Need help/advice for a decent live setup!


#1

Hey you guys!

I’m on the verge of buying my Squarp Pyramid. I’ve been looking for
something like this for ages, and I’m very siked, however…

I am relatively new to synths/sequencers/MIDI/… I started playing guitar,
bass, and keyboards fifteen years ago but a couple of years back my interest
in synths and sequencers sparked when my childhood music (80’s, synthwave,
hi-NRG, new wave,…) came back into my life.

The idea behind the goal I’d like to achieve is to go play live all by myself,
using nothing but analog synths and drum machines, and the Squarp Pyramid.

I totally fell in love with this:

This guy is amazing. I’d like to achieve something like this, but I can’t afford
nor do I wish to carry around that much gear every time I wanna go play live.

I would rather program ALL the sequences going to my hardware through MIDI
at home, and just press PLAY on the Pyramid and the ENTIRE song gets played
automatically by the Squarp. The only thing I want to do live is turn some knobs
on my synths here and there (Cutoff, Modulation, Envelope,…), and play the hook
melodies live on a synth. I know it’s lazy and “cheating” a lil’, but keep in mind I’ve
been only noodling with synths for about three years or so…

FIRST QUESTION:
Is this possible with the Pyramid? Can you program entire songs so you only have
to press PLAY after you’ve programmed the compositions at home? Can you automate
parameters from each individual hardware synth? I also read you can score songs
with the MIDI piano roll in your DAW and import the scores into the Pyramid? Has
anyone succesfully done this? Also, can you “recall” presets on analog synths i.e.
my Moog Grandmother? This synth itself doesn’t store presets, but I wonder if the Pyramid
can send out multiple parameter settings to the Grandmother at the start of a song?

SECOND QUESTION:
I need some advice on other gear to pair with the Pyramid. Check out the clip I’ve
embedded. I’m looking for that sound. I’d wish to work live with maximum 6 hardware
synths/drum machines/samplers. Preferably less.

My gear now:

  • Moog Sub Phatty
  • Moog Grandmother (would prefer to not use this live)

Need affordable but quality recommendations for the following, preferably new (not vintage or discontinued). Again, check the clip to get and idea for the sound):

  • Drum Machine (would love a Linndrum or DMX sound)
  • Polysynth that stores presets (Juno 106-ish), any thoughts on the Nord Lead A1?
  • Sampler (needed for one-shots and WAVs made in Cubase and stored in the sampler)
  • A small, compact bass synth. Korg Volca and sorts are out of the question.

Help me out! Thanks y’all!


#2

This description sounds like if it was about me :slight_smile: The only difference is that I started playing guitar 30 years ago, not 15 :slight_smile: But anyway, it’s the same, I’ve turned back to my childhood’s music (80s synth pop/new wave and their modern representatives) as well, I’ve bought a Pyramid and had a full hardware (analog synths and drum machines) setup.

Pyramid is absolute capable for it, you can easily put 6 synths/drum machines on it (a MIDI THRU device will be needed), you can create the whole song in the Pyramid itself or in a DAW, press the Play button and the complete song will be played. If you synth is capable for it, the Pyramid will do the program change, either at the beginning of the song, or also in the middle of the song.

If you want analog synths, forget samplers, as they are not analog. Also Nord Lead A1 is not analog, but virtual analog. You can check Behringer Deepmind 12, it’s 12-poly analog (with onboard digital effects), you can get quite cheap second hand, and you can create perfect 80s sound with it.

A small, compact bass synth can be a Novation Bass Station 2.

For the drum machine you can check (if analog) you can check Arturia Drumbrute Impact (the improved version of the original Drumbrute that received mixed opinions) or the now coming Behringer RD-8 (recreation of the classical Roland TR808). Although they are not really Linndrum or DMX sound (both Linndrum and DMX are digital, not analog, but I agree, they are the real 80s sound).

So, I think you are on the right way, I hope you will find what you want.


#3

With analog I meant everything “not-laptop-or-tablet-based”, I’m sorry! I just want to perform with nothing but hardware! So I’m still very interested in the Nord Lead A1, keeping in mind the split-keyboard function and just overall awesome sound. I just like how you can play two synths at a time with the Nord.

Sampler likewise. As long it can get controlled by the Pyramid it’s okay!

Your reply has been real helpful, thanks a lot! Do you know if it’s actually possible to make an entire score with all the hardware connected in a DAW (CC included), then exporting the MIDI score, and load it into the Squarp?

Thanks again!


#4

As far as I know it’s possible, there are some threads about it here in the forum, but actually I’ve never used it yet, I write everything directly in Pyramid. It’s not easy, more time consuming for sure, but a different approach, sometimes give you different (new) ideas than creating in DAW.


#5

Thanks again for the help!

