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Nine Tips for Live Synthesizer Performances

Here are nine tips and tricks to make sure your gig goes as smoothly as possible when on-stage with your gear!

1.  Make sure to use proper furniture equipment. This includes heavy duty keyboard stands (try to use a double braced X-style stand for 2 or more tiers of keyboards), and suitable flight cases and rack-mount cases. Expensive as it may be, it will make equipment easier to access, and will prevent it from being damaged by accidents.

2.  Use quality power equipment. If you’re going to a venue you’re not familiar with, do you really want to blindly trust their plug sockets and power sources? If you don’t already have one at home, get yourself a power conditioner to sit in your rack. It can save your equipment if you use one live, and even at home it can prevent damage from power surges. Likewise, if you run on all-batteries, always bring spares.

3.  Only bring synths you really need. Yes, I’m sure it’s fun and cool to have a ton of synths on stage with you, but what if one gets lost or damaged? Make a plan of what synths you need to bring to cover which sounds, and minimize the equipment you take with you. The less you take, the less can be damaged or lost! Also, don’t forget to take unneeded expansion/memory cards out of the synths too.

4.  Don’t bring old analogue gear. An expansion on the previous point – don’t bring old analogue keyboards because they can die at any moment, they go out of tune, and many don’t have patch storage. Unless you absolutely have to bring them with you, you should really look for a more reliable, modern alternative. It also goes without saying that modular synthesizers are not practical live either.

5.  Backup your patches before hand. Should stuff get lost, it’s always useful to have your patches saved somewhere other than the actual synthesizer. In fact, do this even if your not playing live in case your synthesizer dies or becomes damaged at home.

6.  Try recreating patches on other synths in advance, in case one goes down. This is something the best prepared players do, and not only can it save your ass in a sticky situation onstage, but its great programming practice!

7.  Bring spare cables. This applies to practically all musicians who play electronic instruments, but especially to keyboard/synthesizer players as we rely on cables to carry our sound into the ears of the audience. If you’re on a tight budget you don’t have to bring duplicates of all cables, but at least bring a few spare 6.35mm audio cables for the outputs of synthesizers.

8.  Consider your in-ear monitoring. There’s nothing worse than not being able to hear yourself (or the rest of your band) when playing live, so go prepared. Will the onstage monitors really be good enough for you? If not, consider using headphones to hear yourself clearly, or even convert your whole band to using something such as the affordable Shure EC range of in-ear monitoring buds.

9.  Bring your own sub-mixer for your keyboards. If you’re using more than one or two synthesizers, it is an excellent idea to have your own mixer for them. Not only is it an easy way of mixing all your keyboard outputs together, but it prevents cables going all over the place, and allows you to control the levels of your synthesizers.

2 Comments For This Post

  1. Mikie Henderson Says:

    Another thing to consider, if you are not playing in a huge auditorium with a “professional” sound-person, bring your own PA system. I explain things over and over again and the “hobbyist-semi-wanna-be-professional” likes to “improvise”. I play a keyboard with my sequenced tracks recorded and put on CD. I can’t count how many times they want to make the keyboard “stand-out” making it sound like you’re playing with canned music (which you really are, but you don’t want it to sound that way).

  2. Derrick Says:

    Mikie,

    Good point. Thanks!

    Derrick.

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