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  #1  
Old 12-10-2013, 04:21 PM
EricT43 EricT43 is offline
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Default My live backing track/click setup

For the last month or so, I've been trying to find a good way to play backing tracks, percussion loops, and sound effects live, while using in-ear monitors running a click track. It has been difficult finding information on how to do this in a simple and inexpensive way. I'm in a cover band that plays local bars, and we don't have monitor mixers and wireless systems and things that the pros use for this type of thing.

I've been doing a lot of research, and I think that now I have come up with the ideal solution that is fairly low-cost and easy to transport and hook up.

I will be using my Macbook Pro as the heart of the system. I can record my loops and backing tracks with GarageBand, and for performances, I'll use MainStage 3 to play them back, control my mix, and generate sounds triggered via MIDI.

I bought a Scarlett 2i4 audio interface for my Mac. It connects with USB and has two inputs and four outputs (4 mono or 2 stereo pairs). The main reason I chose this device is that you can choose which of the two pairs of outputs go to the headphone output. So I can use MainStage to send my click track, cue tracks, and monitor mix to my headphones, and just the backing tracks to the FOH mixer.

The monitor feed from FOH will go into the two inputs on the interface (or just one if it's mono). MainStage has a limiter effect that I can apply to those channels.

The 2i4 interface also has MIDI in/out, so I picked up an Alesis PercPad as well. It has 4 pads on it, and I can either use the built-in sounds and run them into one of the inputs on the interface, or I can use MIDI out and use MainStage to generate the sounds. So I'll mount that on my rack and use it for cowbells, tambourines, claps, etc. Eventually I could use the MIDI out to have MainStage automagically change the presets on my guitarist's effects processor and the keyboardist's keyboards. Oh, and the PercPad also has a trigger input. I think I can put a trigger on my kick drum as use that to trigger sounds and adjust playback tempo in MainStage.

I'm pretty excited about the possibilities here. And not including the laptop, which I already owned, I've only spent about $350 for Shure SE215 IEM's, the PercPad, and the interface. You could do something similar using a Windows laptop, using Ableton Live Lite, which is included with the interface.

I'll let you all know how it goes once I get it up and running. Feedback and suggestions are welcome!
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Old 12-10-2013, 07:45 PM
Shirai Shirai is offline
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Default Re: My live backing track/click setup

I'll be really interested to see how it works for you. I have been considering a nearly identical setup, though I have heard that you can run into a little latency when triggering midi sounds out of Mainstage.

I have heard that Mainstage can have up to 35GB of content once you get all the samples loaded in. Are you running that off your MBP hard drive, or an external hard drive?
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Old 12-11-2013, 02:48 AM
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yesdog yesdog is offline
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Default Re: My live backing track/click setup

I load my tracks on my ipod, or use I tunes on my mac. On my mac I put the set list in order on itunes, use the space bar to stop and start tracks. I also use the right and left arrow keys to go to the next track. I use Ableton live to make tracks and used it with a midi controller. I prefer using an ipod or my mac over an elaborate set up to do the same thing an ipod can do.
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Old 12-11-2013, 07:57 PM
EricT43 EricT43 is offline
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Default Re: My live backing track/click setup

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirai View Post
I'll be really interested to see how it works for you. I have been considering a nearly identical setup, though I have heard that you can run into a little latency when triggering midi sounds out of Mainstage.

I have heard that Mainstage can have up to 35GB of content once you get all the samples loaded in. Are you running that off your MBP hard drive, or an external hard drive?
I'm still learning the nuts and bolts of MainStage at this point, so I haven't had a chance to use it yet with my band. So far there doesn't seem to be too much latency, but in the worst case, I can use the PercPad's built-in sounds and run out directly from that to the PA.

There is indeed a LOT of data to be downloaded, and for now I am resisting the temptation to grab everything, since I don't really need it right now! But yes, I am running it on my internal MBP drive. It's a 256 GB SSD and it's filling up rapidly. I keep my iTunes library on an external drive, so that helps quite a bit. I use iTunes Match, so if I need a song and don't have the external drive, I can download a copy from the cloud.

