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Upgrading everything, your input if you please


tdintbl

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First longwinded post, but this my pressing concern at the moment as an organist.

 

Right now I'm doing my homework on upgrading literally everything I use at a live show. In all cases I want your recommendations because in some areas I'm not even sure what to Google. In all cases I don't give a hoot about what can be sequenced in the studio, only what I do live on the fly. I'm not doing EDM or any such, but live rock and roll and expect to continue emulating Hammond, Mellotron, Vox, and Rhodes, while hopefully adding emulations of Clavinet, Wurlitzer, upright piano, pump organ, and... gah... synthesizers. (At the request of others, I hate synths!)

 

 

1. Software environment: The big important one, since it's been the most limiting. Up to date I've been using GarageBand as my live VST and other plugin environment. It's been ok. Now I need to upgrade.

 

This is the area I'm most unsure how to even go about Googling. I don't even know what this class of software is called.

 

My needs:

 

-Mac (not that I'm a fanatic, but it happens to be the laptop build I have.)

 

-Need to be able to handle all manner of VST, RTAS, AU, etc generators, everything from Gsi's vb3 to homemade soundfonts.

 

-Handle multiple control devices, and be smart enough to put them on same or separate channels depending on what preset or programs I'm running, which leads to...

 

-Able to recall entire multi-program presets and effects chains at the command of a button on my midi board. My inability to do this has been a source of contention in the band.

 

-Able to run professional level effects modules, I'm talking the VST stuff. The BIG point is to be able to map control surfaces on my boards (and any other thing I may have plugged in) to the individual parameters of these programs. This will open up a lot of sonic options in the live situation. The small point is that each program I'm running ought to have it's own effects chain before it gets dumped to the master bus.

 

 

 

2. Amplification: using a Crate FXT-120 has been really really terrible. I mean godawful. I mean arguments and drama in the band. I mean bleeding ears from it's sharp-stick-in-the-ear quality no matter what I do to its knobs. I mean unintelligible vocals because this amp turns everything in the room to mud. (Yes I understand it's a guitar amp but it's quite literally all I have.) The only thing it has handled pleasingly are MkII Violins (the CLASSIC Mellotron sound), which it gives a very early-60's and entirely un-prog-rock sound to.

 

 

 

Needs:

 

-The usual, clean, headroom, watts, bandwidth, fidelity. I don't mind weight, as I'm willing to shlep around Leslie cabinets and my Hammond A-100. (My band, however, is not.) I don't care about effects, or any other such icing on the cake.

 

 

 

3. Boards and controllers: Decided to take the step to twin 61-keyboards. Not set yet on having all my knobs and twiddly bits on the boards or have an additional controller for mapping to all the various things I may wish to tweak as part of my performance, I'll just let that one play itself out however it goes.

 

Needs:

 

-MUST BE RUGGED. I have actually destroyed one M-AUDIO Oxygen49 and my current Oxygen49 is on the way out. I have to open these up and solder in replacement parts every few weeks to keep these running. Why? I wail on my 375lbs. Hammond and it doesn't mind in the slightest. I do the same to my 3lbs. midiboards and things start snapping, solder joints break, controllers spaz out and never work right again, etc. I'm not going to change my playing style, so the board better take the abuse of Rock and Roll Hammonding!

 

-Must have exactly 9 assignable faders. Obviously these are my drawbars. Also need enough programable knobs and buttons to control Chorus/Vibrato, and the 4 percussion rocker tabs. The Oxygen49 has been great in this regard. I've actually discounted some very nice boards from my search because they stupidly only feature 8 faders.

 

-Able to switch from velocity sensitive to not and back depending on what preset is loaded. The Oxygen does not do this and it's just one more thing I have to manually change between presets that has been eating up time on stage, and puts me in a tizzy if a jam/improv happens with no warning, and those do.

 

-Able to summon full presets in my software environment, see the above section on host programs.

 

-Compact enough in design to be stackable in somewhat a Hammond like fashion. If it's off by an inch or so I won't complain.

 

-Nice enough action that when I do have to piano, I can. It doesn't need to be the end all in piano action, because I'm a rather lousy pianist.

