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#2889470 - 11/10/17 03:20 AM Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop?
hag01 Offline
Member

Registered: 10/15/16
Posts: 18
So after months of hard searching, I've finally found a set of virtual instruments that cover most of the sounds I'll probably ever need in a live situation, including orchestral sounds, and all great sounding.
Virtual instruments usually created for studio usage and many times they arn't playbale on keys, the ones I've found was created for studio usage as well, but they are playbale on keys.

But before I'm deciding to go on the MIDI controller+laptop route instead of a keyboard workstation, I just want to clarify one thing:
How commonly do keyboardists perform with a laptop as their exclusive sound source this days?
I just want to be sure I'm doing something accepted in the mainstream of keyboardists, before I'm spending lots of money on virtual instruments.
I don't want to enter to a new band, and then they will look at me like I'm some kind of weirdo when I'll start to mess with my laptop in rehearsals.

Someone in some facebook group told me that keyboardists use virtual instruments live only for keyboard instruments sounds(i.e acoustic pianos, electric pianos, organs, etc...), but not for orchestral, strings, brass, accordion, guitars, and all other instruments...

And users of this forum who use a laptop as their only sound source live, please show yourselves.


Edited by hag01 (11/10/17 03:21 AM)

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#2889476 - 11/10/17 03:51 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: hag01]
Synthoid Offline
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Registered: 12/04/03
Posts: 9669
Loc: Pennsylvania, USA
Originally Posted By: hag01
And users of this forum who use a laptop as their only sound source live, please show yourselves.


That's illegal here in SE Pennsylvania... so, no. laugh
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#2889477 - 11/10/17 03:58 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Synthoid]
UnderGroundH Offline
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Registered: 02/19/06
Posts: 179
Loc: Keratsini, Hellas
Originally Posted By: Synthoid
Originally Posted By: hag01
And users of this forum who use a laptop as their only sound source live, please show yourselves.


That's illegal here in SE Pennsylvania... so, no. laugh



laugh
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#2889480 - 11/10/17 04:12 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: hag01]
JerryA Offline
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Registered: 08/02/00
Posts: 6971
Loc: New England
Originally Posted By: hag01
And users of this forum who use a laptop as their only sound source live, please show yourselves.


I think the consensus around here is that you should have a hardware backup, but it's ok to rely 100% on the soft-synths if you've ironed out the kinks carefully. You may get different results in different communities.

Originally Posted By: hag01
So after months of hard searching, I've finally found a set of virtual instruments that cover most of the sounds I'll probably ever need in a live situation, including orchestral sounds, and all great sounding.
Virtual instruments usually created for studio usage and many times they arn't playbale on keys, the ones I've found was created for studio usage as well, but they are playbale on keys.


Astute point. The "better" sounds don't always give a better outcome on stage. It depends on musical style, amplification, acoustics, the decibel levels, etc.

Originally Posted By: hag01
How commonly do keyboardists perform with a laptop as their exclusive sound source this days?
I just want to be sure I'm doing something accepted in the mainstream of keyboardists, before I'm spending lots of money on virtual instruments.
I don't want to enter to a new band, and then they will look at me like I'm some kind of weirdo when I'll start to mess with my laptop in rehearsals.

Someone in some facebook group told me that keyboardists use virtual instruments live only for keyboard instruments sounds(i.e acoustic pianos, electric pianos, organs, etc...), but not for orchestral, strings, brass, accordion, guitars, and all other instruments...


The question of whether a keyboardist should emulate other instruments is a completely different can of worms. The debates are in the history. The conservative position is to use our tools to emulate keyboard-ish instruments only. That still doesn't address the question of whether laptops are welcome on stage. I think, increasingly they are.

Some bands will not be used to laptops. It depends. For some, just the prospect of "adding" a keyboard player is a stretch. I've found that most bands are rationally conservative. If you can provide a higher level of sonics with no additional complexity (setup time, stage space, etc.) then you are fine playing whatever you want. thu

If you are adding complexity .... it depends. smile

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#2889482 - 11/10/17 04:19 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: hag01]
mcgoo Offline
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Registered: 11/03/07
Posts: 2271
Loc: Indianapolis
Originally Posted By: hag01
I just want to be sure I'm doing something accepted in the mainstream of keyboardists, before I'm spending lots of money on virtual instruments.
I don't want to enter to a new band, and then they will look at me like I'm some kind of weirdo when I'll start to mess with my laptop in rehearsals.


IMHO, those two points should be of absolutely no concern. Use whatever tools will best help you get the job done. Others will deal with it.

I've been gigging with a Laptop for 10 years. It's a love hate relationship. Awesome sounds & flexibility. Major time soak with programming. Pickup gigs where there's a lot of calling up things on the fly are much more difficult than a do it all ROMpler.