What exactly did you mean with a “MIDI THRU”-device? You mean every hardware synth has to have MIDI THRU in order to send data through? What about MIDI OUT? Does it “bypass” data the Pyramid sends out to other synths (midi channels)?

I’ve been looking at the Moog Mother 32’s today. Would be an awesome addition to the live setup, especially when I would have three in a nice rack. They have a small footprint, huge sound, and modular units are just sexy, haha. Three of those could act as bassline, and two layers of “rhythm tracks”.

However, there’s only MIDI IN on those, so I assume there’s no patching to other MIDI instruments and bypassing data from the Squarp? :confounded:

The ignorance of it all really frustrates me, haha. If only I had started dabbling in synths when I started playing guitar, I’m getting headaches off all the new knowledge and still seem lost in the rabbit hole.

Anyway, if there’s a chance the Mother 32’s would work in a situation that I’m looking after… how’s this for a setup?

  • Squarp Pyramid
  • Moog Mother 32 (x3), trigger melodies and basic sound parameters with the Pyramid, turn knobs live. Provided there’s a solution on assigning them on seperate MIDI channels, ofcourse.
  • Polysynth for playing live over the sequenced songs, trigger patch/preset changes during songs with Pyramid (is that even possible?), for instance the Nord Lead A1.
  • Drum machine (I really like the Arturia ones you’ve also recommend, tried them many times in the musicstore I’ve worked at).
  • A sampler that plays WAV’s with one-shot pads for misc FX (still need a recommendation for that one!).

Thanks again!


#6

MIDI THRU is a kind of hub for MIDI connection. For example I use this one:

https://www.kentonuk.com/products/items/utilities/m-thru-5.shtml

I have two of them, so I can add 10 instruments (or effects) to Pyramid. But you can use other ones as well, there are many different types.

You connect the MIDI THRU to Pyramid’s MIDI OUT (there are two connectors on Pyramid, that’s how you can connect two THRU devices), and you can plug your synth’s MIDI IN to MIDI THRU device. So if there is a MIDI IN on Mother 32, that’s OK.

Patch/preset changes are possible during playback, you can play live and the Pyramid changes the patches. But your synth should be able to receive program change messages (not all synths have this option, you should check in the synths’ manual).


#7

the midi-thru ‘device’ is sometimes called a midi-hub (there are lots of brands available)

I’d suggest starting slowly, and building this up as you go…its going to take a while to get used to so much new hardware - and they all have quirks :wink:

you already have 2 great synths,

so add a pyramid, and get used to how you are going to use it, and a workflow.

poly-synth - there are so many too choose from,
what do you want from it, analog will give a you a particular sound - but you could go for a multi-timbral digital (VA) which will give you alot of flexibility.
a multi-timbral synth, could fill a lot of roles initially e.g. bass, pads and lead, then you could replace this as and when you need too. of course, the issue is the more roles it takes , the harder it is for hands-on control.

sounds like you plan to use it as your master keyboard, so you’ll want to consider size etc.

seems to make sense to then look at a sampler, since this could initially fill in for your drum machine too.
lots of choice - consider carefully if you need pitched samples, and if they need to be polyphonic.

also if your standalone, your probably going to want some FX (reverb/delay) , it maybe your polysynth can also help in this department if it has an external input that can be fed thru its fx chain.

you’re also likely to need a small mixer to bring all the audio of this stuff together.

also think about this in other ways… perhaps something like a Deluge might be a good starting point?
after all, its not the gear that makes Kebu great :wink:


#8

Certainly.

In addition to notes, velocity, pressure and pitch, the Pyramid can send Program Change (PC) and Control Changes (CC) MIDI messages allowing to switch sounds on the fly by synths that have digital control over their parameters. But I believe the Moog Grandmother only works in “immediate” mode, i.e. it only plays what the knobs and switches are currently set to. This should work just fine with the Sub Phatty though.


#9

Thanks for the reply! But I saw in a very in-depth review/demo all the present parameters by a synth can be “called”?

Hmmmm, I’m starting to think the Pyramid might not be the best first sequencer for me. Well, not first though since I’ve got a Arturia Beatstep Pro at the moment… and though I haven’t discovered the full options and tricks, I know for certain it will limit my ideas over time…

Rude question, but can someone recommend a more user-friendly and a less menu-diving sequencer to get a noob started? Still need all of the options I’ve dropped in this thread. I’ll buy the Pyramid nonetheless and even maybe next week, but I don’t wanna get demotivated and frustrated so a “simpler” unit might be a better step-up until I’ve learned the basics in MIDI and routing and whatnot.

Thanks y’all!


#10

I’m not aware of any dedicated sequencer filling the gap between a Beatstep Pro and a Pyramid. The BSP is pretty good for a starter and then some, honestly.

You could have a look at some instrument’s built-in sequencers, such as a Novation Circuit, Korg Electribe, The Elektron boxes, Roland TR8S… These can all drive external instruments and have some nice features.