 

-Has all the right control surfaces that I can expand into synthesizer playing, even if it is entirely grudgingly.

www.facebook.com/thelongblackveils Rock and Roll from Central California. Second album underway.

 

Hammond organs are my drug. Until I beg borrow or steal a Mellotron that is.

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I have a feeling you're going to get a lot of responses to your very detailed post. While I can't address all your points, I do have one recommendation:

Kurzweil PC3.

 

I, too, was looking for a master controller with 9 sliders for drawbars. I wanted to pair something with my Receptor, but the PC3 is so loaded with great sounds and a near perfect Hammond/Leslie that I don't use the Receptor. I have read often, in different keyboard forums, how well those two work together. Since the Receptor is a MIDI controlled machine, the PC3 may be worth looking into for your new rig. And their support is second to none.

 

Kurzweil makes it as a 61,76 and 88 key, and is now called a PC3K. The K means it has some sample loading/playback capability.

 

I believe it can be programmed to send multiple MIDI messages on all 16 channels for every SetUp/Multi. It's a very complex machine that I don't exploit to the fullest. I'm in a classic rock/almost-cover band and I play no more than 3 or 4 instruments per song - 80%= 1 instrument, 15%= 2 instruments, 5%= 3 or more. (Did a spreadsheet of our song list.)

 

Your goals are so concrete that I believe you will be successful in building your rig, assuming you have gobs of money.

 

Good luck.

 

Kurzweil PC3-76
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For software, I think you want Mainstage.

 

For controller, everything is a compromise.

 

Can you elaborate on what you mean by stackable? Do you mean you are looking to get a pair of them to try to simulate a 2-manual organ?

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Welcome to the forum! I went through a similar upgrade recently, and I posted about the details here.

 

Mainstage is probably the host software you are looking for, though it does not host anything but AU's, otherwise I think it fits all your needs. In a previous setup, I used Brainspawn Forte on a PC laptop, and both Mainstage and Forte have their strengths and weaknesses.

 

I highly, highly recommend having using keyboards with internal sounds you can use if/when the laptop has issues. I use a Kurzweil SP4-7 as my bottom board, and if the computer fails, it's just a matter of unmuting a few channels on my mixer to switch over to the Kurzweil sounds. The timbres I get from the computer are way better, and way easier to customize on a song by song basis, but it's better to have a decent sound you can play than none at all while you wait for the computer to reboot.

 

For sound sources, I use a lot of sounds from Native Instruments Komplete, this gives you the Scarbee Rhodes, Wurly and clav sounds. For 'Tron, I use a Kontakt Sample set I bought from Hollow Sun. For B3, I use the XK-1 through a Ventilator, though I use VB3 for recording a lot.

Turn up the speaker

Hop, flop, squawk

It's a keeper

-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow

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+ 1 for Mainstage. It's very practical and does everything will need plus more with it's internal libraries. It wouldn't hurt to add some extra VSTs though (Pianoteq, Scarbee Rhodes/Wurlie, Aturia Minimoog, are some of them i use...)

As for controllers... good luck

Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
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You didn't give a budget. Also part of any answer I would base on whether you need fly. I will ignore budget some what and assume you are traveling by highway.

 

If you are an organist first and are sold on VB3 I would consider and integrated hardware solution and look at the Mojo for organ. I like the idea of the Kurz PC3 as a controller/ synth.

 

For a computer platform I would go to someone like Studio Cat and have them put together a dedicated machine in a rack case and let them deal with getting all that computer bullshit to work. I like them because they know a whole lot more about that stuff than I do. LOL.

 

But if you need to fly a lot then a dedicated laptop may be way better. I dont use computers live.

 

Amplification - pretty much anything will be an improvement. Get a pair of powered speakers with good headroom and fidelity and choose the right mixer fir your needs. Something you can rack and have ready to run with all the IO on the front of the rack or prewired to a rack panel.

 

Just a Kurz and Mojo alone is tons of sonic power. .... But I'm an old fart who really likes hardware live.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Get a pro synth as a controller. Something solid from Yamaha, Korg, Roland..

