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Reflections after first live gig
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Play Out! Performance Modulars Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Reflections after first live gig
So I just did my first live "gig" last week, basically two "tracks", so really light weight there. However I felt really stressed out, especially going from track one to two, and I thought a lot about what could help in this area, but could use some input.

First some background: My music is generally quite "song-like" in structure, with A-part and B-part (maybe more), a clear melody, and I like strong, clear and abrupt transitions. I sequence from my BSP and when working on tracks at home I like to have additional "voices" going by the use of the turing machine, triggers, logic and quantizers. It works quite well when having the luxury of all the time I need at home, and I enjoy the challenge of not being able to just add more 100% precise layers (as when working in a DAW). However this means that to switch from one track to the next I need to re-patch quite alot, especially if the next track should start with all the new action in place.

I can see quite a few options that would help take some stress out of a live situation (more than one might apply):
1) Practice the re-patching as crazy
2) Accept that re-patching is part of the performance, so making tracks start with less, re-patch as the track evolve, and reply on two key "precise" tracks running from my BSP. This also includes accepting live performing has more focus on mangling the BSP, wiggling the rack, and giving up on some of the abrupt breaks and transitions
3) Add live keyboard (non-euro hardware) playing to the mix (I really want to do this anyhow, since I enjoy playing, and like the mix of something "human playing" and something "generated"). I don't see myself playing with one hand and re-patching with the other, though, so it's more a question of adding more variety to the sound and structure
4) Get an extra radio music to play some transitions while I re-patch for next track
5) Get more precise sequencing, either another BSP or something like a modcan touch sequencer
6) Rely on something pre-baked for some of the textures, either a radio music, loops from launchpad on the ipad or even getting a electribe
7) Maybe some switches might help, although I feel this would just be trying to avoid re-patching, and having to rely on what can actually be pre-patched, which (I fear) would mean locking down the system too much.

No matter what, I definitely need to practice the live aspect more, and would rather stay away from too much that's gonna feel like a backing track.

So very open ended question, actually more like reflections. But would really appreciate any input or experiences from people that have gone through a similar process.

NB: I'm pretty happy with my case, if not for the live challenge, I could actually stop where I am, maybe with a few additions.

NB2: Sounds are mixed externally on a 22 channel mixer.
oye that is tough, the transitions I mean, for some setups and depending how much you rely on the same machines but with different patches or sound settings.

I have a live radio gig coming up Sunday and always get a bit nervous but that's part of the deal I suppose. its never big fun to just play easy/premade stuff and avoid the hassle of really creating new on the fly. I squeak by with using several drum machines (Drumdokta2, TR-626, R-50e) and sequencers (SU700 & regelwerk) so that I can mix a handful of parts from one tune to the next as if I was DJing vinyl, it helps transitions and gives me a little more time to work up a new patch or dial in the settings for new sounds while the backbone beats get some airtime.
I have yet to do anything live and I always feed my euro through my daw buy I think it would be a really cool idea to make patching part of the show. Could make it entertaining for the audience and make it less stressful on yourself if patching can be shown as an art in itself instead of just prep for the next track.
Thanks for the input.

Yeah, that's something I didn't think about (if I understand you correctly): preparing the next track on unused parts of the system.

Re-reading my original post let me say that I'm not expecting anyone to just give me an easy solution. And I actually do have sort of a plan: practice as much as possible with what I have, trying out the different elements (live keyboards, patching while the music is running etc) and see what presents itself. I know it's alot about finding my way and balance in a live setting, getting some confidence and alot of hands-on experience with the modules I have.
However this means that to switch from one track to the next I need to re-patch quite alot, especially if the next track should start with all the new action in place.

I can see quite a few options that would help take some stress out of a live situation (more than one might apply):
1) Practice the re-patching as crazy

Erica synths patch matrix ,mod can touch for songs ,clouds for between song ambulance..
Chann3l wrote:
Could make it entertaining for the audience and make it less stressful on yourself if patching can be shown as an art in itself instead of just prep for the next track.

Yeah. After the first gig I felt like was trying to "hide" that aspect from the audience, which put alot of stress on me, and actually took alot of fun and opportunities out of the music.
The patching part is sort of like live coding and similar rules apply. Although patching is interesting for the audience to watch, this is still a concert and you can't stay quiet for far too long because those who are not interested in the patching will start talking, like, in 30 seconds, and that's going to kill the mood for eveyone.

