11 Tips for Ableton Live Performance
I have performed live music in as a musician in traditional bands, a controlerist/musician in electronic bands, a solo electronic music performer, a DJ, and even as a VJ. Over the years I have picked up a few things that have helped me to put on better and better live shows. so here is a short list of tips for electronic musicians and DJ’s to think about when performing live.
1 Keep it Simple
This is the tip that is applied to everything. Keep it simple! When you are prepping for an Ableton live performance you want to keep everything as simple as possible so that you can focus on your performance.
2 Build Your Box
We are always trying to get outside of the box, but the box has something that is very helpful. The box provides limitations that help you to keep it simple. Let your controllers be the box. Take a good look at the available midi controllers. Not all midi controllers are well suited for an Ableton Live performance rig. I live the Keith McMillen Instruments Quneo for the size and versatility. I love the Akai Apc 40 for its ease of use with in an Ableton Live performance set. The Ableton Push is great as an instrument and grid launcher. do many options. Pick your controllers and work with in the limitations of the controller. Design your Ableton Live performance set to fit the controller. View your controllers like an instrument.
3 Do not Touch your computer
Watching someone on stage standing behind a computer is boring. As a performing using the computer in front of you is uninspiring. Get the computer out of the way. Try not to put the computer between you and your audience. If your performing an original Ableton Live Performance you are not DJ. So perform, the crowed wants to see a performance. refer to tip number 2. Your box is your instrument. Your instrument is your performance. Build your performance set so you can do everything you need to do without touching your computer.
4 Never let them see you sweat
If your computer is on fire and melting act like it is part of the show. If the audio drops out and everything is silent.. yell at the crowed and hype them up. It doesn’t matter who’s fault the problem is, don’t bring attention to the problem.. act like it is part of the show and solve the problem. Some times that is harder the others. It helps to have a back plan. an Ipod, instruments, other band members.. anything to keep the crowed entertained and distracted while you or some one else solves the problem.
5 Be prepared
Have a back up plan. If your computer is broken be ready with a thumb drive so you can potentially borrow some one else’s. Have a small case of CD so you can play on CDJ’s, maybe an ipad, instruments, anything that you can do to make the show go on. Have extra cables. Be able to get from what ever your outputs are to XLR, 1/4 inch, and RCA. Bring extra usb/firewire/thunderbolt cables. have adaptors. I always have a stereo 1/8inch to left/right 1/4 and RCA just incase my audio interface breaks. This also helps you to be the hero. Promoters, bookers, and artists will remember better if you save the day.
5 Use a master Ableton Live Performance Set
In most cases you do not want to load a new Ableton Live set for each song. Create one master set that has all your songs in it so you only have to load one Ableton Live set. It may seem impossible, but trust me not only is it possible but 99% of the time it is the Absolute best way to perform.
6 If you do not play it, tweak, or manipulate it, render it.
Render your midi tracks to audio clips. If your processing your music with lots of effects and not manipulating anything render to an audio clip. Not only with this drastically cut down on your CPU usage but you will be able to better organize your live set to fit your box. you can also think in stages. Say you have a synth patch and you want to manipulate the filter cut off and lfo. Render the synth to audio with the filter open and then use auto filter or another filter on the audio.
7 Keep it Simple, Seriously!
you do not need to trigger everything and do everything. Unless of course that is your performance then by all means. If you are a spending trying to trigger every section of the song perfectly the same every time then just make it all one scene and focus on effects, singing, playing an instrument, or what ever it is that your performance is. Keep it simple and focused on performance. Do not worry about what people think. Blow them away with an epic performance of your design. Most people have no idea what your doing anyway so blow their minds!
8 Always except complements well
After your performance when people come and tell you how awesome you are, thank them graciously and smile confidently. I don’t care if you think you sucked and everything went wrong, they don’t have a clue about any of that and they think you are good. Never ever ever say “o man i sucked and screwed it all up”. If you say that that is almost a direct insult to the person that just gave you a compliment.
9 Practice, Practice Practice
This the secret to talent. Practice! Talent is not a gift or some magical thing. Talent comes from hard work, dedication, and practice. You can be as amazing as anyone if you focus and practice. I don’t care if your old, if your young, all you need to do is practice. People get so amazed and young kids that are amazing at what they do. Guess what the get to do all day.. practice, no job, just practice. if you practice we will become great.
10 Have Fun
This is the most important tip to putting on a good performance. Have fun, have lots and lots of fun. Performing music is fun. Even if your expressive emotional music that is all dark and emo, have some fun and enjoy yourself. Dance, move and express your self with every part of your being. That is your job and your job is fun.
11 Back up everything
Cloud storage is cheap these days. Copy.com and dropbox.com are awesome. They have free plans and paid plans. At the very least back up your live performance set. If you have your performance set backed up on the cloud and all your gear is stolen. You can download your live set onto another computer and perform. Your Ableton Live set will run even on a trial copy of Ableton Live. Remember the old show business saying “The Show Must Go On!” this is true even now.
These are just some of the many tips that can help you to put on an amazing Ableton Live Performance. Never forget your job is to entertain, how ever that may be down, what ever you are doing, your primary goal is to entertain people and take them into your world.