All in the Trunk

Rig Rundown

 


We here at Studio-412 been working on our live set and building the pieces we need from a gear standpoint. In the process, we’ve spent many hours researching which of the many options best fit our needs at this point.

The goal of sharing this is twofold:

  1. To help others who are looking for similar solutions

  2. To receive feedback on how to improve our setup! Please share your thoughts with us: Garrett@AllintheTrunk.com


INTERFACE:

We are using a Motu 8 Pre ES. It connects via one of the two available Thunderbolt ports on our MacBook Pro. We really like the option of having XLR/TS/TRS connections on all 8 inputs.

The inclusion of an additional 8 Optical ADAT ins/outs was another selling point as it could integrate nicely with gear we already had.

If we need more than 8 inputs, we also have a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 which we connect using those Optical Ins and Outs on the Motu.

This gives us 16 Pre amps in 2 rack units. It also gives us up to 18 Outputs (10 in the Focusrite + 8 in the Motu).

We utilize those outputs for re-amping to the Guitar and Bass amplifiers. They also feed our PA and In Ear Monitor Sends, and a rack mounted Tuner.


Ins and Outs

Tom and Garrett are both multi-instrumentalists. We really took that into consideration when designing this setup.

Front View

Outputs:

  1. PA L

  2. PA R

  3. IEM L

  4. IEM R

  5. -

  6. Guitar Re-Amp

  7. Bass Re-Amp

  8. Rack Tuner

  9. -

  10. -

  11. -

  12. -

  13. -

  14. -

  15. -

  16. -

  17. -

  18. -

Inputs:

  1. Vox A

  2. Amp Mic

  3. Bass DI

  4. Moog DFAM

  5. Moog Grandmother

  6. Guitar DI

  7. ToneDexter

  8. Vox B

  9. Kick Mic

  10. Snare Mic

  11. Yamaha DTX L

  12. Yamaha DTX R

  13. Drum OH L

  14. Drum OH R

  15. -

  16. -


Input Breakdown:

Front View

Side view

  1. Vox A is a Sennheiser e935

  2. The Amp mic is a Sennheiser e906 in front of a 70’s Musicman amp

  3. Bass DI signal

  4. Moog’s DFAM is a really cool way to build some analog synth rhythms and percussion type sounds. We control the BPM through CV sent from the Moog Grandmother

  5. Moog Grandmother connected to our Ableton Live set via USB

  6. Guitar DI is coming off of a pedal board which can change based on artist

  7. ToneDexter gets us access to a ton of instruments with one input. It has a tuner and a mute function on board which is super helpful when switching instruments live. We have a number of instruments programmed into it, including a Mandolin, Ukulele, Classical guitar, Acoustic guitar, Cello, 12 String. It’s quite versatile, especially in the context of looping.

  8. Vox B is a wireless mic right now that we’re mainly using to communicate to each other in rehearsals, but that ideally would be setup and ready to go for guests to join us in performances

  9. Sennheiser MD-421 on the Kick

  10. Shure PGA98D on the top of the Snare

  11. Yamaha DTX drum machine mounted to the kick drum where the Toms would be. This will give us a ton of options for sampled sounds and/or MIDI Control of Ableton.

  12. YAMAHA DTX

  13. Drum OH Royer SF-12 stereo Ribbon mic. This allows us easy setup with no phasing issues between Left and Right inputs. It also provides a great looping send for live drums to be looped on the spot in Ableton.

  14. Drum OH

Output Breakdown:

  1. PA L

  2. PA R

  3. IEM L Main mix coming from our Motu Mixer

  4. IEM R Click + Cues

  5. -

  6. Guitar Re-Amp send goes to Amp. This includes the Guitar DI Signal coming from the pedal board, as well as a send from our Guitar Loopers. This way, anything looped with the guitar, continues to come through the Amp on stage.

  7. Bass Re-Amp has a similar idea. The Bass DI send is routed via the Motu mixer. Any Bass Loops in Ableton can be sent to the bass amp as well. The Moog Grandmother’s audio goes to the Bass Amp as well

  8. Tuner is a rack mount Tuner. We send that tuner the Bass DI/Guitar DI signals.


This leaves us room to grow/change in the future, however it currently has a lot of flexibility in a very small footprint.

On top of these inputs, we have two MIDI keyboards programmed to software synths inside of Ableton.

Akai MPK Mini

The first keyboard is an Akai MPK Mini which we currently have dedicated to a bass synth. The rotary knobs are programmed to control faders in Ableton. The top row of knobs controls the inputs (Vox, Rhythm, Bass, Drums). The second row controls the volume of the Loopers (Vox, Rhythm, Bass, Drums). The A/B banked pad buttons are programmed to different light presets which we’ll get into in a bit.

Keys

The second keyboard is an Alesis V49. This is set to control a “cheap piano” synth in Ableton, with the exception of the top octave of the keyboard. That top octave (Pink Tape) is set to control a Pad synth which will trigger for about 2 minutes before fading out. The last note (Red X’s) on the keyboard is a Kill switch for the Pad synth.


