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Overview and Time-Lapse Video of My Ableton Live Laptop Music Rig + Controllers

2010-MarkMosher-Signals-Rig_01

Over the years I’ve played hundreds of shows as a keyboardist using my trusty Apex column with various hardware synths.  In late 2009 I had a vision to create a new Ableton Live laptop-centric rig using only virtual synths running in Live.

While I wanted to play some keys, I was really excited to add alternative visual, tangible, and spatial controllers and selected Percussa AudioCubes, Tenori-On, a Novation Launchpad. I went with my trusty Remote SL 25 for keys as it also doubles as a controller for Live. In the 11th hour I added a Moog Ehterwave Theremin which was clearly necessary to play “They Walk Among Us” live :^).

I’ve played enough shows to know that you can’t always count on basic lighting and P.A. to be adequate, so I added these elements to my requirements as well – just in case. My goal was to be able to run a room of 80 people if needed with just my rig. My other goal was 4 trips from the car load-in max with a 15 minute setup time or less.

The sketch above shows all this on paper (click the image to see a larger view). After months of slowly building up gear, the reality - sans lighting - is shown in the fun little time-laps video embedded video below.

Here is a list of what's in the rig:

  • Laptop: Windows 7 32-bit, HP DV6t-1200 Pavilion w/Core2 Duo P8700 @ 2.53 GHZ, 3G memory, 7200 RPM Drive (Update I now use an HP Envy 14 I5)
  • Soundcard: Novation NIO 2|4
  • DAW Software: Ableton Live 8 Suite
  • Primary Controllers: Novation Remote SL 25 (updated to MKII), Launchpad | Tenori-On | Percussa AudioCubes
  • Primary Virtual Synthesizers: Tone2 Gladiator 2| Native Instruments Absynth 5 | Camel Audio Alchemy | U-He Zebra 2, ACE | Ableton Sampler, Operator... | SonicCharge Synplant | Lennar Digital Sylenth1 | reFX Vanguard, Slayer2 | Image-Line Harmless, Toxic Biohazard | Cakewalk Dimension Pro | FAW Circle | DCAM: Synth Squad...
  • Hardware Synthesizers: Moog Etherwave Theremin, Waldorf Blofeld (not pictured)
  • PA: Bose L1 Compact
  • Stand: Odyssey ATT2 Table, Odyssey L2 Laptop Stand

Links to lots of the software I use here:
http://markmoshermusic.com/links.html

Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Boulder, CO
http://www.modulatethis.com
http://MarkMosherMusic.com


New Single "First Orbit" Performed Live + Percussa Audio Cube Presentation Video from Ableton Denver Meetup

On the 14th of March I gave a presentation on Percussa AudioCubes at the Ableton Denver Meetup. David Henderson was kind enough to shoot video and he even took the time to post on YouTube. Thanks David.

By the way, if you haven’t subscribed to his blog yet, you should check it out - http://www.hendersounds.com/. Lots of cool insights on Ableton Live, Monome and more.

As part of this presentation, I decided to perform a brand new single called “First Orbit” using only AudioCubes and a Launchad. The song is in the second video below and starts at the 1:20 mark.

Watch embedded video

In this song I’m using AudioCubes to send MIDI notes and MIDI CC data to Ableton Live 8, specifically to:

  • Change scenes
  • Trigger Artillery 2 FX with MIDI notes
  • Modulate parameters of Ableton Live FX (Redux; PingPong Delay; Arpeggiator Rate, Gate, Distance)

I misspoke in the the video on what synths I’m using in this song. I’m using Gladiator 2, Absynth 5, and U-He Ace. Two synths that are well suited for cubes that are not in this song are Alchemy and Synplant.

The launchpad is used as a visual reference for what is going on inside of Live. at 2:55 I switch to User Mode 2 on the Novation Launchad and trigger a metallic sound then change the Rate by breaking the beam between cubes. I then play notes on the launchpad which plays both Gladiator and Absynth. When I pick up the Sensor cube, I’m modulating arpeggiator Gate and Distance. Opening up the gate makes the Absynth patch much more tonal.

Marc W. from Ableton Denver just gave me additional footage from a second camera angle and I plan to post a video on my channel of just the song by combining footage from both cameras. I’ll also post this live performance of the song in audio format and will also do a studio version down the road and release that as well.

Watch embedded video.

Thanks for watching!