I usually have some type of fail-safe in case things go south. My SV-1 (which more often than not is triggering other stuff) can cover me if I need to reboot / reload for any reason.
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#2889487 - 11/10/17 05:02 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: mcgoo]
SteveQB Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/11/14
Posts: 192
Loc: Devon, UK
I have toyed with laptop and controller only rig but never went the whole hog. I have used a laptop as a sound source for many years, but in addition to hardware (either rack or more recently two boards with sounds inside).

I do this as: -
a) I have not been able to find all sounds I like (particularly piano) in VSTs.
b) I have redundancy
c) Most controllers have actions that I dont like
d) I prefer the immediacy of hardware sometimes for programming sounds
e) If we are jamming/learning new songs at practice its much quicker (for me at least) to dial in a sound on hardware
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#2889488 - 11/10/17 05:03 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: SteveQB]
SteveQB Offline
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Registered: 04/11/14
Posts: 192
Loc: Devon, UK
By the way EscapeRocks on here has an all VST rig and a all hardware rig for the same band and has posted on this subject
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#2889523 - 11/10/17 07:36 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: SteveQB]
AnotherScott Online   content
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Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 11211
Originally Posted By: SteveQB
a) I have not been able to find all sounds I like (particularly piano) in VSTs.

I'm surprised at piano in particular, as I thought that was one of the areas where VSTs could clearly be better. Is it a matter of the dynamic responsiveness? i.e. a piano sound in hardware comes kind of "pre-calibrated" for its own action, as opposed to having to find the right curve to trigger a VST that was not programmed with any specific action in mind?

I see you use NS2EX, and Nord are my favorite hardware pianos as well, but if I were gigging with a laptop, I think I'd be inclined to use my XLN Addictive Keys Studio Grand. I've never actually A/B'd the two from the same action, though.

Originally Posted By: SteveQB
c) Most controllers have actions that I dont like

Yeah, that can be an issue. Though the NS2EX piano actions (variations of TP40 and TP100) are at least closely approximated in the Studiologic SL88 Grand and Studio controllers. (Waterfall controllers seem to be extinct, though.)


Edited by AnotherScott (11/10/17 07:43 AM)
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#2889537 - 11/10/17 08:43 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: hag01]
Reezekeys Offline
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Registered: 02/07/11
Posts: 2177
Loc: NYC area
Originally Posted By: hag01
Someone in some facebook group told me that keyboardists use virtual instruments live only for keyboard instruments sounds(i.e acoustic pianos, electric pianos, organs, etc...), but not for orchestral, strings, brass, accordion, guitars, and all other instruments...


"Someone in some facebook group", now there's an authoritative source! smile

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#2889557 - 11/10/17 09:40 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Reezekeys]
Ed A. Offline
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Registered: 10/07/01
Posts: 1058
Loc: Connecticut,USA
Seems that virtual synths are good enough for Depeche Mode. They use Roland controllers playing MainStage for a large part of their setup (go to 10:42):





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#2889561 - 11/10/17 09:58 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Ed A.]
Reezekeys Offline
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Registered: 02/07/11
Posts: 2177
Loc: NYC area
Originally Posted By: Ed A.
Seems that virtual synths are good enough for Depeche Mode. They use Roland controllers playing MainStage for a large part of their setup

Not to nitpick but "playing" Mainstage doesn't necessarily mean they use the softsynths that come with MainStage. From the video it's clear they use a mixture of hardware and software. I was surprised to see the pure controllers they use are the A800 Pro's – I'm on my second one! I think the Dirty Loops keyboardist uses them too, if I'm correctly remembering what I saw on a video a while ago.

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#2889566 - 11/10/17 10:07 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Ed A.]
dongna Offline
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Registered: 12/21/05
Posts: 361
Originally Posted By: Ed A.
Seems that virtual synths are good enough for Depeche Mode.

Keep in mind bands on that level typically have multiple layers of redundancy to handle failures, and oftentimes a dedicated tech backstage to monitor things and switch sound sources over seamlessly as necessary... something the average weekend warrior probably won't have.

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#2889567 - 11/10/17 10:12 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Reezekeys]
ElmerJFudd Online   content
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Obviously musical styles and setlist are a major factor in choosing. If the objective is playing an instrument that just works with minimal lifting and setup time there's good reason to look for a do-it-all board. There's not much you can't cover with a two board rig in most classic styles - blues, jazz, classic rock, etc. It's the more modern stuff that ROMplers play catchup with - if you're doing EDM add current pop a computing device with lots of software instruments is a must. Not saying it's not great to pick and choose AU/VST stuff for pianos, organs, Rhodes etc. but it's a luxury and only worth it if you feel it is. As suggested many times before - as much resources need to go into amplification to get the most out of what you're playing with.
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#2889572 - 11/10/17 10:33 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: hag01]
Reezekeys Offline
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Registered: 02/07/11
Posts: 2177
Loc: NYC area
Originally Posted By: hag01
And users of this forum who use a laptop as their only sound source live, please show yourselves.

