Midi Synching a live band

Rorymonster Jan 13, 2005

  1. Rorymonster

    Rorymonster Jaberwookie

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    Inspired by the Wishlist thread, there's one thing I've been mulling over for a while and would love to get sorted, but it doesn't come down to one piece of gear.

    As a fully live band (drums, bass, guit, synth/keys) we have lots of more complicated electronic ideas involving preprogrammed synths, fx, timed delays etc, etc, that we want to include in our live set. We don't want to work to a tick as we would lose the great live feel that have on stage, where we can take a song somewhere new quite spontaneously.

    What we need is the ability to synch all our midi equipment together, so that it runs to the tempo that one of us is tapping in whilst we play. The first things that we would want to get sorted is perfectly timed delays for guit and keys/synths, then probably arpeggiated or preprogrammed synth noises and samples.

    I've thought about doing it through or via Ableton, which can run to a tap and can adjust tempo in real time without glitching, but we haven't come to the right solution yet, and don't know what kit we would need to set this up. None of us are midi techs.

    :Grin: Any ideas, suggestions, previous experience seriously appreciated. We are getting closer and closer to the idea that working to a tick might be worthwhile for these reasons, but I fear we would then lose the great thing we already have going as a fully live band.
     
  2. Ott^

    Ott^ Guest

    Wouldn't work. Sorry.

    Working to a click is the only way its going to happen but don't be discouraged. As a drummer, I found that playing to a click was one of the more liberating experiences of my life.
     
  3. Lazytom

    Lazytom imperialist running-dog

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    wait wait wait.... YOU thought of using Ableton Live?!? credit where credit's due rory :Wink3:

    Ott - Rory refuses to play to a click... but now you've mentioned it, he might just change his mind.... :Grin:
     
  4. soliptic

    soliptic whirling mathematician

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    In our band we ran up against that problem after, ooh, about 5 minutes.

    We opted to simply avoid midi altogether.

    (well, obviously i use it to control the ms2kr from a keyboard but, we dont use it inter-members i mean)

    So we're to a "tick" - although not actually some crappy metronome type of tick, for the drummer only - we have samples, usually simple backbeats or whatever, so the drummer is playing along to them.

    Guitar fx are just dialled into be the right BPM in each patch.

    Ditto arpeggiated synth patches.

    They dont lock in properly but who cares? You're retrigger the note(s) on the instrument every few seconds anyway, so it'll stay close enough.... (unless you're thinking more along the "press one key and have a 10 minute arp sequence" in which case I'd argue you've ruined the "live band" thing anyway)

    In a way, yes, it does seem an awful awful shame to lose the ability to bob and weave with your tempo.

    BUT... Its not all that bad.

    1. What the meters and the JBs can do with this, most bands cannot. Harsh but fair, any "timing drift" the average band (who isnt full of sick professionals, who have spent years on the road, together) gets into is the bad kind :Wink3:

    2. Nothing stops you from preparing the samples with tempo variations in them. Eg, the chorus 3bpm quicker than the verse, or whatever. Obviously that locks you to A varying tempo, not a generally variable tempo, but still. (We dont do this much, just a few places where there are tempo ramps, but thats more out of laziness and habit (from producing dj-intended beats the rest of the time), really. we could easily do it widely)

    3. Nothing stops you from ditching the click altogether for certain strategic sections. For example, most breakdowns and floaty bits we write these days just "go loose".... We drop it down a few bpm naturally... so long as you're sharp enough to pick up the speed cleanly when it drops again, thats fine. In another track, the half-time jazzy soloing bit in the middle is without any sort of click, for maximum human groove, sandwiched by the 2 drumnbass sections, whcih are to loops as normal for the tightness.

    4. I know what Ott means. Playing to a click can be great.

    Overalll........ we certainly never seemed to lose anything by it.