On the other hand, you can't just play a sine tone (a common live coding mistake) as you build the rest of the patch that's going to modulate that sine tone into an amazing texture. That's almost worse than not making any sounds because it will fatigue the listener.

If you feel dirty playing back nothing but a backing track as you get ready for your next track, an interesting option is to have intermissions of semi-randomised textures. If it's a sine tone, set it to the root of the next song and have your VCA open and close at random intervals — something like striking the Optomix with the R-pulse of URA.

My favorite method is to find the common denominator between songs, come down from a track, and build up to the next one. You said you're playing more straight up songs so having no breaks might not go with that but you can find creative ways to simplify a patch before making it more complex without getting too avantgarde.
Interesting post to ponder for me. As someone who's played quite a lot of guitar and bass live, but is a recent inductee to the world of modular and have been wondering how it will work. I'm very OCD with having everything laid out *just* right so frantic patching in a live environment is kind of a terrifying thought!

I've only seen one mainly modular-based set in a live environment (Node) and I don't think that they count due to the sheer quantity of kit that they had pre-patched!
I really like option 4. Track 1 is prepatched. You play it, then cue up a track from your Radio Music (that you created on the modular, not an Aphex track) repatch and then fade back into Track 2. If the repatch doesn't take too long then you can riff over the Radio Music track.
I play live. With 6u euro. Its a tricky situation... Key for me is definitely ample control, so i use octatrack, keystep, faderfox, fh-1 all to give easy access to controls. Im super picky about being able to enjoy my own performances without stressing out, so im not into doing ANY patching on stage...

my trick to avoid this is to make sure all modular paths are easy to move from complex to simple. That includes the sequences, modulations, the actual voice, and the FX....i use a VCA Matrix to route lfos, CV, or really anything, and then i route to modules that have attenuators. And i also use a dubmix as a performace mixer. I always sing praise for VCA matrix for the level of complexity and control it adds simultaneously. It basically takes any rack or module to another level. My rack has migrated to larger modules mainly, because of the deeper range available typically and less cable clutter

... And then the octatrack we're not worthy
atte wrote:
4) Get an extra radio music to play some transitions while I re-patch for next track

Lots to ponder as I start thinking about live euro/modular performance again... But this statement actually makes me consider keeping the Radio Music I haven't quite found a good use for... hmmm.....
I don't know what your audience is expecting out of you or if you feel like you must meet some expectation, but if it were me, I would throw out all of that out the door and just patch, not giving .2 cents about what others think.
I like the idea of 2, but it needs to be interesting.

I haven't performed live with my modular (yet), but I have done live shows with a setup based around synths, a sampler and several performance controllers. One of the really useful bits of feedback i got from an audience member was that they liked seeing what I was doing - there were some periods where i was behind a console and they would have liked those bits to be visible as well as the more obvious 'performance' moments.

I guess one problem with Eurorack is the small scale factor. It would be cool to have a camera and a screen so that your patching could be made visible to the audience.
I'm gearing up for my second live modular performance on Thursday. While I'm not doing more than one "song" this time, I did last time.

I'm very much a planner, so I try to script out all the patch changes in advance. The key for me was identifying when certain elements of the patch weren't active and using the mid-song down time to repatch. I know it doesn't help with instant transitions, but it might reduce the overhead during the inevitable silence between songs. As I move to play longer sets, I know I'm going to have to work harder on this. Ideally, I would try to have common-ish voice sets in the synth to limit repatching.

The audience is likely more tolerant than you think they are - if you project calm and methodical vibes between songs, they'll wait for you.

My band always tried to make some sort of noise or loop for tuning breaks, which tended to work well. Looping delay pedal or the aforementioned sequence?
I'll add that double pole double throw switches work like gangbusters. I used them to great effect during my last set to switch CV and gate signals from my sequencer to my keyboard mid measure.
I've been thinking about this a bit myself. I Haven't done a live show yet, but it is in my future plans. My patches tend to be structured but layers build from beginning through multi-timbral and back down to one, two elements before they end.. My thinking is that one of the final textures (drone, or pulsing bass) could serve as a transition to the next track and then fade out as the components of the next track start to take shape.