 

Maybe a MOX6

Easier said than done. MOX6 does not have 9 sliders. No Yamaha does.

 

No Roland has 9 sliders except for the VR-09 and VR-700... but their 9 sliders don't send MIDI CC.

 

The only Korg with 9 sliders is the Kronos.

 

One thing that might open up more options is to add an Ocean Beach DB-1 drawbar unit to whatever he gets.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Welcome Sean!! :thu:

 

First, get a professional keyboard with onboard sounds that will be central to your rig and build out from there. It's insurance for when the computer(s) crash. I'd consider PC3K, only because a lot of what you are playing (including mellotrons) have been lovingly sampled by third parties.

 

Next, ... not sure if you will like switching to high fidelity powered speakers from a guitar amp (Crate though it is), but try different stuff out after you get your next instrument. (One step at a time) You may find that you want a decent guitar amp and powered monitors, for different sounds. I do.

 

Lastly, I'd go back to the laptop/plugin picture and fill in any gaps. Eventually, you might go completely virtual, but get some decent hardware into your rig first.

 

This is a great community with lots of experience for the questions you are asking. Good luck. :)

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Despite saying that hardware is more important than software for you right now ...

 

Speaking of organ plugins, the most popular solution around here has been VB3, which works very well for me. Sonically, amongst the best. The 32bit stand alone version is fine, but there isn't a 64 bit one to work nicely within mainstage. Yet.

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I agree with everyone who says that the Kurzweil PC3 series makes for a great 9-slider controller. To me the issue would be with the action. OP is primarily an organ player, which I think makes the PC3K6 clearly the best model in that respect, but that action is so poor for piano.

 

Also, since he was talking about M-Audio Oxygens, everything that has been mentioned could be way more expensive than what he's thinking about! If he's just looking for an inexpensive controller with 9 sliders, better than the M-Audio, I'd look at Arturia, which also comes with some nice synth software.

 

The Casio XW-P1 also makes for a decent 9-slider controller.

 

Getting back to the difficulty of finding boards with 9 sliders, besides the Ocean Beach device I mentioned, especially since he'll be using it with a computer, there's also the old version of the Korg NanoKontrol, that provided 9 sliders... plus a whole bunch of buttons and knobs. Musiciansfriend still has them, a handy little device for $60. If you don't need the sliders built into the keyboard itself, that opens up a lot more possibilities.

 

I'd still like to hear some clarification on his need for stackability. What will he be putting under or over it, or is he looking to buy a pair of boards and stack them? If the latter, it might make sense to get two different boards.

 

But getting back to ideal scenarios, ignoring budget... If he is looking to do double manual work, the best solution might be the Hammond XK-3C with its optional lower manual, if that action is at all acceptable for piano (I haven't tried it). Decent MIDI controller functionality, comes closest to duplicating his A100 aesthetically, provides a surface for additional control devices if needed. The lower cost double manuals (SK2, c2D, Mojo) might also work, though with some trade-offs.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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It is amazing to me that the 9 faders on the VR-09 don't send MIDI... But you would not want to use that as a controller anyway as the keyboard feels very cheap (IMHO).

 

I agree with AnotherScott, the XK3c would be ideal.

'55 and '59 B3's; Leslies 147, 122, 21H; MODX 7+; NUMA Piano X 88; Motif XS7; Mellotrons M300 and M400; Wurlitzer 200; Gibson G101; Vox Continental; Mojo 61; Launchkey 88 Mk III; Korg Module

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I almost suggested the XK3c. That is what I use as my synth controller. But if he wants to run VB3 and do a bunch of other stuff the XK starts getting really clumsy when when you have to set up a bunch of different performance setups. I don't use very many so I can do what I need and assign them to reversed preset keys. I only have 3 synths setups I use a night from the Hammond.

 

I would still go with the Kurz over the Hammond with a clone with the Mojo as a VB3 organ. If you don't want to pay the coin for the Kurz and go all software then I would be looking at the Studiologic VMK-161 Organ controller.

 

Studiologic Controller

 

 

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Do you need 9 sliders because you need a backup organ, or are you planning on ditching your organ?

