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Deep-fried keyboard at Texas festival. Tips anyone?


Cadmann

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I just got back from the Gig From Hell, with my keyboard fried and my tail between my legs. I'm negotiating to get compensated for a steep repair bill estimate and could use advice from any road warriors who have been through this.

 

The sad details: We played the Tall City Blues Festival in Midland, Texas, a five hour drive from Fort Worth. I was able to find out they were providing only an old Alesis QS-8 for backline, which I figured would be OK for piano, but I haven't heard a dedicated piano yet that had a good organ/leslie sound (except maybe for the Nord Stage). So I brought my old Korg CX-3. Then the gas generator crapped out, knocking out my Korg and doing strange things to the Alesis. We had to drag our equipment in West Texas heat to the alternate stage (whose generator was fine). The Korg was still dead, and right away the Alesis started having problems -- the volume would go up and down and at times the piano sounded far away in a mist of reverb. Sometimes it went out of tune or out of key. It was a total humiliation in front of such a large crowd, except that maybe I was getting sympathy points because of the constant, dramatic scurrying of stage hands and sound guys around me. Finally, like a NASCAR pit crew, they brought in a Roland and swapped it out in under 60 seconds, and I was able to finish the final three or four songs in our 45-minute show.

 

The next day, all the musicians were invited to a jam in a (thankfully air-conditioned) community center before splitting town. And there was that Alesis, which froze me in my tracks. I wasn't going to play, but I got talked into it. The piano sounded fine at first, then it shifted keys on me! It took me a couple of bars to figure out it had transposed from E to F#. So for the next several songs, I'd play in a key until it started to sound bad, then I'd move up a whole step to where it sounded good, and play until it started sounding bad again, at which point I'd go back down a step. Nightmare weekend! Great seeing Midland in my rear view mirror. (No offense, Midland.)

 

Currently, I'm negotiating with the festival to get reimbursed for the damage, which a repair store estimated at nearly $800, to replace the motherboard. I'd appreciate any tips -- and other stories of nightmare festivals.

 

Thanks

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You might just have to chalk this one up to "just another bad gig on the road". The repair bill is probably more than the board is worth. And when you are playing gigs with generator supplied power anything can happen. We've all had a lot of the same sad story. I doubt whoever hired you is going to step up and pay for the repairs.
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As far as I know, the tuning on a digital keyboard can't really drift. It was probably the pitch wheel that was causing the problems. If it was a QS8.1, I'd say maybe the transpose button, but - if memory serves - the original QS8 didn't have one.

 

dB

 

 

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Likely the promoters did not supply the stage w/ a frequency regulated generator. Hammond organs and modern keyboards are very frequency sensitive.

 

All generators have a voltage regulator that sense voltage drop under load and allows the generator to speed up to provide the proper voltage. Music festivals and motion picture/video work require frequency regulated generators. These generators generally have a magnetic induction pickup (not unlike a hammond tonewheel) that sense the ring gear bumps on the flywheel. This breaks down 1 rpm into many small pulses. The governor reacts to a frequency fluctuation instantly and provides more or less rpm as necessary. Best known trade name is Barber Colman or Woodward. http://www.generatorservices.com/Generac_Electronic_Governor.pdf

 

Maybe something like the phrase "60hz +- .5hz frequency regulated generator" should be added to your rider. Some of you road dogs help me out here.

'58 B3; 145 gig Leslie; 50C Leslie converted to 147 out; Nord Electro 61; Oberheim OB3^2; Wurlitzer 200A; Ampeg Gemini II amp; Speakeasy Leslie preamp; QSC K-10
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You Should Have a UPS For All Outdoor Gigs!

 

I know it doesnt help now, but Ive recommended it before. Anytime youre in a situation where the power can be questionable, its worth the investment for a UPS. It gives you 2 minutes to power everything down which can save your butt, and in some instances, depending on the quality of the UPS, if you unplug all but the necessities, it might actually get you through the gig assuming you keep it charged up.

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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Thanks, tonysounds. I hadn't thought about a UPS before. I just did a quick search and saw a wide range of them, staring at $50 and going into the hundreds. What do you use, or how much horsepower do you recommend for the best value?

 

Unfortunately, I was the only one in the band who had anything turned on at the time the generator conked out. The singer/guitarist said he always unplugs his stuff after a sound check at these kinds of venues, just in case of such a power issue. Not the timeliest advice I ever got.

 

Also, to answer a previous post, I've actually gotten a verbal agreement to get reimbursed but that it might take a month or so because of all the post-festival financial issues they're supposedly dealing with. I'll take it. I just hope they "remember" that agreement when the time comes.

 

And to respond to an earlier post, I've pretty much decided to pocket the settlement and apply it toward a new keyboard, which puts some urgency on my 18-month research project on how to best overhaul my rig. I'd like to get a simple VST system with great piano and organ sounds (the VB3 sounds excellent on the website's audio demos). Maybe just one keyboard, so I need the 9 faders. Any thoughts on a good controller -- light weight and strikes a good balance between being useful for playing both piano and organ sounds? I haven't seen a VAX locally, but I'm sure there's no way I could spring for $3,000. And most of my playing is live, so I'd like to know what virtual pianos sound best through amps and PAs, with rare opportunities for stereo. I've been waiting around for well over a year for the V-Machine Version 2 to come out. The last time I got an email reply was in May, and they said it would be shipped by the end of that month. Bugs aside (since the V2 is supposed to be better), has anyone used the V-Machine's pianos live? Have you had luck installing better pianos within the CPU's limits? (Maybe I should start a different topic for this.)

 

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