COMPUTER:

We’re using a 2015 15” MacBook Pro to run our audio signal. 16 GB of RAM, 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7, with a 1 TB Flash drive.

We also use an external 1 TB LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt SSD Hard Drive.

A lack of redundancy in our computer setup is concerning. We’re going to stress test the setup extensively before taking it to a gig, however we’d also like to setup a backup audio stream via the MOTU mixer functionality which is housed separate from the computer.

Live audio input feeds can be sent to the PA send, as well as the Re-Amp signals for the Bass and Guitar amplifiers if the computer were to freeze or crash. The hope is to use one of the A/B mute monitor options on the front of the 8 Pre Es. That would give us physical control over the hardwired signal apart from the computer.


ABLETON:

Ableton Live Suite handles our live audio. We were running into issues reading and writing to the internal 1 TB Flash Drive in the MacBook Pro fast enough.

We decided to give the suggested multiple hard drive setup a shot. It seems to have worked quite well so far. Ableton suggests in this article using up to 3 separate SSD Hard Drives for optimal performance.

A lack of daisy chain options with our Thunderbolt gear (one of two ports dedicated to the MOTU, the other to the external SSD) has kept us to a 2 SSD hard drive setup.

We’ll keep testing, but so far this seems to have done the trick for our set, which is admittedly complicated.

We’re asking a lot of Ableton. We want to be able to trigger stems or loops from our album at will. We also want to be able to Loop live audio as we perform. We use Session mode as we want to record our performance in Arrangement view.


We exported our album Stems into Ableton to allow us to utilize them however much or little we would like to on stage.

Naming conventions are used to set the global BPM and Time Signature. “103 BPM: 4/4 SIG”

ClyphX Triggers

Scenes trigger ClyphX Pro clips that can do a number of different things. We have them setup to change the global BPM of the project, assign the Scale on our Push 2 controller for the song, and display a message on the Push 2 display: Tell Me You Love Me (G)

[] PUSH MSG "Tell Me You Love Me (G)" ; PUSH SCL ROOT G ; PUSH SCL TYPE MAJOR


Colors are displayed on Push 2’s main pad area. Using consistent colors can help keep track of progress through tracks.

Scene Colors

We use Yellow for Count-In sections. These can be extended to give us time to build loops before Stems are played.

  • Solo = Orange

  • End = Red

  • Chorus = Blue (Coral Blue)

  • Verse = Green (Verde)

  • Bridge = Brown


We break up our inputs into folders. This makes Looping way easier and more flexible. Audio can be added to loopers or removed from Loopers on the fly, just by re-arranging foddering structures.

Inputs

Channels are color coded

Guitar = Yellow

Lead = Orange

Piano = Pink

Vocals = Green

Bass = Blue

Drums = Red


Looper:

At the moment, we are rehearsing with two musicians. Looping makes it very fun to switch instruments mid-song. Hopefully this will keep our performances different from show to show.

We would be very open to using the Session view Looping function, however without the ability to Overdub audio into a Loop we created, we are forced to use the Looper plugin.

All Loopers can be Overdubbed infinite times. There is an Undo function for each Looper that will Undo, then Redo the last Overdub. This is perfect for recording a simple loop, then Overdubbing a larger chorus loop which can then be taken away for Verse 2 with the Undo feature. Undo pressed again would bring back the Overdub.

DataLooper Pedal

DataLooper Pedal

In order to control our Looper plugins, we have chosen to use the DataLooper Pedal. Some of the biggest selling points were the power via USB, the straightforward layout, as well as the visual indications of Looper status (which pulses with the BPM of Ableton):

  • Dim = empty

  • Red = Record

  • Green = Play

  • Yellow = Overdub

  • Blue = Stop

Dim, Green, Blue

Red, Blue, Yellow


DataLooper Channels are setup with Folders, again giving more flexibility when routing audio.

DataLooper Channels


Looper Recorder Channels

One of the drawbacks of using the Looper plugin with Ableton while recording the performance in the Arrangement view, is the way Looper channels record. They don’t (at least as far as we know - please let us know a better workaround: Garrett@AllintheTrunk.com).

To get around that, we’ve setup a channel for each Looper Plugin we are using (12 for this set).

The input is set to listen to each Looper’s channel output and the Recorder Track Folder is muted during recording so we don’t double the output of the loop. It can be unmuted later during mix.

These tracks are simply there to capture the output of the Loopers.

Looper Recorder Channels


DataLooper Customization:

The pedal is extremely flexible, and can be customized to fit many needs. The stock setup is in 3 Presets of 3 Loopers. There are 40 Preset options available which can be changed a number of ways, including Program Control changes via Ableton.

We’ve opted to swap the order of the Presets using the Config webpage on the DataLooper website. Connect the DataLooper to the computer and you can easily change the programming, as well as update firmware.

