Last night at practice for church, there was a fellow keyboardist there who showed a bit of interest in my setup and was impressed with some of the sounds, so I thought a blog about the “gig rig” might be interesting to some of you.
The guts: I do something very few live keyboard performers do, but more and more are moving toward. I trust a standard computer to produce live, real time sounds as I play. I use a program called Main Stage by Apple. It is bundled with Logic Studio 8, and has literally changed the way I think about keyboards. It is fully customizable based on the controller hardware you have and comes with a huge selection of software synthesizers and samplers. You also have the ability to add 3rd party software synths for even more sounds. I was given IKMultimedia’s Philharmonik which has some beautiful orchestral sounds as well as some very real grand piano samples. The install is almost 50 Gig, but the sounds that are produced are the closest to the “real thing” I’ve ever heard to date.
The computer: A very solid Apple MacBook Pro with a 2.4 Ghz Intel Dual Core proc, 4 Gig of RAM, 160 GB 7200 RPM HD, and a high res 1920×1200 display. Even with this much power, Main Stage can still buckle if too many sounds or effect plugins are layered so there is still a balance to maintain. Part of the problem with processing power is the USB audio interface built into my VX8. If I were to move to firewire, this would help substancially, but so far I’ve been able to work within the constraints.
The Bottom Stack: My main controller is the CME VX8 88-key controller with a lot of nice features, but it weighs a ton! This doesn’t really make it ideal for a gig rig, but it does help me stay in shape. The weighted action has a good feel, but it makes a clicking metal-on-metal sound when certain black and white keys are played in sequence which can be annoying. I swapped this keyboard out 3 times and every one of them did the same thing so it appears to be a manufacturing defect. Another problem is the USB ports. I’ve only been using this keyboard for about 6 months and I can already tell that the USB ports are going to wear out eventually and I’ll be forced to move to another audio interface, which will likely be the Apogee Duet. Other than these flaws, this keyboard has served me well so far.
The top stack: A Korg Triton Extreme. Ever since Korg came out with the Triton over 7 years ago, I’ve owned one. It started with the standard Triton Pro x, then to the Trinity, then the Triton Studio Pro, and now the Triton Extreme. This keyboard makes up for the heaviness of the VX8 weighing much less, but only providing 61 keys – enough to play organ riffs all night long! My favorite thing about this product line is the synth pads you can create. This also can be used as a backup if my laptop decides to stop working, which has happened once or twice when I first made the move to this rig back in December of ’07. It also has a USB midi out so I have it configured it as a controller in Main Stage as well.
The Sound: I prefer to use my Westone ES2 in-ear monitors if the venue permits, but if not, I use some Yamaha MSR100’s. I run everything through a Mackie 802-VLZ3 mixer which opens up a number of options. One of the options is to restrict the output to only my keyboards if I have an overall mix being fed into the mixer or if I feed the output of my R-09HR to hear the “room” when I use the Westones. The mixer also has XLR outs which eliminate the need for direct boxes.
The stands: For the keyboards, I use the Ultimate V-Stand. I do have the laptop attachment, but the vibration was a bit much so I moved the MacBook Pro over to an insTand, which has worked out nicely. For the Yamahas, when I use them, I have some standard 45 degree angled guitar amp stands. They’ve held up pretty well so far. The one thing that hasn’t held up well is the second tier of the V-Stand. The adapter to attach the second tier stripped out after about 6 months of use.
Well, that about covers it. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them. I’d be happy to answer any questions or discuss any of the parts that make up the gig rig with you.