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'I wish I had known...' Your first live Modular Performance?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Play Out! Performance Modulars  
Author 'I wish I had known...' Your first live Modular Performance?
Hey Friends,

I've got my first ever live performance as a solo modular synth situation. There's 4 artist improvising round robin style for 3 odd hours, vibing off each other and the venue. I'm super nervous, but I know my modular and the kind of patching I like to do well enough, that I feel prepared.

Anyway, any tips you wish you'd known before you had your first live appearance in a modular capacity?


Headphones for cuing/tuning (and the appropriate mixer [or whatever]) to tap into the signal pre-Master Output.

All the electrical and audio cables and adapters of which you could possibly imagine.

Power strips and extenders.

Kent wrote:
Headphones for cuing/tuning (and the appropriate mixer [or whatever]) to tap into the signal pre-Master Output.

All the electrical and audio cables and adapters of which you could possibly imagine.

Power strips and extenders.


Cheers for your input! smile The cue-ing and tuning bit is an issue for me. I'm aiming towards building myself a Befaco Hexmix and Hexpander, which will sort that out, but for now, it'll be attenuator and my Boss TU3 to the rescue razz
I left out the following:

Patch diagrams that are large and clear. Make sure that you've rehearsed using them in disassembly and reassembly. Leave as much pre-patched as possible and don't let the gig night be the first night you attempt re-patching your system and trying out your patch notation; what with the shit lighting, nervousness and constant interruptions by the romantically interested that will be certain to be throwing themselves at you like proverbial lemmings off of a cliff.

How about a wheeled case for all of the shit that you have to bring?

A flashlight

Make sure all phones, iPads, tasers are fully charged. Bring the chargers.

Hearing protection. It could be a long and loud night.

Fresh underwear, obviously, due what was mentioned above. And maybe another form of protection if the night ends up being even longer than just synth-nerd jams.
Miley Cyrus
Make sure it is all warmed up before you tune it.

That was a humbling experience when you give the bass player crap for not being in tune when its you.
This is non-modular specific, but you should have a gig bag. Some things I carried with me always:

Screwdriver with replaceable bit collection
Hex wrench set
Long 1/4" and XLR cables because you never know about the mixers
Bandaids and antibiotic ointment
Self-sticking roll of bandages
Duct tape and painter's tape
Electrical tape
Water bottle
Sharpies - Black and silver
A regular pen and pad of paper
Business cards or band equivalent
Roll of toilet paper
Power strip
Small tactical flashlight
Spare t-shirt
Whatever meds you take on a nightly basis, because who knows where you'll wake up (on the subject, condoms when I was single -- though I was a bass player, so it was usually unwarranted optimism...)
Spare house & car keys
Spare tubes for my amp
Spare strings for my bass
Spare strings for my fucking guitarist's guitars
An SM-58 mic (or whatever cheap mic you have laying around that could be shoved in front of the singer's face when he breaks the one he started with)
(No spare drumsticks, fuck that guy)
Sunscreen if you ever play outdoors
Fingernail clippers (once tore most of a nail off mid-set, it would have been way easier than scissors)
A couple of small candles
Protein bars or whatever high-calorie-dense food you like (nothing like blood sugar crashing mid-song)

This kit basically lived in my car, and fit into a small bag.

I'm sure I've forgotten some stuff as well, it was constantly evolving
If you are improvising have a watch. You will lose any sense of time and either finish too early, or the next artist will tell you to stop in the middle of your set.

I had my first gig 2 weeks ago. Planned to play for 40 minutes. Had no idea how much time passed, and ended after 25 minutes.
Only played one show with my modular so far, but I have another one coming up in a few weeks so I've trying to fool proof my setup. Having a mixer with cue functionalities is absolutely essential for me. Making sure everything is on pitch and all that BEFORE bringing it up in the mix. I like to start with an interesting sequence and then introduce mangled up samples from my G0 and then shift the focus to that. And then back. And so on and so forth. But without cue there would be a lot of live awkward pitching which is no good.

Actually one big mistake I made was not properly tuning my oscillators which lead to some awkward moments (AND my safety net of a bank of samples completely falling through as they were all in a certain pitch that I missed d'oh! ) so I'm definitely going to focus more on that in the future. Maybe even bring a guitar tuner!

My main philosophy is to have as many tricks up my sleeves as possible. Changing presets on braids, modulating the euclidean patterns from the disting, switching octaves, changing time signatures, etc etc. I don't like to hold on any one thing for too long.

And yeah of course, practice practice practice. As soon as I've decided on a patch, I set a 45 minute timer, and try to continiously make interesting noises until the timer's up! Recording your set is super helpful also.

Of course, I'm a huge noob at this so what do I know but I'm very excited about the future of performing with ELII (my expressive live improvisational instrument) Mr. Green
Label your cables. Just put a paper sticker on each end that tells what it connects to. For your patch cords, you can get cards of numbers—put matching numbers on each end and list them in your notes. This will take the panic out of the setup at the venue. Some folks use colored tape, but that can be hard to see in dim light.
I always improvise my sets, even when I plan not to, so my tips are catered to that. If you do plan patches, in addition to what others have mentioned, keep it simple. Think conceptually rather than details. Trying to recreate a complex patch when you’re on stage, in the dark and nervous is no fun.

My other advice if you’re improvising is to practice improvising. Create a patch, then think about how to turn the elements of that patch into a structure. Intuition takes practice!

