Time to Interface the Music

Following the theme of yesterday’s post, I have a gig tonight where I will be playing my Roland GR-33 guitar synth live for the first time. In the past, I have played gigs in the more ‘traditional’ format of the laptop musician – that is, with a laptop and MIDI keyboard. Although this is fine for the purposes of control, it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of audience experience – there is no real way for the listeners to connect your movements to the music that they are hearing, and in many cases, you might just as well be checking your email.

But how ‘live’ can electronic music be anyway? Well, that depends on a lot of things – what sort of music it is, the personality of the musician, how extravagant a stage show you want to put on, the expectations of the audience… sitting watching some guy staring at his laptop and wiggling his mouse around is quite a different experience from a Daft Punk gig, even if the music might be very similar.

The difference comes down to whether it is effectively a ‘live’ set or a ‘DJ’ set – are you playing back songs and putting different bits through filters, or are you actually performing something that wasn’t pre-recorded? If it’s the latter, then the audience would like to see what it is you’re doing. If it’s the former, they probably couldn’t care less (unless they’re musicians themselves).

It takes a lot more effort to bring a guitar rig on tour than to just slip a laptop and keyboard in your backpack, so i’ll be interested to see how this new technique works out, and if it’s worth that extra workload.

I’ll be using a Fender Strat with GK-2A pickup plugged into a Roland GR-33 guitar synth. This will be patched through a Boss RC-2 loop station into my Hercules 16/12 FW sound card, which is of course connected to my laptop. I’ve set up the guitar so that certain notes on the sixth string activate Reason’s transport controls, which allows me to start/stop the sequencer, set loops and so on. Then, I can switch between playing straight guitar sounds, the GR-33 synth sounds and Reason’s own sounds – without needing any controller other than the guitar itself. And, if the worst happens and the computer crashes, I’ll still have the Roland to fall back on…


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