I started using laptop rigs 16 years ago. Went to a 100% laptop & softsynth rig a little over ten years ago.

Originally Posted By: hag01
Virtual instruments usually created for studio usage and many times they arn't playbale on keys, the ones I've found was created for studio usage as well, but they are playbale on keys.

In my experience, it's mostly the deeply sampled virtual instruments that use keyswitching to select different articulations or playing techniques that are harder to play live (I don't use those kind). The other issue I sometimes see is when there's ambience baked into the samples – that's usually OK for studio stuff but when you're playing live you're in an environment that's providing ambience. I use VIs that have mostly dry samples where I can control how much to add.

I disagree with the premise that VIs & samples might not work on a live gig just because they're in a laptop-based VI, versus what might be in the rom of a typical workstation keyboard. There is nothing inherent in the laptop-based rig that would support that idea. It's about the samples. Roland, Yamaha or Nord (or whoever) can optimize their sample set to sound how they like since they control what goes into the keyboard. With a laptop and VIs you're on your own to select from the many available plugins and their samples. Some might be better suited to studio use but there are plenty that sound great live and are just as playable (or maybe more so – since laptops let you use larger sample sets with more velocity switch points). This includes orchestral samples, guitars, brass, etc.

Originally Posted By: hag01
I just want to be sure I'm doing something accepted in the mainstream of keyboardists, before I'm spending lots of money on virtual instruments.
I don't want to enter to a new band, and then they will look at me like I'm some kind of weirdo when I'll start to mess with my laptop in rehearsals.

You should probably plan on showing up at a rehearsal or gig with your rig properly configured and the sounds you need easily accessible. Of course if you wind up stopping the rehearsal a lot and having to "mess" with your laptop it might not go over well with your bandmates. Just like a guitarist or bassist futzing with his amp too much, a singer messing with the eq on his mic too much, etc. IOW, don't be a pain in the ass! smile And yes, depending on the genre & type of gig, I do see quite a few laptops on the road. Issues about being "accepted" only because you use a laptop indicates a problem with the musicians you're playing with, not you.

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#2889582 - 11/10/17 11:22 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Reezekeys]
EscapeRocks Offline
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Registered: 08/12/03
Posts: 4395
Loc: Texas
My Mainstage/Hardware hybrid rig:

Arturia Keylab 61 Black Edition
Nektar Impact LX88+
Casio PX-5S



In the Rack:
Shure Wireless Ears TX and Wireless Mic RX
FCA1616 USB and Firewire Audio i/o
Samson SM-10 mixer
Rack input/output panel with :
Mic in and out
USB pass thru
Firewire pass thru
Mains L+R XLR out from mixer
Hardware board L+R input when needed.
Wireless Ear transmitter input.
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Gig Rig: Casio PX-5S | Arturia Keylab 61 | Roland Fantom X6 | Mainstage |


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#2889589 - 11/10/17 11:57 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: EscapeRocks]
SpPiano Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 03/24/13
Posts: 103
Loc: CT
I play live with a laptop a lot but always have a board that I can get through a gig with in the mix. Typically I'll use a Nord Stage 2ex 73 that is not controlling the computer at all and that's just covering bread and butter sounds (AP, EP, Clav, Organ, and very little synth work) as my bottom keyboard. I'll either bring a dedicated midi controller as a top board (novation sl mkii 61) or a hardware synth (midi'ed to the comp) and a novation launch control xl to control levels and change patches. I've found a hybrid setup to be a great blend of piece of mind, flexibility, and great sound. I've met people with great success doing midi controller only, but as Reezekeys said above "You should probably plan on showing up at a rehearsal or gig with your rig properly configured and the sounds you need easily accessible." You can setup your laptop rig to be whatever you want it to be, but you need to do the work ahead of time to make sure it's set up right.

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#2889617 - 11/10/17 01:25 PM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: SpPiano]
SteveQB Offline
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Registered: 04/11/14
Posts: 192
Loc: Devon, UK
AnotherScott - spot on re calibration and finding the right response curves. To be fair I haven’t tried for a number of years so things might have moved on but I could never get the response to feel right compared to hardware.
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#2889836 - 11/12/17 02:37 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: SteveQB]
hag01 Offline
Member

Registered: 10/15/16
Posts: 18
Originally Posted By: SteveQB
By the way EscapeRocks on here has an all VST rig and a all hardware rig for the same band and has posted on this subject


Can you put a link?

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#2889853 - 11/12/17 06:28 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: hag01]
MoodyBluesKeys Offline
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EscapeRocks answered three posts above yours in this thread.
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#2889886 - 11/12/17 09:47 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: MoodyBluesKeys]
hag01 Offline
Member

Registered: 10/15/16
Posts: 18
Originally Posted By: MoodyBluesKeys
EscapeRocks answered three posts above yours in this thread.


