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Laptop live? Never again.

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Laptop live? Never again.

Postby BJG145 » Tue Nov 19, 2019 1:01 am

Sometimes you just have to admit you were wrong.

I remember a time when the idea of using a laptop for live performance was regarded with misgivings and suspicion; then it seemed to gain general acceptance...and I was dumb enough to fall for it. Why spend a fortune on synths and sound modules when you can do it all for a fraction of the price with VSTs...?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The DrumKAT is a war-torn veteran of the MIDI drum controller set. It's made of cast iron and reinforced concrete. It weighs a ton, it's completely indestructible, and it combines sophisticated programmability with an appalling interface. See here.

If you have the patience, it lets you do stuff like assigning repeating loops of MIDI notes with a particular velocity and duration to a single pad...and I spent ages cueing up the glockenspiel part for Radiohead's No Surprises, breaking it down into short loops assigned to different pads, to bring along to this jam night...it was going to be awesome.

Then I looked around for something to actually make the sounds and realised that, I didn't really have anything suitable. So I set it up with Cantabile on a Microsoft Surface. Mistake.

Never mind that the latency required hits fractionally ahead of the beat, or that Windows decided that it couldn't wait any longer to start installing updates half an hour before I left...

...testing at home...? Worked great. At the gig...? No way. This was just a jam night so you get about five minutes to set up. I thought there was only about a 50% chance of getting it working anyway, but that was optimistic.

So I need to find an inexpensive MIDI sound module with a variety of decent sounds, because I'm never using Windows again. It's let me down several times too often.

Studio/recordings...? :thumbup:

Live...? :-|
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby MOF » Tue Nov 19, 2019 3:40 am

If you do decide to try again disable internet access. I presume this is doable on a Windows PC.
I can’t think of any other reason why it shouldn’t have worked.
If I was doing live work I’d use a Mac Book Pro (it allows you to decide when to update software) with a SSD rather than a traditional hard-drive to be more ruggedised.
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby Arpangel » Tue Nov 19, 2019 9:13 am

I'm sorry about this, not good when you're looking forward to something.
Even on my Mac with the internet turned off it crashes sometimes, with a couple of music programs, not often, it's not really become an issue and it's quite rare, but.....you don't want it to be in the back of your mind at a gig.
I'd never gig with a computer, it's just too risky, but you do see it quite an lot, unless you're a top budget act and can afford genius techs and back up systems it's just not worth it.
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby Folderol » Tue Nov 19, 2019 9:26 am

I think the problem is that people tend to use under-powered machines, running the wrong OS, with too much crud. You need to be able to strip out everything that is not related to your music programs. You should also disable background services especially network .

I've run music workshops on a laptop for up to 2 hours solid, without even a single Xrun, on one occasion 'emulating' a flustered musician hitting all the wrong buttons - nothing broke :)
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby The Elf » Tue Nov 19, 2019 9:46 am

I've never had a problem, other than forgetting to hit 'record' to capture the performance! I really fail to understand why people have so much trouble and mistrust over this!

It took me a while with Cantabile to find a basic method that gave me the flexibility I needed, combined with simplicity and repeatability. I made a few fundamental mistakes before I arrived at that place - though everything did work fine, albeit not in a way that was sustainable. A few years in and I can make Cantabile do what I need in the way I need it.

For me the clinchers were Symbolic Links (to let me replicate Racks), and creating a 'device hub' that hugely simplifies getting data from anywhere I have it to anywhere I need it - repeatably and simply. A couple of mixer/splitter utility Racks can be useful too.

Even pre-Cantabile in Brainspawn Forte I had a perfectly reliable rig - and I am certainly not running anything like a fancy laptop for any of this stuff - i3s from PC World!

If you've given up, then fine, but if you choose to take another run at it you know where I am. ;)
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby BJG145 » Tue Nov 19, 2019 10:17 am

The problem is the number of variables. Is it the MIDI controller...? The MIDI/USB interface...? Has the tablet detected it...? Is it the Windows config...the volume...? Is it the VST host...maybe it lost sight of the MIDI input...? Or maybe it's the plugin...? Or maybe someone didn't unmute the inputs to the desk...?

I don't mind troubleshooting this stuff when there's time and space...but if you're pulling it out of a bag in a crowded room and trying to get set up and ready to go while the band's warming up it's hopeless.
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby Music Wolf » Tue Nov 19, 2019 10:34 am

I think that, with any system, you need to do a dry run under gig conditions i.e. strip everything down, pack it up, move to another location and reassemble.

Did you bring everything that you needed?
Does everything boot up ok?
Do you need to fire things up in a specific order?

