Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Post Reply
JohnnyIndia
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2015 5:26 pm

Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by JohnnyIndia » Tue Dec 08, 2015 5:43 pm

Thus far I have done all my productions in Logic, rendered the pre-mixed/mastered stems and dropped them into Ableton as audio clips to play as backing tracks for live performance (my project combines softsythns, sequenced drum samples and loops with live drums and guitar). However, I am interested possibly using midi with soft synths and my plugins directly in Ableton instead, that way I can have more control of tweaking the arrangements and mix as the live show progresses. In addition, I would like to use James Holden's Group Humanizer Max4Live Device which only works on MIDI.

I am wondering about the pros and cons of this method, and the stability in a live performance. Are my only concerns CPU/RAM limitations; so if I don't overload my CPU using MIDI will be just as stable as audio? In terms of using softysnths and plugins for real time performance and processing (via a midi controller), how do I deal with latency? I know in Logic, certain plugins can be used in realtime without any significant latency while performing on a controller, while others have too much latency that there is no way to use them in real time. Is there anyway to determine which plugins/chains of effects are capable of processing in real time with no latency problems, and which I can only use in the mix phase when performing is not taking place? Optimal Buffer Size for this?

Any tips and advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

JohnnyIndia
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2015 5:26 pm

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by JohnnyIndia » Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:52 pm

Checking in to see if anyone else uses a combination of stemmed audio clips along with midi clips, soft synths and processing plugins in their live sets, and has any advice.

I'd like all my synth bass, rhythmic plucks/riffs (diva, ace, serum), and drum samples (drum racks or nerve) to be triggered in real time via midi clips or controllers along with processing chains of various third party plugins (I.e. Soundtoys, softube, fab filter, etc.)

Learned all about device activator macros and chains to minimize CPU/RAM on unused soft synths, so Ive got that down.

Anyone ever sample their heavily layered and processed synths, so the sound can be played via midi in Sampler?...I'm thinking that would be one way to conserve CPU while still being able to use midi to play / trigger parts live rather than being locked to audio clips.

Any experience and advice would be appreciated. Basically I want to stem out to audio as little as neccessary.

login
Posts: 1816
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:41 am

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by login » Thu Dec 10, 2015 6:42 pm

There is not right answer, people work in so many different ways. You will have to experiment to discover how you are more confortable and creative, as well as to get rid of pointless complexity/risky set ups.

I don't perform in front of an audience but I do improvise at home, using hardware instruments, software synths mainly, it has limits because software synths use more CPU, as well as fx, so you can't add the same number of tracks or be relentless in your use of effects. It also depends a lot on what instruments you use.

JohnnyIndia
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2015 5:26 pm

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by JohnnyIndia » Thu Dec 10, 2015 6:54 pm

How about using Third Party plugins, such as Soundtoys Echoboy/Decapitator, Softube Compressors, etc. Do I have to stick to Ableton plugins in order to avoid latency while performing on soft synths via a controller?

login
Posts: 1816
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:41 am

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by login » Thu Dec 10, 2015 8:07 pm

JohnnyIndia wrote:How about using Third Party plugins, such as Soundtoys Echoboy/Decapitator, Softube Compressors, etc. Do I have to stick to Ableton plugins in order to avoid latency while performing on soft synths via a controller?
Latency depends on your CPU/Audio interface and the overall size of the project, you have to test it yourself to see what your system can handle.

That being said Live on its own (using the native ffects) is quite solid and stable and for today standards it doesn't use that much CPU.

Stromkraft
Posts: 7033
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2014 11:34 am

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by Stromkraft » Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:08 pm

JohnnyIndia wrote:How about using Third Party plugins, such as Soundtoys Echoboy/Decapitator, Softube Compressors, etc. Do I have to stick to Ableton plugins in order to avoid latency while performing on soft synths via a controller?
That depends on the plug-ins themselves. Personally I'm afraid I'd have to avoid any Native Instruments Reaktor synth instruments for Live performance, but If I had a better or completely NI dedicated machine I'd contemplate it. Next year I'm planning to get one of the Muse Receptors for any Live gigs.
Make some music!

mholloway
Posts: 1572
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 7:24 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
Contact:

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by mholloway » Fri Dec 11, 2015 7:42 pm

For my live shows I do the following:


1. convert all plugin-instruments that will be played live (on keys) into multi-sampled Ableton Sampler instruments
(PITA? Yes, but absolutely worth it).