Sorry, my mistake.

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#2889889 - 11/12/17 09:54 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: hag01]
EscapeRocks Offline
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Registered: 08/12/03
Posts: 4395
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: hag01
Originally Posted By: SteveQB
By the way EscapeRocks on here has an all VST rig and a all hardware rig for the same band and has posted on this subject


Can you put a link?


In addition to what I posted above, as MBK said, here's the rig from last night in Austin, TX.

Pure Mainstage. No sounds from the PX5S:

Keylab61
PX5S
UR22 audio i/o


16 gigs now, with zero issues at all. Only problem I had was over the summer when I forgot my Macbook power supply. It was a long gig, and barely made it thru the gig.... had 1% battery at the end smile



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Gig Rig: Casio PX-5S | Arturia Keylab 61 | Roland Fantom X6 | Mainstage |


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#2889891 - 11/12/17 10:04 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: EscapeRocks]
ElmerJFudd Online   content
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And we've discussed heat before when using laptops outdoor in summer especially in direct sunlight. Solutions suggested have been using a laptop tent/dome ie. http://www.justgooutside.com
Also sitting the laptop on dry ice.
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#2890041 - 11/13/17 08:45 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: ElmerJFudd]
CaptainUnderpant Offline
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Registered: 06/15/12
Posts: 621
Loc: Long Beach, CA
100 percent VST. Small mini ITX form factor computer (smaller than a lunch box), with 32gb of ram, core i7 running catabile. Controlled by small 10" touch screen. Rock solid.

The idea of a redundant system is silly, unless you are a big act. Of course my computer could fail, but I am more likely to get a flat tire on the way to the gig, forget a cable, be vomiting with the flu or any other myriad of things that could go wrong where there is no redundancy in place.

I have followed a simple strategy. Use a dedicated computer built specifically for the purpose. Use a stable vst host and stable vst's. Have as much computer power as possible. Set up the computer for the specific purpose and pre load the entire set list.
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#2890049 - 11/13/17 09:23 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: CaptainUnderpant]
EscapeRocks Offline
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Registered: 08/12/03
Posts: 4395
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: CaptainUnderpant

I have followed a simple strategy. Use a dedicated computer built specifically for the purpose. Use a stable vst host and stable vst's. Have as much computer power as possible. Set up the computer for the specific purpose and pre load the entire set list.


This!

As you know, and I have chronicled here, I am "new" to using Mainstage/VST live, in comparison to most of you experienced people.

I followed what you mentioned above. My Macbook isn't that powerful as I save my pennies for a better machine.

As such, I took my time creating my concert in MS. I did testing, upon, testing, upon testing to find where the glitches would be.

Once I was satisfied, I did a debut run at a gig, using my hardware boards as controllers. My Fail Safe, just in case.

It went so well, I have never looked back.

It just takes preparation, and learning the limits of your machine and setup, regardless PC or Mac.

I had a gig last Saturday night in Austin.
I used only Mainstage sounds (Steinway)
Arturia (Prophet V and Jup8)
Syntronik (SY99 and MiniMoog)

In my band setting, it sounded fantastic.
The only error I had was caused by me hitting a wrong button on the PX5S that had a zone try to play an arpeggio. ooops.
I learned where the Panel Lock button was very quickly smile

I look at it this way: If a relative newcomer to the world of Laptop performance can figure it out, anyone can.
My takeaway in my never ending learning is patience is the key.

Also, take advantage of all the expertise you can find here and on some dedicated to VST performance sites.
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Gig Rig: Casio PX-5S | Arturia Keylab 61 | Roland Fantom X6 | Mainstage |


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#2890081 - 11/13/17 11:51 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: EscapeRocks]
Al Quinn Offline
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Registered: 08/13/14
Posts: 884
Loc: Center Moriches, NY
David, I'm glad the hear that it's working so well for you. Do you have any audio or video you can share?
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#2890094 - 11/13/17 12:56 PM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Al Quinn]
wcsound Offline
Member

Registered: 02/01/16
Posts: 3
So glad to see this thread at the top of the list on a first visit in a long time just for this subject.

I'm just making the transition. I've lugged this Kronos2-73 for the last time and frankly think Keyscape sounds especially blow it away and I'm just as happy with Omnisphere for the rest.

What I can't figure out is what to make my controller. My main concern is having a solid quality machine with really nice action and responsiveness and having to guess what keyboards might feel like from descriptions is really iffy. I also want 73/76.

On one hand I'm thinking it's not a bad idea to have the controller double as a lightweight good quality standalone like maybe the Roland VR730. Haven't played a Nord, but they're so expensive and so many models are organ focused which I don't need. Also want to stay current and have new tricks and capabilities and not buy anything old.