Quote:
Originally Posted by yesdog View Post
I load my tracks on my ipod, or use I tunes on my mac. On my mac I put the set list in order on itunes, use the space bar to stop and start tracks. I also use the right and left arrow keys to go to the next track. I use Ableton live to make tracks and used it with a midi controller. I prefer using an ipod or my mac over an elaborate set up to do the same thing an ipod can do.
I agree simpler is better. I started on the same path as you, planning to use my iPad, but when you need a click track it makes thing get complicated. I wanted a separate headphone mix with click, so I'd need to have the monitor mix and FOH mix panned left and right in order to split them. To do that, I also need a small mixer, in order to convert the split channels to mono and run it into my IEM's.

So I initially bought a small mixer, and with some adapters and splitters, had a reasonable setup. Then I thought, well since I have this mixer, I should be able to bring a monitor feed from FOH into this as well. And then I started reading about how it's highly recommended to use a limiter if you are doing that, to avoid blowing your ears out from some sort of unexpected noises from the board.

I don't want to take any chances with my ears, so I decided I needed a limiter if I was going to do live monitoring with my IEM's. I quickly found that there's no easy way to add a limiter to the signal chain I already had set up. I'd either need an outboard limiter for my mixer, which would cost hundreds and be another piece of gear to lug around, or I'd have to get a body module for my IEM's, which also cost hundreds.

This led my to my current setup - I returned the mixer and bought the audio interface. It was less expensive than the other options, and most DAW software has a limiter effect, even the Ableton Live Lite that came with the interface. Plus, the interface has a lot of other fun uses, one of which is MIDI in/out, which allows me to easily add the drum pad to my kit.

So it was a gradual escalation in technology as I refined my list of requirements and found out what I felt was the most flexible and economical way to meet them. Like I said, this is still under development, but I wanted to share what I've learned. I had such a hard time getting to this point, that I figured there are others out there that could benefit from my experience.
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Old 12-12-2013, 04:34 PM
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yesdog yesdog is offline
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Default Re: My live backing track/click setup

Quote:
Originally Posted by EricT43 View Post
I'm still learning the nuts and bolts of MainStage at this point, so I haven't had a chance to use it yet with my band. So far there doesn't seem to be too much latency, but in the worst case, I can use the PercPad's built-in sounds and run out directly from that to the PA.

There is indeed a LOT of data to be downloaded, and for now I am resisting the temptation to grab everything, since I don't really need it right now! But yes, I am running it on my internal MBP drive. It's a 256 GB SSD and it's filling up rapidly. I keep my iTunes library on an external drive, so that helps quite a bit. I use iTunes Match, so if I need a song and don't have the external drive, I can download a copy from the cloud.



I agree simpler is better. I started on the same path as you, planning to use my iPad, but when you need a click track it makes thing get complicated. I wanted a separate headphone mix with click, so I'd need to have the monitor mix and FOH mix panned left and right in order to split them. To do that, I also need a small mixer, in order to convert the split channels to mono and run it into my IEM's.

So I initially bought a small mixer, and with some adapters and splitters, had a reasonable setup. Then I thought, well since I have this mixer, I should be able to bring a monitor feed from FOH into this as well. And then I started reading about how it's highly recommended to use a limiter if you are doing that, to avoid blowing your ears out from some sort of unexpected noises from the board.

I don't want to take any chances with my ears, so I decided I needed a limiter if I was going to do live monitoring with my IEM's. I quickly found that there's no easy way to add a limiter to the signal chain I already had set up. I'd either need an outboard limiter for my mixer, which would cost hundreds and be another piece of gear to lug around, or I'd have to get a body module for my IEM's, which also cost hundreds.

This led my to my current setup - I returned the mixer and bought the audio interface. It was less expensive than the other options, and most DAW software has a limiter effect, even the Ableton Live Lite that came with the interface. Plus, the interface has a lot of other fun uses, one of which is MIDI in/out, which allows me to easily add the drum pad to my kit.

