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Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by Xenogen, Jun 8, 2019.
Especially when you don't have to lug around and set up your own equipment
Rule #1: You don't have time for a backup plan when you're on stage. Just fake it and make it.
sure you could. if you are the non lazy/uber prepared type, you could have things ready to be up and running in a few minutes. keep in mind, it'd be easier and cheaper to have a backup laptop/interface than another amp or dedicated modeler
What would you do? Like, have anoter laptop/computer running with the exact same set up and just simply swap the guitar jack around if needed?
well, depending on how thorough you want to be, you could have more than one interface and 2 laptops... they either could both be running or just have one with an ssd for a quick bootup (also depends on if you're doing a backing track or other stuff besides just amp sim). you could sync them up if you are leaving both running for a quick swap with a cable, yes. would just take some research and learning, but it would be worth it if you wanna get smooth with it
I tried running a keyboard rig off a laptop a while ago. This laptop is about ten years old now and wasn't very reliable to begin with. The main issue I had was intermittent USB connections where my boards would just stop working until I rebooted ableton. Was not great.
That said, a local band I'm into (and many many many other musicians) run their sets and automation and stuff off a laptop (usually an mbp but I'm sure pcs would work too) so I think with the right machine you'd have a good time. I've often fantasized about running the entire band through an ableton live set for maximum automation.
So I've been interested in this since I'm running an industrial band. A laptop would help change the guitar and bass tones, the keyboards, backing tracks, as well as drum tones (my drummer uses an electric kit). I wondered how reliable it would be since the laptop would be running the whole show.
Then I saw a rig rundown on how an entire band runs all their stuff from a single rack case and decided to go that route.
Amp modelers and whatnot are essentially just computers but made for gigging and their dedicated function is sound so there's theoretically less to go wrong.
All you need is something simple like a helix or whatever, and one of those lil boxes that control everything via MIDI. It's durable, road worthy, and designed with shows in mind and does everything the laptop would have done.
Periphery use a MacBook Pro with all their click tracks, their bass track (since no Nolly live), and MIDI automation to push patch and parameter changes to their Axe FXs.
Devin Townsend does the same. Backing tracks, choirs and stuff, along with MIDI automation on a laptop.
Those aren't using amp sims, but the overall result is the same. Dead computer = no live gig happening. So it's certainly feasible.
Ola Englund mentioned that he is using a laptop with NeuralDSP Fortin Nameless for guitar clinics.
To be honest, I can't see a problem. A decent laptop is going to be just fine. As others said, prevent it from entering power saving mode, shutting down, installing updates, and other nonsense. Run just the software you need and have a backup.
In my experience (Mac with Logic), you don't just suddenly lose connections, have sudden crashes etc for no reason at all. If people want to naysay, amps also need wall power, tubes can break or dislodge, microphones get bumped etc. It's not like the alternatives are totally risk free. As for the "rigours" of touring, just place the laptop somewhere sensible and put it away into a padded bag. I can't see an issue.
I'm not really "naysaying" as much as, having gone the laptop route, not seeing the advantage over a purpose built device.
Computers have been a critical part of live music for years now, as they can perform tasks that once took multiple skilled people and even more specialized equipment. From light and stage control, to backing tracks/synths, to full band member replacement.
But I think the concept of "computer-as-amp" is more specific.
It's going to get a bit more expensive than just simply setting up a single laptop, power amp and a DI to stage monitors. I'd definitely do backing tracks on a separate laptop regardless.
The syncing up would be the more time-consuming bit, but it's definitely doable if you're using a separate dedicated laptop with a DAW playing your backing tracks. I imagine latency issues would really start to show if you're running all your VST chains and a DAW off of a single laptop.
More than ten years ago, this was an issue. But now, not so much with better technology, more stable operating systems and other general improvements. When I was playing live with my old band, we used Cubase 5, pre-rendered our backing tracks, sent click tracks to the drummer's wireless monitors and used the MIDI outputs of the audio interface for patch changes in our gear. When we finally understood what to do and what not to do (i.e. setting said laptop on top of a rumbling bass amp), it worked perfectly.
Every. Single. Show.
I wish I'd taken pictures of my own band's rig, then I could have shown you exactly the same thing. Laptop Draw, Audio Interface, Line 6 Helix, Power Amp, Wireless In-ear Monitoring Kit. Everything running from one rig. It is very satisfying to only have to wheel in one big tour rig into the venue instead of multiple pedal boards and amp heads.
Things don't even have to be durable as long as they're well protected inside a good rig.
"you don't just suddenly lose connections, have sudden crashes etc for no reason at all". - Yes. Yes yes, and yes. Mostly human error is to blame for these kinds of things happening. Albeit, some applications do have bad drivers (which can't be solved by a simple restart) and whatnot, but that's what Beta testing is for.
Just DO NOT (and I cannot mention this enough) put the laptop on top of a thundering bass amp, make sure what ever is running has enough CPU leeway and it'll all be fine.
I also agree with you that dedicated equipment is not without its own faults. If there's a power outage, everything goes down. No ifs, no buts.
