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Sequencing for the Stage

Hi I'm about to probably open up a huge debate, but please lets not turn this question into that.

I want to know how the professionals sequence shows? I play in a rock/pop band and I know that a lot of the bands I'm into have at very least a click track for their drummer. I want to have some extra guitars (doubling), some piano (without a full time pianist for 2 songs) and wouldn't mind doubling/harmonizing the vocals a bit.

I read this article which gave me some products and a basic understanding.

I want something my drummer can control. Needs to be atleast 3 tracks? 1 for click 2 for stereo out? Wouldn't mind using a laptop but I need it to be easily controlled by a drummer. I'm guessing

I have a PreSonus firepod and a soundblaster audigy 2 platinum, Cubase SX2 if that is a starting point.

I think I get the basic idea but I'd like to learn some techniques used and an affordable (dependable) system to get the job done. Don't wanna look like Milli Vanilli out there. I just want some stuff that I do in the studio to be out on stage with me.

Justin Berry


anonymous Wed, 05/04/2005 - 10:25
it all depends on what kind of sequencing you are going/want to be doing. If you want pads, synths, some analog sounds that are most likely going to be packaged in the core sounds of a workstation, it is a piece of cake.

if you to use samples you create, as well as live voices, harmonies, and more custom sounds, its a little extra.

for instance, i use a Motif workstation. its my band's 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th through 16th member. simple, and I route a click to my drummer and a mix of he wants, and we just play along. you have to be well rehearsed, mind you, since if you "fall off" the sequence, chances are your song is poo from that point on.

sampling your own sounds can also be done in these keyboard workstaions, but they are not nearly as easy as software synths.
I imagine one day soon ill be hauling my Powerbook on stage with an external mixer and routing an entire orchestra of sequence from abelton or something, or using it to drive the motif......which is also hooked up to my micro korg..............which is driving a Dr. Sample..................................

man. it will drive you nuts having so many options. but, its a GOOD nuts. :)

anonymous Wed, 05/04/2005 - 10:39
I need...

Cool thanks for the reply. I think I want prerecorded wav files from my cubase recordings to be played. I want it to be a process where a drummer can press go, count off a song and play through, then it pauses loads next song and he clicks it again. How does it work if its a guitar intro song, can he click it in when he needs to, or does he always have to cue me? I don't want to have to have a guy run it full time. (have a hard enough time finding serious musicians with time to play that aren't jobless bums). Kind of a catch 22 isn't it? We all want dedication, but the people with dedication tend to have plenty of dedication elsewhere, and maybe a direction in life, so we seem to have a bucket of bums to sift through. Hopefully we all can find that diamond in the rough, but its been a rough road for me. I think if C3PO or R2D2 can strum some chords, I'll be a lot happier! :D

Justin Berry

anonymous Wed, 05/04/2005 - 11:43
I've worked with a couple of bands and always kept backups available (as in everything but drums just in case something failed). Both of these bands were great musicians and what we did was route the click track to each of their IEM's for an 8 beat count off and on from there. They played so well with it that twice with one of the bands I had to switch from the live bass to the pre-recorded bass because the cable shorted. All it took was the loud pop from the cable and I was already making use of the "flip" switch. With the other band, they had been playing shows for 3 weeks straight with 5 or 6 days off total and the vocalist was losing his voice. He thought he could go on for the rest of the show, but after the first of 12 songs he gave me a cue we had worked out earlier and I flipped the pre-recorded vocals up over his.

All that said, I like to keep recordings available of the band with everything in time not only for adding players 5 through 16 but also in case there is a problem during the performance. It's okay to lip sync if you HAVE to. I still don't see why they gave Ashlee Simpson a hard time about it; it was her first time to lip sync. Anyway, sequencing follows the same principles. Just as long as your band can play in time you can perform well with something thats prerecorded.

anonymous Wed, 05/04/2005 - 11:49
what did you use?

I want to start picking out the gear... please give me a run down of what you used. Did you do the work on the computer then dump it over to something. I'm real new at this and it's like this is the secret only the pros know, I just can't find a solid answer. Also what do they call this? is it called live sequencing? All I get on the net is recording sequencing. Thanks a bunch ahead of time.

anonymous Wed, 05/04/2005 - 12:03
I actually use ADAT's. But that can get a little (okay, a LOT) expensive starting out. If you have a way to do it, you need to send your click out one channel and then all the other instruments in submixes (at least) or maybe their own channels too. Some instruments sound stronger in different rooms than others, that's why I prefer to give everything its own channel. Keep in mind that I am working with a 24 channel console or greater that also has tape returns on each channel. I doubt this is feasible in your situation.