The problem is often that you have everything thing working at home where you always work the same way and not under pressure but you really need to do a stress test (and the operator is a key component that also needs testing)
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby MarkPAman » Tue Nov 19, 2019 12:53 pm

No help for a PC user (!) but QLab's notes "A Computer Prepares" give a good idea of what to do to prepare a Mac for a live show.

https://qlab.app/docs/v4/general/preparing-your-mac/

If you have a QLab licence, they've written a routine to do (and undo) most of this for you.
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby CS70 » Tue Nov 19, 2019 2:04 pm

Yeah the key is testing.

I symphatize, becasue it can bit you exactly the same way with hardware.. I was at a jam a couple weeks back and had very quickly tried my portable power supply to use with a couple pedals, all good. Coming to stage, turns out the power supply was not working at all. Not fun!

Back home I tried again with more time and in more gig-like conditions and found the culprit..
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby Dave B » Tue Nov 19, 2019 2:26 pm

Tonight I shall be testing using Mainstage for a thing I have on Thursday. My backup plan is to use my regular rig, but I’d like to try this system out. If all goes well, my rig will be a Hammond and a MacBook Pro. Lol.

But I’ll be testing it quite hard both tonight and at rehearsal tomorrow. If it works it will be great, but I will thrash it first...
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby Wonks » Tue Nov 19, 2019 2:36 pm

Dave B wrote:But I’ll be testing it quite hard both tonight and at rehearsal tomorrow. If it works it will be great, but I will thrash it first...

Image
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby BJG145 » Tue Nov 19, 2019 2:37 pm

OK, I hear ya...it was a bit last-minute with very little testing.
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby ManFromGlass » Tue Nov 19, 2019 2:39 pm

+1 for the Drum Kat.
Still going strong!

Now where did I put my JV-1080 and S-760 sampler . . . . . .
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby garrettendi » Tue Nov 19, 2019 2:52 pm

I've been sorely tempted to do this with a computer and amp sims for my guitars... I never use a real amp at home and the amp sims are sometimes as good as the real thing...

I'm having second thoughts about that after reading this...
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby MOF » Tue Nov 19, 2019 3:50 pm

It’s all about preparation and you’ve effectively said you weren’t.
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby MOF » Tue Nov 19, 2019 3:53 pm

hitting all the wrong buttons

Hitting all the right buttons, but not necessarily in the right order, surely!!! :lol:

Apologies to Andre Preview, Eric and Ern.
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby Watchmaker » Tue Nov 19, 2019 3:55 pm

BJG145 wrote: Windows decided that it couldn't wait any longer to start installing updates half an hour before I left...

The model wherein the operating system is provided "as a service" is incredibly risky for everyone except the rentier. One wonders, how exactly does Microsoft make money? The answer is by treating its customers as its commodity base, which doesn't pan out well for the customer.
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby Dave B » Tue Nov 19, 2019 4:52 pm

garrettendi wrote:I've been sorely tempted to do this with a computer and amp sims for my guitars... I never use a real amp at home and the amp sims are sometimes as good as the real thing...

Worth noting that Max / SSG does this every once in a while for open mic nights and is perfectly happy with his MBP and Focusrite Forte...
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby The Elf » Tue Nov 19, 2019 6:28 pm

BJG145 wrote:The problem is the number of variables. Is it the MIDI controller...? The MIDI/USB interface...? Has the tablet detected it...? Is it the Windows config...the volume...? Is it the VST host...maybe it lost sight of the MIDI input...? Or maybe it's the plugin...? Or maybe someone didn't unmute the inputs to the desk...?

I don't mind troubleshooting this stuff when there's time and space...but if you're pulling it out of a bag in a crowded room and trying to get set up and ready to go while the band's warming up it's hopeless.
iI can only tell you my milage does vary greatly!

I switch on, run Cantabile and... play. Simple as that!
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Re: Laptop live? Never again.

Postby MOF » Tue Nov 19, 2019 7:32 pm

The problem is the number of variables. Is it the MIDI controller...? The MIDI/USB interface...? Has the tablet detected it...? Is it the Windows config...the volume...? Is it the VST host...maybe it lost sight of the MIDI input...? Or maybe it's the plugin...? Or maybe someone didn't unmute the inputs to the desk...?

You start fault finding as far back in the chain as possible and work your way logically to the final output i.e. speakers.
The midi controller and DAW host should have a midi input window that flashes with every key/drum hit.
You can buy/make a 5 pin din led checker to see if devices are transmitting midi data.
Then once you’ve assigned your instrument you should see it on the meter of the channel and then the output when you’ve assigned its outputs (this could all be pre-saved as a song arrangement).
Then you make sure someone hasn’t muted the inputs to the desk.
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