 

I'm quite happy to consider my VR-09 as a backup organ and rehearsal organ. I think I'll even gig it if there are too many stairs at the venue.

 

I played a Kurweil PC3 the other day. You might like it. It has nine sliders and a "better" action than the VR-09. I think it had lippy keys, though. I remember thinking it was not good enough to use as a gig-backup organ, though...not because of the sound, but because of the user interface.

Hammond: L111, M100, M3, BC, CV, Franken CV, A100, D152, C3, B3

Leslie: 710, 760, 51C, 147, 145, 122, 22H, 31H

Yamaha: CP4, DGX-620, DX7II-FD-E!, PF85, DX9

Roland: VR-09, RD-800

 

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I think he needs an organ. It sounds like his bandmates have said we aint carrying that big ******* anymore. LOL!

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I can move my split L111 anywhere I don't have to traverse more than three stairs. I spent a lot of time practicing how to do this easily. I can even get into my van without ramps now.

 

How many stairs can a solo person cross with a B cabinet on ROKs? I'm sure you can do one, probably two.

 

My major problem is stages. If the stage is more than knee-high I'm requiring assistance for a few moments. And I don't like that. I need to be completely independent. I'm glad I have the VR-09 as an alternative now, but I really wish I could just afford roadies :D

 

(I actually briefly toyed with replacing the spinet with the VR-09, but after playing the clonewheel for a week and then sitting down next to my organ + leslie....it just sounded too good to ditch)

 

Wes

Hammond: L111, M100, M3, BC, CV, Franken CV, A100, D152, C3, B3

Leslie: 710, 760, 51C, 147, 145, 122, 22H, 31H

Yamaha: CP4, DGX-620, DX7II-FD-E!, PF85, DX9

Roland: VR-09, RD-800

 

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Yeah but that was a VR-09. :D

 

It depends on what kind of gigs you play. I leave my consoles at home. It just isn't worth it. At least 80% of the gigs present challenges. Here is the setup for last saturday's gig. There was probably 6 stairs on the backside on the stage. The Leslie wasn't a problem but carrying a console is needless suckatude.

 

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y70/CEB2/Downtown_zpsb912d7a4.jpg

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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3 days, where's the OP?

 

Anyway, it's all about budget. A dual keyboard pro rig including good speakers starts at 5 G's new and could be double that. Used maybe 3-6.

 

I also have a PC3 and a Barbetta 41c. The Kurz new is about $2,500 and the Barbetta about $8-900. That's one keyboard and one good amp. An organ board like the SK another 2 grand new or the new XKc basic one is around a grand or maybe $1,200.

 

If this is too much then all this is a waste of time.

 

Also, the idea of basing a pro rig on elcheapo plastic controllers is a joke. Using a pro keyboard like a Kurz as a controller ok but then why bother with software? A PC3 is a killer keyboard. People can and do pick it apart but overall it's one of the best.

 

I've said this many times, don't be fooled by how great a software synth sounds at home in your studio going through great monitor speakers. On stage at a gig using who knows what PA with all the ambient noise, people talking and all that, a good pro keyboard is plenty good enough. Even the best powered stage speakers are not high fidelity like studio monitors are. Those subleties coming from some awesome VST you listen to at home is lost. I don't know how many concerts I've seen where guys are simply using the big 4, Kurz, Yamaha, Roland and Korg and lately the Hammond or Nords for organ. Very few bother with controllers and software in a live show except for maybe one or two tunes where the guy needs to reproduce some specific synth sound off his own record. Can it be done, of course it can but you have to be some kind of ubernerd computer and midi expert to pull it off. And to quote a line from one of my favorite old movies Tremors, "The possibilites for disaster boggles the mind".

 

Bob

Hammond SK1, Mojo 61, Kurzweil PC3, Korg Pa3x, Roland FA06, Band in a Box, Real Band, Studio One, too much stuff...
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OP is back. Been gone due to quite a few MAJOR problems coming within these last 3 days. Rehearsal space issue out of NOWHERE. Car transmission is toast. Job problems. Quite more important than my long term keyboard schemes.