2. render / mixdown all other used tracks to audio, and if possible, render to a single audio backing track mix per song. the fewer mixes, the better.

3. only use native Ableton FX in any FX chains

Why? So many reasons, but here are the best:

1. stability -- I had third party instruments crash ableton during a live set once. after that, I incorporated the first step above, and have never had a crash since. there are so few variables when you are only dealing with hard audio (wavs) and native ableton plugins for EVERYTHING. very little is likely to go wrong, and if something does, there is very little to sort through to figure it out. If you're running a bunch of third party plugs live, diagnostics for figuring out what's wrong (especially on stage, on the fly) go straight to hell.

2. small footprint -- low CPU hit, low memory usage, etc.

3. organization - when I'm on stage performing, I want 100% knowledge and control over every tool that is contributing to the live sound. I never really felt I had that until I followed the steps above.


food for thought,
-M
my industrial music made with Ableton Live (as DEAD WHEN I FOUND HER): https://deadwhenifoundher.bandcamp.com/
my dark jazz / noir music made with Ableton Live: https://michaelarthurholloway.bandcamp. ... guilt-noir

JohnnyIndia
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2015 5:26 pm

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by JohnnyIndia » Fri Dec 11, 2015 9:11 pm

Thanks mholloway, your insight is really valuable!

In regards to #1, how are you exporting the plugin instrument into a multi-sampler instrument? Are you using a program that samples each note automatically, or doing this manually? How do you find the resampled instrument compares to playing the actual soft-synth in real time? Similarities/Differences? I was considering this approach as well.

Have you tried 3rd party FX/plugins and just found that they aren't stable, or add too much latency? Is this why you only use Ableton FX chains?

mholloway
Posts: 1572
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 7:24 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
Contact:

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by mholloway » Sat Dec 12, 2015 12:17 am

JohnnyIndia wrote:Thanks mholloway, your insight is really valuable!

In regards to #1, how are you exporting the plugin instrument into a multi-sampler instrument? Are you using a program that samples each note automatically, or doing this manually? How do you find the resampled instrument compares to playing the actual soft-synth in real time? Similarities/Differences? I was considering this approach as well.

Have you tried 3rd party FX/plugins and just found that they aren't stable, or add too much latency? Is this why you only use Ableton FX chains?

1 - I sample the instrument myself inside ableton, and build a Sampler out of all the samples. Typically I focus on just getting whatever is needed precisely for the part being played, e.g. I don't sample up and down the entire keyboard range, just the octave(s) used in the song. And I don't sample every note, either, but a selection of them, though usually I don't like stretching a sample over more than +/- 3 semitones. Kinda just depends on the complexity of the sound, how detailed I will be about the sampling. If it's a really dynamic sound with multiple layers, obviously that's going to be more difficult, but I've done things with multiple velocity-triggered layers, etc. It just requires knowing Sampler really well, and in some cases using multiple Samplers inside Racks (most limitations of Sampler compared to other samplers can be eliminated through use of Racks, which I assume was Ableton's notion all along). As for getting the actual samples, that's a long process of creating MIDI clips in Live for the instrument, each containing just a single note, then freezing+flattening that, cropping it accordingly, and moving it into the Sampler instrument. There are various variations on this approach inside Live, depending on the content being sampled.

2 - Yes, third party plugin FX, like instruments, can be unstable or CPU intensive. Ableton native FX are just stable / reliable, they aren't going to crash your system or cause any irregularities (UNLESS we're talking about Max 4 Live FX, in which case, start crying now... yeah, I don't run M4L live....) But there are other advantages too: the FX interface is always visible when the channel is selected, so there's no needing to open/close pop-up windows for them, as there invariably would be with 3rd party FX. And, I just know these FX so damn well. For studio work, I use Live's FX damn near constantly, and always lean heavily toward them before using a third party plug. The only studio exception to this is Reverb, where I do go elsewhere pretty much always for studio work. But for live shows, I'll only use Live's reverb. It's fine, it works, and nobody in the concert hall or bar is going to go "man, he really should have used a Lexicon emulation for that...." :) Again, the focus is on simplicity, stability, and organization. Huge rewards come from all three when you're up on stage and your mind is in that "stage fog." And live's native FX totally rock, so it's hardly a sacrifice!