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Composer, Sound Designer
Louisville/Denver/Boulder

http://www.modulatethis.com
http://www.markmoshermusic.com
http://www.twitter.com/markmosher

image
Download/Buy my album REBOOT on Bandcamp
Buy on iTunes

“First Orbit” Copyright 2010 Mark J. Mosher, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


The Mojo: Moldover's New Controller (Sneak Peek)

Mojo 
 (Click image to enlarge)

Controllerist Moldover has posted a sneak peek of his first commercial controller, the Mojo.

View embedded video

“After nearly a decade of study in the art of controllerism, Moldover has created his first commercially available controller. Assimilating ideas from traditional instruments, DJ hardware, and game controllers,The Mojo puts an unprecedented level of power and completely intuitive control in your hands. Combining ergonomic elegance, rapid-fire tactile responsiveness, and bullet-proof construction, The Mojo is the sexiest controller in the entire multiverse. Order your own and get more details at moldover.com."

Features (as listed on Moldover’s site):

  • Works with all MIDI compatible music software
  • lIncludes new Moldover template for Ableton Live
  • 10 ultra-responsive touch strips
  • 24 competition-grade arcade buttons
  • Rubberized knobs, rugged faders and burly toggle switches
  • Assembled in San Francisco CA by Andy from Pance Party
  • Sexy mahogany body by Livid Instruments
  • Scratch-resistant anodized aluminum faceplate
  • Environmentally sealed twist-lock USB cable included
  • USB bus powered electronics by Hale Micro
  • Class-compliant USB device (no driver to install)
  • Free copy of Moldover's self-titled album included
  • Dimensions: 11.5" x 18" x 4", 7.5lbs
  • Will totally get you laid (Yes, this is in the factory spec).

A limited edition of 20 Mojos will ship in March and will cost $1799.

Links

Mark Mosher
imageElectronic Music Artist
Louisville/Denver/Boulder

http://www.modulatethis.com
http://www.markmoshermusic.com
Download my REBOOT Album: http://www.RebootAlbum.com


Percussa Audio Cubes: Lights & Tangible Interface with Ableton Live and Alchemy

Mark Mosher Percussa Audio Cubes

I recently added Percussa AudioCubes to my studio and performance rig. While I’m planning a longer post offering an overview of how AudioCubes work, this is a quick post to mention two applications of AudioCube technology I’ve been experimenting with.

markmosher_audiocubes

First, I’m using them as lights. You can send RGB values to the cubes via MIDI. In the picture above, you can see a color fade being sent to an AudioCube via an Ableton MIDI clip. In a nutshell, you can sequence cubes as multi-color light sources against a timeline.  Controller number 14 is used for Red, 15 for Green and 16 for Blue.

Markmoshermusic_percussa_audiocubes_alchemy

Second, I’ve been experimenting with using AudioCubes+Ableton Live +VSTs to create "performance instruments” that I can play via cubes. In the picture above (click to enlarge), , I’m using Camel Audio Alchemy as a MIDI device with Ableton Live 8. The picture shows crop of a free Percussa app called MIDIBridge which is used to configure the cube settings. I’m using MIDI Yoke ports (I’m on Vista-32) between MIDIBridge and Ableton Live.

I am mapping device parameters to the X/Y of the remix pad in Alchemy. I then MIDI map faces of a an AucioCube in “sensor” mode to the performance parameters. In sensor mode, the AudioCube detects the proximity of my hands to their sides of the cube face and sends out a continuous controller value based on my hand position. So one face controls X, another Y. The same idea would work with Native Instruments KORE2.

Result = radical sonic changes within Camel Audio Alchmy presets with real time control via an AudioCube.

Links:

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Composer, Sound Designer
Louisville/Denver/Boulder

http://www.modulatethis.com
http://www.markmoshermusic.com
http://www.twitter.com/markmosher

image
Download/Buy my album REBOOT on Bandcamp
Buy on iTunes


Hands-On with the Tenori-On: First Impressions + Integration with Ableton Live

image

Now that REBOOT has released, I’m gearing up to perform these songs live. One of my goals it to make the performances more visually interesting, help the audience connect with what I’m doing musically, and not spend an entire set hunched over a laptop.

I just added a Tenori-On White to my rig to help achieve this goal and to use as a controller and sequencer for composition. In this post I’ll offer some first impressions and notes on use.