But then you're giving up really helpful sound access, control and settings save right in front of you like the Akai MPK 261 describes. But I'm reading very mixed interface stability reviews of that model and don't have a clue how it feels. Overall, it sure appears that the industry hasn't been so concerned with making quality construction and feel controller-only's for stage use yet. Am I wrong?

I'm using my sounds thru a Mac laptop with Yosemite 10.10 and Logic Pro X.

Any thoughts?
Thanks in advance.

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#2890105 - 11/13/17 01:56 PM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: EscapeRocks]
midinut Offline
Platinum Member

Registered: 08/18/03
Posts: 1427
Loc: North Carolina
Originally Posted By: EscapeRocks


Also, take advantage of all the expertise you can find here and on some dedicated to VST performance sites.



Agreed. This place is a wonderful resource and you have been a great help to me personally. Just out of curiosity, which other VST performance sites are you referring to? Just seeing if I'm missing anything out there.

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#2890108 - 11/13/17 02:04 PM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: wcsound]
midinut Offline
Platinum Member

Registered: 08/18/03
Posts: 1427
Loc: North Carolina
Originally Posted By: wcsound
So glad to see this thread at the top of the list on a first visit in a long time just for this subject.

I'm just making the transition. I've lugged this Kronos2-73 for the last time and frankly think Keyscape sounds especially blow it away and I'm just as happy with Omnisphere for the rest.

What I can't figure out is what to make my controller. My main concern is having a solid quality machine with really nice action and responsiveness and having to guess what keyboards might feel like from descriptions is really iffy. I also want 73/76.

On one hand I'm thinking it's not a bad idea to have the controller double as a lightweight good quality standalone like maybe the Roland VR730. Haven't played a Nord, but they're so expensive and so many models are organ focused which I don't need. Also want to stay current and have new tricks and capabilities and not buy anything old.

But then you're giving up really helpful sound access, control and settings save right in front of you like the Akai MPK 261 describes. But I'm reading very mixed interface stability reviews of that model and don't have a clue how it feels. Overall, it sure appears that the industry hasn't been so concerned with making quality construction and feel controller-only's for stage use yet. Am I wrong?

I'm using my sounds thru a Mac laptop with Yosemite 10.10 and Logic Pro X.

Any thoughts?
Thanks in advance.


Some controllers to look into (in no particular order):
* Arturia KeyLab 88
* M-Audio Keystation 88es
* Native Instruments Kontrol S88
* Akai makes an 88 in addition to the 61 you mention above
* Roland A88
* Studiologic makes some good controller

Sadly, I'm afraid there are not many (if any I'm aware of) 73/76 note controllers currently out there. There used to be a few. Yamaha had one IIRC. You could always use your Kronos 73 as a controller, but I am assuming you are tired of schlepping that around hence the post. I've got a Kronos 88 that stays at home for that same reason (and the fact that I want it to last a long time and can't afford to replace it).

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#2890138 - 11/13/17 04:29 PM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: midinut]
Al Coda Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 08/31/08
Posts: 3957
Loc: out in the sticks
Originally Posted By: midinut


Some controllers to look into (in no particular order):
* Arturia KeyLab 88
* M-Audio Keystation 88es
* Native Instruments Kontrol S88
* Akai makes an 88 in addition to the 61 you mention above
* Roland A88
* Studiologic makes some good controller


Donīt forget Physis Piano K4 and K5 masterkeyboard controllers.
Fatar TP40L in K4 or TP100 in K5.
K4 is 88 keys, K5 is 76.
MIDI functionality is excellent in sense of physical MIDI and USB (4 ports !) and count of pedal connectors as well.
Iīd say itīs the most advanced controller you can buy today.

I didnīt buy one because I didnīt want another weighted action in addition.
But when theyīd offer a 76 keys semi-weighted synth action (Fatar TP9S) controller,- Iīd buy it in a heartbeat, the thing replacing my Yammi KX76.

A.C.

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#2890140 - 11/13/17 05:20 PM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Al Coda]
wcsound Offline
Member

Registered: 02/01/16
Posts: 3
Thank you, there's quite a few I wasn't aware of. I will definitely check the suggestions in the last two posts. Forgot to mention I'm also hoping to keep it under 30 pounds, preferably even 25 or less. Can you believe how heavy every element of the rig used to be? Now I'm a woos.

Wondering if there's any opinions on the VR 730 too or any other lightweight Roland as a high quality controller and standalone synth. Relying on a computer without a net in a live situation still makes me a bit nervous. If I'm going to go that route, want something other than Korg too for the first time in a long time.

Thanks!