 

I am very pleasantly surprised by the quantity and quality of responses. This has not been my usual experience. I've read through all your responses. Briefly. I saw some repeated recommendations, but I'll be Googling them all. I'll try to respond to some things right now.

 

Good point about having a controller that supplies the sounds, as a backup.

 

VB3 is my Hammond. (My actual Hammond I am refurbishing the electronics as I have the money and, tonally, it's not quite ready for primetime yet. Soon.)

 

Mellotron I use a combination of M-Tron and, more often, a set of samples taken from a well maintained MkII by a friend of a friend. I defy anyone to tell the difference by listening. (Sorry, the Mellotron community can get very divided over samples vs using the unit live. An argument for people with the luxury to own one I guess.)

 

Rhodes I use MrRay73 (same people as VB3) and it's great. I also own a Rhodes MkI 88 stage model. It's seen better days for sure. It's not going to sing until it gets an infusion of Benjamins. (Actually it sounds like a dying dog. The action and hammers are toast.)

 

Thank you for mentioning the name of the drawbar controller. Couldn't remember that for the life of me.

 

Stacking, yes I am trying to come reasonably close to two manuals of Hammond goodness.

 

Live amp, I'm not looking for the end all of fidelity. I know that's pointless as soon as you get the other instruments going. Or if you have a soundman who is anything less than top of his game. Just rather good will do. I'll keep the Crate around for the MkII violins, or other instances where color is good.

 

Traveling by car. We really need to get a band van.

 

Money is an immense problem, but I'm resourceful. I find all sorts of things for very cheap, very used. Usually I can disassemble and fix and get quite a bargain that way. I'm very handy with a soldering iron and multi-meter. Not sure what deals I'll find, or if we run a kickstarter campaign or something. The only two avenues closed are the usual ones, earn it (try finding more than minimum wage in Fresno I dare you), or get it from a rich uncle. (Don't have any rich people hanging around.) Oh well.

 

---

 

And as a fun aside someone mentioned something about my bandmates not wanting to haul around that heavy **** no more. We've never taken anything like that to a gig. But they groan when I tell them my dream setup.

 

Hammond A-100 front and center. (of my side of the stage.) Clear plexi back so the masses can see the height of 1950s engineering! Conn Caprice 432 (this is a transistor spinet that does a great job of competing with a Vox Continental once you add a line-out) to the inside, also with plexi back. MkII Mellotron to the outside, again plexi back (OMG! Honey! Look, the little tapes are moving!!!) . Leslie 147 directly behind me, open back facing my way. Flute laying in the music rack tray of the Hammond. Clarinet and tenor saxophone laying on top of the Conn. Rhodes further to the back, next to the Conn. Wurlitzer next to the Mellotron.

 

So much furniture in one spot. I better pay our roadies good. When we get there that is.

www.facebook.com/thelongblackveils Rock and Roll from Central California. Second album underway.

 

Hammond organs are my drug. Until I beg borrow or steal a Mellotron that is.

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I think most of the posts have focussed on things that are available new. But if you're looking at used stuff, I would keep an eye out for a Korg CX3 (digital version from this millennium, not the 80s analog version), which would make for a great VB3 controller if you don't care that it's almost 40 lbs. It even has two sets of drawbars. Nice feeling keyboard, and looks great. You may not be able to find one as cheap as you'd like, but you might get lucky. For the second board, you might consider something a bit more piano-friendly, but still okay for organ playing. Maybe a Yamaha NP-30, or if you really want to stick with just 61 keys, the NP-11, though I haven't played that one myself. It's hard to find 61 key actions that are not really awful for piano. Most of the unweighted actions that I have found tolerable for piano have been 76-88.

 

(Also you might end up wanting to sit your second board above the CX3 rather than below it.)

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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I think we're living in times when really good sounding rig can be put together for cheap.

 

Take a Kurz PC3LE, or a used PC3, place an 88 or 76 midi controller underneath it (like any digital piano will do), and that's it, you have it, pro rig with great sounds. Much sturdier and less hassle to set up than a laptop rig.

Stage: MOX6, V-machine, and Roland AX7

Rolls PM351 for IEMs.

Home/recording: Roland FP4, a few guitars

 

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