Live Performance Techniques Part 2: Equipment Breakdown w/ Atropolis

In this second video of a three-part series on Live Performance Techniques, Dubspot Instructor Adam Partridge aka Atropolis takes us through his live set and explores the equipment used to make it all happen. In the third part of the series, Adam will break down his live set further and go into more detail about some of the custom tools used while sharing many helpful techniques to help improve your live sets.

In this second video of a three-part series on Live Performance Techniques, Dubspot Instructor Adam Partridge aka Atropolis takes us deeper into his live set and explains how he used various instruments to make it all happen. Get a more detailed look at how Adam incorporates Ableton Live, a drum pad for playing and recording percussion, Ableton Push for launching clips, a Livid Instruments DS1 for mixing and manipulating effects, two Akai MIDI keyboards for playing rhythms, and a Gaita: a tradition Columbian Woodwind. In the third part of the series, Adam will give us an even closer look at the custom tools used in his live setup while offering some great techniques to help improve your live sets.

Check out Atropolis’s personal process to creating his live set below and get some insight on how his approaches can guide collaborative efforts.

Converting Your Original Productions Into a Live Set Format

A set of questions to start off with is, what exactly do you want to achieve? Do you want to perform every musical aspect of your songs or is it going to be a mix of performance and triggering clips? What tools do you need in order to achieve this performance? For me, I know that my live set was going to be a combination of triggering clips and recording musical phrases with a drum synth, flute, and keys. A lot had to be done before this actually became a reality. All of my songs were complete Ableton Live arrangements where some of the tracks had 30-40 layers. The first step was to convert my tracks into a live format where I can trigger and manipulate these parts individually.

Ableton Push was my weapon of choice, and it offers my first set of helpful limitations that determined my live format; this limitation was the amount of 8 x 8 pads on this device. If you are taking the triggering clips route, I suggest thinking about some kind of triggering tool, whether it’s an APC, Push, MIDI keyboard, drum pad, or any other controller. This approach will help define how to convert your tracks. The 8 x 8 format influenced my decisions to organize each track as follows:

8 rows = 8 scenes. I want to have at least two full tracks visible on my Push, therefore each track can be no greater than four scenes. That was my limitation. So when organizing the flow of my song structures, I know that I was limited to four scenes. Even if this fights the form of the track, I had to make it work, and it worked, even if the track has six sections. Overall, my options were between one to four scenes. Some tracks that were more minimal were organized into two scenes, sometimes even one.

The next task I wanted to compress the 30-40 channels in my tracks to eight. So I chose to break the elements of my tracks into seven channels, giving me one dedicated group channel that contains the three live elements: drums, keys, and flute. My seven channels are set up as the following:

  • Channels 1-3 control drums and percussion.
  • Channel 4 is used to control bass.
  • Channels 5-7 were dedicated to lead, harmony, and FX parts.
  • Channel 8 was a group that contained three channels; an external instrument for my Roland HandSonic drum synth, two Akai mini keyboards, and one live mic for my flute.

Once this formula was down, I was able to quickly organize, export, and import my tracks into a my live template. Yes, I have my own custom template. I agree with Timo’s suggestion in his article “Preparing a Custom Live Music Performance Setup” about creating your own template and not relying on other artists templates, this is a personal and custom process. I believe it’s best to sort out what you need, go through the process, and build it yourself.

Experimenting

This next step does not have to be immediately after the first. However, it was for me. Experimenting I believe is a must at some point. There is a moment when you just have to try things out to see what works or does not work. So far the Push was the first piece of equipment I acquired to begin this journey. Now that I converted most of my repertoire into a Live Session I was able to have a lot of fun just triggering, mixing, blending, and mashing up my own tracks. This approach was an important process that helped me understand the next steps. After a short session, I became bored and felt that I was not doing anything much different than deejaying. The only difference was I had more control, and I was just pushing more buttons. I soon learned I needed more control over my tracks.

This experimentation process led to my incorporation of Livid’s MIDI mixing controller, the DS1, a controller that was developed by Livid and Dubspot. This device gave me the control I needed over volume, Sends, and Returns, as well as custom Audio/MIDI Effects and Instrument racks that I built in Live. After running through a first draft of my set, I decided to create, change, or add at least one live element in each track to give myself more creative freedom that allowed me to break away from the original song structures. This is what lead to a custom instrument rack that contains custom synths, drum racks, and modified presets. This allowed me to maximize one channel that gives me access to five instruments I use throughout my set, which are controlled by two midi keyboards and the DS1. This also led to my incorporation of Roland’s amazing drum synth, the HPD 20. In the past, I would play the drum kit and push little pads, which did not excite me. I needed a controller that can interact with drumsticks.

This experimentation process really helped define the tools I needed to accomplish my live set. I believe my setup will continue to change and bend over time as will my musical productions. The best thing about my set up is I can close my laptop and work exclusively with my controllers, which for me is huge. I am tired of seeing photos of my DJ Traktor face, where I look like I am writing an essay.

Be sure to catch the other two videos in this three-part series on Live Performance Techniques where I talk about my own personal process and further demonstrate the custom tools used to build my live set.

Live Performance Techniques Part 1: Performance Playthrough w/ Atropolis

Live Performance Techniques Part 3: Ableton Configuration w/ Atropolis

 


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