Favorite Features

  • Built-in Synth engine, integrated sequencer, built-in speakers and SD card for composition and performance on the go
  • Runs on batteries
  • You can use it as a MIDI controller
  • Fantastic user interface and work flow
  • Visual representation of music
  • Ability to load 48 samples allowing you expand the palette when you are not using it as a controller

First Impressions on Design
image I was actually surprised when I unboxed the Tenori-On. The unit was like 20% smaller than I thought it would be after seeing it in picture and videos – and that’s a good thing. Tenori-On is clearly designed to be held with both hands using the thumbs and fingers to access function buttons plus reach inside to hit "LED" buttons. This being the case the small buttons allow for a smaller matrix so you can access a more with thumbs and fingers on either hand. The case is made of metal and machined by robots. All the controls are flush even with the rounded contours - very nice!

LED Buttons
One of the main reasons I got Tenori-On White was because the LED lights are visible on the front and the back. So when you play, the audience sees the lights as well. This feature is unique to Tenori-On white.

Learning Curve
Tenori-On is a proprietary system and the navigation and functionality is pre-configured. One advantage of pre-configured control schemes like the APC-40 (assuming you don't remap) and Tenori-On is that the learning curve is quite short. With both of these products time from setup to being productive and creative was extremely short for me.

In Use
Tenori-On is simply a blast to play. Beginners will be able to get something musical going right away. Advanced users who spend the time to “transcend” the navigation system will be able to create interesting musical and visual performances as well as use the Tenori-On as a sequencer and controller.

Of course like with any instrument, practice is what’s going to make this a great performance tool. In only about an hour I had 80% of the features memorized. In about 3 hours I was navigating layers, blocks, modes, and tweaking parameters in real-time without looking at the function buttons.

Using Your Own Samples  and Storing Data
Using a free Windows/Mac utility, you can build three customs instruments with up to 16 samples each. Each sample is limited to 900ms and you can’t edit much. Even though it’s no replacement for your sampler, it’s enough to allow you to transform the Tenori-On’s pallet support your needs. Revision... Samples, songs, blocks, layers can be saved and loaded from an SD card. Sample memory is non-volatile so samples remain in memory even if you turn the unit off and back on again! That is good news since it takes about 3 minutes to load 1 user voice containing 16 samples. You definitely will want to get your samples all installed before you perform – either that or you’ll need a Tenori-On roadie :^).

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In Use As a Controller with Ableton Live tenori-driving-absynth5
You can go way beyond the built-in sound set plus add some visual sizzle to your performance by using Tenori-On as a MIDI controller. The picture above is of the Tenori-On and my laptop running Ableton Live 8. The Tenori-On is in slave mode and Ableton is the Master clock. I’m using the MIDI ports on my Novation NIO Sound card to connect the Tenori-On to Ableton.

Each of the 16 layers within the Tenori-On transmit on a different MIDI channel. I created tracks with instances of Gladiator 2, Alchemy, Sylenth1, and Absynth 5 each listening on a different MIDI track number.

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By default different performance modes (Score , Random, Draw, Push, Solo) are hard-coded to each layer. There is a “hack” to override this (see links at bottom of post).

In my test set, I used Solo Mode to sequence a bass line into a MIDI clip in a Gladiator 2 track. The above picture illustrates my use of Draw Mode to play some awesome motion pads in Absynth 5. Push Mode is also great for synths like Alchemy and Absynth.

image

In some cases I wanted to switch modes and record all note data into one MIDI clip. When going this route set the track MIDI input to “All Channels”.

Sync
I’ve read that some people have has issues syncing with DAW’s. It must be true as there is a firmware update coming to improve sync.  In my limited use I’ve not had much trouble and it works just fine. My guess is those having trouble are pumping out lots of data from multiple layers.

Price and Tenori-On Orange
Tenori-On White has been out for a few years. The price has slowly dropped and it goes for $999 today. Yamaha recently announced Tenori-On Orange for $699 with availability in January. To get the price down they changed the case to plastic, took the LEDs of the back and took away the battery power capability. All other features are the same. Of course these are some of my favorite features for White was a clear choice for me.

Where these the right choices? Are these prices too high? There are lots of discussion about this on sites like Synthtopia and Create Digital Music. While I would loved to have paid less, I don’t regret the purchase at all.

Conclusion
So far, the Tenori-On has exceeded all my expectations. Once I got it out the box I found it hard to put down. I’m enjoying using it as an alternative to my computer and for making music on the go. Using it as a controller definitely boosts my creativity. It’s unique features make it a it a nice compliment to my ACP 40.