So it was a gradual escalation in technology as I refined my list of requirements and found out what I felt was the most flexible and economical way to meet them. Like I said, this is still under development, but I wanted to share what I've learned. I had such a hard time getting to this point, that I figured there are others out there that could benefit from my experience.
What I do for backing tracks, When I make them in my DAW i use 2 mono tracks the music track gets panned hard right, the other track which is the click gets panned hard left. create a WAV or Mp3 and load it on your ipad. You need to run a DI box with a 2 channel split. The house mix the left channel is muted and in the IEM mix you get click and backing track.
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Old 12-12-2013, 06:53 PM
EricT43 EricT43 is offline
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Default Re: My live backing track/click setup

Quote:
Originally Posted by yesdog View Post
What I do for backing tracks, When I make them in my DAW i use 2 mono tracks the music track gets panned hard right, the other track which is the click gets panned hard left. create a WAV or Mp3 and load it on your ipad. You need to run a DI box with a 2 channel split. The house mix the left channel is muted and in the IEM mix you get click and backing track.
Sounds pretty simple, I like it. How do you do your IEM mix?
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Old 12-12-2013, 07:32 PM
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IDDrummer IDDrummer is offline
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Default Re: My live backing track/click setup

Thanks for discussing this stuff - I have little to add because I haven't done this, but I am very appreciative of the info you're sharing. Please keep it coming!
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Old 12-12-2013, 08:41 PM
shredfreak shredfreak is offline
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Default Re: My live backing track/click setup

there's a few ways to do this:

The easiest would be a DAW where everything is mixed right & sent to the appropriate outputs, then simply play along with the click. only need to look for an interface that has the right outputs.

Then there's the all in one pads like the roland spd sx and such. They work amazingly well. And on top of the soundpads it has triggerinputs that allow you to put your kickdrum trigger in and i think the new model has 2 trigger inputs. Works like a charm but it comes with a pricetag.

Cheapest way however is the iPod approach where everything is hardpanned left & right using a DI box to split the signal. Left goes to you & right goes to front of house.

Must have's is a small mixer wich you can get for cheaps to balance the output from you backings & whatever comes FOH.
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Old 12-12-2013, 10:04 PM
patrice patrice is offline
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Default Re: My live backing track/click setup

Definitely agree that it's best to keep it simple.

I work in Apple tech support, so I know that things can malfunction - out of the blue.

A few years ago we had a fairly large and important album launch gig: my Apple laptop's internal harddrive died on me an hour before showtime. (Without the backing tracks, we couldn't have pulled the show off. Tons of keys - and no keyboard player... Don't ask why...)

Luckily I had all the sound data on a CD-R, and a guy from a DJ shop nearby let us borrow his Windows laptop - running a demo version of Ableton Live. I was still updating files on the way to the stage. Didn't feel too relaxed by the time we went into the first song... ;-)

Guess what I'm trying to say is: if you heavily rely on the backing tracks, you best have two each of all the pieces of equipment required. The iPod suggestion a little earlier sounds like a fairly good idea.

Patrice
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  #10  
Old 12-13-2013, 06:46 AM
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latzanimal latzanimal is offline
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Default Re: My live backing track/click setup

Patrice, I'm having trouble isolating tracks in Garageband. I have them hard panned left and right, yet I'm still getting the track in both sides. I have turned off all of the effects, but I must be missing something...

Any suggestions?
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Old 12-13-2013, 07:32 AM
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yesdog yesdog is offline
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Default Re: My live backing track/click setup

Quote:
Originally Posted by latzanimal View Post
Patrice, I'm having trouble isolating tracks in Garageband. I have them hard panned left and right, yet I'm still getting the track in both sides. I have turned off all of the effects, but I must be missing something...

Any suggestions?
Make sure your tracks are set to mono, garage bands tracks are set to stereo by default. If you do not change to mono you get massive bleed thru
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