-M
my industrial music made with Ableton Live (as DEAD WHEN I FOUND HER): https://deadwhenifoundher.bandcamp.com/
my dark jazz / noir music made with Ableton Live: https://michaelarthurholloway.bandcamp. ... guilt-noir

Stromkraft
Posts: 7033
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2014 11:34 am

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by Stromkraft » Sun Dec 13, 2015 3:25 pm

mholloway wrote: 3. only use native Ableton FX in any FX chains

Why? So many reasons, but here are the best:

1. stability -- I had third party instruments crash ableton during a live set once. after that, I incorporated the first step above, and have never had a crash since. there are so few variables when you are only dealing with hard audio (wavs) and native ableton plugins for EVERYTHING. very little is likely to go wrong, and if something does, there is very little to sort through to figure it out. If you're running a bunch of third party plugs live, diagnostics for figuring out what's wrong (especially on stage, on the fly) go straight to hell.

2. small footprint -- low CPU hit, low memory usage, etc.

3. organization - when I'm on stage performing, I want 100% knowledge and control over every tool that is contributing to the live sound. I never really felt I had that until I followed the steps above.
I could never do this as I use third party plug-ins as vital integrated parts of the sound. I've never had any of the current effects selection Waves, Native Instruments, Klanghelm, Melda, Brainworx, Sonalksis, Valhalla and EAReckon to cause a crash during a session. I'm happy with this.
Make some music!

dave dove
Posts: 94
Joined: Sat Apr 09, 2011 5:25 pm
Location: Mid-Wales

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by dave dove » Mon Dec 14, 2015 7:35 pm

in my live sets i:
render audio from synths to use as audio clips - often looped and grouped for random follow actions
build and use reaktor drum synths
sometimes use other synths too
if i want to use samplers i build them in reaktor with sample maps
and use clips to send program change and morph fx etc
cos Live's instrument preset management is pants for live use

dave

mholloway
Posts: 1572
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 7:24 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
Contact:

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by mholloway » Mon Dec 14, 2015 10:14 pm

Stromkraft wrote:
mholloway wrote: 3. only use native Ableton FX in any FX chains

Why? So many reasons, but here are the best:

1. stability -- I had third party instruments crash ableton during a live set once. after that, I incorporated the first step above, and have never had a crash since. there are so few variables when you are only dealing with hard audio (wavs) and native ableton plugins for EVERYTHING. very little is likely to go wrong, and if something does, there is very little to sort through to figure it out. If you're running a bunch of third party plugs live, diagnostics for figuring out what's wrong (especially on stage, on the fly) go straight to hell.

2. small footprint -- low CPU hit, low memory usage, etc.

3. organization - when I'm on stage performing, I want 100% knowledge and control over every tool that is contributing to the live sound. I never really felt I had that until I followed the steps above.
I could never do this as I use third party plug-ins as vital integrated parts of the sound. I've never had any of the current effects selection Waves, Native Instruments, Klanghelm, Melda, Brainworx, Sonalksis, Valhalla and EAReckon to cause a crash during a session. I'm happy with this.
Well I think in general FX plugins tend to be more stable than Instrument plugins, so yeah, if it works it works! But I imagine your CPU gets hit a lot harder with all that stuff, at least relative to how it would be with only native Ableton FX.
my industrial music made with Ableton Live (as DEAD WHEN I FOUND HER): https://deadwhenifoundher.bandcamp.com/
my dark jazz / noir music made with Ableton Live: https://michaelarthurholloway.bandcamp. ... guilt-noir

Stromkraft
Posts: 7033
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2014 11:34 am

Re: Rendered Audio vs. Midi Synths and Plugins for Performance

Post by Stromkraft » Mon Dec 14, 2015 11:15 pm

mholloway wrote:I imagine your CPU gets hit a lot harder with all that stuff, at least relative to how it would be with only native Ableton FX.
Yes, I'm accepting this, but I rather throw more CPU on most of the problem. If there is going to be a live act it looks other MIDI musicians will be more than one, so we need to use one of our more powerful machines as the mixer machine I'd think. One iConnectivity iConnectAudio4+is one piece of the puzzle and I'm also possibly looking at the Audinate Dante Virtual Soundcard. If I can use that with my other audio interfaces as masters. I see many test sessions ahead…
Make some music!

Post Reply