aw yay, I thought i was the only one. I’m writing this while listening to your mix I’m currently at 16:30 on the soundcloud link. So you’d have one file with like, the whole set on it, organized in the various banks by instrument. Is that right?
I love the notebook btw.
I’ve been iterating on a live set for a while and the first iteration used a notebook and ‘dawless’ notation I’d come up with - sadly I couldn’t find a photo of it, it was glorious lol.
Trying to sum up what I want to do with a live set:
- One song per file
- Sonic Continuity
The Sonic Continuity and One song per file ideas are a little bit at odds with each other on the pyramid: The pyramid can’t play and load at the same time; I’ll get to that but since it’s pre-thanksgiving and forums are way more fun than work, I figured I’d unpack a couple things first.
:: What makes a good techno set and/or what is the expectation of your techno ::
I want to make a set, ideally a good set - why? because I want to play it live and I’m hoping everyone will see the depths of my soul via the vehcile that is my music. Plus, I want things to be interesting for the listener so they don’t walk outside and smoke cigarettes the whole time.
Makes sense to most people making a set right? And what is a set? Well, it’s a bunch of music that you play. Usually more than a song, but I suppose a song counts as a set too in set theory.
Okay, so what makes a good set? Part of that has to do with expectation. If you go to a rock concert, sometimes songs are stuck together and sometimes there are breaks in a set where the rockband tells a joke about their hair or something. If you go to a classical concert, there might be like, three 23 minute pieces, so there’s silence between each piece where the violinist takes a bow, and then the orchestra plays the next song. And there’s techno where the dj has long established the sustained groove and none of that breaking and bowing/talking stuff.
Before you all bust my chops on house or techno or grime or krunk or whatever, let’s pretend we’re eninem right now and it’s all just fuckin techno. Cause, at least to everyone who’s not you, it’s just techno.
Okay so, you can approach your set any way you want, there’s really no right or wrong – it’s all kind of how you want to think about your act, I guess.
I however, I write techno - and for a good techno set, I think, for one, there’s continuity – that groove just keeps on grooving; the music does not stop. Everyone who hears me play expects that too; they keep calling me a dj, after all (all this gear, and i’m a dj? lol).
At least as far as ‘good techno sets’, the technical requirement is continuity - at least, I think so.
:: One song per file ::
Okay continuity is really important to me - if it’s so important, why not just put multiple songs on a single file and make your set that way? Partly because I am just me, and partly because I like options:
- My songs are kind of complicated and I use a lot of gear. This makes it hard to shove lots of songs onto a single file and keep things organized and not overwhelming.
- I regularly start new songs and just junk them. If I did this on a file I had organized for a set, I’d have to do more cleanup.
- I want flexibility to change my sets around
– When I stack multiple songs on a single file, I tend to always play those songs together. In reality, what I want is flexibility to go to any song I want.
– Moving songs to from one pyramid file to another is kind of a pain in the ass and I don’t like doing it
Anyways, so yea - single song per file on the card for me.
:: :: Okay, let’s get into the weeds :: ::
I think about my sets in these layers on my dawless rig-
- the mix
- continuity (how the songs connect to each other)
– songs –
As far as songs go, I mostly don’t want to be confused or have a hard time remembering things. For this reason I have a template that all my songs use and there’s a way I play all my songs. This is probably a better topic for another thread, but this is important in a set as, if my songs are all wildly different I’ll confuse myself and train wreck.
I guess the next part is, I like to build things in a way where I can make mistakes. I don’t really like rehearsing something over and over and over to get it right. Instead, I like to treat everything like it’s just another improvisation, though after a while I start to remember things. If something goes different one day, that’s okay - the loops I make support me doing that without it being too awful.
– the mix –
This is techno and the name of the game is a flowful groove. Surprises should be titillating if present, and most of the time, things should flow, laminar style. Really I think you should think about your mix in two contexts - the context of your song and then the context of the set (or the local mix vs the mix in continuity). I’m just going to talk about the context of the set/continuity.
Okay, so while it is possible for us to write a 3 hour set using the same presets on 4 synths and one drum kit, it’s more than likely that during the course of your set, you’re going to change your sound up. Now, if you’re a purist, 100% of your sound changes could be the actual dialing of a knob - this is pretty much what all modular people do in my eyes, nothing wrong with that but that’s not me. For the rest of us, we’re probably going to do something akin to:
- send a program change message to a synth to change it sound
- send a midi cc value to some sync to set a value (as opposed to a continuous change)
- load a new sample
This list isn’t exhaustive - but the more significant the settings change, the more careful you have to be about your mix in advance of your performance. What you don’t want, is to forget to turn something down on your mixer, press a track button on the pyramid, and have some blaring loud overwhelming section dominate your song. Nor do you want to change drum kits, and suddenly find that you can’t hear your bass or your leads (and perhaps, didn’t notice until the song was almost over).
You probably see where I’m going with this - but you have to normalize all your sounds. This means normalizing drum kits, normalizing synth patches.
The goal should be to touch your mixer as little as possible when queuing up the next track - mix on your devices where you can get away with it. Personally I find it impossible to manage maybe more than 4 faders before I start forgetting things (I also have a 32 channel mixer, so this is a problem I’ve thought a a lot about).
I’ll flip between my songs and adjust patches etc until I have as few level jumps as I can get away with. Some things still require a fader adjustment when I’m starting the song, again - it’s about making it more of an artistic need than chaos management.
– continuity & one song per file –
Continuity - remember, I’m a techno musician with complicated needs; I want my songs to connect except where I place artistic silence. The pyramid has to stop making sounds when it loads a song too. How do we achieve continuity?
We take advantage of continuous elements in our dig. A continuous element is any element that can make sound when the pyramid is loading a song.