    Number of times anyone has ever come up to the band and said "that was great, but you were playing to a click and that spoilt it" .... zero. If you're playing dance-music-fusion stuff to people ordinarily listening to djs, thats what they're used to and expect anyhow. As it happens, we actually play to vaguely live band orientated audiences more often, and they dont seem bothered either.

    On the flipside, I'm not sure Ott is right in saying its simply not possible.

    Tony Colman from London Elektricity once said if he ever sees a band with a drummer wearing headphones, he writes them off straightaway (probably why he never showed any interest in us, despite doing several gigs on the same bill). I know their band does not play to a click, but I'm not quite sure how.

    I think ultimately it just comes down to "very little use of arpeggios, tempo synced delays or modulation, etc, etc; only using one-shot samples". (Being much more jazz/soul/organic orientated). I do remember reading some gobbledegook in a magazine about them having some sampled loops and keeping them as rex files so they could adjust the speed as they played, but I dont remember the paragraph actually explaining what on earth they meant properly. :P
     
  5. Ott^

    Ott^ Guest

    A "tap tempo" function is only useful for setting a tempo on the fly. Unless the "tap" is constant, the band will still have to keep time to the sequencer. Show me somebody that can "tap" a steady 16th/8th/1/4 note for the duration of a gig without missing a beat AND play their instrument and I'll take it all back.

    :Smile3:


    Sounds like a right fucking tit.

    :rolleyes:
     
  6. Rorymonster

    Rorymonster Jaberwookie

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    Yeah tom, fair enough, it was your suggestion (you didn't give it a go though did you!)

    Soliptic, I remember the Tony Coleman article. What he said he did was record all the synth and drum parts, and recycle them, so that various band members are then triggering a part of a loop say every 1/4 or 1/2 bar, which gives you a lot more tempo flexibilty (though clearly it sounds crap if you go too far). He mentioned doing live variations of his d&b songs where they went down to hip hop speed and back up, etc.
    It was an inspiring article, as I do think achieving this end would be a serious step forward for live electronic bands, especially compositionally.

    What about these bpm readers that DJs use. I heard that you can get one that emits a midi pulse according to the beat that it hears. These have been used to synch fx like Kaoss pads before they had their own good bpm readers in them, or to synch things like those little Korg step synths to DJs playing vinyl. Couldn't I just hook one of them up to the kick mic and run the midi into whatever?
     
  7. Ott^

    Ott^ Guest

    Unless your foot is 100% perfect and regular then no.

    The beat counters on DJ mixers are designed to identify and count the 4/4/ machine generated kik drum of a house/techno/trance record - which is essentially just a very loud metronome pulse and is very easy for a machine to identify.

    It only requires a wobbly half a bar of playing for the beat counter to suddenly think the tempo has decreased/increased by 30 bpm whereupon it will dutifully transmit this chaos to all the slaved devices. Beat counters don't understand music, so how is it supposed to know that your groovy syncopated polyrhythmic drum fill isn't actually a +/- 30 bpm variation in tempo?

    The technology just isn't there yet.

    I'd be extremely wary of syncing a PC to another PC on a stage - let alone to a live drummer.
     
  8. whitedog

    whitedog Lunar SeeD

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    I remember reading an interview with Warren Cann (drummer with Ultravox), years ago :grandad: , and he talked about a device which synced their MIDI to his kick drum, by means of chasing the signal from the kick...

    Aparently it was horribly expensive, back then in the '80s, but i'd have thought this sort of stuff should have come on a ways, by now...
     
  9. whitedog

    whitedog Lunar SeeD

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  10. Lazytom

    Lazytom imperialist running-dog

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    moved on to greener pastures, didn't I... :Wink3:
     
  11. Rorymonster

    Rorymonster Jaberwookie

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    [/quote]
    Unless your foot is 100% perfect and regular then no.

    The beat counters on DJ mixers are designed to identify and count the 4/4/ machine generated kik drum of a house/techno/trance record - which is essentially just a very loud metronome pulse and is very easy for a machine to identify.