However, if you can get a good digital recorder and put your tracks in that then just send the LR bus to the FOH console, you can get a decent mix of your recorded instruments from there. Most of these digital recorders (like the Yamaha AW16G or Boss BR-1600) will let you decide to play a click track before the start of the song. You can set that to route to an AUX out that can be sent throught the FOH console (or monitor console on bigger gigs) to your monitor foldback.

If IEM's are out of the question, then you can just run the click on a pair of headphones to the drummer. On a song that starts with another instrument such as guitar, just have him click his sticks for you for the last 4 beats of the click. That's a very popular method both for lack of IEM's and show. It can make a lot of bands that aren't totally together look extremely together.

anonymous Wed, 05/04/2005 - 12:20

so basically, its just like working in the studio, you're just mixing it all back. In theory I could just use my laptop and cubase and run it live out of my firepod? Put them in submixes and send em to the board as live instruments. I will probably have to have a guy run these and cue us. IEMs are on the list to purchase. Big purchase that I've been putting off till we are ready for shows. But for now, I'll just work on this with my firepod routed to my drummer. Adat's are sweet, but very costly. I've used a Boss BR-1100cd before, and it has great sound for what it was. I'll look into that. I'm just hoping to get a more produced professional sound live. If this makes my band appear tighter, then it made us tighter. We've only got what? 45 min's? tops to win people over, I hope this will just work a lot of the bugs out.


anonymous Wed, 05/04/2005 - 12:51
We've only got what? 45 min's? tops to win people over, I hope this will just work a lot of the bugs out.

Actually, you really only have the first 30 seconds if any more than 15 seconds. Thats why bands typically start off with their best song, go down from there, then come back up at the end with a finale.

And you've got it right on it being like a studio. You're just turning the house PA into the control room monitors.

Also, if you ever used something hard disk based, make sure you ALWAYS have a responsible person handling it. That's why I use the old ADATs (S-VHS based). I've had too many problems with roadies and other people just tossing the bins that happened to have the hard disks in them. The heads and platters (and even the motors) are too fragile. Think about it: you have 4 or 5 platters with 16 heads on them all controlled by different very small motors. Laptops are more rugged with 1 or 2 platters and 4 or 8 heads (thus less disk space). I've lost too much data traveling with hard disks which is why I revert back to the tapes. CD's are a different story though.

imagineaudio Wed, 05/04/2005 - 15:07
I thought about doing this a couple of years ago and figured that I could send my pod midi control data to change tones and fx during the song......never tried it, but I think it'd be cool.....

Be wireless running around the venue like a nut job and not have to worry about clicking stomp boxes....??

anyone tried it?

pr0gr4m Wed, 05/04/2005 - 21:18
This is something I've been working on for quite some time. I've been working with a band that uses backing tracks for things like vox, guitars, samples and some synths. We are currently using a Fostex VF16. It's a 16 track digital recorder, but for the most part we only use 8 tracks. Just for ease of use we try to sum everything down to 3 separate parts, drums/samples, synths/guitars and vocals. It has faders for each track which makes it very easy to change levels from club to club if needed.

Another big plus is that it's digital so if the band wants to change the set, there is no searching around on a tape for a song, we just call it up off the hard drive and play it.

Yet another plus is that you load a song, it plays and then stops. This is perfect for the drummer. When the song ends, he can take his time to load in the next song and wait for a cue from the singer to start it up. It allows for more freedom between songs.

Our general setup is tracks 1&2 are click and routed to auxillary outputs which go directly to the drummers heaphone amp. Tracks 3&4 are for drums. 5&6 are for vox and 7&8 are for synths/guitars. Tracks 3-8 are routed to the main stereo outputs. We bring our own DI boxes because many clubs don't have enough.

We record in Cubase and I dump everything into the VF16. When I do that, I'm not trying to sync up the VF16 with Cubase, I just set it up to record like any multitrack tape machine. I'll set up the song in cubase so that there is a 8 beat click before the song comes in. I hit record on the VF16 and play on cubase. Everything goes to it's tracks and the click intro is there.

We do have a couple songs that have intros that are not necessarily in time with the actual song. For those, the audio intro plays back without a click and the click comes in 8 beats before the actual song begins.

One problem we've run into is that some clubs only have a single channel available for backing tracks. In those cases we just use the left output. It's not the best but is all we can do.