The pedal comes stock with Looper #1 being nearest you on the bottom row, and #3 being furthest at the top row:

  • Looper #3

  • Looper #2

  • Looper #1

We’ve swapped this out so that #1 is on top and #3 bottom:

  • Looper #1

  • Looper #2

  • Looper #3

This seems like a small change, but it’s one that has really helped in communication, especially as we have different artists using this same setup. When writing Presets down on whiteboards/setlists, the order was always #1 on top. Having the pedal match order that made things much easier to communicate.


Presets:

As you can imagine, with up to 40 Presets, and 12 buttons per Preset, things can get complex quickly. We’ve worked to combat this by trying to keep groups of loopers together.

For example, currently, Preset 1 is:

  1. DFAM

  2. Drum Folder (all drum mics + DTX)

  3. Drum Folder (all drum mics + DTX)

As we were writing these down on whiteboards/setlists, the order was always #1 on top. Having the pedal match that made things much easier to organize.


Preset Breakdown:

#2: rhythm

  • Bass Folder (Bass DI + Grandmother + Bass Synth)

  • Gtr DI + Synth Piano

  • ToneDexter

#1: Drums

  • DFAM

  • Drum Folder

  • Drum Folder


#4: Linked Gtrs

  • Link Guitar (Starting Looper = Stopping other)

  • Link Guitar (Great for Verse/Chorus Loops)

  • Guitar

#3: Vox

  • Vox

  • Vox

  • Vox


#6: Chain

  • 3x Chain Mode

    Also yet unused, this Preset is setup as an A, B and C signal chain. The three rows will each be able to switch between the four columns. This gives us essentially 3 Banks of 4 Options each. These can contain any number of changes happening instantly.

#5: Stompbox

  • Stompbox Mode

    We haven’t implemented this option yet. It’s setup in the form of 12 different on/off stomp boxes which can control anything in Ableton (including DI signals before they go to the Amps on stage).


DataLooper Scene Triggers

#7: Lighting

  • Lighting Presets

    This may be our favorite preset. The 12 LED’s beautifully display the color of the Scene to which they’re linked. Change the scene color, and the LED color changes. Perfect for keeping track of lighting Presets.


The challenge is utilizing as much as possible without over complicating things. Hopefully an artist can start with one Preset and get comfortable.

Once gaining experience with the Looper plugin in Ableton as well as the DataLooper Pedal, they can expand their performance to include other Presets.

The DataLooper has a Stop All feature. That way you can have a drop right before a chorus.

When you press the bottom right button, all the Loops will stop at the global quantization settings in Ableton. Press the bottom right button a second time, and all the Loopers will start playing at the global quantization settings.

There is also a Mute button that instantly mutes and unmutes all the loops playing. This is great for quick pauses where you wouldn’t want to wait for the global quantization, or where you wouldn’t want to start the loop over, but rather mute it for as long as needed.


Routing

If you’ve used the Looper plugin in Ableton, you know it’s channel is fed from an audio source. Rather than lock ourselves into one audio source, We’ve grouped our inputs into Folders. This gives us the option to have more than one instrument feed any particular looper.


Lighting

For lighting, we have a collection of inexpensive DMX controlled lighting fixtures. Some are Par Cans, others bars. One has a moving head feature. They are all controlled with the DMX lighting protocol.

We wanted something that we could program to our sets, but that could be implemented somewhat autonomously - at whatever scale needed.

Sometimes we will bring every light we have. Others, no lights at all. Sometimes only one T Stand with 4 fixtures is appropriate.

We didn’t want to have to make any changes to our set, regardless of the number of lights we needed.

Show Buddy Active

Show Buddy Active

All that being said, we chose DMXIS and their Show Buddy Active software. We program our fixtures into a virtual lighting console, and trigger presets via MIDI messages sent across a Network connection from our audio laptop to a secondary laptop running Show Buddy Active only. This way if anything were to crash in our Lighting, our Audio is unaffected and on a completely separate computer.

DMXIS has Banks and Presets which can be controlled by sending MIDI notes to Channel 15 (Bank), and Channel 16 (Preset). Channel 14 is reserved for the bottom region of favorite Presets regardless of Bank.

We changed the names of Presets in our Favorites region to match the MIDI note that will trigger each Preset (C#-2 for example).

Show Buddy Active Favorites Region

That step has saved us a TON of time in programming lights via Ableton clips. Now we can refer to a print off of the Favorites region, and draw in whatever MIDI notes we need for the corresponding lighting Preset.


The best part is that Ableton clips will all be relative to the global tempo, so the same lighting scene trigger in Ableton, can be used on different songs at different tempos and the lights will all change in sync with the music.

In reality we’re noticing about a 300 ms delay. While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s noticeable to the person programming lights.

Blackouts on drops in music, as well as big strobes of white light on down beats are all just a tick slow. We tried using the delay compensation feature in Ableton on the MIDI track. While this “worked” in the sense that it matched the lights to the music, it also delayed our music by 300 ms creating latency.

The hope had been that since they were MIDI triggers, Ableton could trigger them early, but no such luck. If anyone has a solution to this, we’d love to test it out! Garrett@AllintheTrunk.com