Also I wouldnt call the Pyramid a menu-diver as much as a shortcut-diver. It requires a bit of muscle memory but everything’s always a two-digits combination away (once it’s set up). This is what makes it as good for performing as for composing.


#11

When I bought the Pyramid 2 years ago, I was an absolute beginner in hardware sequencers, that was my first one (I had experience with DAWs and drum machine programming). There are good tutorials, manuals, so it was easy to start, it took not too much time to put together a complete song with 3 or 4 synths and 2 drum machines. And then more and more, more complex ones as well. So don’t be afraid :slight_smile:


#12

But it’s also part of the truth, that there are many functions that I don’t use. So I don’t know all the functions, but I don’t need them either. It’s no problem if you don’t understand many things here in the forum, it’s the same for me, but I can use it without this knowledge, as the Pyramid can offer much more than I need.


#13

@kbzs @juxta_posed

I think I have figured it all out after watching loopop his extended review on Youtube…

Do you think this would work? I hook up all my hardware (drum machine, bass synth, polysynth, misc synths for layers) to my interface. In my DAW, I create MIDI tracks that send out notes I created on the pianoroll back to my hardware over USB. I make audio tracks for all hardware to hear playback and sculpt the sound.

Then, when I made one long linear track for all instruments I export the seperate MIDI files and load them under one project on the Pyramid’s SD card. I load the project, activate ALL tracks I’ve made and press play! :clap:

Please tell me I’ve figured it out! :weary:

If yes, awesome! But then there’s a few more questions:

  • Rather than sending out program changes to change patches of my hardware, can’t I just at every beginning of every MIDI track (or maybe even a bar/click before the actual notes begin) “embed” fixed CC values like CutOff, Resonance, Waveform, Osc Volume, etc? This would definitely be a better workflow for me, especially in DAW… Please tell me all CC automation is integrated in a MIDI track file! :weary:

  • Since I want to work with linear MIDI tracks exclusively, can you possibly tell if the Pyramid keeps “bars of silence” in mind? For instance: a five minute song where one hardware synth will only play the chorus, it idles at all other times. Will Pyramid “play the silences” in the linear track, or will it cut out the pauses between the choruses (that are maybe two minutes apart) and thus tie the two choruses together? My apologies for the very confusing explanation…

When you think about it I just wanna just the Pyramid like a “portable DAW”, without the need of computers or laptops or…

Thanks again you guys!


#14

At that point, you might as well have a dedicated small laptop for playing back your MIDI files. The Pyramid uses .MID files, which allow for DAW interchange but I’m not sure you’ll get you money’s worth if you only use it as a straight MIDI playback machine.


#15

in essence that can work, though a few things to bare in mind

you can only import midi files into an existing pyramid project, and you need to do one file per track.
so you create the project on the pyramid first, then you’ll be able to overwrite its midi files
and then you will need to setup a few things on the pyramid like track length, bpm, track destinations.
pyramid is limited to 8000 midi events in a project.

note: whilst all technically possible, I don’t think many (any?) users use the pyramid like this, so it maybe there are some quirks, or oddities you need to resolve… e.g. you will end up exporting tracks individually as you need name them individual… so its not just a ‘one click operation’
also consider, if you change things - what the workflow for this is.

yes CCs are included in midi file, so this will work…
of course, you will need to allow for time at start of track for these CC to be sent etc.

not sure Id see this as easier than program change messages though, :wink:

if you have it all as one midi file it will keep it like that, it will not do anything to that midi.
so sure, if you have no notes, it won’t play anything.
(again remember the 8000 events per project limit)

however, on the other side, if you want a more dynamic performance, then you could start cutting your tracks up, in your daw, to start having a different patterns, such that you could use the sequencer and patterns on the pyramid

if its just straight linear playback of midi you are after, then like @vondershred, I think the Pyramid is a bit overkill… you could do this quite a few things, including probably your phone :wink:

also, if you made the tracks on your computer, and they become complex… id suspect they might start being a pain to ‘edit’ on the pyramid, esp. as you are planning one long linear timeline… and having not built it on the pyramid… you wont be that familiar with where everything is etc.

however , if you are viewing this as just a starting point… and then want to start cutting up the tracks, using the sequencer and patterns of the pyramid, and perhaps things like midi effects, or later start doing things like programming/recording on the pyramid,
then it might be a reasonable way to start …


#16

I concur with the others that if you’re simply looking for a midi playback device, the Pyramid is probably not the best solution. It will be a lot of set up to do what it wasn’t exactly intended to do.

I know you want to get away from using a laptop… is an ipad an option? There’s a pretty excellent linear midi sequencer called Xequence 2. It will do everything you want and can easily import midi files and send cc and pc messages to synths.

http://seven.systems/xequence2/en/index/