My two cents on bullshit live acts / In depth video footage

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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My two cents on bullshit live acts / In depth video footage

Post by COSM » Mon Jan 08, 2007 11:59 am


So recently I've noticed quite a bit of debate about what is truly a "live" act using a laptop. I have found the whole debate really interesting and thought I would chuck in my two cents.

I taught myself "live" music pretty much from scratch over here in New Zealand. I wasn't exposed to any other live acts apart from Pitch Black who basically set my mind to what actually is "live". Then quite recently I have been getting more and more international gigs, and I am finding a lot of acts which I consider to be complete and utter bullshit.

I really respect all producers, especially those who have the guts to showcase their music in front of crowds of people... but calling themselves live when they don't do a damn thing is plain out false advertising. Even having a knob on a cuttoff, or eqing layers is great!, but I have seen some dudes not even touch one piece of gear while on stage, and still reaping the financial and promotional benefits of the “live” tag.

Once again, I've got no problem with people who just play their arrangement of original music.. I've done many sets where there has been a lot of preprogrammed/arranged music (and I still do sometimes)...that’s very cool and I would still pay top dollar to go and check out fresh tunes from awesome producers... but I seriously think we need to sort out another term so they don't get confused with people who actually sit up late at night for weeks on end practicing and perfecting an actual live set.

Anyway, I thought I would take this opportunity to show off a little of my technique for when I perform live, as well as use it as a promotional tool to give out to festivals and parties. My goal here is to inform the general punter population about what actually playing live using a laptop involves, so they can start making judgments for themselfs and eventually put pressure on the promoters, while at the same time sharing some of my techniques with those who are still learning, or want to make themselves more live.

The video is about half an hour long and covers quite a range of methods used for performing live using a laptop, midi controllers and a synthesizer. The intro goes on a little about me and my music, then it gets into the depths of how I perform live, and finishes with a short montage of clips I have gathered from various gigs I have done in the past.

Here is a direct link to the entire video, or if you prefer I have chopped it up into sections which you can watch individually below. ... onic-music

Part 1
– An introduction, a little about me and my music style.

Part 2 – a basic introduction to my live set canvas and how I go about layering loops and samples to create music on the fly

Part 3 – The first of three “tricks” which I use when performing

Part 4 – The second “trick”

Part 5 – The third trick, followed by a short montage of clips and my conclusion to the video.

As always, I encourage you to pass this information on if you are into it or think you know of anyone who might be interested in watching. I always have and continue to give all my music away for free, so the whole word of mouth is how I promote myself and get gigs.

If this is new to you and your interested in checking out my music, there are some completely free live sets on my website as well as photos/news/upcoming gigs etc.

Thaaaaaaaaaaaaankyou and I look forward to hearing your opinions on this

-Tom (Cosm)

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Post by sweetjesus » Mon Jan 08, 2007 12:41 pm

nice work man

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Post by hoffman2k » Mon Jan 08, 2007 12:52 pm

You New zealanders are all the same :lol:

If you make a video, you either fade in from paradise. Or fade out to it...

I remember this video from paddy, him showing his setup at his house.
Laying down some details of the setup.
At the end he moves the camera just outside of his room...

It was like 8O 8O

Nice video man.
Makes me wonna move over there.

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Post by hambone1 » Mon Jan 08, 2007 1:08 pm

Tom - your stuff is incredible, you're obviously very talented, and your willingness to share you work with other speaks volumes about you.

The majority of 'musicians' don't have a fraction of your talent, and couldn't perform live if they wanted to. They NEED to 'cheat'.

And, unfortunately, talent and true live performance has never been a prerequisite in show business. Miming, faking, backing tracks, Milli Vanilli, etc... the average punter wouldn't even know it, and couldn't care less. Sad but true.

Stick to your principles, though... even if only you know that everything is live.

P.S. I think I need to move to NZ, too...

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Post by daub » Mon Jan 08, 2007 1:55 pm

full respect, i started a similar thread on another forum regarding 'live house music', people didn't really get what i was talking about.
I'm sick of people playing 'live' and just standing behind a laptop doing jack s***t.
For my live set (techno + house) we use an MPC2000, mixing desk, fx, synth/drum machine. no computers, more importantly, no screen. we have an loops loaded and an idea what the tracks sound like, but we also have total control over almost every detail, exciting and occasionaly, scary.
Full respect or delivering truely live music with a laptop.

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Post by nebulae » Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:02 pm

Great video! Very helpful to newbies as well as old farts to see how someone is using Live, and great insight into your technique. Thanks loads for this video.

A couple of questions:
1. What are the specs of your laptop? Have you ever had crashes while performing?
2. The liveset you showed in the you bring different loops and sets into that template of tracks? How do you work your way through songs?
3. How long are your sets usually?
4. With the plugs that you used, do you ever get glithes or pops or crackles when you turn them on or off while playing live?
5. With synth parts that you create on the fly, are you using softsynths? If so, which ones, and what kind of CPU usage are you getting?

I have a general idea of the answers to these questions, but I think it would be useful for anyone watching the video. Thanks again for posting.

Also, I agree with you about what is "live". At the end of the day, a performance is when you're actually doing stuff, and not just hitting the space bar. It's an interesting debate for sure.