Edited by wcsound (11/13/17 05:20 PM)

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#2890146 - 11/13/17 06:42 PM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: wcsound]
AnotherScott Online   content
10k Club

Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 11211
Originally Posted By: wcsound
My main concern is having a solid quality machine with really nice action and responsiveness...I also want 73/76...I'm thinking it's not a bad idea to have the controller double as a lightweight good quality standalone like maybe the Roland VR730. Haven't played a Nord, but they're so expensive and so many models are organ focused which I don't need. Also want to...not buy anything old...I'm also hoping to keep it under 30 pounds, preferably even 25 or less..something other than Korg


7x keys, decent action, built-in sounds, current, under 30 lbs, non-Korg... The good thing about having lots of requirements is you'll have only a short list of possibilities to check out!

Roland VR730 - haven't played it, but so far, all of Roland's waterfall actions have felt good. More organ oriented than you need, but still has enough other stuff to be useful. Unfortunately a bit weak as a MIDI controller as its main tweaking controls, the drawbars, don't send MIDI CC (sysex only), and patch selection is a bit lame. Advanced synth editing requires iPad app.

Kurzweil Artis7 - some people really like the action, some find it too heavily sprung, but at the moment, syntaur has some replacement lighter springs in stock again. I have the lighter springs and like the action a lot. Lots of MIDI controller functionality. Good patch selection functionality, whether calling up internal or external sounds. A bit heavier then the other options here, but still under 30 lbs. Advanced synth editing requires Mac or Windows app, which I haven't really used and unfortunately has a reputation for being buggy.

Nord Stage 3 - yeah, pricey. But unlike the others, it has aftertouch, and a ton of real-time synth controls. I happen to really like the pitch stick for pitch bend, too. Nord SW actions have also generally been a bit heavily sprung so again you'll get some mixed opinions. MIDI and patch selection functions are fair... better than VR730, not as good as Kurzweil.

and maybe...
Super lightweight, under 20 lbs:
* Yamaha Piaggero (NP-V80 probably the best of the Piaggero options, note that its only MIDI connection is USB; minimal controls; action is borderline, better than most other cheap stuff, but not as good as the other stuff listed here, but then that's always somewhat subjective, too)
* Numa Compact 2 (88 keys, but still super light, nice action, plus it has aftertouch; some decent MIDI functionality but minimal controls)

Other lightweight 7x options that are too organ-oriented...
* Nord Electro 5D, Dexibel J7, Hammond SK1 don't even have pitch and mod controls
* Numa Organ has pitch/mod but no internal sounds at all except organ

I think the Artis7 is the pick of the litter, with your emphasis on using it as a MIDI controller.
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#2890157 - 11/13/17 08:47 PM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: AnotherScott]
wcsound Offline
Member

Registered: 02/01/16
Posts: 3
And there's the standalone list. That's awesome you knew what my request list boiled down to, saves me a lot more fishing time. Also thanks for the insights, really helpful to compare those functions between machines.

There's some things I didn't know existed. Took a quick peek at the Kurzweil and sounds, haven't checked out what they're up to for a while...Hmmm.....

Thanks all for narrowing down both sides of the field for me. Now it's going to be both easier and harder to choose, but just what I needed.

Best regards.

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#2890158 - 11/13/17 09:19 PM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Al Quinn]
EscapeRocks Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 08/12/03
Posts: 4395
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: Al Quinn
David, I'm glad the hear that it's working so well for you. Do you have any audio or video you can share?


Here's the intro from Don't Stop Believing.

Don't Stop on Soundcloud

I am using
  • Mainstage Steinway (EXS24)
  • Syntronik SY99 "FM Piano"
  • IK-Mulitmedia T-Racks EQ
  • BlueCat Audio Chorus

I used my PX5S as the controller keyboard.

Here's a quick clip of Faithfully my drummer took. The Piano you hear is just the Mainstage Steinway with the Tracks EQ





Edited by EscapeRocks (11/13/17 09:32 PM)
_________________________
David
Gig Rig: Casio PX-5S | Arturia Keylab 61 | Roland Fantom X6 | Mainstage |


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#2890165 - 11/14/17 02:56 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: EscapeRocks]
Markay Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 01/28/12
Posts: 2671
Loc: Australia
I'm amazed, that's a good sounding piano David. And little embarrassed, I ditched the EXS pianos back when MS 2.2 was fresh as I couldn't get the dynamics quite right.

Tried Sampltekk White Grand (nice Nord sound) but not optimized for EXS, then Pianoteq and been a happy camper ever since.
_________________________
MainStage | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P
"He helped me onto the bottom rung as a musician, from which, I might add, I never ascended" Glyn Johns - Sound Man

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#2890182 - 11/14/17 06:18 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: wcsound]
teashea Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 06/24/17
Posts: 51
I have been looking into the VR 730. It seems to have good sounds but there is too much menu diving and the construction of the top panel is plastic.