    It only requires a wobbly half a bar of playing for the beat counter to suddenly think the tempo has decreased/increased by 30 bpm whereupon it will dutifully transmit this chaos to all the slaved devices. Beat counters don't understand music, so how is it supposed to know that your groovy syncopated polyrhythmic drum fill isn't actually a +/- 30 bpm variation in tempo?
    The technology just isn't there yet.
    [/quote]

    BUt that is largely due to the rest of the music that confuses the beat reading isn't it? I find that my Pioneer's bpm reader reads breakbeat as fast as any 4/4 beat, so long as there isn't too much other bass to confuse it. Given that you would hooking it up to a relatively serparated kick drum mic, wouldn't this increase the accuracy?

    I take your point though, the room for error is too big for stage use. :sad:

    BTW, read an article last week in SOS's new live magazine, about taking studio hi-tech stuff onto the stage. In the final paragraph it mentioned that this technology didn't exist yet, but was being worked on by a number of top of the range companies. It will be a break through for live electronic bands. Can't wait! :jump:

    Meanwhile I'd better get used to playing to a tick...
     
  12. Rorymonster

    Rorymonster Jaberwookie

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    CHecked it out, this is for triggering individual samples like any e-drums would, but you can do it from a normal kit. It would be useful for triggering loops and so on, but won't help with the issue of a midi clock.
    Cheers anyway.
    R.
     
  13. soliptic

    soliptic whirling mathematician

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    well the point is

    at 120bpm there should be 0.50 sec between kicks.
    at 130bpm there should be 0.46 sec between kicks.

    So if your drummer is just 4 hundreths of a second out of time, on a single hit, the bpm suddenly jumps by 10.

    Ott is right about this one methinks :Smile3:
     
  14. whitedog

    whitedog Lunar SeeD

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    OK, yes, it is fopr triggering, but what does the bit that says: "Trigger chase function" mean???

    Anybody???
     
  15. Rorymonster

    Rorymonster Jaberwookie

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    I would guess it means that it can trigger a whole line of midi instruments so long as they are connected (i.e. midi thru...) though this a bit simplistic and I wouldn't be suprised if I was wrong.

    Soliptic - good point and I definitely follow, but the issue I'm wandering about is whether if you hit one kick beat wrong by a fraction of a second, but hit the next one right, will all the midi correct quick enough, (i.e. to sound in time) despite having jumped 10bpm in the middle, or will it get confused (since it needs at least three "taps" to really nail down a tempo) and mess everything up?
    I think you're right though, it'd go balls up at some point even if I were an almost perfect drummer.
     
  16. soliptic

    soliptic whirling mathematician

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    It'll just mess everything up...

    think about it,.... 120 bpm... ideally

    K <-0.5-> K (0.5) <-0.5-> K (1) <-0.5-> K (1.5)

    now you have the first two kicks as above, then the drummer places the third one EXACTLY "right" (ie still on 1) then what happens

    K <-0.46-> K (0.46) <-0.54-> K (1)

    well, now the bpm was 130bpm at the 2nd beat, but then at the third beat its 111 !!

    so what happens is that it sways wildly from side to side instead of intelligently converging. ok granted this is assuming the most retarded operation conceivable, perhaps they make these things so they track a bpm over a moving average window or something, in which case it would be better than that, but still.... cant ultimately see it happening, happily to be proved wrong :Smile3:
     
  17. soliptic

    soliptic whirling mathematician

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    you are :Smile3:

    a bit of googling solved it,

    http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FGL/is_6_19/ai_100803510

    Basically, on a e-kit, it is a shortcut for the drummer to edit whilst sat at the kit... when they hit that trigger, it becomes the active one for editing. that simple really :Smile3:

    a bit like having a nice "midi learn" for us vsti heads i suppose.
     
  18. whitedog

    whitedog Lunar SeeD

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    Aaaahhhh, and there was me thinking it was maybe like sync chasing...
    silly me.
     
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