Links:

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Composer, Sound Designer
Louisville/Denver/Boulder

http://www.modulatethis.com
http://www.markmoshermusic.com
http://www.twitter.com/markmosher

image
Download/Buy my album REBOOT


My Studio Setup: 1 Laptop/3 Configurations + Akai APC40 Eye Candy

MarkMosher_APC40_01_filtered

Revised 7-3-2009, changes are in red.

For over two years I've been completely laptop based and loving it. Here are some notes on the three configurations I run with my latpop.

First, I'm running an HP DV6500T running Vista, Ableton Live 8 Suite, and various vsts (Alchemy,Sylenth1,NI Massive/Absynth 4,Gladiator 2,Dimension Pro, Morphine...)

I run in one of the following states:

1 - Laptop Only - Laptop alone with Ableton Live +  VSTs. I use the qwerty keyboard and touch pad and do composition and sound-design on the go (or from the couch).

2 - Laptop + Korg Nano - Sometimes I want more control or want to user velocity sensitive keys when I'm on the go. I then add a Korg nanoKey or nanoKontrol to config #1.

3 - Laptop Docked - Last year, my awesome wife and kids re-vamped my studio space as a birthday gift. Besides painting and swanky new furniture, they created stand to hold all my gear by cleverly using the old Ultimate Support Apex column I used to gig with and attached two permanent shelves (painted black and attached with brackets). Shelves are  15 3/4"x 47 3/4" and I believe were from home depot. The footprint for this rig is 26" wide from the wall to the outside edge of the bottom shelf, and 47 3/4" wide. Underneath all this is a dock with tons of USB ports that all the gear plugs in to. The laptop is sitting on a mesh filing box turned upside-down that I picked up from Target (see last picture in post). This setup is pictured below. All I have to do is plug the laptop into the doc and the following comes online:

  • HP Notebook Quickdock
  • External Monitor - Samsung SyncMaster 930b
  • Novation Nio USB sound card
  • M-Audio Studiophile SP-5B reference monitors
  • Bamboo Touch Pad
  • Wireless Logitech diNovo Edge keyboard with built-in touch pad
  • Akai APC40
  • Novation Remote SL 25
  • M-Audio Trigger Finger (Still lovin it after all these years. After touch on drum pads and seamless integration with Ableton drum racks are great).
  • Rode NT-1A on an a broadcaster's boom which is fed into Behringer UB802 Eurorack which is routed to the Nio. I mostly use this for voice overs, recording voice related samples, and vocoding. I also record video tutorials through this mic.
  • Sometimes a Korg TR via USB is added to the mix when I want that "triton" sound or want to play a controller with more keys on it.

For me this strategy is simple, elegant, has a small footprint yet is extremely powerful and flexible. With Ableton Live and VSTs accessible in every configuration I can jump in and out of projects in any configuration. I find the combination of the APC40, Remote SL and Trigger Finger to be perfect for just about everything I do.

The APC40 has made this a dream setup really and has almost completely eliminated mousing for me. I'll close with a few photos of the APC40  in my studio setup.

Just a fun shot in a dark room.

MarkMosher_APC40_02_filtered

The  APC40, Remote SL 25, and a Trigger Finger fit perfectly on the bottom tier.

MarkMosher_APC40_03_filtered

Using the APC40 as a Lite Brite - "M" plus pretty colors :^).

MarkMosher_APC40_04_filtered

Picture of laptop docked.
Laptop_docked

Mark Mosher
http://www.modulatethis.com
http://www.markmoshermusic.com
http://www.twitter.com/markmosher


Video Tutorial: Ableton Live 8 + APC40 + Remote SL Controllerism

I’m the proud owner of the new Akai APC40. I’ve already integrated it into my workflow along with my Novation Remote SL. I’ve put together a video of how I’m using these controllers with Live 8.

Watch the video on YouTube:

This video is a step-by-step tutorial describing Ableton Live 8's new custom parameter mapping methodology. The video illustrates how to map select parameters from VST plug-ins into devices and then control these parameters via the Novation Remote SL and the new Akai APC40. The video also discusses how to add and access more than 8 parameters. Lastly, the video covers use of instrument racks and macro controls to map parameters from multiple devices to an 8 knob group.

Stay tuned for more posts on controllerism and the Akai APC40.

Mark Mosher
http://www.modulatethis.com
http://www.markmoshermusic.com
http://www.twitter.com/markmosher