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Live and let live...


DonaldM

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The thread in which guitarist Picker was asking for advice about how best to add back-up to his playing got me thinking about the whole issue of synths, sequencers and "live" performances. (Hence the bad pun for the subject of this thread). I'd be curious to know how many of you live performers out there use sequencers or loop players in your live performances? Is it still a "live" performance if some pre-sequenced stuff like loops or even arpeggios are thrown into the mix? If you have, say, a Yamaha Motif or Korg M3 in your set up and you use performance mode voices that include rhythms and arps, are you still performing live? Or is the real performance and musicianship in knowing how to play those arps and sequences?

 

As someone who has been playing around with synths for over 25 years, my contention has always been that technology, in whatever form, used to play music, is merely another instrument that a performer has at his/her disposal to create, play and perform music. The musicianship is knowing how to "play" the technology to create the exact performance you want. Think of performers like Jean Michael Jarre or Vangelis...they are masters at this.

 

So is it not a "live" performance just because the performer might be using a sequence, arp, loop or even an MP3 back-track?

Or are all these technologies another instrument the performer has to play to create a good performance?

 

I'd be interested in your thoughts.

 

(In the interests of full disclosure, I'll say again that I am not a professional musician, even though I've been playing music since I was a wee lad. While I have a professional studio here at home, it is, for me, a hobby and something I do because I love it. I haven't been paid to play since I was in college.)

There are 10 kinds of people in the world...those who can read binary, and those who can't.
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The worst aspect of pre-fab music is a lack of organic naturalness and interactivity. In that sense, nothing can really replace a real musician.

 

Still, it's a tool and the more control you have over the pieces of music you use in loops, back tracks, sequencers, etc., the more it's an extension of the actual musician.

 

I usually stay away from it in live performance, but I have used it in the past. It depends on the musical requirements of the moment.

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Laurie Anderson wouldn't have a career as a performance artist if she listened to opinions on this topic.

 

Her New England Synclaviar emualted everything from Kyotos to quite literally the Kitchen Sink.

 

In real life no one on this board would be busting her chops and telling here she owes live musicians a gig.

 

It's all performance. As long as the audience isn't deluded into thinking it is a live performance I'm happy.

 

Lip syncing has been around so long now that it's really just pissing in the wind to complain now. Now many bands acted out their parts on stage in front of television over the years? Countless bands that made the promo circuit on nationwide TV.

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as in every profession there are and have been cheaters, imitators and fakers - you can't do nothing about it, but you can practice more your artistry to stand out...

 

also, there is a stupid audience and there is an educated audience and I want only play for the latter.

 

 

On the other hand I don't see anything wrong with some small automation add-on while you still playing in real time because you don't want to bring all orchestra on the show.

I've seen Peter Gabriel concert that way and it was great.

 

 

 

♫♫♫ motif XS6, RD700GX
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Thumbs down. It's become de rigeur now, and frankliy I can see using something on that "one tune" simply because it doesn't warrant the expense or hassle of bringing extra musicians, gear, etc. But when your entire show is full of "those one tunes", it's deplorable.

 

I like LIVE music.

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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Musicians, artists, performers, etc., should use whatever works for their particular gig. The most important thing is the music and how it is received by the audience.

 

However, IMO, programmed music does not provide the spontaneity of using real musicians as SK mentioned above. Even the best programmed "live" rhythm section becomes stagnant afterwhile.

 

The age of musical perfection in a live setting (DATs, sequencers, lip synching, auto-tune, etc.) has resulted in a sterile listening experience which is cheapening music and has also led to market over-saturation i.e. using the same formula for every other "artist".

 

As a result, a lot of "live" music has a certain sameness to it. We are deprived of the group dynamics that could make for a better listening experience. There are no mistakes and/or "remix" on the spot.

