots of ways to play with it live.


Thanks, but that just sounds like using the modular as a giant effects unit, manipulating audio files. Not the same as actually using it to generate the whole performance/sounds.
That's a valid way of working for some types of music, and a very safe way, but it's not only hardware intensive, but way too complicated for what I want to do, unfortunately Dead Banana
ersatzplanet
mousegarden wrote:

Thanks, but that just sounds like using the modular as a giant effects unit, manipulating audio files. Not the same as actually using it to generate the whole performance/sounds.
That's a valid way of working for some types of music, and a very safe way, but it's not only hardware intensive, but way too complicated for what I want to do, unfortunately Dead Banana


Basically, in the standard voice architecture, the sound is just an effects box after the VCO. I am just substituting the VCO with other things.Like I said, it all depends on the type of music you are going to make. If it is tonal music, the hard part live is setting up and tuning sequences and such. This eliminated that hard part and allows you still a lot to play and patch with with the core always being under control. With less tonal music, the sample playback as VCO method allows vor some very complex tonalities to be used with out a large amount of modules bur still allows you to be able to shape those sounds in dynamic enough ways to be sonically interesting in a live environment.

The only other solution is the use of programmers and the more the merrier. or the use of more equipment dedicated to patches from your setlist that are similar. This is why, back in the day, you had keyboard players with lots of keyboards around them. Some of that was just ego stroking but sometimes it was that they had patches built on different machines for different songs in their set list.

Another way is to play with a couple of other modular users and someone can always be patching up the next track while the others are playing.
mousegarden
ersatzplanet wrote:
mousegarden wrote:

Thanks, but that just sounds like using the modular as a giant effects unit, manipulating audio files. Not the same as actually using it to generate the whole performance/sounds.
That's a valid way of working for some types of music, and a very safe way, but it's not only hardware intensive, but way too complicated for what I want to do, unfortunately Dead Banana


Basically, in the standard voice architecture, the sound is just an effects box after the VCO. I am just substituting the VCO with other things.Like I said, it all depends on the type of music you are going to make. If it is tonal music, the hard part live is setting up and tuning sequences and such. This eliminated that hard part and allows you still a lot to play and patch with with the core always being under control. With less tonal music, the sample playback as VCO method allows vor some very complex tonalities to be used with out a large amount of modules bur still allows you to be able to shape those sounds in dynamic enough ways to be sonically interesting in a live environment.

The only other solution is the use of programmers and the more the merrier. or the use of more equipment dedicated to patches from your setlist that are similar. This is why, back in the day, you had keyboard players with lots of keyboards around them. Some of that was just ego stroking but sometimes it was that they had patches built on different machines for different songs in their set list.

Another way is to play with a couple of other modular users and someone can always be patching up the next track while the others are playing.


What you say reminds me very much of watching Cortinini live, I think he has a similar approach, very 70's, a different rig for each number.
My 9U solution is some way towards that, and still being portable, I can see your way, but it would mean a lot more stuff to carry around, in fact near impossible without some sort of transport.
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