I think that taking it slow is key. Let the piece evolve (through whatever structure you work with) and then devolve slowly. This is a live performance so it's totally feasible for a 4-5 min track to last 8-10 minutes as long as it can be kept interesting. Then a transition of a minute or so, to lead to the next track.

My plan is to include a drone track that includes two or three layers that leads to a rhythmic piece that would feature a voice that can be preset with a source module that is not used by the drone, or at least can be tuned the same as the drone piece... I don't want to duplicate too much in my rack, but I could see adding another braids as I use this in pretty much every patch as a featured voice. Having two of these would certainly make things more straight ahead...

just my random thoughts on this (future) adventure.. at least for me.
YES>. switch bank = mucho help!!
Have done almost a dozen gigs with the modular in the last year.

I also find it difficult to pull off re-patching/changing modes mid-show. Having a list written out of what I need to do helps. Almost like a setlist, heh. I try to fit 4-6 pieces within a 30 min set.

I've gotten better at it, but I'll still occasionally have a hiccup. Or in the case of a recent gig, a full-blown disaster. My MIDI to CV module reset on me and I didn't realize I needed to set the lowest MIDI note upon restart. My set featured a bunch of missing notes and triggers. I ultimately had to end up improvising, which wasn't bad, but it took me way too long to get comfortable.
Curious to hear if anyone's found MI Frames specifically helpful for these kinds of issues and tradeoffs, as it seems the promise is there.
This isn't the first time I've heard people talk about a radio music on transitions. That may be a good call.

I recently played in front of people for the first time. It was as mellow as it could possibly be, playing ambient for stoned hippies in the woods at a Burning Man regional, but it was still super stressful for me. The "hiding" the patching process and trying to hurry to give the audience something quickly sounds awfully familiar smile

Some things I wasn't ready for was how different everything sounded on a real sound system vs my home speaker setup. What sounded nice and clear at home turned into a muddy mess and I had to do some quick work to empty out some space in the low end. Also, as obvious as it should have been, I had a couple newish modules and my case layout wasn't as well laid out as it should have been. Next time I'll be much more deliberate about what I bring, what I leave at home, and how it's all organized.

There is a thread in "playing out" for folks looking to listen to modular ambient jams in the "bay area".. I think folks would love to know if you have a local gig.
Jumbuktu wrote:

I guess one problem with Eurorack is the small scale factor. It would be cool to have a camera and a screen so that your patching could be made visible to the audience.

Get a camera, screen, and LZX!!!!
Personally speaking, I approach playing live very differently than if I were to sit down and make a studio track with a blank patch.

Therefore, I try to get as much creative possibility as I can from one overall signal flow. Yes, it imposes artificial limits, but it also makes you think from a performance standpoint rather than trying to string along multiple completely disparate patching setups together into one performance.

I may move a couple of key cables around here and there, but it's pretty rare, and the rest is already patched and controlled by the initial signal flow/cv design and a few minimal routing options/controls.

This refers to #7 in your list - I suggest giving it a try from a completely blank state and see what you come up with.
I specifically use my Radio Music to provide transition, intro, and outro textures, which I make in the studio on the modular. Supremely convenient.

I don't repatch live because I'm still getting used to performing with a modular; maybe someday or on my smaller setup. Unless I'm consciously deciding to go only modular, I have an OP-1 on top of my case to enhance the level of visible-to-the-audience live performance, again to support transitions, and to add some richer harmonies from polyphony that my rig can't manage.

Also: Switches, switches, switches. I use small ones for chord and section progressions, and have a WMD SSM for re-routing without re-patching. I'm also super into the Studio Electronics Router module: 2hp, 2 channels of three-position (A/off/B) physical switches, cheap. I have two next to my Varigate 4 for drum mutes and effects re-routing.
This is one of the reasons I have three 42hp systems instead of one big system. Nothing is cross patched, so I can mix one box out and re-patch it while playing the others. But, my music lends itself to this process, yours may not.

Give a listen to some of prettyhowtown's (aka, John Noble) longer sets: He has two a half rows of ~120hp with some pedals, and can play decently long sets without re-patching.

I think the key is to rethink how a set works with a modular instrument, and to choose modules that allow you to blend to new ideas without stopping and re-patching. I used my three boxes to play a nearly three hour set at a festival this year and never once stopped the music. But, again, my music lends itself to that approach, and I'm not playing "songs" as much as improvising.

Just one man's perspective. thumbs up
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