A steady schedule of gigs the last several weeks (on average about 4 gigs a week for the last 4 weeks) has given me a real workout with my gear. A lot of moving, a lot of setup, a lot of teardown, a lot of keyboard stands and cables, a lot of software tweaks. I like having everything being based around Mainstage, since I can have limited hardware change and still have a lot of diversity of sound. This gives me the flexibility of tweaking my hardware a bit and trying out new things without sacrificing my sound.
Band of Gold usually has me breaking out a 3 to 4 keyboard rig, involving the Yamaha SHS-10 keytar (see photo at right). At one recent gig, stage space was so limited that I didn’t have room for an extra keyboard stand, so I mounted my 49-key M-Audio controller to the top of my amp. The velcro on the bottom of the keyboard attached nicely to the felt on the amp. I used velcro to attached the keytar to the top of my other M-Audio controller as well, though it was left unused for most of the gig due to some as-yet-undiagnosed detuning problems that seem to occur whenever I play it.
Nearly a year ago, some friends of mine and I did a Genesis tribute called The Spotty Lads. That brought with it a pretty intense rig. The drummer happened to own a Yamaha CP-70 electric grand, which he insisted on using for the gig. Additionally, I’d brought out my synth rack, which included an Oberheim Matrix-1000, a Roland M-VS1 Vintage Synth module, and an Alesis QSR. The M-VS1 was critical for the Mellotron samples, while most of the other sounds were programmed in Mainstage. At the time of the gig, it seemed completely reasonable to have such a robust rig, though in subsequent rehearsals I found that I could get just as much out of simply two controllers.
As one might imagine, setting up 4 keyboards isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be, even in this age of USB controllers. It’s often unnecessary, and I only use that rig on occasion. Often I find that 2 keyboard controllers will suffice, as it did at a gig I did with Almost Elton John in Kennesaw. This job found me playing mainly strings, organ, and synth sounds to round out the material we were playing (the guy doing Elton John was playing a baby grand on the opposite side of the stage). This gave me a little extra space for my other laptop so I could read PDF charts I’d created for the gig. I also brought my 3-ring binder of the charts, so that I could be prepared for the next tune as I was reading charts off the computer. It seems like a good system, and will hopefully be unnecessary in the future should I do more work with the group, and I get all of the material memorized.
Now for one of my favorite jobs, I get to travel light! For a month now, the Band of Gold Trio has been doing jazz and instrumentals at a local restaurant in Lawrenceville every Tuesday night. At first I brought a single 88-key controller and went through the MacBook, as well as the Roland JV-1010. Since ended up being overkill, since I only ever used the piano patches. So, I decided to chance it with the PC-88, and so far it’s worked perfectly. I can load-in now in only 2 trip from the car (or 1 if I get help from one of the fellas). By far it’s the job I look most forward to, if for no other reason than the load-in! It’s also neat to find out just what your made of when you’re only playing a piano! No string pads or delayed synth leads to hide behind. Just you and the instrument, and your rhythm section.
As much as I appreciate the purist mentality of one man and one instrument, I’m still a gear nerd at heart. It’s hard to pass up one of my more favorite rigs, like the one involving the Korg MS-2000B. During the Band of Gold Live Webcast, I tried using the Korg as a MIDI controller for the first time. Of course I used the onboard sounds as well, but using it as a controller was an extra bonus. The keytar went out on me again, but I had plenty of other things to look forward to with this setup. The use of the Korg’s vocoder was another welcome addition, as I usually experience some unwelcome latency when using the vocoder in Mainstage. And who doesn’t like the real-time knob-twiddling?