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Post by zenke » Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:02 pm

Great stuff Tom. Thanks for sharing this. I'm really appreciative. Its given me a few ideas and pointers. as you say no one ever teaches this stuff and to get some tips from the pros is really invaluable. Cheers

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Post by rikhyray » Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:25 pm

Good job, excellent material but I would suggest asking a video/movie pro to do a short promo version out of it. Somebody who does not even know you and what you do so will have better distance/ perspective to highlight what is the most important , significant etc. Seen from commercial angle - charming, cool personality and professional efficiency are great assets
Ableton should provide space for videos like that, also from performances, great for getting ideas for making a setup better, ways of working etc. Definitely with some rankings so after sometime we want have to scroll through hundreds of videos of evilevilevil`s cat or dog playing with Rebirth
P.S. Today is really horrible in, I guess entire Europe, we all want to go for a 3 months gig there ( till spring comes back)

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Post by bytheriver » Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:47 pm

Thanks loads for the video, inspiring attitude and inspiring music!

I'm starting to use live for DJing at the momment, so I'm intrested to know how you move between songs, or if you start up live with all the material you need for a whole set and use the FX and general live-goodness to keep it all intresting and fresh.

I'm using other peoples tracks, but i'm aiming to do something more like what it looks like your doing than 'DJing', so I tend to have each track in a folder with 5-10 loops cut from different sections/fills/breakdowns etc.

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Post by fatrabbit » Mon Jan 08, 2007 4:02 pm

Excellent video!

I noticed though that you were using the mouse quite a bit. Have you looked into MackieControl emulation? You could invest in a Behringer FCB1010 MIDI foot pedal for example, and have certain functions mapped (ie. move left or right focus of which track is shown, switch between clip view and effects view, show/hide browser, change global quantisation value, delete and/or undo, move scenes or clip slot focus, turn draw mode on or off etc.).

You could also do that with something like MIDIStroke... a single press of a MIDI button activates a series of keystrokes in Live (either mapped to things, or that do program functions).

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Post by mikemc » Mon Jan 08, 2007 4:13 pm

new zealand *is* a beatiful place :) you have some good videos, absolutely.

I have a brief suggestion for everybody: if you use ableton and you have a video on youtube, that you tag the video with 'ableton'. This allows an easy retrieval of everything by Abletonians on youtube.

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Post by compositeone » Mon Jan 08, 2007 5:12 pm

Amazing videos and great to see someone not scared to give away his secrets. :)

I have been making tracks and have enough now to put together a live set but was a little stumped at the best way to go about this and your videos have certainly helped.

I'm interested in the same thing as some one up there asked about how you build the live set with a lot of tracks? Is it just one huge live file with all the component parts or is there some other way you do it?

ps. are you on myspace?

"So what kind of music do you make?"
"Both kinds...... drum and bass."

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Post by leisuremuffin » Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:09 pm

ultimately the problem is that a good portion of the audience dosen't care, or has strange expectations of electronic music due to confusion from "DJ culture."

years ago, when my live performances were still all hardware, people would still walk up and ask about my "dj'ing" and try to request tracks, or certain genres. Hard to believe, but true.

the few people who understand how what you're doing works will appreciate, but a lot people couldn't care less if you just pushed the space bar, because to them, what you're doing isn't different from what a dj does.

TimeableFloat ???S?e?n?d?I?n?f?o

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Post by ethios4 » Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:33 pm

Thanks for the inspiration COSM!!! Just what I need right now.

I gave up on "live" performance for awhile because it was so hard to get a decent production quality live, but I get so bored with the DJ-style performance, even with the amazing remix abilities of Live. So I've started work again on live performance again, and the timing of your video couldn't be more perfect for me. Again, thanks for the generous posting!!

I just had a conversion with a very thoughful friend who doesn't like electronic music really. One of his top complaints is that there is no performance way to correlate what is heard with what is seen. Personally, I feel the audiovisual approach is a very engaging solution, but even that does not address the need to see a connection between performer and output. Not that I would want to cater my performance to an audience that doesn't typically like electronic music, but I do feel those people are hitting on the soft spot of electronic music. The type of thing you've got going on will go a long way towards resolving that, and making performance so much more fun!!

Keep up the fine work brother!!!

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Post by bencodec » Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:44 pm

can i play devils advocate and say that what we are doing ISN'T different then what a DJ does. we take sounds wo like, we combine them together to make something greater then the sum of it's parts.

I think the original argument may be backwards, it's not the the crowd is loosing out hearing music that isn't "live" in fact, many many "live" sets are less inspired and interesting then a lot of DJ sets.

It's the performer that is missing out by not playing live. they have a chance to be versitile and surprising, to express themselves immediately in the heat of the moment rather then be trapped inside the live set they prepared months ago in the studio.

It's true that most punters don't care how "live" it is, however try playing the same set 3 gigs in a row and see how many people come to your 4th set.
leisuremuffin wrote:ultimately the problem is that a good portion of the audience dosen't care, or has strange expectations of electronic music due to confusion from "DJ culture."

years ago, when my live performances were still all hardware, people would still walk up and ask about my "dj'ing" and try to request tracks, or certain genres. Hard to believe, but true.

the few people who understand how what you're doing works will appreciate, but a lot people couldn't care less if you just pushed the space bar, because to them, what you're doing isn't different from what a dj does.

Macbook Pro unibody 2.2 Ghz Quad i7, 16GB RAM, 512MB graphics, 500 GB SSD, 500 GB HD, Mac OS 10.8

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