I've been looking into alternatives because if that thing ever crashes, we'll be stuck. One that I am seriously considering is a Minidisc player. We can record all of the backing tracks to the left channel and the click track to the right channel. It only allows for a mono output of audio, but it's better than nothing and from what I've read is a somewhat common practice. Plus it allow immediate access to all the songs. No tape to mess with and no skipping. The problem with this is that MINIDISC = yuck and there is no way to manage levels. So I'm still searching but at this point I'm thinking of just getting another hard disc recorder.

anonymous Wed, 05/04/2005 - 23:20
okay, warning: this is going to be a lengthy post ; )

i've done this a bunch ways for many years using DAT, ADAT, DA88, small hard disk recorders like the vs1680, cd's, laptops running logic or ableton live, minidisc and MP3. i've done it as a drummer and as front person as well as the engineer mixing the "live version backing tracks." here's my take:

I like to stay away from tape (ADAT, DA88, etc.) though they aren't a bad option, i just hate to be at the mercy of tape and transports live plus ff and rewinding is so vintage : ) . I love using laptops for my electronic drum rig but would not want to bring it on club gigs if i could avoid it because they are EXPENSIVE and easy to grab so i wouldn't use it for backing tracks unless i wanted to change arrangements each time the song was played (Ableton Live RULES for this and many other things). ( that said, i do use my laptop for gigs ALL the time as a SOUND MODULE)
I've had the best luck with reliability using minidisc and mp3 players (no moving parts on flash based mp3 players plus they're so cheap you can have a backup). the new minidisc player/recorders can play UNCOMPRESSED .WAV. files as well as mp3 (the new minidiscs are called Hi MD).of course, if you have to have your backing tracks separated into stems (ie. bass, synths, vox, etc.), you would need to go multi-output (laptop plus interface, ADAT, hard disk recorder). however, i've done many pro level shows where the backing tracks were well put together on minidisc or mp3 and sounded great with the band out front. a lot of this depends on whether or not you have your own sound man that will be at all of your shows. if not, and you give the nights' sound guy a bunch of outputs with no human attached he may go into a coma (don't know why, just from experience i find this true).
KNOW THIS: most club p.a.'s are MONO so it's usually pointless to give FOH a stereo pair of anything as they will usually end up mono anyway.
an easy way to set up for an mp3 or minidisc output would be to pan all the instrument/vocal tracks to one side and the click to the other. you could use 2 y cables for this method (why 2, you say?). y cable (1/4 or 1/8th inch male stereo to two 1/4 inch mono female jacks) plugs into the minidisc. the jack with the click goes back to the drummer's headphone amp or small $50 mixer (i recommend this option). the other female jack has the track on it. this one you would plug the other Y cable into (1/4 inch male mono to 2 1/4 inch mono female jacks). one of these you plug an instrument cable into and send to a Direct Box for the P.A.. the other you send via instrument cable to the drummer's mixer. this way he/she can create a custom mix of the track and click into his/her headphones. if you're using in ear monitors (IEM) and a custom headphone mix from a monitor engineer you can get anything you want in his/her phones, but i'm giving you a lower budget club way to pull this off : ) it may be good to plug in an extra mic or 2 in the for the drummer just for his small mixer so he/she can get some drum kit in the phones. it can be kind of annoying to play with earplug/phones in and not hear your own playing.

some notes about creating the tracks:

in the click track channel record yourself saying the name of the song before its click starts. in a dark club the drummer could select the wrong track and this would let him know before it starts. also, after determining how many measures of click before each song starts, make the last measure before the song start double time click (ie. if the click track is all quarter notes, make the last measure before the song starts 8th notes- or the last 2 beats at least). another thing to remember: try to be consistent. ideally each song would have the same number of "free measures" of click before the song starts. also: LEAVE AN ADDITIONAL minute or four of click going on each track even though the song has ended. this is in case the drummer forgets to hit stop, the next song won't kick in before anyone is ready. also remember to be consistent with your click levels for the drummer for each song. also ask what sound he/she would prefer for the click sound(many people have different preferences).

hope this all helps out. after all the expensive, complicated gear i've used for this live, the mp3/minidisc thing ended up being solid and really easy as well as highly affordable.

if i think of anything else (like this post isn't long enough), i'll add it in.


pr0gr4m Thu, 05/05/2005 - 15:00
bounce wrote:
I've had the best luck with reliability using minidisc and mp3 players (no moving parts on flash based mp3 players plus they're so cheap you can have a backup). the new minidisc player/recorders can play UNCOMPRESSED .WAV. files as well as mp3 (the new minidiscs are called Hi MD).

This is the route I've been wanting to much playback time can you get using a minidisc with the uncompressed wave files?

I know I can put a full set on a minidisc in SP...but I haven't checked out the HiMD's yet.

anonymous Thu, 05/05/2005 - 18:48
Hi MD minidiscs are 1 GB. that means 16 bit stereo files at 10 MB per minute will give you 100 minutes uncompressed audio. we used 192 mp3 files at our last shows and it worked fine for the live club thing : ) Hi MD lets you record up to around 18 hours using ATRAC compression (lower quality for this amount of recording time).





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