 

I'm going to see Ahmad Jamal next month at a very small club in DC. I'll be close enough to see and hear every sharp and flat note he plays. If there is an mp3 player in his pocket and/or he even attempts to put it on top of the piano in order to trigger a rhythm section, it will be his last concert. :laugh:

 

As a tool, technology is fine. I use a sequencer as a recorder to mock up tunes. In the studio and onstage, my preference is a band of brothers i.e. fellow musos. :D:cool:

 

 

 

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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Thumbs down. It's become de rigeur now, and frankliy I can see using something on that "one tune" simply because it doesn't warrant the expense or hassle of bringing extra musicians, gear, etc. But when your entire show is full of "those one tunes", it's deplorable.

 

I like LIVE music.

 

But that's the whole point of my original question. What is exactly that constitutes "live" music? Does it mean that every sound heard by the audience has be generated live in the moment, or does it mean that everything the performer is doing is live at the moment, including triggering instruments that are electronic ones generating sequences and so forth?

 

What does, say, Vangelis do in a live concert? Or Jean Michael Jarre?

 

My position is that the electronics are themselves an additional instrument(s) that need to played in just the right way to acheive an excellent live performance. This includes the mixer, a computer or any other piece of digital hardware.

 

Even with synths in live performance, with certain types of sounds, especially the more ambient ones, the "notes" on the keyboard aren't so much notes as they are event triggers used to create the desired musical event. But all those ambient sounds are created off-stage -- for the most part, though can certainly be manipulated live. This is precisely what electic guitar players do with any effects they use. Sure the notes on the guitar are played live, but all those effects are added in with various foot switches, etc, at just the right moment, even though for the most part the parameters of those effects were set up off-stage. But would anyone say that that isn't a live performance, then? I doubt it.

 

I guess I don't see the difference between that, and a keyboardists introducing sequences, loops or arps into the performance. And if that also constitutes live performance, then where is the line between live and non-live?

There are 10 kinds of people in the world...those who can read binary, and those who can't.
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I guess I don't see the difference between that, and a keyboardists introducing sequences, loops or arps into the performance. And if that also constitutes live performance, then where is the line between live and non-live?

 

IMO, live elements are those things which can be played in real time on an acoustic instrument. For keyboardists, the litmus test comes down to piano. If the melody, harmony, sequences, loops and triggers can be reproduced there, they can go live. :)

 

Of course, that is an old school way of looking at the issue. Since technology has afforded musicians the capability of triggering sounds and events, it has caused the lines to blur. :cool:

 

 

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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It's hilarious that I was chided a bit as a youth for playing along with records (vinyl LPs) through the headphones. It's how I learned songs. Nowadays, we have "musicians" thinking that this is live performance? :D

 

When live performance includes sonic textures (waterfalls, surf, evolving timbres on synths, thick pads, etc.) I have no problem.

 

I draw the line at arps, loops, and sequences. Sorry, it's no different than me playing along with records. It may sound good to use these things, but it's 10 times more impressive when they are being played by musicians.

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As far as I am concerned, if it is sequenced, looped, etc it ain't live; it is canned. You might as well just have a DJ, or just play the demo on a synth and go sit down in the audience. If it is played by real people in the room on an instrument played as an instrument, in real time, then it is live. Just my 2 cents.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
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It may sound good to use these things, but it's 10 times more impressive when they are being played by musicians.

 

I agree it may be more impressive...but that really isn't the issue. The question is where is the line between live and non-live performance?

There are 10 kinds of people in the world...those who can read binary, and those who can't.
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As far as I am concerned, if it is sequenced, looped, etc it ain't live; it is canned. You might as well just have a DJ, or just play the demo on a synth and go sit down in the audience. If it is played by real people in the room on an instrument played as an instrument, in real time, then it is live. Just my 2 cents.

 

Okay. But then would you say that electric guitar players (or acoustic, for that matter) who use all those fancy foot-pedal effects boxes aren't playing live? I'd also be interested in hearing how you would define what a musical instrument is. If applied electronics don't qualify as being an instument, then where do synths fit in? Is it an instrument just because it has a keyboard on it?