For me I have these continuous elements available in my dawless rig:
- 2 Delays (and I suppose delays on some synths)
- Any device with it’s own sequencer
– continuity techniques –
There are a few ways I go about bridging songs.
__ Delays __
Delays are interesting case because you can use them even if you totally stop the pyramid. For delays if you want them to keep making sound while you’re loading, you have to do a feedback juggle. Personally I call this the NIN technique because it kind of reminds me of how Trent would change songs on stage sometimes - just hella noise and shit for a while and get everything ready and boom new song. Because the delays usually just keep on delaying when a clock disappears it’s safe to stop the pyramid - one gotcha here though is if you load a song in a new tempo while the feedback is still playing you’ll likely create a jump (remember to press 2nd when you load your new tracks and then up your tempo slowly!). When I use these, load shit, fade to silence, then start the next track.
__ Other sequencers __
Other sequencers can solve this problem. There are a few ways to approach alternative sequencers and I approach them in two different ways (due to the gear in my rig and play style). One constraint is that for me, I suck at starting and stopping sequencers in time, like suck (or at least I sure did a few years ago last time I tried) so, I always clock sync and trigger sync my sequencers to the pyramid. Some day I might like to start a sequencer that’s off time and sorta figure out how to tweak it into the mix but I’m just not there yet - so yea, sequencers on a global clock.
The two sequencers mechanisms I use break down into:
- sequencers that start/stop when the pyramid starts/stops – ‘always running’
- sequencers that I start/stop when I want them to start/stop – ‘not always running’
It’s worth noting that sequencers usually require two things to run: a clock, and a start message. Sequencers can provide their own clocks, but as I said in my rig I sync everything to the pyramid’s clock to the pyramid providing clock is essential (syncload!).
__ always running sequencers __
Some sequencers in my rig are always just running, like my analog Rytm. Whenever I press play on my pyramid, my analog rytm and my digitone sequencers also start their sequencers. As long as I don’t send a stop signal to them and they keep receiving a clock signal, they will keep on trucking. I use the sequencer on my analog rytm because it’s quite a bit better for sequencing drums imho so, I actually didn’t set this up for continuity but I take advantage of it none the less.
Since my Rytm is playing my drums, if I can ensure it gets a clock and does not receive a stop message, it will play sounds for me while the pyramid is loading. This is just Pyramid’s SyncLoad feature
In the case of the pyramid, if I wanted to transition to a new song without drums I have 4 bars of silence on the rytm I can use to have silence, but still resume the drums in perfect time.
The digitone I have is always running as well. It works a little differently than the Pyramid. It has 4 internal tracks you can sequence and 4 external tracks you can sequence; I only use the internal tracks. What I like about digitone is, you can mute the sequenced pattern without muting the sound itself. I’ll have the pyramid play channels on my digitone with sequenced patterns muted, and then when I want to use the digiton’s sequencer I’ll unmute it on the digitone (and maybe unmute on the pyramid). With the digitone I can get up to 4 layers of sounds to use to mix to the next song, if I want.
__ not always running sequencers __
Some sequencers are in your rig but aren’t clever enough to mute while allowing you let the pyramid make sounds. If these sequencers run, they play the locally sequenced sounds, simple as that. For a long time these sequencers were simply unavailable to me - I didn’t use them at all really. These would be like the seqeuncer on my System 8 - just this thing that was kind of there.
When I first got System 8, I set it up to ignore PLAY messages altogether. if I really wanted this sequencer I would just try to start it manually - turns out I really suck at this, so I just ended up saying “another unused sequencer on a synth”.
Okay, but what if I could make sequences on this synth and what if I wanted to use those sequences to provide continuity between my songs?
This is where shit gets a little weird because I really went out of my way to make this work: I intercept PLAY/STOP messages send to this device specifically. Then, I capture certain midi CC values in real time, map them to PLAY/STOP messages, and use those CC’s to effective start/stop the sequencer on the system 8. I use a BomeBox for this.
:: Mixing between songs with other sequencers ::
For the set, the idea to go between songs is this: Toward end of your song, bring in your continuous elements (I like to use the continuous elements in the song, so that they dont sound super foreign). Fade out your pyramid elements. Load on the pyramid (2nd+Load to keep the tempo). Pray a little. The Pyramid will sync to one bar, so keep in mind where your other sequencers are, then press play - voila you made it. Fade out your continuous elements, change your tempo, bring in your new pyramid elements.
On the Pyramid, each song file has a page of ‘landings’. A landing is basically the start of a transition to another song (you ‘land’ on the other song, so to speak). The landing sequences will start sequencers and setup synths for the transition sounds while I’m loading the pyramid. This goes on my page C. Every time i change the set around, I author a new landing, and then I now have a new pathway in my set.
Since I can use my delay trick or sometimes silence is desirable, I’m not against stopping the sequencer altogether but these days I sorta don’t have to. I will say this though, sequencers are very sensitive little creatures and it’s pretty easy to have a crash landing due to little things like blips in midi clock timing.
From any landing, or silence, I can do quite a bit of layering without even restarting the pyramid. I see it as kind of a limbo, where the main controller is out to lunch - but you can make limbo pretty interesting if you really want to. Plenty of the time though, I just like to get my butt over to the next song.
:: Anyways ::
This is how I put my sets together and my most recent continuity techniques. I still use a little bit of notes when I play, but pretty minimal compared to the iteration 1 notebook days.
Here’s the mixing technique from a few months ago, some of the really fancy bomebox stuff is pretty new and I haven’t done it in-person-live yet: Trifecta 5555 - dawless++ _bitwave_ - YouTube
That was a good mix, I enjoyed it.