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#2890203 - 11/14/17 08:15 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: teashea]
ElmerJFudd Online   content
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 11/30/14
Posts: 5372
Loc: USA, greater NY area
They have to get the weight down somehow. There's only as much menu diving as you need during a set or tune. Changing a patch is button press, it has physical draw bars and knobs for the current patch's fx parameters. If you really need to dig, there's the iPad editor.
_________________________
Live: Yamaha S90ES, Roland VR-700
Home: Rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k

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#2890226 - 11/14/17 10:03 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: ElmerJFudd]
Iconoclast Online   content
Senior Member

Registered: 09/12/11
Posts: 365
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
My experience with the Mainstage/Logic pianos is they sound good but feel weird.

I use hardware keyboards for everything piano or EP. Just can't get past the feel!
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Forte7, XK3c, OB-6, Arturia Collection, Mainstage, MotionSound KBR3D. A bunch of MusicMan Guitars, Line6 stuff
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#2890227 - 11/14/17 10:09 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Iconoclast]
jeffinpghpa Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 05/22/07
Posts: 354
Loc: Charlotte, NC
I have done a "Rhodes Only" gig at my local watering hole jam using just my iPad with Neo Soul Keys Studio, my 17 lb. Roland FA-07 as a controller and the Korg plugKey to my iPad.

That's it... no internal sounds, nothing else. iPad and Neo Soul Keys.

Would I go on tour that way? No. But unless Steve Gadd calls, that ain't happening anyway....

Would I show up at a local gig and fire that up for the night? Yup. So easy. Sounds so good.
_________________________
Yamaha U1 Upright, Kurzweil Forte 7, Viscount Legend Live, Roland FA-07, Pair of QSC K10 Speakers, Allen & Heath Zed 10 Mixer

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#2890229 - 11/14/17 10:12 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: ElmerJFudd]
AnotherScott Online   content
10k Club

Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 11211
Originally Posted By: ElmerJFudd
There's only as much menu diving as you need during a set or tune. Changing a patch is button press

Patch change is one of my biggest issues with the VR09. It's not a button press (or even two) unless you only need access to a pretty small number of sounds.

Patches fall into two categories:

1) Stock sounds underneath the various tone select buttons (Piano, EP, Clav, Brass, Strings, etc.). Sometimes that gets you to the sound you want, but often, you'll need to scroll within the category (a kind of menu dive) to get to the sound you want. Disappointingly, you can't change which sound comes up by default when you hit the button.

2) Your own saved, customized patches. These get saved in registrations. You can get to 4 of these with a single button press, or 16 within two button presses. For more than 16, you have to use the scroll wheel, which is really awkward for live performance, especially with that large wheel that makes it tricky to move in small increments. And this kind of sound recall is a multi-step process, as you first have to use the wheel to scroll to the bank you want, and then use one of the four buttons to select a registration that was stored in that bank. You can't call these sounds up over MIDI, either, so there's no way around it.

So without real-time menu diving mid-performance, as I see it, you're basically limited to 16 custom stored sounds, plus the sounds under the category buttons, which will reset to factory default (likely often not the ones you want) every time you restart (so if you want those buttons to function as quick recall buttons for your favorites for each category, you'll have to start each gig by scrolling in order to place the desired sound under each button, and then hope there's no power glitch during the show, or else you'll have to do it again).
(ETA: I *think* it remembers the last sound you used in a category, until you power off. If not, even that trick wouldn't help, but I think it does.)

For such a live-oriented board, patch selection is surprisingly weak, and I think unnecessarily so, in that even within the limitations of the number/placement of buttons they are locked into, software changes could have yielded better patch selection options.


Edited by AnotherScott (11/14/17 10:19 AM)
_________________________
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#2890232 - 11/14/17 10:26 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Markay]
EscapeRocks Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 08/12/03
Posts: 4395
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: Markay
I'm amazed, that's a good sounding piano David. And little embarrassed, I ditched the EXS pianos back when MS 2.2 was fresh as I couldn't get the dynamics quite right.

Tried Sampltekk White Grand (nice Nord sound) but not optimized for EXS, then Pianoteq and been a happy camper ever since.



Thank you! Don't be embarrassed. It took me a very long time to dial in the Steinway, beginning wit the way the sustain pedal samples worked. They would darken the sound to a noticeable degree and I would lose my sonic place in the mix.


Once I found these third party effects like the IK EQ and the Blue Cat Chorus, I was able to dial in the EXS24 piano the way I needed it to sound. For Don't Stop, I added the Syntronik SY99 "FM Piano" sound just a bit to punch it up in that 80's way smile

I assigned a knob on my Arturia to the "wet" amount on the Blue Cat Chorus, so i can place it wherever I need it in real time.

FYI, using a bunch of Mainstage sounds is another way I keep CPU under control on my less than optimal Macbook.

I have found, as many here have, it's the Mainstage effects that blast our CPU usage. My third party effects play much nicer on my machine.