 

Please understand, I'm not trying to be contentious here in any way. Rather, I'm trying to provoke a little thought and discussion on how we all view music and live performance and what exactly it is that constitutes that. My view is that the digital world in which we now live has changed a lot of the definitions.

 

There are 10 kinds of people in the world...those who can read binary, and those who can't.
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I'll throw this out: Ideas and personal style are what make a musician. I'd rather hear a great musician playing a weeny sounding patch on a synth than a bad musician on a Bosendorfer. The ideas and concepts are more important than the instrument, so that can also apply to so-called canned music.

 

Now I'll recuse myself from this thread, since I'm talking about a different type of music from what loops and sequencers are usually used for. Many people who are drawn to these things use them for a crutch rather than a tool. Interesting thread though.

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I'll throw this out: Ideas and personal style are what make a musician. I'd rather hear a great musician playing a weeny sounding patch on a synth than a bad musician on a Bosendorfer. The ideas and concepts are more important than the instrument, so that can also apply to so-called canned music.

 

Now I'll recuse myself from this thread, since I'm talking about a different type of music from what loops and sequencers are usually used for. Many people who are drawn to these things use them for a crutch rather than a tool. Interesting thread though.

 

I once heard a guy in a live performance use one of those cheap-o casio mini-keybaords that you can buy at a drug store. In the span of about a 5 minute piece he used every single sound and sequence loaded into the thing in what was a very original piece of music. Plugged into the massive sound system, it even sounded good.

 

I see no reason to recuse yourself, because what you are talking about is exactly on point.

There are 10 kinds of people in the world...those who can read binary, and those who can't.
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Donald, you're comparing apples to cardboard boxes.

 

A guitarist using FX pedals (Loop stations aside) and a keyboardist who plays synthesizers are not the same as someone using a sequencer and/or an mp3 player or pre-recorded material. Hitting "play" does not constitute live performance. Lip synching and dancing is performance art (thank you Madonna, Janet jackson, insert your favorite "artist" here), but it is NOT live music.

 

I would counter that what Jarre did (still does???) was interesting, and maybe even groundbreaking for its time, but on the whole, was more akin to performance art (especially since it was tied to visual presentation) than live music.

 

Playing guitar, and stepping on a delay, or a chorus, or a fuzz box or a harmonizer to color the sound is still live music; if the guitarist stops, so does everything else: he/she is still generating the material heard. A keyboardist who is playing a flute sound, or a brass sound is still playing that music. A musician is generating the notes, rhythm and harmony you're hearing in real time. Hitting "play" on the sequencer or the mp3 player or backing material while playing is NOT live music precisely because it's not being generated in real time.

 

Sorry.

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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It's all about how you use what you've got. Every performance/situation stands on its own.

 

People make general statements. That just won't work.

 

Consider the individual performance. Only then can you determine if it's good or if it's bad.

 

 

 

 

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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For one or two of the more contemporary, radio formatted songs in our set, we do use backing tracks from the CD (drums only, or drums + guitar if the guitarist isn't with us) played on a iPod.

 

We still play live instrumentation over it, including drums (the tracks are particular sounds that are critical to the sound of the song that we would not be able to pull off live without it). The set-up is bullet proof and easy to integrate.

 

That said, I personally believe that music is meant to be performed, and no two performances should ever be the same. The reason we do it is because the CD is in rotation and the expectation many times for R&B and some gospel, is to sound just like the CD.

 

We walk a fine line by fading the track out and then running with it and it is very much still a live performance because we are still performing the song with live musicians and singers. From that point on, we switch the vibe and mood up, therefore taking the song in whatever direction we feel and still keeping it unique.