I will tout that it's a lot cheaper. Why shell out around £1000 for a Helix or an Axe when you could build your own for ~ £250?
Also, you can customize it exactly to your liking. You can run absolutely anything in VST format with a VST Host or a DAW.
It's cheaper if you already have all the gear and prefer free/cheap VSTs.
With that concession, my Axe2 rig is cheaper because I already own it.
no, you can buy everything you need to be up and running for cheaper than if you bought a new high end modeler is the point. of course its cheaper if you already have it haha
Even cheaper than a Helix Stomp or FM3?
I'm genuinely asking. I'm assuming you'd need to grab a decent laptop and interface.
Back when I did it, it cost about $2k said and done, though I suppose good laptops were more expensive then.
yeah for sure! you can get used, decent older laptops all day long on ebay for 2-300 (even core2duo laptops can run a few vsts and daw just fine) and an interface can be had for as low as 40ish bucks or so. as far as software goes, you can get a lot of good legit free stuff and route them in the software as you please. cakewalk by bandlab is an awesome free daw that comes with a stripped down version of TH3 even. or just wait for your software of choice to go on sale. the biggest extra expense i suppose would be the time learning and figuring out everything.
actually, i just looked on ebay and you can get core i7 first gen laptops with plenty of ram for well under 200. just buy with paypal and look at the return policy listed by the seller and you'll be golden
You don't even need a laptop. Desktops are cheaper secondhand with monitor, keyboard and mouse. Hell, people throw away old desktops with core2duo and phenom processors now. Just check Craigslist or gumtree and you'll see what I mean.
Well, if you don't mind hauling a computer tower around that is definitely feasible. Would want to make sure everything in the tower is secured well though, obviously haha. I think I'd go laptop still, but I've seen people use a full desktop live a few times in my day
Seeing the 'desktop' suggestion come up, I figured it's worth mentioning that there is such a thing as rackmount computer cases, and even monitors that are built into rackmount drawers. My 'desktop' machine is in a 4-space rackmount case. In theory, that kind of setup would be more durable than a laptop. Heavier/bulkier than a laptop, though, to be sure, but it also allows for customization/expansion/etc that laptops are ill-equipped to provide.
Across the board, latency can be a concern, which can rule out most 'budget' interfaces, and one should also be very careful with USB/firewire/thunderbolt connections in a stage/road environment; those connections can come loose surprisingly easily (thanks, Chinese solderers?), and repairing a USB input - especially in a laptop - isn't nearly as easy as repairing a standard 1/4" audio jack.
I also think about how most of us would presumably be playing gigs in small venues, where the stages are hardly big enough for the band members and instruments, let alone trying to find a safe place to setup a computer/interface - especially in a spot that would be accessible enough to properly manage when/if something goes awry. As noted by others, setting a computer on top of speakers is a horrible idea.
I thought of Steph from Deftones, too, but IIRC, his NI Guitar Rig setup was relatively short-lived; replaced by an Axe FX II -- not to mention his pricey MIDI pedals, which leads me to another big consideration: Good MIDI pedals are rather expensive, they're a bugger to program, and - of great importance - not all VST parameters can be controlled by MIDI, anyway, so that's something one needs to consider from the outset.
I've been working on my rig (a blend of digital and analog) for over a decade, and it's still not 'there', yet. Granted, part of my setup is MIDI guitar, which adds a ton of wrinkles.
FWIW, I find I'm liking my Boss ES-5 (though wish I could have afforded the ES-8), as it allows for programmable control of both MIDI and analog stompboxes, and a couple of expression pedals (not included).
Finally, as a side, I'm throwing out an anti-recommendation for Rig Kontrol 3. I still use mine for lack of being able to afford another interface, but its inputs/outputs are of poor quality, definitely not up to the abuse they'd get in a stage environment. Hell, mine's never even been on stage, and the connections went bad, anyway.
TL;DR = There's a lot of moving parts. I personally don't think a $200 laptop paired with free DAW/VST's, a cheap interface, and a DI box, would cut the mustard for gigging, and that's before even getting into the World of MIDI control, which - honestly - is a whole other conversation.
Hauling a computer tower around like it's heavier than a Mesa Dual Rectifier or a Marshall JCM800.
"We can provide backline if you bring your own guitar amps"
Band turn up and proceed to slam a mammoth-sized mid-2000s computer tower on top of the cab.
while i see your point, it's still not nearly as convenient as just using a laptop. extra screen, keyboard n mouse and associated cords, place to set it all up etc. anyone willing to go that route, more power to them!
It's definitely not an undertaking for the faint of heart, that's for sure.
I, personally, (because I wouldn't give a crap about the value of the equipment anyway) would hot glue the USB cables into the ports.
On a serious note, I would stick everything inside a well protected rack-mount case anyway, where cables wouldn't become unplugged.
And it's true that not all VSTs accept MIDI controls, but all DAWs have MIDI controls that can be linked to specific parameters (i.e. Controller 1 could be linked to the Gain knob on a VST Guitar Amp).
Failing that, there's going to be a way to use a MIDI controller to change between pre-setup patches (or "chains" for a VST-related term).
There's always going to be a way to make it work somewhere along the lines.