All in all; If I were using VST in a studio setting to track piano parts, sure, I'd love to have IvoryII or Keyscape, etc..
However, that's a ton of money to just be used in a band setting.
My $39 Mainstage is turning out to be more than a great value, the more I really dig into it.


Edited by EscapeRocks (11/14/17 10:34 AM)
_________________________
David
Gig Rig: Casio PX-5S | Arturia Keylab 61 | Roland Fantom X6 | Mainstage |


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#2890256 - 11/14/17 12:02 PM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: AnotherScott]
ElmerJFudd Online   content
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 11/30/14
Posts: 5372
Loc: USA, greater NY area
Originally Posted By: AnotherScott
Originally Posted By: ElmerJFudd
There's only as much menu diving as you need during a set or tune. Changing a patch is button press

Patch change is one of my biggest issues with the VR09. It's not a button press (or even two) unless you only need access to a pretty small number of sounds.

Patches fall into two categories:

1) Stock sounds underneath the various tone select buttons (Piano, EP, Clav, Brass, Strings, etc.). Sometimes that gets you to the sound you want, but often, you'll need to scroll within the category (a kind of menu dive) to get to the sound you want. Disappointingly, you can't change which sound comes up by default when you hit the button.

2) Your own saved, customized patches. These get saved in registrations. You can get to 4 of these with a single button press, or 16 within two button presses. For more than 16, you have to use the scroll wheel, which is really awkward for live performance, especially with that large wheel that makes it tricky to move in small increments. And this kind of sound recall is a multi-step process, as you first have to use the wheel to scroll to the bank you want, and then use one of the four buttons to select a registration that was stored in that bank. You can't call these sounds up over MIDI, either, so there's no way around it.

So without real-time menu diving mid-performance, as I see it, you're basically limited to 16 custom stored sounds, plus the sounds under the category buttons, which will reset to factory default (likely often not the ones you want) every time you restart (so if you want those buttons to function as quick recall buttons for your favorites for each category, you'll have to start each gig by scrolling in order to place the desired sound under each button, and then hope there's no power glitch during the show, or else you'll have to do it again).
(ETA: I *think* it remembers the last sound you used in a category, until you power off. If not, even that trick wouldn't help, but I think it does.)

For such a live-oriented board, patch selection is surprisingly weak, and I think unnecessarily so, in that even within the limitations of the number/placement of buttons they are locked into, software changes could have yielded better patch selection options.


Similar to my VR-700. I put all my patches for a set in a bank and punch through them with a button press. If the patch situation is elaborate, an iOS patch change app would definitely be welcome. But I bring two boards on gigs that require a lot of shinanigans. I guess the 09 and 730 need more buttons.
_________________________
Live: Yamaha S90ES, Roland VR-700
Home: Rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k

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#2890398 - 11/15/17 06:31 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: ElmerJFudd]
Red Ranger Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 03/22/15
Posts: 37
Loc: Central MA
Quote:

Similar to my VR-700. I put all my patches for a set in a bank and punch through them with a button press. If the patch situation is elaborate, an iOS patch change app would definitely be welcome. But I bring two boards on gigs that require a lot of shenanigans. I guess the 09 and 730 need more buttons.


That's basically how I use my VR-09, too. It means having a setlist and putting sounds in order before the show (which is a pain in the butt, but it gets me by). I change patches by hitting the "next" button. Roland would make me very happy and save a lot of time if PC messages would just call up the saved registrations.

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#2890410 - 11/15/17 06:53 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Red Ranger]
Red Ranger Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 03/22/15
Posts: 37
Loc: Central MA
And back to the original topic, I do use a laptop live but it's not my only sound engine. I've got a VR-09 on top and MOXF6 on the bottom (MOXF8 when space allows), hooked up to a MBP running Mainstage. I mostly use the sampler in Mainstage but the Alchemy synth comes in handy every now & then, too. My laptop is a well-worn 2010 model, so I don't rely solely on that for sounds (but knock on wood, no problems so far!)... I really like the MOXF to drive the laptop because of its built-in audio interface and controller capabilities. Wish it had a second set of outputs, though, to send a click to the drummer.

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#2890425 - 11/15/17 08:30 AM Re: Anyone here gigging with a MIDI controller+laptop? [Re: Red Ranger]
AnotherScott Online   content
10k Club

Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 11211
Originally Posted By: ElmerJFudd
Similar to my VR-700. I put all my patches for a set in a bank and punch through them with a button press.

VR700 was better because you could directly get to 64 sounds without scrolling (8 banks of 8), which is a whole lot more useful than 16 (4 banks of 4).

Originally Posted By: Red Ranger

That's basically how I use my VR-09, too. It means having a setlist and putting sounds in order before the show (which is a pain in the butt, but it gets me by). I change patches by hitting the "next" button.

which of course doesn't work for the many situations where people don't work from fixed set lists that are known ahead of time. But sure, for some players, that approach can work too.
_________________________
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