Yamaha (Motif XS7, Motif 6, TX81Z), Korg (R3, Triton-R), Roland (XP-30, D-50, Juno 6, P-330). Novation A Station, Arturia Analog Experience Factory 32

 

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I agree this argument doesn't hold when playing the type of Karma or other Korg "pads", but frankly those are just sequencers, no matter how you rationalize them.

 

Then there's a huge fat gray area. Consider songs like the intro to Duran Duran's Rio - that super fast random arpegiation. Chick Corea could probably play that note for note without any technological assistance, but come on? So is that cheating? I say it's part of the sound. And when it comes to certain drum loops, the same holds true.

 

Ask Mike in keyboard has said that they run a good amount of backing tracks with Mariah Carey to compliment the already huge sound of the musicians on stage. Is that not a fully legit performance?

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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What's the difference between playing a song like the record or playing along with the record? Are the results that different? I suppose with the former you can said you DID it, but whoop-di-do. If you are a human sequencer what are you contributing to the music that's so damn critical? As far as I can see, little more than what the MIDI sequencer provides.

 

Yes, I would be disappointed seeing an MP3 player at an Ahmad Jamal concert. I would also be disappointed if his were up there playing on an FP7. I expect live performance on an acoustic grand. Anything less is a compromise. But we make compromises all the time when it comes to music. We accept digital recreations that don't sound all that great only because they're lightweight and convenient.

 

When I hear cover bands and the keyboard player is doing the brass and string parts they are almost always lacking, but it's not so much an issue of the sound as the articulation. Listen to sequences done on high-end arranger keyboards and they sound infinitely better. The problem is it's VERY difficult to recreate brass lines in realtime on a keyboard. Doing detailed sequencer programming will result in better sounding parts. You would have been better off sequencing.

 

A diskclavier playing back music on an acoustic grand isn't live music? Of course it is. It's not human generated but it is live none the less. Whether it's human generated or sequenced, the results are indistinguishable. Which is more "live", a diskclavier or a human playing on a digital piano? The former is filling the room with the unmistakable sound of an acoustic instrument. The latter is playing sounds that are sonic snapshots taken from the acoustic instrument but brought down to a stereo image, looped, stretched, compressed and played back on a couple of plastic-encased speakers.

 

In my neck of the woods there are two, very talented smooth jazz players (one sax the other guitar). They are fulltime, playing seven nights a week if they could. I play many of the same places they do but where I have a four piece they might be solo or have an aux player or two. Both use sequenced material all night and they both sound great. They size their band based on the establishment's budget. I would much rather listen to them fully sequenced any day, vs. let's say a 100% live "Sweet Home Alabama" outfit. But that's me.

 

My take is that you have a continuum with, let's say the Ahmad Jamal acoustic trio, on one end and sequenced, lip-synced, fully programmed stereo output on the other. When you introduce digital instruments you move down the continuum. An arranger keyboard moves you further down and further still is sequencing and MP3 playback of some of the performance. I just think it's arbitrary to draw a line and say THIS is the line between live and something else, between real and fake. Keith Jarrett would draw it at the acoustic trio. Others would allow digital instruments and so on. But it's just a line in the sand.

 

Busch.

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Ask Mike in keyboard has said that they run a good amount of backing tracks with Mariah Carey to compliment the already huge sound of the musicians on stage. Is that not a fully legit performance?

 

Exactly. I remember him telling of a situation where Madonna was going to do a TV show or something and instead of using all the behind-the-scenes sequenced/computer/automation she was just going to do it with live players. At the last minute she changed her mind and wanted full production. For her NOT using the backing material is a compromised sound.

 

But someone wants to employ the same approach at $100/night gig and it's somehow not legit.

 

Busch.

 

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I guess my question as an amateur would be....

 

Would we still have all the 80's music without synths and pre recorded and sequenced parts?

 

Did any of you like that stuff?

I did.

 

Duran-Duran comes to mind.

 

How about U-2 in the beginning of "With or Without you"?