I usually bring my gear into my living room the night before or day of the set, and set up there (not in my studio) to make sure you can do everything you want to do with what you’re carrying. Assume venue has a PA only, and bring everything you need otherwise (and then some)!

Break a leg!
No fackin worries, Have fun and JAM!!!
Bring a delay. Hit record 15 minutes before you play.
Really great tips, thank you everyone for sharing! smile My first gig went really well. Cannot wait for the next one!

[s] 22nd-march[/s]
Remember to hit "Record"
Ask what tables the venue provides for you and make sure you'll have enough space. Don't forget to provide enough light yourself so you won't have to wiggle in the dark. If possible bring some spare cables as backup or to borrow them to a fellow musician who forgot his/her own.
Pelsea wrote:
Label your cables.

I write my name on them for good reason hihi
R.U.Nuts wrote:
Don't forget to provide enough light yourself so you won't have to wiggle in the dark.

All of the above. I've started to write down performamce notes for my last few shows - basically steps of what I want to do during my set. When to bring things in and out, when to tweak what, when to loop this and that. Especially the last gig I did where I played a 45min solo set - I wanted to make sure the performance made musical sense from beginning to end.

I haven't gotten confident enough to do live-patching/re-patching, and so I'll try to have my patch developed a week or two before the show, and practice many times.

Haing a timer, big time. I'm always very respectful of the time that I was told I have on stage. I cannot stand acts (especially in free improv and experimental shows) that has no sense of playing way over their alloted time. It's disrespectful to the performers coming after you and to the organizers.

Finally, I got myself one of those music stand lights, because it really threw me off that the lighting on stage is completely different (and a lot darker) than playing at home.
All good tips above, thanks!

I finally got to perform yesterday. Labels were incredibly useful, because I had to un-patch a few things due to having two cases in my rig. I knew I could re-create the patch without any trouble because I had this safety net.

While things went very well overall, there are things that I wouldn't do next time. If you haven't tried or practiced something before, chances are that trying it live may ruin your set. Don't do it! Practice is everything.

I can't agree enough with bringing more than you need: more cables, more adapters, more everything. If you can.

Many performers point to the fact that you should always ignore mistakes and move on during a set, and this is so so true. Most people won't even notice them. You fix it and you roll with it!

I had a blast and can't wait to do more smile
Practice, practice, practice your patching so you don't fumble around going "why doesn't this work?!"
Just did my first gig that required a flight and an overnight stay, and have played live for a few years now, so: new learnings!
As others said, break it all down and set up and do an actual rehearsal at home, or in the hotel room, before you hit the stage. You'll learn so much from that process.

If possible, fly airlines with no weight restriction on carry on. I can't do the same show overseas because while the case is to spec size-wise, it's 2x the legal weight restriction.

In the US, the security people haven't cared at all about my Eurorack as carry-on, nor the audio devices in my backpack.

This stuff gets heavy. Without a rented car, my Eurorack system, merch, clothes, and such weighed 80 lbs, and having to even get to a curb with all that is a nightmare. Pack a collapsible luggage cart or bring at least 1 bag you can wheel (and probably only 1; trying to wheel one in each hand is maddening. Just my patch cables alone were two pounds!

Related: Lugging merch sucks.

One is none, two is one: If it's a make-or-break item and it's small, carry a spare. Especially patch cables!

Plug your stuff in as early as possible and let it stay on (especially y'all with analogue oscillators).

HIT RECORD. ASSUME NOTHING. Make sure the time indicator is ACTUALLY incrementing. Hainbach's tip of recording as early as is practical is super duper smart.

Charge all your batteries again. I know you just did it last night. Do it again.

Reheaaaaaarse. Hotel rooms are great for that! You're on the road away from your responsibilities; leave the phone off and get another full show rehearsal in.

Make checklists and live/die by them. I have one of James' awesome Lamp modules...and forgot all my lamps at home when I packed up the folding case. Having zero light source honestly almost totally screwed me.

Label everything, not just cables. My friggin' water bottle, drum machine, and PHONE are labeled.

Don't do ANYTHING in a hurry. I lost a Square card swiper because I just threw it in a pocket that other things came in and out of. Rehearse even how you'll transition from the merch table to the stage and back, and put everything it its right place (or you'll be sucking-on-a-le-mon #radiohead), no excuses.

Bring EVERYTHING that you need to get into the FOH mixer, including audio cables and a DI box...and your own power strip.

Bring water and a snack. I've never played a show where there's that awkward moment of, "Wait, we've blown right past dinner, we need to eat right before/after our set!" Don't let your personal needs go unmet, you'll be in a bad headspace, and nothing kills a vibe like a dehydration headache.


Your monitoring will suck, so be prepared. What that means for everyone is different. But just assume you won't be able to accurately hear what you're doing, even in a small coffee house gig.
noisejockey wrote:

Label everything, not just cables. My friggin' water bottle, drum machine, and PHONE are labeled.

Guessing you mean with your name, right? Cracks me up thinking your phone might just have a sticker on it that says "PHONE" hihi
breadman wrote:
noisejockey wrote:

Label everything, not just cables. My friggin' water bottle, drum machine, and PHONE are labeled.

Guessing you mean with your name, right? Cracks me up thinking your phone might just have a sticker on it that says "PHONE" hihi

lol lol lol

Email address and phone number. But all power leads are labeled on EACH END for what they go to.
My second modular live show, I saved 6hp next to my mixer and screwed in a handwritten list of the 8 inputs I had going. When I forgot my patches, which was inevitable, I didn’t have to trace the cables. Worked like a charm.
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