Was that ever present triplet played by a back stage musician or was it sequenced?

 

If there were only X amount of musicians in a band, and to have more would either be impractical, not needed, or financially prohibitive...could you RECORD those parts and STACK them...present them LIVE while you were playing as well...and would it be musically acceptable?

 

I think if we were DJ's...and this is not an insult to DJ's, then maybe we should question out credibility to use such technology.

After all, they are a great aid in our creative and writing tasks.

 

But to not use the available technology along with our musicianship at our fingertips...would be a shame.

 

Randy

 

"Just play!"
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I guess my question as an amateur would be....

 

Would we still have all the 80's music without synths and pre recorded and sequenced parts?

 

Did any of you like that stuff?

I did.

 

Duran-Duran comes to mind.

 

 

Methinks that's what I just said. You're quite right.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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What's the difference between playing a song like the record or playing along with the record? Are the results that different? I suppose with the former you can said you DID it, but whoop-di-do. If you are a human sequencer what are you contributing to the music that's so damn critical? As far as I can see, little more than what the MIDI sequencer provides.

 

Using that logic, why would anyone ever attend a live performance of classical music? Since most of the literature has been recorded at one point or another, a live performance offers nothing of value. ;)

Reality is like the sun - you can block it out for a time but it ain't goin' away...
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Using that logic, why would anyone ever attend a live performance of classical music? Since most of the literature has been recorded at one point or another, a live performance offers nothing of value. ;)

 

True to a point. But we don't have recordings of Beethoven conducting the 5th. We have numerous interpretations of it. The performer/conductor can bring a lot of atristry to bare as they interpret the printed page. That's really the point. I don't, and never will understand the mindset of trying to reproduce EXACTLY a particular recording. We have the original recording, why do we need to hear it played again by lesser musicians?

 

Busch.

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Using that logic, why would anyone ever attend a live performance of classical music? Since most of the literature has been recorded at one point or another, a live performance offers nothing of value. ;)

 

This is an interesting point. What exactly is it we expect out of a live performance? Why do we go to one? We can hear the same music anytime we want to by playing the recording...and usually hear it better. So what is it about the live performance that grabs us? I don't care if its a symphony orchestra, a solo pianist or heavy metal...what is it about going that we love so much. I remember going to a Paul Simon concert once. It was awesome!! But I had heard every single song on the recordings and listened to them several times after...but nothing matched that magical moment in the concert. Why?

 

I think there's something that elevates us inside when we see and hear a performer take their music to a level we've never anticipated. I don't know if there's even a way to explain what happens in those moments. I felt that way when I recently went to see Celtic Women in concert. Sure, I've heard the recordings, but seeing them on that stage and witnessing the musicianship was amazing.

 

But is there any less musicianship involved if the performer incorporates electronic elements in their performance such as sequences, arps or effects? And can we not be just as elevated if its done right? I've never seen Vangelis live, but I can't help but think it would be an awesome experience, even though I'd know he was using sequences and arps and everything else.

 

To me, all those electronic extras we all use are just other instruments we play to create to our music. Am I wrong?

There are 10 kinds of people in the world...those who can read binary, and those who can't.
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But to not use the available technology along with our musicianship at our fingertips...would be a shame.

Randy

 

I totally agree!!! :thu:

There are 10 kinds of people in the world...those who can read binary, and those who can't.
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To me, all those electronic extras we all use are just other instruments we play to create to our music. Am I wrong?

 

I don't think its wrong at all.

 

I also think some people are assuming those that might use backing tracks, sequences and/or arps are pulling a Milli Vanilli on the listening audience. It's almost as if there is a feeling of an overall lack of musicianship present because of that factor, which is furthest from the truth.

Yamaha (Motif XS7, Motif 6, TX81Z), Korg (R3, Triton-R), Roland (XP-30, D-50, Juno 6, P-330). Novation A Station, Arturia Analog Experience Factory 32

 

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